Councilor Corner: Recap Of Aug. 24 Council Meeting

Vice Chair
Los Alamos County Council

Good morning Los Alamos, and happy Wednesday!

The Council held its August Work Session last night, and the agenda was a full one.  

The Council began the session with a report from the Arts in Public Places Board, updating us on  all the work the board has accomplished in the last year. The board has been hard at work getting art installed across the county including the new “Multiverse” at the pond. The board will continue to find locations and artists for additional art, but will concentrate on North Mesa. 

The Council then received the interim report for the Los Alamos Resiliency, Energy and Sustainability Task Force. For those who may not remember, Council formed this task force earlier this year in response to a citizen petition to address climate change. The report presented concentrated on 6 General Recommendations. Council then provided general feedback on the report, and what areas we would like to see when the final report is presented in February 2022.

The recommendations are:

  • Recommendation “Zero:” Establish “Net Zero” GHG emissions as a long-term goal for County government and the community (exclusive of LANL) as a whole. 
  • Recommendation 1: Perform a baseline GHG emissions study.
  • Recommendation 2: Create a Climate Change Action Plan to be updated every 5 years or as needed. 
  • Recommendation 3: Produce an annual Climate Change Action Report.
  • Recommendation 4: Create an on-going citizen body tasked to advise Council on reducing GHG emissions. 
  • Recommendation 5: Integrate the goal of net zero GHG emissions, practices to achieve net zero, and other sustainability practices into all County government operations.
    Appropriate staffing additions or redirection may be necessary.

The Council then proceeded to receive two presentations concerning the Regional Capital Project fund from Councilor Williams, and Councilor Izraelevitz and Scott. For those who might not know, during the FY20 Budget Hearings, funds were added to the Progress through Partnering line item for potential new regional projects.  In February 2020, Council discussed the possibility of a fund that would be available to our regional partners for capital outlay needs and a potential mechanism for such a program. Each Councilor then presented their idea on how best to utilize those funds. Council did not ask any technical or clarifying questions for either of these presentations, although a recommendation was made to form a sub-committee of Councilors to take these two ideas, and present a final recommendation to Council. The Council is expected to continue this discussion in September.

Moving on, the Council then suspended our procedural rules to vote on various items including council minutes, approval of councilor expenses, and purchase of a mobile cellular trailer to be used across northern New Mexico. Council also authorized staff to prepare an application for Los Alamos to be considered a “American World War II Heritage City”. This designation from the Secretary of the Interior is awarded annually to one city, in one state to “recognize and ensure continued preservation and importance of the history of the United States involvement in World War II”. 

Council then began our initial discussions on options to address vacant buildings. The Council had a robust discussion on various items associated with ordinance. At the end of the discussion, I presented what I felt the purpose of this ordinance would be, and what I think it could achieve. In my opinion, this ordinance would not force building owners to put a business into their facility. What this ordinance could do is allow us (the County) to understand the scope of the issue in our community. It would allow us to look at utilizing tools like MRA and LEDA to help those buildings, and notify those owners that we can use other tools (such as clean and lien) if the building becomes a health hazard.

Ultimately, the Council provided staff with several areas we would like to see addressed in a follow-up discussion including elements of a proposed ordinance and the impact on staffing and budget.

After discussion options to address vacant buildings, the Council then proceeded to move on to the application of the Open Meetings Act. The Council thoroughly discussed this item at several different meetings, and as this item’s sponsor, I felt the Council needed to decide if we wanted to apply OMA standards to our other various Council subcommittees. After a discussion, it was decided that Council would consider an updated version of our annual OMA resolution, and that I would bring back proposed language requiring council subcommittees to submit a written report that could be included in the minutes of our meetings. I feel like these reports (like this column) would be a great way for the public to keep up with the Council.

The final discussion of the night concerned adding transparency to the Local Economic Development Act (LEDA). For those who might not know, LEDA allows businesses to apply to access public funds for their needs if they have a benefit for the community. Council recently adopted amendments to the act to reflect the state adding other business types that could apply. During those discussions, several Councilors and the public wanted to see ways to make the process more transparent. The Council brainstormed several ideas, and asked staff to come back with a high level process map, as well as options for incorporating some of our other ideas.