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Los Alamos County Council Choose 3

The Los Alamos County Council is the County's governing body and was created by the Los Alamos County Charter. The Council consists of seven members elected at large for four-year staggered terms. Three seats will be filled in the 2020 election by the three candidates receiving the most votes. The County Council generally holds two regular sessions per month, plus one work session. Its members also serve as liaisons with the County's Boards and Commissions and other governmental entities.

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Denise Derkacs (Dem)

Retired, Chief of Staff, Los Alamos National Laboratory; M.A. Organizational Communication; B.A. Journalism

Biographical Information

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/denise4countycouncil

What do you consider the two most important issues facing the county? How can they be addressed?

Two key issues facing the County are a housing shortage and commercial sustainability. To address the need identified in the 2019 housing study for more than 1600 affordable and market-rate housing units, the County should explore all types of housing and all possible building sites, and do so with ongoing community input. To support local commerce, the County should streamline its permitting processes and implement zoning changes that facilitate small business development and sustainability.

What environmental goals or policies, if any, would you champion as Councilor?

Zero Waste is an overarching environmental policy I fully support. Zero Waste focuses on waste prevention, through conscious consumption and conservation, and reducing trash sent to landfills, by reusing, recycling, and composting. To complement recycling and yard waste collections, the County is initiating food composting to reduce food waste in the landfill. I support plans to purchase yard compost bins and countertop food-waste containers and conduct a municipal food composting pilot program.

What ideas for economic vitality in Los Alamos would you support and encourage?

Economic vitality depends upon housing, infrastructure, and commerce. New housing development will support population growth, which in turn, will stimulate infrastructure improvements and increase spending in the local retail community. The County should provide infrastructure improvements to enable retail businesses and start-up industries that will strengthen the economic base. The County also should encourage tourism by promoting Los Alamos as a great place to live, work, play, and stay.

Some parts of our downtown are empty or poorly used. Since this is private land, how can the County address this problem?

High commercial rents and property prices, driven in part by Laboratory rentals, contribute to the long-term challenge of vacant properties. The State property tax code does not allow municipalities to penalize vacant properties. A vacant commercial building ordinance with associated fines, zoning restrictions on first-floor offices, mixed-use zoning designations, plus focused efforts to connect redevelopment investors with property owners are possible solutions the County should explore.

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David W. Reagor (Rep)

retired scientist

Biographical Information

Campaign Email DavidReagor@gmail.com
Campaign Phone (505) 660-1867
Facebook reagor4council
Twitter none

What do you consider the two most important issues facing the county? How can they be addressed?

One dominant issue for us. In any small city it is hard to maintain the businesses that provide services to the community. These services, healthcare, restaurants, etc., are vital to the quality of life, and the county government needs to be an ally that promotes their success. In addition, we need more businesses that bring in revenue from outside the county. Los Alamos County, both the council and the staff, must view the support of local business and new initiatives as their primary goal.

What environmental goals or policies, if any, would you champion as Councilor?

Los Alamos County has recently entered into a Carbon-free power plan. I support the modular reactor part of the plan, as the current state law leaves us few options. As for solar and wind, we should and do allow homeowners to contribute their power to the grid, but will encounter endlessly escalating costs and/or unreliable power if the county uses these sources for central generation. Instead, the county council should focus on the low cost delivery of utilities to the citizens.

What ideas for economic vitality in Los Alamos would you support and encourage?

This is a company town and even the directors of our largest employer have little control of the final employment. In addition, the whole county has had to evacuate through narrow highways leading to long traffic jams. The long-term solution for the county and the laboratory is to complete a transportation link from the White Rock area to I-15. This will act as a buffer for the housing market and improve access to the laboratory and the county.

Some parts of our downtown are empty or poorly used. Since this is private land, how can the County address this problem?

Some properties in the county have been closed for many years. This is a waste of space and the town appears to visitors to be in collapse. I am a supporter of private property, but after ten years it is time to use eminent domain to convert these properties to public use. We have to use a public process to define that use and qualify for eminent domain, but the town has an overwhelming need for housing and services.

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James E. Rickman (Lib)

Retired, LANL

Biographical Information

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/James-Rickman-108564884170946

What do you consider the two most important issues facing the county? How can they be addressed?

1) Sustainability: We must sustain the amenities we have to ensure that future generations enjoy the same quality of life we enjoy. We must protect our aquifer, natural areas, and other assets through careful planning. 2) Other communities will argue entitlement to LANL GRT revenue. We must demonstrate responsible use of our financial resources, right-size our bureaucracy, work with neighbor communities on mutual issues, and demonstrate that Los Alamos bears the greatest impact of hosting LANL.

What environmental goals or policies, if any, would you champion as Councilor?

Climate change is an existential threat to our species. We currently have no national or global strategy to mitigate climate change. I believe the first steps must be made at the individual and local level. Every county project should be conducted with an eye toward sustainability. The community’s free bus system can provide incentives for individuals to reduce their carbon footprint. The utilities department should encourage individual households to use “green” energy or to go “off-the-grid.”

What ideas for economic vitality in Los Alamos would you support and encourage?

I strongly believe government should create a business-friendly community by providing outstanding quality of life, but it shouldn’t attempt to manipulate the marketplace. County government and its publicly funded subcontractors should stop picking "winners and losers" by attempting to recruit businesses that compete with existing successful business. The current Los Alamos business climate is the result of 30-plus years of County-sanctioned entities attempting to manipulate the local market.

Some parts of our downtown are empty or poorly used. Since this is private land, how can the County address this problem?

Except in the most egregious circumstances, individual property rights are sacrosanct. I find it repugnant to hear local politicians talking about using Eminent Domain or nuisance tax levies to wrest real estate from the hands of property owners. Conversations with property owners can help leaders perhaps understand why property remains underutilized. That understanding can then lead government to help implement appropriate moral solutions to turning blighted property into something productive.

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Rodney Gerode Roberson (Dem)

Senior Emergency Management Professional

Biographical Information

Campaign Phone (505) 695-5719
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/robersonfor council/

What do you consider the two most important issues facing the county? How can they be addressed?

1. Affordable Housing: a. One of the long-range solutions could be getting suitable land from DOE. b. Code Development and other policies, to ensure every house is habitable and inhabited.

2. Economic Development: a. Business environment must consider the impact of internet competition (e.g Amazon, Netflix) b. What local businesses can be successful here: 1) Service Industry (plumbers, electricians, nail salons, restaurants)

What environmental goals or policies, if any, would you champion as Councilor?

1. To safely, efficiently and with full transparency champion the cleanup of legacy contamination and waste resulting from nuclear weapons development and government-sponsored nuclear research at LANL. 2. Continue to Improve Recycling Programs. 3. Continue to develop walking and bike trails and other outdoor recreational opportunities. 4. Don’t overburden our natural resources (e.g. water).

What ideas for economic vitality in Los Alamos would you support and encourage?

1. Housing (Affordable and Market Rate) a. Increased Height and Density acceptable to our community. b. But, don’t overburden our natural resources (e.g. water). 2. Quality of Life a. Amenities (restaurants, theaters, etc.) b. Outdoor Recreation 3. Diversify Economy a. Support spinoffs from the Lab b. Tourism (help to support amenities) c. LANL will always dominate our economy.

Some parts of our downtown are empty or poorly used. Since this is private land, how can the County address this problem?

1. Zoning for multi-use, commercial and residential. 2. Zoning to keep LANL from pricing businesses out. 3. Leveraging tourism to help support and encourage small businesses in Los Alamos and White Rock. 4. Streamline the business permitting processes.

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Aaron Dennis Winter Walker (DTS)

Particle Accelerator Operator

Biographical Information

Campaign Email walker4cc@gmail.com
Campaign Phone (863) 670-5255
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/walker4cc

What do you consider the two most important issues facing the county? How can they be addressed?

Housing and utility infrastructure. One major issue with housing is the lack of (actual) affordable housing. We must increase the affordable housing availability by utilizing inclusive zoning, and install requirements to meet affordable housing needs. Our utility infrastructure is aging and needs addressing. We must stop the revenue transfer from the utility to the county to provide a better means of infrastructure modernization. We don't need this regressive tax on the residents.

What environmental goals or policies, if any, would you champion as Councilor?

Continued investment in the Carbon Free Power Project. Nuclear power is our only option to become carbon neutral and keep utility rates reasonable. Bear resistant roll carts for residents. I will ask for a 3-5 year phased approach for the county to provide bear resistant trash cans to all residents. We must start getting carts to residents in the most bear prone areas, and work outward from there until every resident has a bear resistant trash can. We must preserve our wildlife.

What ideas for economic vitality in Los Alamos would you support and encourage?

The county needs to address the issue of extremely high commercial rents. We must look in to ways to remove the incentive for keeping commercial property vacant. This could be in the form of financial penalties or other methods. Another option to pair with this would be to block LANL from renting first-floor space in town. This would likely reduce the massively inflated commercial rent prices and bring them more in line with what the county can support. Commercial rent is too high.

Some parts of our downtown are empty or poorly used. Since this is private land, how can the County address this problem?

The county has to address the issue in a way that makes the landlord take notice. This means making financial repercussions for vacant commercial properties that are vacant for a lengthy time period. We must remove the incentive to keeping the property vacant and the rent high by preventing LANL from renting first floor space in the town. We also must work at getting the old and aging buildings up to code or redeveloped. This needs to be put on the landlord, not the people of the county.

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Sean Jameson Williams (Dem)

Small Business Owner

Biographical Information

Campaign Phone (505) 692-0867
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/williamsforlosalamos/

What do you consider the two most important issues facing the county? How can they be addressed?

I’ll address business in another question, so let’s talk housing. Our housing shortage is really a dirt shortage: we’re landlocked between DOE, NFS, and pueblos. The two paths forward in a shortage are to get more or use what you have efficiently. I support continuing to apply for land from DOE, despite recent land controversies. I also support increasing height and density in the downtown areas within current zoning limits, but this will require addressing our systemic downtown problems first.

What environmental goals or policies, if any, would you champion as Councilor?

We can pursue environmentally responsible policies while investing in our community interests. First, I will join Councilor Robinson’s fight to provide bear-proof trash cans. I support a ban on single-use plastic bags, because blanket costs don’t create a competitive advantage for any one business. I will support investments in renewable energy where it makes financial sense; for the CFPP, I am pro-nuclear but will assess continued investment in the project on its technical and financial merits.

What ideas for economic vitality in Los Alamos would you support and encourage?

We need to create fertile ground for entrepreneurs, which in Los Alamos comes entirely down to cost and quality of property. The primary cost driver in Los Alamos is the lab and subcontractors: their deep pockets allow commercial rents to increase dramatically over time. The most important policy change is a zoning ban on downtown, ground-floor, non-customer-facing offices so prospective business owners do not have to compete with LANL. If we bring costs down, entrepreneurship will thrive here.

Some parts of our downtown are empty or poorly used. Since this is private land, how can the County address this problem?

It’s only feasible to “sit on” commercial property because negligence is cheap here. The county is notoriously hard on residential negligence but turns a blind eye to commercial negligence. We already have tools to address this: the development (Ch. 16) and nuisance (Ch. 18) codes. One way to deploy them on blighted downtown spaces is with a “clean and lien” strategy, where the county brings commercial property to code and records the cost as a lien, which can lead to foreclosure if unpaid.