Council And Sheriff Candidates Share Views At Forum

League of Women Voters Co-President Barbara Calef addresses the audience, which filled the student center for the League’s candidate forum Thursday evening at UNM-LA. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
 
League of Women Voters Co-President Becky Shankland addresses the audience at the League’s candidate forum Thursday evening at UNM-LA. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com 
 
Community members pack the student center for the League of Women Voters candidate forum Thursday evening at UNM-LA. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com 
 
By BONNIE J. GORDON
Los Alamos Daily Post
bjgordon@ladailypost.com

The League of Women Voters hosted the first of two Primary Election Candidate Forums Thursday night at UNM-Los Alamos. A capacity crowd heard from candidates in contested races for County Council and Los Alamos Sheriff.

The participating candidates for County Council are all running as Democrats as the Republican candidates are not facing primary opposition. Five of the six Democratic candidates participated in the forum. Candidate Quentin Dimick did not participate.

Incumbent David Izraelevitz was the first speaker. Izraelevitz has served on the Council for seven years.

“I’m very proud of the things we accomplished during my tenure,” he said. “I’m running on my record.”

The tax status of Los Alamos National Laboratory should the new LANL contract go to a nonprofit entity and adequate housing are two of the most important issues facing the County in the days ahead, Izraelevitz said. Communicating with constituents is one of his highest priorities, he said.

First-time candidate Sara Scott has been a resident for about 30 years.

“I fell in love with the mountains, the science and the community,” she said.

Scott, a retired LANL division leader said her skills learned managing large organizations would serve her well on the Council. She is well-versed in budgets, staff management, strategic planning, she said.

Scott’s campaign slogan is “Making Change Work for Us” and she stressed the challenges and opportunities of changing demographics in the County. As Los Alamos welcomes newcomers, the County must address their need for housing and services. Meanwhile, the requirements of retirees and those in need of help must be met, she said.

Candidate James Robinson also has been a County resident for around 30 years, however he arrived by a different path than Scott. He was born here. Robinson said he discovered his passion for public service while attending UNM-Los Alamos and serving on the Student Council and as president of the honor society. Robinson chaired the college’s mil levy campaign and remains a strong supporter of the campus, he said.

Robinson said the most important thing a Councilor can do is “listen and engage the citizens.” If elected, he will support continuing to upgrade infrastructure and increase housing options.

“I’m very excited about mixed use of commercial and residential space,” he said.

Randall Ryti is seeking political office for the first time. He has lived in Los Alamos since 1992 and is the co-founder of Neptune and Company. His community service includes six years on the board of the Pajarito Environmental Education Center and four years on the Transportation Board.

Ryti’s goals include improved community health outcomes.

“Mental health and substance abuse treatment programs are a high priority for me,” he said. “This is an area where County funds can produce the largest positive effect on vulnerable people,” he said.

Other goals include increased housing stock, improved transportation and building on successful public-private partnerships.

Candidate Timothy Morrison is the manager of the Los Alamos Co+op Market. He grew up in Los Alamos.

“I’d like to replace corporations with co-ops,” he said.

Morrison proposes charging a fee on vacant commercial real estate to incentivize filling empty spaces with new local businesses.

“We need to make it in the property owner’s interest to fill their space,” he said. “This approach has been successful in other communities,” he said.

Building a local business community is important to the future health of Los Alamos, Morrison said.

“The reason I’m running is that the Los Alamos business community is smaller than it was 40 years ago,” Morrison said.

During the question and answer phase of the Forum, the candidates were asked about their proposals to expand the business sector in Los Alamos.

Robinson suggested that the County create a checklist of what is needed to do business in Los Alamos. He said small business owners should be steered to seek help from the Small Business Development Corporation at UNM-LA. He also suggested promoting home businesses.

Izraelevitz said additional residents are the key to increasing businesses. He also mentioned branding and tourism as areas to explore.

Ryti said making the community more attractive and marketing our potential to businesses were avenues to explore.

Scott suggested talking to successful businesses about what makes them successful. She mentioned a number of ways to attract businesses: improve quality of life, provide economic development funds and support business incubators.

Morrison reiterated his support for fees on vacant property.

All of the candidates agreed with the Council’s use of funds to support a local public health office. They also agreed on seeking innovative ways to support education without violating state statutes. Everyone agreed that affordable housing is key to attracting and retaining teachers. All of the candidates said more information was needed before making a decision on the proposed bike flow trail.

Audience members expressed fears about what would happen if a nonprofit took over LANL management and the state did not change exemption from gross receipts tax offered to those entities.

Scott said it would be necessary to put some expenditures on hold. She suggested identifying new income sources. Izraelevitz said he would look into involving public philanthropy in some needed projects. All the candidates said that hard decisions would have to be made. All the candidates expressed a need to find common ground among citizens about which things are most important and to brainstorm with the community about which projects to pursue and which to abandon.

Raising taxes is a possible solution to revenue shortfall, but the candidates agreed that there must be a consensus among residents on this step, if it were to be taken. Izraelevitz pointed out that 80 percent of taxes in Los Alamos are paid by the laboratory and overburdening it could have bad consequences.

Since only Republican candidates for sheriff have opposition in the primary, James Whitehead and Hugh Rich were the only participants in the second part of the Forum. Their views could not be more different.

Whitehead is a fire protection engineer at LANL. He maintains that the sheriff is a law enforcement office under state statute and that neither the County Charter nor the County Council can change that. (The County Charter lays out the duties of the sheriff.) He supports a law enforcement role for the sheriff.

“In 2016, the County Council defunded and dismantled the sheriff’s office,” Whitehouse said. “We need to rebuild what was destroyed by County government. We need to have a conversation about how to build this office.”

Rich, a former Los Alamos police officer, is a computer security specialist at LANL. He said he would eliminate inflated budgets and lack of communication with the Los Alamos Police Department and would not bring lawsuits against the County as the current sheriff has done. He wants to take the office of sheriff “back to basics”. Protecting youth through sex offender registry would be his priority task as sheriff.

“I will work with the Council and the community,” he said. “If you want to give more law enforcement duties to the sheriff, you have to change the County Charter.”

County Clerk Naomi Maestas offered information during the forum about voting in the June 5 Primary Election and said that absentee and early voting begins May 8.

Visit https://www.losalamosnm.us/government/elected_officials/county_clerk/election_information/ to learn more about procedures and locations for the election.

The next League forum is 7 p.m. at Fuller Lodge and will feature candidates in contested races for judge and House Dist. 43.

Scene from the League of Women Voters candidate forum Thursday evening at UNM-LA. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com 

Democratic candidates running for Los Alamos County Council face the audience at the League of Women Voters candidate forum Thursday evening at UNM-LA. Candidates from left, incumbent David Izraelevitz, Sara Scott, James Robinson, Randall Ryti and Timothy Morrison. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com 

Democratic incumbent candidate for council David Izraelevitz addresses the audience at the League of Women Voters candidate forum Thursday evening at UNM-LA. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com 

Democratic candidate for council Sara Scott addresses the audience at the League of Women Voters candidate forum Thursday evening at UNM-LA. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com 

Democratic candidate for council James Robinson, left, addresses the audience at the League of Women Voters candidate forum Thursday evening at UNM-LA. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com 

Democratic candidate James Robinson. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com 

Democratic candidate for council Randall Ryti, center, addresses the audience at the League of Women Voters candidate forum Thursday evening at UNM-LA. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com 

Democratic candidate for council Randall Ryti. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com 

Democratic candidate for council Timothy Morrison, right, addresses the audience at the League of Women Voters candidate forum Thursday evening at UNM-LA. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com 

Democratic candidate for council Timothy Morrison. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com 

Republican candidate for sheriff James Whitehead, left, answers a question from the audience as fellow Republican candidate Hugh Rich looks on during Thursday’s League of Women Voters Forum at UNM-LA. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Los Alamos High School Hilltalkers keep the forum running on time during Thursday’s League of Women Voters Forum at UNM-LA. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

The three Hilltalker timekeepers during Thursday’s League of Women Voters Forum at UNM-LA. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Jose Carreño, running as an Independent candidate for Los Alamos County Council, questions candidates during the forum. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Ellen Ben-Naim, a school board member, questions candidates during the forum. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Local stable owner Dan McCarn questions candidates at Thursday’s forum at UNM-LA. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Local stable owner Nancy Boudrie resident questions candidates at Thursday’s forum at UNM-LA. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Republican candidate for council Brady Burke listens to the Democratic council candidates during the forum. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Los Alamos County Council Vice Chair Christine Chandler, center, listens to the candidates at Thursday’s LWV forum at UNM-LA. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Los Alamos County Clerk Naomi Maestas briefs the audience on the ins and outs of the upcoming election during Thursday’s LWV forum at UNM-LA. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Republican candidate for council Dawn Trujillo Voss, second from left, at Thursday’s forum. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Scene from the League of Women Voters candidate forum Thursday evening at UNM-LA. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Scene from the League of Women Voters candidate forum Thursday evening at UNM-LA. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Scene from the social time just prior to the League of Women Voters candidate forum Thursday evening at UNM-LA. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Democratic candidate for council Randall Ryti chats with community members prior to the League of Women Voters candidate forum Thursday evening at UNM-LA. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

County Councilor Rick Reiss, left, and County Budget and Performance Manager Karen Kendall check the ballots for the upcoming election and chat with Clerk Naomi Maestas prior to the League of Women Voters candidate forum Thursday evening at UNM-LA. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Los Alamos Teachers Union President Ellen Mills, left, and PED Commissioner Karyl Ann Armbruster. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Magistrate Judge Pat Casados, who is a Democrat running for re-election and will face Libertarian James Rickman in the fall election, chats with community members prior to the League of Women Voters candidate forum Thursday evening at UNM-LA. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Democratic candidate for council Timothy Morrison chats with community members prior to the League of Women Voters candidate forum Thursday evening at UNM-LA. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Democratic candidate for council Sara Scott, right,  chats with community members prior to the League of Women Voters candidate forum Thursday evening at UNM-LA. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

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