Walker: Moral Compass

Independent Candidate for
Los Alamos County Council

Where has our moral compass gone, and how do we get it back on track? Wednesday evening I watched the Los Alamos County Planning and Zoning Commission meet to decide on approval of the site plan for the affordable senior housing project on DP Road. Sounds great right? On the surface it sure does, but the details of this meeting left me sad, upset, and confused as to how we ended up in this position.

The proposed site for this senior housing is located in an area that was used for Manhattan Project-era dumping of radiological waste. Overall, this is not a deal-breaker as the land should have been completely remediated and cleaned up prior to being turned over to the county. This is where things start to get a little sketchy. This plot of land is directly adjacent to the plot of land where radioactive contaminants were found multiple times when attempting to place infrastructure requirements. This is AFTER being turned over to the county as “clean”. The Department of Energy and the county were asked about this at the P&Z meeting, with both passing the buck claiming not to know anything about the plot of land in question.

I continued watching the meeting, expecting to hear grave concerns over placing some of our most vulnerable population (elderly, low income citizens) adjacent to, or potentially on a prior radiological waste dump site. I was thankful to hear two members express concerns over the project, and I was hopeful that this proposal would be rejected. I was wrong, and the commission passed the approval of the site plan with a vote of 4-2.

What concerns me the most out of all of this, was the general responses to the concerns of the commissioners who voted against this project. The acting chair of the commission, who voted in favor of the project mentioned the need for “good PR” about this project. What kind of good PR is going to come from building low income senior housing on a site the DOE cannot even confirm is clean? The only kind of PR that will come out of this is going to be ugly and will reflect poorly on the county and the P&Z Commission. Another comment regarding support for this project was that “we have to start where we are” seemingly referring to affordable housing. Starting on a potentially contaminated waste site is absolutely not the place.

This was an incredibly poor choice by the P&Z Commission. This project presents a massive PR risk to the county, a potential massive health risk to an extremely vulnerable population, and jeopardizes the faith I have in our county to make the appropriate decisions when it comes to its residents. We NEED low income and actual affordable housing, but we need to address it in a responsible, rational way. It’s time to right this moral compass, and stop ignoring the clear and present danger presented to our residents. If we are going to address needs within this community, we can do it without potentially jeopardizing the health of our residents as well.