Letter to the Editor: County Newsletter Summary Of Ballot Question 2 Misleading

John Arrowsmith, Chris Ortega, Felicia Orth, Ken Milder, Robert Gibson and Lawry Mann

The County’s recent mailing to provide voter information on ballot questions includes a misleading “Summary of Proposed Changes” for Ballot Question 2 – Utilities. The County-written summary focuses on improving “readability” and “adding clarifying language.” Nowhere in the summary is it acknowledged that the changes reconfigure the fundamental governance model for utilities management and potential utilities revenue distribution in Los Alamos.

Moreover, the “Rationale for Proposed Changes” following the summary speaks to the importance of “maintaining” the semi-independent nature of the Utilities Board and Department while the changes proposed undercut precisely that status.

Through the Charter Los Alamos citizens have given powers to their local government. The Charter splits control of the Department of Public Utilities by putting the Department under the jurisdiction and control of the Board of Public Utilities, but requiring Council approval of budgets, rates and the hiring and firing of the Utilities Manager. Citizens insisted on this arrangement when the County was formed to provide local control while limiting the ability of their government to tax them through utility charges.

The proposed revision of Article V effectively eliminates the separation of powers that now exists. It would be difficult to determine the magnitude of this change from the information provided by the County in their mailing. The elimination of important checks and balances in our existing charter is characterized as “a clarified disputes resolution process.”

Indeed, when the Council is given ultimate authority to settle disputes, the ability of the Board to set reserve levels and to negotiate cost allocations from the general fund will be eliminated.  It is common for any branch of government to seek to expand the powers citizens have given them and the Council and their staff have tremendous power to control information provided to the public in an effort to do so. There is no justification for this proposed expansion of Council powers pertaining to Utilities. 

For a complete point by point analysis regarding the proposed Charter provisions please click on the “analysis” tab at our web site: www.preservesoundutilitiesla.org. For examples of the unhappy results of weak governance models in other communities, click on the “risks” tab.

We urge citizens to investigate this issue and to vote NO on Charter question 2.





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