I will be voting FOR Question 1 to abolish the position of an elected office of the sheriff. I first got involved in this issue when I served on the Charter Review Committee. We thoroughly reviewed the Charter line by line. The issue of an elected sheriff was one of quite a few issues we considered. Since then, I have been reading the various letters and opinions on this issue and want to add my reasons for supporting Question 1.
First of all, the idea that the sheriff is going to root out corruption in our town is ridiculous. I’ve known many elected officials in this town over the years and we generally have been fortunate to have ethical, well-intended people serving in elected office. However, should that change, there are many remedies for resolving the problem other than turning to the sheriff. My experience from reading news about sheriffs in nearby counties and states is that they are not above corruption themselves. In fact, just look up Joe Arpaio on the Internet and you’ll see what I mean.
Second, we have a well-funded, professional police department that can handle all of the duties of the sheriff. LAPD’s budget is much larger than the sheriff’s, but the current sheriff has tried over the years to enlarge his budget. Future sheriffs may continue to do that, too, seeking money for radios, guns, vehicles, perhaps even another jail. The sheriff’s budget, once it is approved by council, gets some scrutiny, but very little. As long as we maintain the office of an elected sheriff, there will be ongoing efforts to increase the roles and duties of the sheriff, all at increased expense.
Third, in the past 40 years, several lawsuits have been filed related to the duties of the sheriff. They arise, I believe, because of confusion about the Charter, our county’s governing document, and state law. We, the citizens of Los Alamos County, are fully within our legal right to eliminate the office of elected sheriff. It costs the county unneeded expense to go to court every few decades to have lawsuits adjudicated in various courts. Let’s eliminate the office and be done with it once and for all.
Finally, our current sheriff, Marco Lucero, has turned this issue into a personal vendetta. An article on the front page of the Santa Fe New Mexican recently describes his office as tiny and dimly lit. In the article, Lucero suggested that the fervor about the sheriff is all about him personally and the color of his skin. He failed to mention to the reporter that this community supported his election not once but twice, and that for many years, Louis Rojas, also Hispanic, served as our sheriff and was beloved by many members of our community.
This nonsense needs to stop. Let’s do it. Please join me in voting FOR question 1.