Weighing In On Content Of Council’s Agenda Packet For This Evening’s Meeting

Courtesy John Gustafson

Former Chair and Member of the
Community Development Advisory Board

As the most recent Chairperson of the Community Development Advisory Board I felt it was important to weigh in on agenda item 16643-23, being discussed Jan. 24, 2023, to make a couple of points. I am Councilors unable to attend this Council meeting so hope with this email to provide input for your consideration.

In response to text from the agenda packet: 

“CDAB created and deployed a public information campaign and a community survey to provide input to Council about what nuisances are most concerning.”

We did create and deploy a public information campaign, but it did not run its full course because the frustrations of not having control over the communication process and having to work through the County Public Information Office caused the CDAB member who was most invested in this activity to quit.  Also, CDAB did not create and deploy a community survey; that was done by a contractor to the County.

“The enforcement process has been reviewed by CDAB and any issues raised or recommendations from them have been addressed by staff and incorporated into current practices.”

For the most part, the Community Development Department and the enforcement officers have been responsive to CDAB input, but this blanket statement is not correct. Some of our recommendations did not make it into the contractor’s rewrite of Chapter 18 that was accepted and approved by Council and thus have most certainly not been incorporated into current practices.

“The nature of the tasks assigned to CDAB did not lend itself to B&C structure and process formats as noted by a former CDAB member.”

I would ask that if you are going to represent the views of CDAB in this manner you survey all of the members of the (former?) CDAB. That is one person’s opinion and is certainly not representative of the Board as a whole, nor did we ever consider this question as a Board and formulate a position.

As an example of the sort of review a body like CDAB could continue to provide to the community, I attach a chart that was generated from CDD enforcement data. Last summer I suggested to CDAB’s then-liaison, Bryce Ternet, that enforcement activities should be reduced to only urgent health and safety issues while the community was facing the threat of wildfire and possible evacuation. He said he had already given that instruction to the enforcement officers. I later looked at the courtesy letters sent weekly to see if there was evidence of this. Indeed, there was a drop in numbers the week that Los Alamos went to “Ready” phase, but then the numbers went up again when we went to “Set” phase. In the week immediately before the “Ready” phase, when wildfire was of consuming interest to the community, the letters issued were the highest for this period. And of the enforcement actions cited none were of an urgent health and safety issue, just the routine, weeds, storage, etc. (Note: CDAB never got to discuss this chart as a Board because the meetings for which it was an agenda item were cancelled for lack of a quorum.)

Given that most of the Chapter 18 violations that we deal with are not significant or immediate health and safety issues it would be appropriate for enforcement to be cognizant of the activities and anxieties affecting the broader community and adjust enforcement actions accordingly. When I am preparing my household for possible evacuation, do I really need to have to deal with whether an item is stored inappropriately in my driveway? Some common sense and courtesy comes into play here. 

This is the sort of ongoing role a body such as CDAB can play — continuing to look at the data for trends and circumstances and how they align with community interests and activities.