Letter to the Editor: History of Abuse

By George Chandler

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. 

In 2010 the council defied the opinion of the County Attorney and put on the ballot an initiative petition that would have required the council to rebuild the municipal building on Ashley Pond. 

Private citizens appealed the decision to District Court, which followed well-established state law that administrative decisions cannot be put to the voters, and declared the proposed election illegal.

The proposed amendments address this abuse of the process by adding certain capital projects to the lists of prohibited referendum and initiative subjects.

In 2012 the 2009 group filed and circulated unsuccessfully six petitions that would have required an election on whether these charter amendments should be brought to an election. 

This abuse of the petition process mercifully failed.

No history of abuse? Abuse has marked the use of the petition process in Los Alamos for most of the history of the charter. 

The amendments will eliminate much of the abuse while protecting the rights of citizens to challenge excesses of government authority. 

Please vote FOR the charter amendment questions 1, 2, 3, 4.


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