Letter To The Editor: Back To The IPRA

By CATHERINE OZMENT
Los Alamos

I am the first Chair of the Community Development Advisory Board speaking in my capacity as a private citizen.

For a county that already struggles to comply with Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) requests, Council made a peculiar choice Tuesday to increase that workload. This may be due to an apparent lack of understanding among some Councilors about how CDAB came into being and the functions it served (and an unsurprising apathy among others).

CDAB exists because in 2017 people IPRAed code enforcement cases and paperwork, and the practices revealed were so problematic that the community demanded a standing body to review and provide input on the gap between what the code said and what was happening on the ground.

CDAB was given access to that material monthly so they could look for patterns and report back to Council on what was working and what wasn’t.

(Readers unfamiliar with the saga might be surprised at what was found: the video archives live at https://losalamos.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx.)

People who advocated for the creation of CDAB (me, for example), were comfortable knowing appointed board members were able to do that work. Dissolving CDAB means that for there to be informed review and input, citizens will now have to file regular IPRA requests for the exact same material and make it available on their own.

So much for transparency.

Next time a Councilor defensively asks for an example of the problem with transparency in LAC, here’s one: five Councilors just voted to make it harder for this public information to be in the hands of members of the public. Now wait for them to complain about the burdensome public information requests, as though we should feel badly about exercising our rights.

No issue in the last five years has created such sustained and vocal outrage in Los Alamos County as code enforcement of Chapter 18. Perhaps other issues should have created more outrage, but at this particular intersection of government betrayal and actionable public information, enough citizens hit their limit that Council had no choice but to act.

I hoped for incoming Councilors Havemann and Cull to have a peaceful start to their service, but unfortunately that won’t be possible.

Here’s hoping an informed electorate can once again compel our representatives to right action. I won’t be sitting this one out.

LOS ALAMOS

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