Letters to the Editor: T-board meeting illegal

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On 1/12/2012, the Transportation Board (T Board) held a meeting from 5:30-8:30 to receive the final TAC report.  At the beginning of the meeting, the T Board chair announced that the meeting would end at 8:15 to give the board an opportunity to examine a rough design for NM502 sketched by Kyle Zimmerman.
This item, clearly new business, was not on the agenda (attached).  The public input time was shortened, contrary to what was publicized in the paper, to provide time for this presentation.  Because there was a quorum of T Board members attending this  presentation, it became a “de facto” T Board meeting, not announced, and thus in violation of the Open Meetings Act.  As I was speaking to the T Board chair after the
publicized meeting was adjourned, a Public Works employee interrupted
the conversation to urge the chair to move to the back of the room where Kyle Zimmerman was explaining his rough design.
At the 1/19 meeting, the board voted to select the Zimmerman plan as their recommendation for NM502 between Airport Road and DP Road.
There was no information on the agenda (attached) that this plan was going to be part of the meeting.  To be discussed at the meeting this plan should have been presented under new business, but was not. Only one T Board member, Wayne Hardie, commented on the legitimacy of the meeting.
“Hardie raised a point of order, questioning whether it was “legitimate” for the board to consider any option other than those suggested by the TAC committee, since the meeting was to complete review of the TAC recommendations.
“Hardie also contended that the staff option had been “thrown in at the last minute” and that TAC had not had time to review it.  The proposal had been introduced at the previous board/TAC meeting with a formal presentation Thursday night.
The T Board conducted two illegal meetings on 1/12/2012 and 1/19/2012 when the agendas clearly stated that the only business was the TAC recommendations.  The public was never informed that a new design from PW was to be part of the consideration on either date.  In fact the board Chair Eugene Dougherty was quoted in the 1/20/2012 Los Alamos Monitor as saying, “The board is not constrained to the options from the TAC report”, a clear contradiction of the 1/19/2012 agenda.
These egregious violations of the Open Meetings Act require that the vote from the 1/19 meeting be declared illegal and that the T Board be required to follow the normal procedure of introducing the PW design as new business at a future meeting and discuss it relative to the designs presented to the TAC.  The T Board may not decide on whatever it wants.
  It is constrained by the Open Meetings Act and the Los Alamos County Charter, as are other boards.
Los Alamos County should provide a complete explanation to the public about how its employees influenced the T Board to cooperate in both illegal meetings and about the steps Los Alamos County will take to ensure that all boards understand that they must abide by the Open Meetings Act no matter how persuasive the County staff is.

Patricia Max
Los Alamos

Democracy is messy
Poor, tired ol’ name-callers and rock-throwers . . . not even sound insight or explanation of possible ramifications to offer as opposition?  Just restate your position again and repeat callin’-names and throwin’-stones . . . hmmmmm – hardly makes one want to join your ranks.
Not a “Johnny-come-lately” or a “nay-sayer” to what’s going on, much less an “uninformed-blow-in-beggar”, rather, as a reasonably well-informed resident of LA (my hometown) since 1946, I believe, if this were an election, folks presenting facts and reasonable ramifications over name/rock-throwers would get my vote.
Get used to it, democracy is messy – it involves individuals with lots of differing opinions hashing stuff out – together. When any government leaves room for, and an open door to, constructive criticism, reasoned logic, past experience, etc., things may take longer, yet the result is generally better and supported by a larger number of folks who feel a pride of “ownership” in the outcome.  My perception is that a government that isn’t similarly open fails to qualify as a “democracy”.
Regrettably many Committee Members for our County Council forget that they are providing information and suggestions to the Council, as well as what a vote could mean . . . not marching orders.  Their opinion is not necessarily more valid than anyone else’s and is frequently clouded by the parameters and foggy insight that existed when the need for a committee was established.  Many, like me, put a lot of faith in citizen committees and the volunteers who serve on them, that doesn’t mean we give up our right to our opinion or common sense.
There is a bit of truth underlying even myths and fairy tales.  Hang in there, get more flexible, and above all, open your mind.

J.J. Maier
Los Alamos