BY RICHARD SKOLNIK
The public discussion around the golf course, bike trails, and the conference center/hotel highlight the need for Los Alamos County to change the way it makes decisions on publicly funded investments.
The County should aim for its investments to be doable, sustainable, cost-effective, and fair.
- First, the investment has to be able to be carried out as planned.
- Second, the County should base its investments on a comparison of the costs and benefits or cost-effectiveness of alternative investment proposals.
- Third, the county must examine the environmental costs and benefits of its proposed investments.
- Lastly, the County needs to assess the fairness of the proposed investments by looking at who will benefit from them, compared to who pays for them. This must include an analysis of any proposed public subsidy per user, for example, and how that subsidy compares with the subsidies per user for other services/amenities.
The above information is essential to the County’s proposing investments with public funds.
Without the above information, there is no basis for the County’s deciding on publicly funded projects. In addition, without the above, the public lacks the information it needs to comment thoroughly on any investment proposals.
In the six years I have lived in Los Alamos County, I have been constantly disappointed by the lack of appropriate analysis behind many of the County’s proposed investments. Whether the lack of needed analyses stems from lobbying by special interest groups, the County staff working unchecked, or a lack of understanding by the County Council of basic principles for sound decision making does not matter. In any case, publicly funded investments need to be justified with the analyses outlined above. Those analyses must then be openly shared with County residents before decisions on the investments are made. How else can we judge whether or not our tax dollars are being used in doable, sustainable, cost-efficient, and fair ways?