• What are they up to?

    It’s a fact that the charter amendments, if passed in the upcoming election, would shorten the time to collect signatures for local initiatives, referendums, and recalls and increase the number of signatures needed for some petitions.
    Think about that: With the proposed charter amendments, if we citizens don’t like the direction or a decision of council, we will have even less time now to collect an even higher number of signatures just to get something on the ballot (which then goes to a public vote anyway).
    For that fact alone, these proposed amendments unquestionably limit public participation and further restrict the public’s few checks and balances allowed in the current county charter against potential or future governmental abuse.
    But are these processes in need of improvement? Hardly. George Chandler’s description of the four times these processes were used in charter’s 40-plus years of existence can hardly be described as abuse. I count that as the system working.

  • And yet another view...

    In his Friday Guest View Point column, Jim Rickman said: “ It would be a real stretch for  anyone to argue that the referendum, recall or initiative process in this community has been abused during the past 30 years.”
    Many of us would vehemently disagree with this view. Some have been appalled that the 529 referendum delay cost LA County and Schools the full development of Trinity Site by delaying action until the collapse of the U.S. economy in 2008. Others have been dismayed that the process unnecessarily delayed the construction of the new County building, forcing county employees to work in transportable trailers and costing County taxpayers extra years of rental expenses.
    We have also apparently lost the opportunity to attract visitors with a leisure pool addition  to the “Blue Whale” because our councillors  feared that making a decision would lead to yet another referendum wasting time, effort and money.

  • CRC debate continues on

    I address an interesting recent take on the charter amendments in which we were told that there is no history of abuse of the petition process in Los Alamos.
    In 1979 and again in 1982 there were successful referendum petitions and subsequent elections that reversed zoning actions by the county.  But the losers of the 1982 election appealed the voter’s decision and in 1983 the Supreme Court ruled that zoning can only be done by representative bodies, not by election.  Under this rule the 1979 referendum would have also been illegal.  These are two petitions that were deemed abusive by law.  
    The proposed referendum amendment puts this law into the charter.
     In 2009 – 2010 a group of activists collected enough signatures on two initiative petitions to amend the charter.  Both of these petitions violated well-established rules against logrolling — several unrelated or independent issues wrapped into one question.  The council followed advice of the county attorney and refused to put these illegal questions to a vote.  
    This abuse of the process resulted in a proposed amendment putting anti-logrolling language into the charter.  

  • Charter revision not citizen sensitive

    WHEREAS two [2 (!)] of the seven current councilors were not elected by the voters and both will still be seated for another two2 years without being subjected to voter approval even after we vote in the upcoming general election (remember that the councilor appointed by the councilors before these two was not reseated by voters at the end of his term); and
    WHEREAS it is possible for the council to have none of its members voter-elected, but all self-appointed by those seated and remain so for nearly two years until some of “their” terms end; and
    WHEREAS it is possible for an elected person to resign after serving a single day and have the council appoint a person, who could not otherwise serve consecutive terms or one who has not gone through the grinding forums and public scrutiny faced by voter-elected councilors, who would then sit for nearly 4 years; and
    WHEREAS the Charter Review Committee (CRC) has claimed a comprehensive review of the charter, but has not seen to it that ALL of the seated councilors should be voter-elected; and
    WHEREAS the seated council has not been moved (only annoyed!) by the current level of requirements for citizen petitions, even when signed by over 2000 signatures (over 10 percent of the total citizenry); and

  • The irony of it all

    I understand the Los Alamos Government Review Initiative’s (LAGRI) are in opposition of the proposed amendments the Charter Review Committee (CRS) has recommended to the initiative and referendum provisions of the Charter; under the premise that the proposed signature requirements of 15  percent and timeframes of 60 days for petitions are onerous.
    I find LAGRI’s posture troubling. In January 2010 I attended a public meeting scheduled by the County Council. The single topic of the meeting was to discuss LAGRI’s petitions and one of LAGRI’s proposals was a requirement that signatures from 15 percent the total number of voters in the last general election is needed for ballot placement and furthermore; the LAGRI petition set 60 days as the deadline to accomplish the task.
    LARGI logic or lack thereof escapes me – if LAGRI finds the CRC 15 percent and 60 day language objectionable why did they propose virtually the same requirements in their petitions and obtain 2,000 signatures in support of their petition!
     By LAGRI’s own yardstick, the proposed CRC changes are reasonable. How can the opposition object when they themselves proposed the same requirements?  The irony is glaring.

  • CRC Amendment changes

    When changes to our County Charter are proposed, I usually look at such proposals with a somewhat jaundiced eye.  Our Charter, after all, has served us well, with only minor changes, for nearly 45 years.  This is true for the most part.  But, after so many years we start to see what works and what does not.
      For many years the initiative, referendum, and recall provisions of the Charter have lacked clarity and, at times, inhibited the community’s effort to proceed with needed improvements.  The proposed changes rectify those shortcomings.
      The grouping of the Charter questions makes sense.   Each of the four provisions, if passed individually, can stand on its own.  Furthermore, the proposed ninety-day provision for collecting signatures is a reasonable balance between adequate time to collect signatures versus limiting the use of the initiative, referendum, and recall provisions as a mere obstructionist tactic.  

  • Support stand-alone vision plans

    Ninety percent of vision care is administered through stand-alone vision plans, which benefit 100 million people
    nationwide.  Vision Service Plan benefits all employees of Los Alamos National Laboratory.   The American Optometric Association (AOA) lobbied against stand-alone vision plans in the Exchanges, saying that only those vision plans bundled with medical plans should be allowed as this represents “integrated care.”
     The California Health Insurance Exchange, which is reconsidering its stance against stand-alone vision plans,  acknowledged that only allowing bundled vision plans would significantly limit consumer choice and competition.  The American Dental Association lobbied to include both stand-alone dental plans and dental plans bundled with medical plans, consistent with their support of “robust competition and consumer choice” among dental plans.  Governor O’Malley of Maryland signed legislation to allow stand alone vision plans in their Exchange, supporting the “consumer’s right to choose either a stand-alone vision plan or a vision plan as an endorsement to medical.”
    Points to consider:

  • More on the amendments

    My eyes glaze over as I study the Election Resolution in the Los Alamos  Monitor of 9/18. There are 5 Whereas’s, then 4 Questions, which I am to vote on, then 4 Exhibits.  The first Whereas covers 598 to 604, VII, 700, 703, 704, IX, and 907, presumably relating to the Initiative Process, and then it sends me to Exhibit A.  
    I am put off, but soldier on to Exhibit A, where I find that Legislation by Initiative shall not extend to Budget, Bonds, Appropriations, Taxes, Capital Projects, Solid Waste, Compensation, Zoning, or Otherwise by Law. Otherwise?  What does it cover?  Is anything allowed?  Are we being disenfranchised?  Is it logrolling?  I will need a lawyer to discover what Otherwise refers to, and a judge to decide on the rest.

  • Charter Amendment chatter

    The Los Alamos Monitor has published a number of excellent articles and letters explaining the long and careful process resulting in the proposed charter amendments we will be voting on, and on their value to the community.  There are two points I would like to stress.
    First, our form of county government is a representative democracy.  Every two years either three or four of the seven county council positions are up for election.  If the council is truly taking egregious actions opposed by much of the community, the council composition can be changed dramatically in a relatively short time.
    Second, the shortened time to collect petition signatures need not have significant impact.  If the wording and purpose of the petition are well advertised to the community through letters and articles before the clock starts, those who wish to support it should have little difficulty in getting signatures during the allowed period.
    Mark Jones
    Los Alamos


  • Hostages on Canyon Road

    Next summer will shift the misery of east Canyon Road and Myrtle Street to the next set of hostages west of Ninth Street. This summer the closure of east Canyon Road has been an annoying inconvenience for those of us who live on Pine, Quartz, Rim, Nugget, 11th Street, Opal, and Sage Loop.
    It is unconscionable the ordeal the county has imposed on the people who live directly on Canyon Road and Myrtle, where the construction is taking place, as well as the feeder streets of Manhattan Loop, First, Second, Third and Fourth Streets. Residents in the entire neighborhood have suffered not just vehicular access but pedestrian access as well.
    How can such an important street be left torn up for four months and only in the fifth month begin to get put back together? Residents along east Canyon Road and Myrtle have endured driveway blockages, dust, noise, and mud for the entire summer. Canyon Road between Ninth and 15th streets is next, and we’re not looking forward to it.
    It would be nice if someone in authority could explain to Los Alamos residents the contracting process that starts a project and then essentially abandons it until the contractual deadline looms.
    Residents have seen this happen all too often, such as when west Canyon Road was closed for more than a year, and the five-year reconstruction nightmare of Diamond Drive.