Taxation without representation

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By Richard Hannemann

At the dedication ceremony for the Municipal Building, June 24, 1967, County Administrator Paul Noland said, “This building symbolizes Los Alamos as a normal New Mexico town and a normal New Mexico county.” My how things have changed. Now we have a “vision” statement that “Los Alamos and the lab are inseparable.” Not exactly a normal town or normal county. Not exactly the vision that Los Alamos had for itself 40 years ago.  Not exactly what was envisioned by the people who fought to establish a separate and independent Los Alamos County.

It is time Los Alamos cease to be the amniotic sac for the lab. It is time Los Alamos begin the work to finish the job that was started towards becoming a “real” town and a “real” county. To do that, county and council will have to take control of the Los Alamos economy and stop outsourcing their responsibility to an unelected private corporation that does not represent the interests of all businesses and economic activity in Los Alamos. After all, business people in Los Alamos – whether retail, trade, profession, craft, tutoring, sole proprietor, partnership or company – pay their business license fees to the county, not the Los Alamos Commrce and Development Corporation; they pay their gross reciepts taxes, which are business transaction taxes, to the county, not the LACDC.

Folks, it’s the Los Alamos County Fair, not the LACDC County Fair. In real counties, some with a smaller population than ours, there is a fairground with an actual building for displays and there is a fair and events manager who is a county employee. In real towns and counties there is an annual Founder’s Day which is run by the county, not a committee of the LACDC. In real towns and counties, there are business fairs sponsored by the county and open to anyone who has a business license in that county. Folks, in real towns and counties it is the town/county visitor center, not the LACDC visitor center. Real towns and counties have a town/county department of economics and tourism which runs the visitor center, maintains the website of all licensed businesses equally represented, and does the marketing/advertising in various magazines and other forums and venues to entice people to come to the town/county as visitors and prospective residents and businesses.

Of course, real towns and counties also have a town hall or municipal building which is a significant local landmark celebrating the very existence of that polity.

So here’s the question: Do we want Los Alamos to be  real in the sense I have described? Would potential visitors, residents and businesses be more likely to come to a county that considers itself as a truly independent entity, acts as an independent entity and whose citizen’s are infused with pride for their civic home? Or do we remain a dependent adjunct of the lab with an economy funded by business taxes but run by an unelected body – essentially taxation without representation. If you were considering opening a business, in which would you prefer to live and make a living?


Richard Hannemann

Los Alamos