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Trinity Site realities and alternatives

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By The Staff

Is anyone promoting the proposed Trinity Site development willing to mention the two-ton elephant in the room? This elephant represents the situation at LANL, brought on by privatization incurring tens of millions in new gross receipts tax (GRT) obligations to New Mexico and unprecedented management fees being paid out of the LANL budget. Currently no one understands what the effects of the FY2008 federal budget will be on LANL. However, it is obvious that privatization, management fees, GRTs and other associated costs will not be absorbed by a downward spiraling budget without grave impact to LANL’s mission and employment situation. Job losses caused by FY2008 budget shortfalls are projected to continue for several more years as the DOE downsizes the national laboratories.Instead of addressing the elephant in the room, the county and the school district continue down the path of developing a 1980s shopping center, apparently hoping that cheap Chinese products, typically offered by “national retailers,” will keep Los Alamos afloat, will support funding the county’s $100-million construction program, and will add to the school district’s operating budget. Compounding this is the proposed construction of approximately 300 more homes when the housing market is soft.There may be good reasons to move school and county functions off Trinity Site. There are no good reasons, however, to develop Trinity Site and the school district’s adjacent 25-acre A-8 parcel as currently planned.Adding more housing to what will become an overloaded housing market, in an era of continued LANL downsizing, will not benefit the county or school district if houses stand empty for months on end. Decreasing LANL’s size and programs will decrease the amount of GRT revenues returned to the county. Since LANL, the county, and the school district do not shop locally, to any significant extent, the brunt of supporting the county and the school district will fall even more on the shoulders of residents, resulting in higher sales and property taxes.Many who are “restructured” out of their LANL jobs could benefit from retraining for jobs that keep them employed in this community. What opportunities exist here? There is a tremendous shortage of nurses and teachers, especially math and science teachers. Couldn’t UNM-LA, the county and the school district together develop a plan to address these shortages? Citizens tied to this community because of homes they cannot sell or spouses still employed here might not be able to drive to Albuquerque or even Espaola daily for classes. UNM-LA is a convenient alternative, particularly if it transitioned into an institution granting four-year degrees.Moreover, expanding the Small Business Center to support LANL employees who want to form small companies can certainly benefit the community. Small high-tech businesses could attract new funding into the community because they do not require the tremendous overhead that LANL demands. These businesses also could provide employment for local residents laid off by LANL. Such companies could provide new jobs, not low-wage retail jobs, and employees will not need to be bussed to Los Alamos like migrant farm workers because a potential local workforce already exists. The 20 or so offices at the Research Park dedicated to this type of program is not at all adequate for the amount of work that could be captured from LANL by private enterprise.Finally, the need for affordable housing is real. But are there alternatives to construction? Could HUD’s Teacher Nextdoor, Officer Nextdoor, and The Home programs make already existing housing available as affordable housing? Are there creative financing options that would enable current homes to be sold for the appraised value but purchased as affordable homes? Are there grants that will allow the owner to sell a home at its appraised value but allow whoever qualifies to purchase at a lower price?An expanded UNM-LA and an expanded Small Business Center, built at Trinity Site instead of a 1980s shopping center, will not only provide lease income to the county and the school district, but will contribute to the long term financial stability of the community better than a shopping center with a few stores, offices to lease to a shrinking LANL, and a large amount of housing dumped onto an already stressed market. If community leaders are dedicated to improving the financial stability of the community and the schools, supporting education, value-added employment, and creative programs to provide affordable housing is the answer. Patricia Max is a Los Alamos community activist.