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Letters

  • CRC debate keeps on moving

    When I was selected to join the Charter Review Committee, I approached the task very cautiously and conservatively because any changes that might be recommended required a very thorough vetting process to ensure the right decisions were made to our community’s fundamental law.
    My fellow committee members were equally dedicated, and we had many open and transparent discussions at public meetings that explored the issues from all aspects, bringing out researched facts and practical examples of what needed to be changed. In the end, our report to council recommended they consider bringing changes to several sections of the Charter to the community for ballot action, and in my opinion, the changes proposed added needed clarifications to strengthen the Charter without altering the intent of any existing provision. The ballot questions for Nov. 6, address Charter sections on Initiative, Referendum and Recall.
    There is no need to repeat here the details of each change. My point is that these processes are a valued provision in the law for the citizens of Los Alamos County, and it is to everyone’s advantage to make implementation of the processes clear on legal subject areas and simple as possible, while ensuring our elected councilors can continue to do the jobs they were elected to do.

  • In support of bond issue

    As Executive Director of University of New Mexico – Los Alamos, I want to outline the benefits to the UNM-Los Alamos campus of General Obligation Bond “C” in the Nov. 6 General Election, and why it makes sense to the citizens of Los Alamos.
    If Bond C passes in the Nov. 6 General Election, the University of New Mexico Los Alamos will receive $500,000 for renovations and upgrades to its science labs (biology, physics and chemistry).
    Bond projects have a positive impact on local economies as the money spent recycles several times, and the construction projects create jobs.   
    Construction workers eat shop and stay in the community, and construction companies buy materials from local vendors. This influx of business puts gross receipt and lodgers’ tax dollars into local coffers.  Those who do  not have a direct stake in higher education in Los Alamos still benefit from the shot in the arm to the local economy.

  • In support of amendments

    Questions on ballots like whether or not to vote on amending charters/constitutions are often confusing and many folks simply don’t vote  if they don’t feel informed.  Please take a few moments to go to losalamosnm.us/projects/council/Pages/CRC.aspx to study these  amendments yourselves.  However, if you don’t have the time or inclination  to research this issue, it may be helpful for you to read what other people  think about it, and if you trust that person, then perhaps you would feel  comfortable voting based on the information that they pass along.  Therefore,  I will summarize why I will most definitely VOTE FOR all four Charter Ballot  Amendments:
    1.  The charter has only had minor amendments since 1968-our community has changed a lot since then.
    2. The Charter Review Committee is made up of a diverse group of active  citizens who have participated in community affairs for many years.  This  committee has worked hundreds of hours and held dozens of public meetings for the past three years investigating and recommended these amendments to the  council and to you.  So they’ve done our homework for us!
    3. These particular charter changes address Initiative, Referendum, Charter  

  • Vote Yes on Ammendments

    Amongst the various elective office contests and ballot questions on the slate for November’s election are four local Charter ballot questions deserving of your attention and affirmation.  They deal with making improvements to the County Charter provisions dealing with citizen initiatives, referendums, recalls, and future Charter revisions.  A group formed by the County Council called the Charter Review Committee (CRC) performed a comprehensive review of the County Charter over the past few years, held a whole bunch of public meetings to collect ideas and inputs, and formulated several well considered and well informed recommendations to the County Council for improving the Charter.  Several of these recommendations are the basis for the ballot questions that are now being considered.
    I am voting “yes” on each of the questions for a several reasons.  First, the process that produced these recommended improvements was a good one.  It engaged a great set of citizens with no collective axe to grind ... it utilized an exhaustive (maybe exhausting?) approach to seeking and making use of public input from all comers ... and it produced a solid set of recommendations and rationale for improving the charter.  I compliment the energy and devotion of the CRC to providing a fair assessment and balanced recommendations.

  • Public weighs in on charter amendments

    The charter amendments on the ballot group the various processes for initiative, referendum, recall, and future charter amendments into more sensible groupings within the charter, so if you want to start a petition to recall an elected official or start some other petition, and these amendments pass, the process for how you do it will be spelled out more clearly within the charter.
    The amendments clarify and unify the process. Even Rob Pelak agreed at a recent League of Women Voters Forum that the way the Charter Review Committee grouped the items makes sense. His objection to the amendments was that the CRC shortened the time frame for collecting signature from 180 days (HALF A YEAR!) to 90 days, in line with what Santa Fe and Albuquerque do. Also, the number of signatures was increased.
    My view is that if you have a good reason to circulate a petition, you shouldn’t have much trouble getting the required number of signatures in 90 days. If you allow 180 days (HALF A YEAR!) and fewer signatures, people can use these “tools” as a way to obstruct progress in a community.

  • More on the charter amendments

    Among the many important decisions facing us as a community this November, is the issue of several proposed amendments to our county charter.
    Much has been written about the process by which these amendments were composed, aside of whether each is a good idea or not.
    In a subsequent column we will discuss the merits of each proposed change, but here, let’s talk about the process itself, and specifically logrolling, because we want to correct some erroneous comments in this area.
    Logrolling is the practice of combining multiple unrelated topics so that different constituencies will vote for the “whole,” although they only support a “piece.”
     Most of the discussion about the structure of the ballots relates to whether the four proposed amendments constitute “logrolling.”  However, the key word that distinguishes logrolling is “unrelated,” not “multiple.” For example, a citizen initiative to clamp down on loose dogs (a leash law, fines for not cleaning up after your dog, fines for excessive barking, etc.) would certainly not be considered logrolling because the multiple parts of the initiative form a consistent multi-pronged approach to address a community issue.

  • A view on Charter amendments

    The four amendments to the charter seem reasonable to me. For more than two years, they have been discussed in open meetings by the charter review committee and the county council. The charter review committee was selected by the council to represent a wide cross section of our community. Many meetings were held by the committee so the public could present and persuade.
    Committee members themselves had many different viewpoints. The amendments, the product of all those meetings, were presented to the county council. After vetting the proposals with the public, the council made some modifications and decided that the amendments merited placement on the ballot.
     Not all participants in the process agreed on all the issues, but that is a feature of representative democracy — listen and then decide.
    Initiative and referendum are the last resort to rectify what the public considers widely unpopular or improper council action. They should not be used by a special interest group that disagrees with a well-aired council decision.
    The best way to have an impact on a board or council decision is to make your opinion or ideas known early in the process while policies are being formulated. This is a lot less work that resorting to a petition and much more effective.

  • Closing corporate tax loophole a win for N.M. businesses

    Developing a vibrant, diverse private sector economy is critical to getting New Mexicans back to work.  While our national labs and large, multi-state corporations are important to our economy, 98% of New Mexico businesses are small or medium sized with less than 100 employees.  To create jobs, policy makers must focus on our local businesses and give them the tools they need to grow and compete.  
    Key to the success of any small business is a fair tax code that lets it compete with the multi-state competitors down the street.  Unfortunately, in New Mexico, our tax does the exact opposite.  
    Under the guise of “economic development,” we are the last western state that allows national chain stores to expense profits to other subsidiaries and avoid paying corporate tax.  A mom and pop retailer pays its fair share, usually 4.9% as a pass through tax entity.  Yet the “big-box” chain down the street can pay little or no tax.  

  • League of Women Voters responds

    In response to the Oct. 7 letter titled “Suppression at Council Forum,” I wish to set the record straight regarding the League of Women Voters candidate forum on Oct. 4. Planning how to run a forum is not straightforward, and a major consideration is the limited time available.  At the beginning of the meeting, I explained the format we would follow.  Members of the audience were invited to ask questions, but told not to make statements and to ask only one question.  All questions were limited to 30 seconds and all answers to one minute. Asking and expecting those in the audience to adhere to the pre-established ground rules does not constitute a violation of free speech.  We were gathered to hear the candidates’ opinions, not those of the audience.
     Mr. White broke these ground rules by running over the allotted time for framing a question, and by making a statement of opinion. His accusation that the League, a nonpartisan group, planted “fluff” questions with certain audience members is totally false. Many Leagues do not permit members of the audience to ask questions directly.  Instead, they are told to write them out on cards to be sorted and screened by League members and read by the moderator. Perhaps the Los Alamos League needs to consider taking that approach.

  • On the House race

    Jim Hall is a decent person, but we have a far superior Democratic candidate, by the name of Stephanie Richard, who is running against him and who has regularly supported Democratic issues.
    Jim Hall has been on the job as an appointee and has supported Republican issues even at the expense of Los Alamos County during the brief tenure of his appointment.
    Most disappointing of all is that Jim Hall’s campaign itself sent out the misleading press release which stated that Democratic State Senators expressed “support.[of]...Jim Hall in his campaign for State House of Representatives (emphasis added).” Appointed Rep. Hall subsequently apologized for “any misunderstanding” stating that he did not mean they had endorsed him.  Clearly, Mr. Hall expected this statement to be interpreted as an endorsement by Democrats which he did not have. I was also disappointed to receive misleading mailers about Jim Hall that are funded primarily by Oil & Gas Companies.  In addition, I have received telephone surveys that misrepresent Stephanie Richard’s policies.