Letter to the Editor: We Can Do Better

Ellen Walton
Los Alamos

During this campaign season we have seen many arguments against the proposed Los Alamos County Charter amendments.

We have not, however, heard much about how they will improve our lives in Los Alamos, only about how they will make us more like Santa Fe and Albuquerque in how we govern ourselves.

We can read and find out that the ballot questions contain multiple parts which will make petitioning for referendum, recall, and initiative more difficult.

We cannot take some of the parts without taking all of them, even if we agree with some.

We must also understand in all this debate that Los Alamos is not at all like Santa Fe or Albuquerque, except that we are all in the state of New Mexico.

We are not an incorporated city with articles of incorporation that sits within a separate county as Santa Fe and Albuquerque do.

We have less than 19,000 people in our county as always, and we do not have a mayoral form of government, municipal elections or a separate county commission.

We have one entity, our County Council, which acts in executive, legislative and judicial capacities.

Our voice is no longer needed to approve large county expenditures; we can only vote on some tax increases, but not all. Many of us feel vulnerable with the federal budget uncertainties affecting LANL.

At this time two of our Councilors are not elected, but appointed. Two of our candidates for Council did not go through the primary process, but were appointed by their parties.

Representative government is not at its best in Los Alamos right now. Petitioning is our only legal remedy outside of voting for our elected officials.

It seems reasonable to not diminish that right without balancing it with other effective checks and balances on the Council’s power.

While I have been reminded that the final report has been given by the Charter Review Committee to Council, it has been seen actively participating in the recent Council proposals to further limit the autonomy of the Utilities Board section of our charter.

The subcommittees of the Charter Review Committee also brought to a meeting which I attended this year suggestions for the possible elimination of elected offices, including Assessor, Sheriff, and even Clerk.

These discussions were not contained in the Committee’s final report, nor will they be found in the official meeting minutes which were to be posted on the county’s website.

The Committee stopped posting their minutes altogether in 2011.

I am aghast at the direction the Committee took, and I am appalled at the way that these 21 changes were rolled together into just four ballot questions by five of our Council who pride themselves on being against “logrolling.”

I will vote NO on the four charter changes, and hope that the Charter Review Committee’s final report really is final. We can do better.

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