Incumbent, newcomer, and an unopposed candidate talk

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By Roger Snodgrass

This week, the Kiwanis Club of Los Alamos spoke with three candidates for county office, each campaigning under different circumstances.

One incumbent, Ken Milder, and one first-timer, Manuel Baca, are running for county council. Mary Pat Kraemer is unopposed for re-election as county clerk in the primary and the general election, although she couldn’t rule out a possibility that a write-in or independent campaign might arise.

They do have one thing in common. All three are Democrats.

During a lunch-hour talk at Trinity on the Hill Episcopal Church Tuesday, Milder said he was fully committed to economic development in White Rock, with a plan that is almost finished and scheduled to reach county council in June.

“I want to see it get done,” he said.

He said he had a lot of experience, and not just from his current term. He also served from 1985-1992. In between, he said he did a lot of research on economic development and concluded that there was a better way to do it.

“We used to think ‘more houses,’” Milder said. Now he believes it is better to create an environment that will enhance recruitment of retail and other businesses.

Finally, he talked about the new money coming into the county from the Gross Receipts Taxes from the laboratory and how the laboratory will naturally be working to reduce what they pay, along with his concern that the schools are not getting a benefit from that new revenue.

“I truly enjoy public service,” he said.

Baca said he was in the race because of his son and his friends and because they’re right when they say, “Teens don’t have anything to do.” He wants to see a “teen activity center” geared to that age group, not just a Youth Activity Center for the younger set.

Baca wants to keep dollars from flowing off the Hill.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen at the lab,” he said.

With what he estimated to be 400 houses currently on the market, he said, there was an unusual opportunity to “make them affordable,” by working with federal and state government programs that could underwrite some of that process.

Finally, he called for more community involvement in the work of the council.

“You don’t see many people getting up and talking at the council meetings,” he said. “They don’t see the door open enough.”

Kramer talked about some of the lesser-known roles of the county clerk, aside from handling all the business and logistics related to the elections.

As the official record-keeper for public documents, she said Los Alamos was about to be the first county to record real estate records electronically, after a pilot project with Los Alamos National Bank.

As the person who issues marriage licenses, she said, “I issued a marriage license to my own daughter last year.”

She encouraged residents to visit the office website, www.losalamosnm.us, for any questions about registration, early and absentee voting, and elections, including a preview of the super sample ballot with everything on the ballot, even items that are specific to particular districts.

Among questions from the Kiwanians, Dale Thompson wanted to know if anything could be done about the laboratory reducing their shuttle service to connect people with the county buses.

People who don’t drive their cars can’t get into town for lunch, he said, unless they have some other way to get to the Atomic City stop.

He said that the best scenario would be to make it possible to have three sittings in town from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

“I’ll pass that on,” Milder said. “We’d like the lab to continue their shuttles.”

Steve Stoddard wanted to know how new businesses were ever going to find the help they needed.

“Businesses are closing today because they can’t get enough help,” he said.

Milder said he could talk on the subject for a long time. He said the county’s participation in the Northern New Mexico Regional Transit District was going to help get more commuter buses into Los Alamos from the region.

But new housing starts weren’t going to help, he said, because only one-third of 12-20 new houses in a new parcel like A-19 would be affordable. Revisions in the building code, he said, as Baca had touched on, could make some of that surplus housing stock available as affordable housing.