Saturday, May 28, 2016

Charter Amendment To Require That a Councilor Do Your Laundry


 Insofar as we may already have one Charter Amendment on the ballot this year, i.e., to abolish the office of elected sheriff of Los Alamos County,  I will suggest a second one after a chat with a counter staffer at one of our few remaining gas stations in Los Alamos: County Council will henceforth be responsible for ensuring laundry can be done frugally on The Hill.

Buying some groceries on the station located on what used to be "Conoco Hill", I mentioned to the service staff member that it was nice to have at least one of the previous long time gas station in town left standing. The person grumbled that it was unfortunate that gas stations were falling like dominoes to the Krogerville onslaught, and to boot, there is no longer a self-service laundromat in town. As a renter, that staffer now has fewer options.

To a Council that is advocating that we broaden our economic base and encourage tourism, I will reiterate that tourist industry jobs don't pay the lavish wages that our major employer pays. Tourist industry workers may be renting and may not have the laundry facilities many of us take for granted. For a tourist industry worker to add the price of having a laundry service clean their clothes would be more expensive. Driving to Pojoaque or Espanola to do laundry means a round trip of almost forty miles. At General Service Administration reimbursement rates of 54 cents a mile, that means adding 20 bucks to the cost of doing laundry.

Rather than cause such a hardship, I suggest a charter amendment: during such times that Los Alamos does not have a full self-service laundromat, the seven County Councillors will take in all laundry for those residents who do not have access to a washer/dryer. Council members will turn it around in a maximum of 48 hours. Simple enough. Perhaps instead of a Sheriff's Dept., we can delegate and have a County Laundry Department.

 A community government that wishes to expand our economy to include more lower wage jobs has a responsibility to know what social issues such decisions will entail. I am sure there are others (health insurance, living wage, transportation, housing costs, etc) far more serious than washing hotel industry uniforms, but this example provides a good opportunity for Council to step up to the plate and proudly hit one over the fence.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Letter To The Editor: Lacking An Outside Audit ... Doubt About County Personnel Management Remains

I am disappointed that Council voted 4-2 against commissioning an independent audit of the County's personnel policies. This follows some high profile, successful lawsuits against the county and the loss of former acting Police Chief Randy Foster, who was fired, as I understand, due to his handling of a potentially catastrophic personnel situation. I counted Randy as a friend as well as a Chief, so like Councilor James Chrobocinski, I am somewhat conflicted. That said, I think this was the wrong decision.

County spokespeople can attempt to assuage our concerns about county management with lawyer-vetted argle bargle, to wit, a lawsuit payout does not equal admitted culpability. The public is not so naive; the numbers in these payouts speak for themselves. So too, does public confidence in County governance wane when high profile people in sensitive positions, such as the police chief, leave under a cloud of the county's own making, leading us to wonder whether the county is in good hands.

Admittedly, not all personnel actions can be made public and there is much we don't know. As a former member of a union board of directors (University of Hawaii Professional Assembly), I realize that you cannot sky-write all personnel actions. Thus, an  independent audit that preserved confidentiality when appropriate would have been a suitable substitute to both evaluate our personnel policies and let the public know that we are striving to make county governance as good as it could be. That 4-2 vote ensures neither will be obvious.

The votes of Councilors Girrens, Reiss, Izraelevitz and Henderson disappoint. I hope they write letters to this paper explaining their vote. Or, perhaps, raise this issue again with a less opaque outcome.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Father Daniel J. Berrigan, RIP

 Father Dan Berrigan one of the two Berrigan brothers (Phillip was the other) who stridently opposed the Vietnam War, died a few days ago. Writeups in the NY Times and on NPR.

Somewhat in honoring their efforts at stopping what was an extremely misguided war.