By TOM TIERNEY
The County of Los Alamos introduced a controversial choice that our community must make through the Recreation Center Bond election: Should the County be allowed to compete with small businesses and nonprofits in our local fitness industry?
Supporters of this Bond claim that the absence of a Recreation Center is a central stumbling block in attracting visitors and new businesses to the County. However, they have failed to recognize how this Recreation Center will be positioned to directly, and unfairly, compete with the very local businesses that they claims it is trying to help.
As Bill Gentile correctly pointed out in his opinion editorial, many aspects of the Recreation Center duplicate offerings from small businesses in Los Alamos County. What consideration, if any, has the County given to the actual the small business owners in Los Alamos (not the ones who will hypothetically be attracted to Los Alamos once the Recreation Center is built) in the proposal of this Bond?
Local small businesses or nonprofit organizations as well as self-employed instructors that provide classes in Yoga, Pilates, Jazzercise, Crossfit and Martial Arts could very well find themselves unable to compete with tax-payer-subsidized, County-run classes. Local pool associations and independent fitness centers may be unable to maintain their membership numbers. Future fitness-related businesses may seek to establish themselves in places where competition is fair and balanced.
After the far more populous Santa Fe created the Genoveva Chavez Community Center (GCCC), many small businesses found themselves unable to survive.
The combination of leasing and maintaining their business location along with standard employee costs could not compete with a tax-payer subsidized facility of GCCC’s scale. Some small businesses closed their doors, while others resolved to be employed by the County with less pay and benefits.
This is where the slippery slope begins. County Gross Receipt Tax revenues drop due to failed small businesses and nonprofits, while former employees of those businesses seek County employment, further increasing County expenditures.
This Bond alone will cost an average over $2,000 per resident in direct taxes; and, yet, what are the real costs to our residents when one factors in the loss of local businesses due to unfair competition?
As a supporter of our local businesses and nonprofits, I will vote “NO” on this poorly-conceived and business-unfriendly Bond.