Dear Citizens of Los Alamos:
This fall brings an important school board election. Early voting starts October 5, the last day to register (and immediately vote) is October 30, and the last day to vote is November 2.
Three of the seats are contested. While the election is technically non-partisan, there is quite a contrast between standard-issue, mainstream Los Alamos citizen-servants on one hand and extremely right-wing candidates on the other. Voters might not realize how radical the Republican slate really is.
District 5 is in my view the most exciting, because the incumbent Erin Green (D) is truly inspiring. She is thoughtful and kind, and a good listener even with people she disagrees with. She is a 30-something Latina woman, which is valuable in a community where things tend to be run by white retirees. She has one daughter attending LAPS while the other is homeschooled. This experience lets her bridge an important gap, as the public school and homeschool communities should work together better, and it gives her important insights into what’s not working at LAPS. Green’s mental health expertise is particularly timely given the trauma of COVID. Finally, when I wrote to the board and acting superintendent with COVID concerns, she was the only one who got back to me substantively.
Her opponent, Nickole Aguilar Garcia (R), is a sharp contrast. While she campaigns as a moderate, in my view it’s clear she is not. In the League of Women Voters (LWV) voting guide, she dodged the question on mask support, responding with the non-position “I do not contest that mandate”. She claims not to be anti-vaxx, instead framing her position as “anti-mandate”, but vaccines are a community intervention that requires everyone to work together. We live in a society, and the individualistic decision to not be vaccinated hurts others — witness our hospitals overflowing with unvaccinated COVID patients, leaving no room for other health problems, and yes people are dying.
Aguilar Garcia’s social media statements are even more clear. She has mocked LGBTQ+ youth publically. Note this population of teens is particularly at risk of suicide, which goes through the roof if the adults around them (e.g. LAPS leadership!) are unsupportive. Regarding COVID, her social media statements “covid is over” and “I agree, enough is enough” show support for right-wing head-in-the-sand COVID non-response that prolongs the pandemic. Even more concerning, she has stated “Fauci needs to be in prison for what he did”, the purported offenses being lying about the “source of COVID” (i.e., she appears to believe COVID was deliberately engineered, which is supported by no credible evidence), the “effectiveness about masks” (i.e., seeing non-existent malice behind the confusing mask guidance early in COVID actually based simply in the desire to prevent runs on PPE desperately needed by health care workers). She also stated that Fauci “was involved in the creation of COVID”, which is again absurd. All this grossly disqualifies Aguilar Garcia.
In District 4, incumbent Melanie Colgan (D) is a solid leader with mainstream Los Alamos views. Her statements in the LWV guide are level-headed and straightforward, e.g. “In order to keep our schools open, we need to use strategies that work. Research shows that vaccines and masks work.” This is the kind of evidence-based, clear-headed thinking we need in LAPS leadership.
On the other hand, her opponent, Rick Mooday (R), opposes mask mandates, which are a simple, effective, low-cost, and trivially reversible intervention that works. He also falsely believes that COVID is “commensurate with” seasonal flu, which is a gross misinterpretation of the scientific evidence and believed by no actual experts, even for children. Long COVID is a real problem for children; they spread it just as well as adults; and yes kids do die from COVID. Also, he has donated to former President Trump’s campaign on six separate occasions, as well as the “Stop the Steal” election subversion campaign. This makes his politics clear. Mooday is an obvious mis-match for Los Alamos.
In District 2, I would vote for Antonio Jaurique (D). His passion for the public schools is extraordinary; the Walkers’ recent letter details this. He wants to address climate change by expanding solar generation at the middle school, which could double as an income stream for LAPS. On COVID, he’ll “trust that experts” know what they are doing and that “if new evidence comes to light, our actions can be altered”. This is the right way to get through COVID.
I have reservations about Steve Boerigter (D). On COVID, he states “the numbers don’t lie” (LWV guide), and he sees COVID vaccination as akin to well-established required vaccinations like “measles and mumps”. However, Boerigter waffled on masking in the LWV guide, and he does not see climate change “as a school board issue”. In my view, given that enormous importance and urgency of climate change, it is rightly every institution’s issue.
Paul Jaramillo (R) is again a sharp contrast to both. He is a climate change denier: “Carbon dioxide only makes up a small amount of the atmosphere and cannot be blamed fully for climate change” (LWV guide). Jaramillo has been a vigorous social media user, and these posts paint a clear picture. He is an anti-masker, again invoking “freedom of choice” but disregarding that our choices affect others; he also states that “masking a child can be abusive”, another right-wing myth. He is anti-vaxx, stating so in the LWV guide and complaining about the “mRNA based ‘vaccine’” on social media (scare quotes in original). Hilariously, in another post he blames “tens of thousands of COVID positive, unvaccinated illegal immigrants”, which is of course not really why COVID is spreading in the United States.
A key goal for Jaramillo appears to be maximizing Christianity in the public schools; he wants a world where “pink is for girls and blue is for boys” (again, very concerning for LGBTQ+ students) because otherwise is “against biblical values”, and he dismisses climate change in part because he believes the end times are imminent. He posted a meme that “when our schools reopen the first person they need to let in is God Almighty”. But our public schools must be welcoming to students and families of any (or no) religion. The First Amendment also demands this, so Jaramillo’s policy would invite distracting, money-wasting legal headaches. Again, none of this is appropriate for an LAPS leader.
All three Republican candidates disregarded the indoor mask law at their party’s candidate event in September. Aguilar Garcia and Jaramillo refuse to attend the non-partisan LWV voter forum in early October. None of these people are qualified to lead LAPS.
Please turn out and vote for Green, Colgan, and Jaurique to keep LAPS governed by reasonable people making evidence-based decisions. It’s important.