Letters to the Editor 9-15-17

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Pajarito Mountain
ownership transfer poses unacceptable risk

Dear Editor,
Some readers may be aware that the Los Alamos Ski Club is seeking a second new arrangement for Pajarito Mountain. The original proposal was to transfer ownership of the ski area to the county, and a private company would operate it.

However, that never actually happened, and now the club has voted to transfer ownership directly to this private company. The next step is for the County Council to approve funding for a water pipeline.

I believe this poses an unacceptable risk that the public will lose access to the mountain.

This opinion is based on my reading of the ski club’s background memo to members. Quotes are from the memo, which is very helpful in understanding the situation but received very limited circulation.

I am disappointed that the ski club is making a very significant decision that affects everyone in town but made no apparent effort to seek or incorporate the opinions of the public. We did not learn about this proposal until a concerned club member pointed it out only a few days before the vote.

The ski club’s board assures us that the public’s interests will be protected. This conclusion is not supported by the evidence.

First, we are told that the company’s “record” is “currently” aligned with the public interest. But companies get sold and leadership changes; things like this are not a “sale of the property” that would give the county “first right of refusal to acquire the Ski Area”. This particular company has strong leadership from a single individual. What happens when he retires or dies? The profit motive will always and continuously pressure company leadership.

Second, we are assured that the ski area will be “Open and Available to the Public”, except under six exceptions, including “for health and safety reasons, as determined to be appropriate by (the private company] in its sole discretion”, “as may be required by (the company’s) liability insurance carrier”, and “to otherwise facilitate Ski Area business”. These are massive loopholes. Private companies routinely hire smart people full-time to defeat such protections; the above would not be much of a challenge.

Bottom line: The mountain will be closed to public access as soon as the company decides to do so.

Citizens should also be aware of LANB’s role in this. The stated reason that the prior deal (county ownership of the land) failed to complete was that LANB wanted loan collateral consisting of all the land, in addition to the buildings and equipment. LANB tells us often that it’s a community bank, but now that there’s a real opportunity to do sorely needed good for the community, i.e., by supporting the original proposal for public land ownership, the answer is no. Actions speak louder than words.

Consider the old Smith’s. We were assured repeatedly by council members at the time that Kroger’s incentives were aligned with ours and the space would definitely be occupied promptly. We were told Kroger was friendly and they didn’t want it empty either. But these guarantees did not make it into the contract adequately, so now we have an empty building rotting away with no end in sight.

I realize that there are no easy answers here, and I acknowledge and appreciate the hard work of the ski club and others. I worry about the future of local skiing too. However, the right answer is not to transfer ownership of Pajarito Mountain to a private, for-profit entity. This isn’t the only way to keep skiing in Los Alamos. We need a deal with strong, perpetual public access protections, whether or not skiing is a going concern. This is a bad deal and must be renegotiated.

So if you don’t like it either, what can you do? Because the deal needs public funding of a water pipeline, which must be approved by the County Council, it is not yet final. Please write to them (countycouncil@lacnm.us), speak to them, and ultimately show up when the pipeline comes to a vote.

Reid Priedhorsky
Los Alamos

Community invited to United Way’s Dinner Over Diamond event

Dear Editor,

Hello! My name is Onnolee EnglertErickson and I am the 2017 chair for the United Way Youth Team. I am so honored to be in this position and to be able to work with the Youth Team in order to produce this year’s events. We have been working very hard to prepare the events this year. The members of the Youth Team are motivated, innovative, and creative and are very enthusistic for everyone to see what they have been working on.

The United Way Youth Team just started up again this September. All of the proceeds from the events we produce go to the Community Action Fund. With the money produced from the events in the past, the Community Action Fund has funded youth programs such as Link Crew at the High School. This program helps integrate freshman into the high school by pairing them with upperclassmen who will mentor the freshman throughout the school year. Please come and support and enjoy our events!

I am going to turn it over to Vince Marciano, the producer of Dinner Over Diamond, our first event!

I’m Vincent Marciano, the producer of the first United Way Youth Team charity event for this year, “Dinner Over Diamond,” which will be held on Sunday, Sept. 17. It’s quite an honor for me to be able to organize this fund raising event. I’m thrilled to announce that we have Bobs Bodacious Barbecue as our caterer. We invite everyone to green and gold to kick off this years homecoming week.  The Fire and Police Departments will be there supporting us, and will be showcasing their vehicles. 

The recent rains have made our mountains green and plush, the sunset from the overpass will be beautiful, and your dining experience will be unique. “Dinner Over Diamond” will be a wonderful opportunity for the community to commence Homecoming and the Class of 1982 Reunion weekend.

This event will be from 4-7 p.m. Sunday, on the overpass right outside of Griffith Gymnasium. If the weather is uncooperative, we have a near-by backup location for dinner next to Diamond.  Admission for adults will be $20; $10 for students and children. We hope everyone can join us for a Dinner over Diamond.

Vincent Marciano, Onnolee
United Way
Youth Team