Candidate for Los Alamos County Council Brady Burke speaks to the audience Saturday morning at the American Legion candidates forum. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Los Alamos County Council candidate Brady Burke told the audience at candidate forums hosted by the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign War Saturday and Monday evening that his platform is simple.
“The Los Alamos County government has grown so large and the County Council so detached from the voters and taxpayers that they no longer work for or represent the citizens of the County,” he said. “As the County Council has become a puppet of the County government, the taxpayers can no longer depend on the oversight the Council should provide for its citizens. As a result, the County government operates with impunity in raising utility rates, taxes, staffing and overreach.”
Burke said for the past seven years, the County’s utility department has raised sewer rates by eight percent per year. He said the department claims these increases support the work on the White Rock Water Treatment Facility but fail to tie these increases to that project.
“Instead, the increases go towards the utilities department’s cash reserves and are available to the other utilities projects through Council approval. Each of these rate increases has been approved by the County Council,” he said. “Our utility department is not allowed to make a profit but that does not require them to be economical, just that they have to spend all the money they collect. While the department is raising rates for loans to pay for the White Rock facility, it is looking for Council approval to spend up to $6.5 million on a system of Smart Meters. The County tells us that these meters will reduce the effort involved in collecting usage, but in fact, the staffing is just being moved around within the government. There will be no downsizing.”
Burke said the County should be spending money on things that are needed, “need, not buying new toys” and that he has been asking the Board of Public Utilities to prioritize infrastructure repairs ahead of new toys.
He also criticized the County for paying $2 million to prepare the ground in White Rock for a new housing development near the fire station and then selling the land to the developers for $400,000, “the cost of one housing unit”.
“It may sound drastic but we need to replace the current members of the County Council, starting with this election. We need elected officials that will hold the County government accountable to the voters and taxpayers. We need a Council that puts Los Alamos first,” Burke said.
Burke suggested establishing town hall meetings to allow a public forum for discussing proposed changes and not just the three minutes allowed at Council meetings. He wants Council agendas posted at least as week in advance both online and in the newspapers. He believes Council meetings should be limited to four hours to allow the public to reasonably attend. He wants the County to manage money like a household budget with the largest percentage going to those things that have to be paid for such as infrastructure and with money set aside for emergencies.
Burke said the County needs to look at local businesses for its contracts before going off the hill and that construction projects need to provide apprenticeship opportunities for youth and local workers.
“County hiring should give preference to local labor. The idea that we are sending our labor dollars off the hill is troubling. We should be able to hire and train locally first. Only after that should we be looking for off the hill workers.
Burke said businesses need to be developed in White Rock.
“We can’t neglect White Rock. They should not have to drive up to Los Alamos to enjoy the services they pay for. The County should be investing equally in White Rock,” he said.
He said he recognizes that White Rock is not getting the investment and attention that the community on the hill is. We need to recognize our tax dollars come in from everybody. We need to spread it around reasonably equally but we need to invest in White Rock,” he said.