Public calls for 'Los Alamos Municipal Building'

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Committee > Votes thumbs down on naming structure for Jeannette Wallace

By Arin McKenna

A committee appointed to hear public opinion about naming the new municipal building for late State Representative Jeannette Wallace voted unanimously against the proposal Monday.

Forty nine residents either commented or supported comments on the county’s Open Forum. County officials also received more than 70 emails, letters and phone calls and approximately 20 citizens attended two public meetings on the question.

“Los Alamos Municipal Building” received overwhelming support.

Los Alamos resident John Bartlit offered a slight variation on that theme.

“I do not support naming the new public building in town for any person. The opportunity should be used instead to honor and publicize the values of democracy that have served our nation so long and well, namely the unique role that active citizenship has in good governance,” Bartlit said.

“I propose the name it the Los Alamos County Community Town Hall, the Los Alamos Town Hall or Town Hall on Central to commemorate a value that began our nation. Municipal building and town hall are historical synonyms.”

At the second public meeting, Bartlit said that several residents had expressed support for that idea. Councilor Fran Berting said she had also heard support for the town hall name.

Only four respondents were in favor of naming the municipal building after Wallace, although Peggy Pendergast submitted a petition in favor of the naming with 17 signatures she had collected in a three-day period.

Most respondents were opposed to naming public buildings after anyone. A small number of respondents discounted Wallace’s contributions to the community, while many said that despite their respect for Wallace’s contributions, they opposed naming the building for a person.

Many pointed out that a few years from now many residents may not remember who Wallace was, as has happened with other public buildings such as the Larry R. Walkup Aquatic Center.

Two committee members agreed with suggestions from several citizens that six months after a person’s death was too short a time span to allow a building to be named after them.

“I think there is also a rush to name a newly constructed building after someone who has died recently … I would urge an amendment to the code that there be a lapse of five or 10 years between a person’s death and naming a building after them,” Kyle Wheeler said.

Karyl Ann Armbruster said that Wallace’s son Terry told her that Wallace herself would be opposed to the idea. However, Wallace’s children supported the nomination.

“Before I even put this to the council, I called Terry Wallace. He called his sisters and emailed me back that night that they would like this,” said Councilor Frances Berting, who brought the proposal before council in January.

Several residents suggested naming the building after Manhattan Project scientists, and a large number of people noted that so many people have made positive contributions to the community it would be inappropriate to single out one individual.

Several suggested naming a room or a bench in the plaza after Wallace, but an alternative suggestion by Janine Tulenko also won unanimous approval from the committee. Tulenko emailed, “Perhaps there could be a ‘commemorative wall’ of some sort at the municipal building, with plaques to honor the accomplishments of some of the more prominent citizens of Los Alamos. If so, then Jeannette Wallace would certainly deserve a place on that wall.”

Council will review the committee’s recommendations and vote on the proposal during its Feb. 26 meeting at 7 p.m. in council chambers. Public comment on Open Forum remains open until 5 p.m. Feb. 11.