RCLC Draws Criticism At Taos Meeting

IMG_3773.jpgRegional Coalition of LANL Communities board members, from left, alternate board member Los Alamos County Council Chair Sara Scott, Santa Fe County Commissioner and chair Henry Roybal, vice chair Taos Town Councilor Darien Fernandez and treasurer and Santa Fe City Councilor Peter Ives. Taos County Commissioner Ben Blankenhorn was present for part of the meeting. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com

BY MAIRE O’NEILL
maire@losalamosreporter.com

Regional Coalition of LANL Communities board members met in Taos Friday afternoon, marking the first time the board has met there since May 2017.

As members of the Taos community arrived at 1:30 p.m. for the meeting, they were surprised that neither the board members or the executive director, Eric Vasquez were present however the room was set up for the meeting. A little later, Vasquez appeared and said the meeting would be starting a little late. He said four board members were in an exit interview for the six years of audits that have been conducted by the accounting firm Kubiak Melton.

Present at the closed meeting were chair Santa Fe County Commissioner Henry Roybal, vice chair Town of Taos Councilor Darien Fernandez, alternate board member Los Alamos County Council chair Sara Scott and secretary Santa Fe City Councilor Peter Ives as well as Los Alamos County Manager Harry Burgess and Vasquez. It is not known who else attended.

Under the executive director’s report item on the agenda, Vasquez said the RCLC is just waiting for final comments on the audits and then will be formally submitted to the Office of the State Auditor.

“They then have the ball. At that point, once the State Auditor signs off, we will be able to publicly release the documents. So we are very close to getting this done. I am excited and happy to see that we are almost there,” Vasquez said.

When the main meeting commenced, Taos County Commissioner Tom Blankenhorn participated to make up a quorum until items on the agenda requiring a decision were voted on such as invoices for executive director services, ECA annual dues and an invoice for accounting services for Zlotnick Laws & Sandoval, but left thereafter. It was the first time a representative of Taos County attended an RCLC meeting since April 2017.

This was the first meeting in a while where there were no board members attending by phone in order to make up a quorum. For one recent meeting, three members attended by phone. At each meeting during roll call, the Ohkay Owingeh Gov. Ron Lovato’s name is called but there has not been a representative from the Pueblo since March 2018. The roll call also includes “Representative of Pueblo of Jemez” but there has never been a representative of the Pueblo on the dais at an RCLC board meeting.

Several Taos residents addressed the board under public comment, including Kay Matthews who read a letter which is published separately as a commentary

Taos resident Erich Kuerschner, who frequently attends RCLC meetings and participated in the all-day RCLC retreat in January, complained that he is not receiving notices of meetings even though he said he has signed up several times on the website. He complained that none of the concerns voiced by Suzie Schwartz, also from Taos, or himself were included in the newly-revised RCLC Joint Powers Agreement.

Kuerschner said the RCLC was founded by the Energy Communities Alliance and Los Alamos County, and it was largely funded by them. He said initially the RCLC was run by former Los Alamos deputy county manager Brian Bosshart and focused solely on Los Alamos National Laboratory interest. He said the RCLC web page seems non-functioning.

“If RCLC is indeed willing to reform – and I had hopes that it would and now I’m beginning to question whether that’s possible – it should form a standing committee of citizens that have real input into the process,” Kuerschner said

He said he hopes the JPA is reviewed before it is signed by Taos, paying special attention to the difference between the words “may” and “shall”.

“The issues of lobbying for new nuclear weapons has not been addressed. Diversify the mission is not the same as is not the same as saying that the RCLC will not support lobbying for more funding of the same. This cute language that we’ve been using now for seven years and speaking in one voice without explicitly addressing that issue, means that RCLC can go to (Washington,) DC and lobby on behalf of nuclear weapons because they’re speaking with one voice even though some communities like the Town of Taos have passed a resolution saying we adamantly oppose nuclear weapons production,” he said.

A letter, read by three people and entered into the record for the meeting, expressed concern at the RCLC’s reluctance to use language like “non-nuclear weapons-related work” anywhere in its JPA language demonstrates that the RCLC “actually does support LANL’s nuclear weapons mission or feels it must keep quiet about this uncomfortable issue in order to maintain itself”. The Board should have the right to specify which missions it does support within its own governing document or elsewhere on its website.

“In spite of our well-meaning board members’ honest desire to represent their constituents’ interests, there is no speaking with one voice on their behalf if the organization supports the sustainment, development, and proliferation of the world’s ultimate weapons of mass destruction, even by omission,” the letter reads. “If the RCLC is truly not a LANL entity, it should reassure those it claims to represent by reflecting its position on pit production, or lack thereof, in writing, somewhere for the public to see.”

In other business, the board approved payment of an invoice for $14,107 to Chicanos Por La Causa New Mexico (CPLC) for the month of July, an invoice for $950 for RCLC membership of the Energy Communities Alliance, and an invoice from Zlotnik Laws Sandoval for $934 for setting the RCLC up in QuickBooks and transferring prior year transactions.

The board heard a presentation by Paul Black and Tom Stockton of Neptune and Company, Inc. on the work they will be performing for the Department of Energy Environmental Management program for legacy waste cleanup stakeholder engagement. Separate story to come.