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Today's Opinions

  • Get facts straight about charter question 2

    Today, I received a mass-mailing campaign letter at my work email address at the Department of Public Utilities. As a project manager at the DPU, I could not help but read the letter and was aghast at the misleading manner in which the information was presented.
    As a county employee, it is highly frowned upon to get involved with political matters, but this one has to do with the Charter Amendment No. 2, so much information is being presented about how the Utilities Board and the DPU operate and make decisions. Getting to the point, the email contained a letter to the editor that simply misrepresents the facts and the way that the county council and utilities board interact and worse, how the utility board and the DPU operate.
    I would encourage interested voters to look at the DPU’s website for a more clear picture of the facts and the transparency of the DPU and the utilities board:
    losalamosnm.us/UTILITIES/Pages/default.aspx.

    Clay Moseley
    Los Alamos 

  • Charter change is flawed on many levels

    The debate over Charter Question 2 has rightly concentrated on the basic issue: whether the checks and balances relationship between the Board of Public Utilities and the county council that has worked well for 46 years should be replaced by a system in which council has unilateral control over utilities. Several smaller or less direct issues also merit consideration.
    A core argument used to support Ballot Question 2 is that only the council is accountable to citizens. Yet Question 2, should it pass, could actually make council less accountable. The proposed new Article V adds a new provision — Sec. 504 (f), which says “the DPU budget will identify a percentage of DPU revenues for transfer to the county general fund based on a formula agreed to by the board and council.” Any monies assessed through utility bills and transferred to the county general fund via this new route is effectively a tax. It just wouldn’t be called that. Citizens can see actual tax rates and hold councilors accountable. It would be difficult to figure out what implicit taxes might be hidden in utility bills. Council would, in practice, be less accountable for their revenues and the spending they enable.

  • County's utility board should be held accountable

    Let’s see if I’ve got this right: we don’t trust the county council that we elected; we do trust the utility board appointed by the council.
    We can recall elected officials but not the utility board. The council can appoint but not remove utility board members.
    Council meetings are televised. Utility Board meetings are not.
    Everyone has a boss. Private utility companies are held accountable by state regulatory agencies and boards of directors. Our public utility needs to be accountable to the council.
    The fundamental issue that charter amendment 2 addresses is accountability of the utility board. Once appointed, board members determine utility department policy with very little interaction with council other than the annual budget approval process.
    Charter amendment 2 defines a process for resolving differences between the board and council and gives the council authority to remove a board member with a super majority vote of 6 to 1. The autonomy of the Utility Department will be preserved to the extent allowed by state statute. Charter amendment No. 2 will ensure council and public input to our publicly owned utility.
    I believe the current Charter Article V is broken. It is time to fix it. Please vote for charter amendment No. 2.
    Mike Wheeler
    Los Alamos
     

  • Vote 'yes' on Amendment 2

    On behalf of Northern New Mexico College and the Board of Regents, I urge voters in the upcoming election to support Amendment 2 to grant Northern a voting student regent. Northern is the only four-year college in New Mexico without a voting student regent, a role that I believe is essential in representing the student perspective in administrative decision making.
    This position also provides students with an important leadership opportunity that benefits them later in life.
    I thank you for voting in support of expanding opportunities for New Mexico students and assisting us in our mission of ensuring access to higher education in our state.

    Nancy “Rusty” Barceló,
    President, Northern New Mexico College
     

  • Amendment 5 doesn't help

    Nearly every elected official or candidate tells us that they are going to create jobs and strengthen the economy of New Mexico and the United States.
    In reality, their actions seldom support their rhetoric. The proposed Amendment 5 to the New Mexico constitution in this year’s general election is a prime example.
    Amendment 5 would change the rules that regulate the investments of the New Mexico Land Grant Permanent Fund. Apparently, the amendment supports good intentions: to reduce risk to the fund and to produce a more reliable income stream to educate our children without raising our taxes.
    There is one major inconsistency: the amendment would remove the 15 percent upper limit on the book value of investments in “international funds”, i.e., funds that are based in all countries, except the U.S.
    Does it make sense to educate our children for jobs in the U.S. when the state of New Mexico is investing in and creating jobs in other countries — and not the U.S.?
    Apparently, Governor Martinez, Ray Powell, and the legislature didn’t “think the issue through,” or they don’t really believe the U.S. has a future.
    Vote “no” on Amendment 5.
    Joe D’Anna
    Los Alamos
      

  • Monsters are still in the closet for patients

    CHILE PAC’s half-hour infomercial titled “Breakdown” is an interesting entry into campaign debate.
    Its subject is the human impact of the state Human Services Department’s shutdown of 13 behavioral health providers and their replacement with five Arizona firms.
    Concerned Hispanics Involved in Legislative Empowerment used documentary techniques to take the audience inside the homes of people struggling to care for a mentally ill relative. It also gives a voice to providers who were disgraced and thrown out with no chance to defend themselves.
    Aired recently, “Breakdown” is obviously aimed at Gov. Susana Martinez. Her campaign filed an ethics complaint with the Secretary of State’s Office that CHILE PAC hadn’t registered with the state or filed finance reports. (Imagine an outfit sitting on millions in dark money complaining about a trifling $4,500 spent on the spot.) Still, I credit the organizers for reminding us that this is about sick, troubled people.
    We meet Gib Lovell, whose son Caleb is schizophrenic. After the state’s closure of Caleb’s accustomed provider, the new provider cut back on treatment and services. Lovell built a six-foot wall around his property. “If Caleb has a bad day,” he said, “I can keep my son out of harm’s way.”

  • Charter Chapter V — utilities, a reality check

    Several former members of the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) fear that the rewritten Charter Chapter V will result in council imposing hidden taxes and wildly increased utility rates, transferring utility revenues to the county general fund, overturning BPU membership for political reasons and unilateral control of BPU operations.

  • Charter amendment debate continues

    Since the Oct. 14 letter to the Los Alamos Monitor from Morris Pomgratz mentioned my name I feel it is appropriate to comment.
    First I have already voted “yes,” and encourage others to vote “yes.”
    I believe that the proposed charter amendment is far from perfect. I would have worded some parts differently. But it is an improvement over the existing charter. It places ultimate responsibility and accountability, in the event of a dispute between the council and the utilities board, in the hands of the council, who are the elected representatives of the public. And the public should have ultimate responsibility.
    Various letters to the Monitor, and presentations at the LWV forum, have provided extensive detailed comments, and have hypothesized different extreme actions by the council or the utilities board to support their positions. These hypothesizes are highly unlikely, but are within the “possibility” envelope. Therefore it is appropriate that a revision to the charter that is limited, restricted and establishes an open dispute resolution process be approved.
    The proposed charter changes meet these criteria. Ultimate responsibility and accountability should be reserved for the council, acting as the elected representatives of the public.