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There’s a noxious odor swirling around a proposed ordinance now pending county council approval. Ordinance No. 555 would give the electorate the opportunity to vote thumb’s up or down on a charter amendment that calls for an annual election on all capital projects of $1 million or more.
Should 555 get the nod from county council May 11, then the proposition will go to the voters in an all-mail ballot Sept. 14. If voters approve the charter amendment, then virtually all capital projects going forward will be subject to an annual election where residents vote yea or nay on each and every item with a price tag over $1 million.
While the roots of this concept may rest in good intentions, it is so fundamentally flawed and ill-conceived that one has to wonder how this has advanced thus far. Passage of 555 by the council and subsequently the voters will virtually guarantee governmental gridlock, and it will most assuredly hamstring future councils who may be able to break through the intransigence of today and exercise the political will needed to move this town forward.
The adoption of 555 will essentially emasculate the county council, which is elected to carry out the will of the people. Why bother having a county council? Why set the limit at $1 million or more? Perhaps the council should be dissolved, set the spending limit at $1 and then have a town hall meeting where the body politic has the opportunity to OK the purchase of paper clips.
In the harsh light of day, 555 will be deleterious to Los Alamos County and its residents by establishing this slippery slope where the erosion of responsibility and competency for elected officials begins. Where it ends could potentially be as nightmarish as the scenario outlined above.
Council elections are conducted every two years so the voters can put people in office who will listen to their constituents and make decisions for the greater good of the community — if they don’t then turn them out — that’s what elections are intended to accomplish.
But, aside from considerations with regard to the council, 555 will create unprecedented stagnation in a town that is already experiencing difficulties in overcoming its own disinclination to move forward. Imagine, if you will, how the queue will swell with capital projects, all on hold, awaiting voter approval in a perennial election.
Such a moribund scenario could be enough to stifle, if not extinguish, the faint glimmers of hope for a revitalized and robust Los Alamos. This town and its citizens deserve better. If the county council fails to reject 555, then the voters surely must come September.