The Palace of Malice

On February 7, 2008 the Los Alamos County Council voted to destroy the physical symbol of the Independence of Los Alamos.

On December 21, 2010 5 Members of the Los Alamos County Council, 2 of whom voted in the affirmative in the above cited action, voted to destroy the liberties and rights of the citizens of Los Alamos and to vacate the Charter which was the codification of the Independence of Los Alamos.

The Palace of Malice, akin to Nero's Golden Palace and destined to become home to Ozymandius, will be built upon a foundation of legal chicanery, ruthless manipulation, self-aggrandizement, wanton destruction, and the wholesale abuse of Public Trust and authority --- but at what cost, and borne by whom?

Reality Check -- No community of any size can long survive the destruction of its heritage, the dissolution of its freedoms, and the permanent division of its citizens.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

43) The New Battle for Civil Rights in Los Alamos

It is said that freedom is never free -- it must be fought for and re-newed by every generation.

The book, "The Battle for Civil Rights - How Los Alamos Became a County" by Marjorie Bell Chambers describes the first battle for civil rights under the US Constitution for the residents of Los Alamos.  The culmination of that battle was the Municipal Building which stood for Constitutional Rights and The Charter which embodies those Rights.  The Municipal Building has been flattened and now The Charter is under assault.

Yet, there is hope.  It will be some time before the Court hears the merits of the Chandler action.  The Chandler action is based on a single case : a NM State Supreme Court ruling in Johnson v. City of Alamogordo.  I was fully aware of the Johnson ruling before circulating the petition, and, indeed, I did some editing of the petition in light of the Johnson ruling.  I do not believe that the Johnson ruling applies to the Muni petition -- I will discuss that later.

The Johnson ruling needs to either be clarified or overturned.  That can only happen in appellate Court, and it may well require Federal Appellate Court for this is a case which goes to the US Constitution 1st Ammendment right of Petition.  The question is this:  if the State District Court, relying solely on Johnson, over-turns the Petition Will the County Appeal?

Will Council -- and the next Council of Berting, Chiravalle, Hall, Rodgers, Selvage, Stover and Wismer -- take this to the mat in defense of our basic Liberties? Will they stand and defend?  Will they, in a second Battle for Civil Rights, preserve and restore everything that was won in the first Battle?

And what if they don't? What will citizens do?  Will they finally get out the legal equivilent of the torches and pitchforks?

This is no longer about a construction project.  But then again -- it never was.

Monday, November 15, 2010

42) Voting to restore, reaffirm, and renew Los Alamos

There are those who say that a Muni is just an office building and that a small patch of grass, or a concert venue, or a ubiquitous view are more important than an office building. There are those who say that the only reason that we live here at all is for the job or for the surround. In an effort to stop the re-building of our Muni they will try to say that the original Muni can't or shouldn't be built.

They are wrong on all counts.

The Muni, our County Hall, is the most important, most significant building of our civic life. It is a statement about how the citizens of Los Alamos view Los Alamos itself: as it was, as it is, and as it will be.

Though the County had been created in 1949 it was more of a legal construct than anything else. In 1959 residents of Los Alamos could not own property. Their voting rights were limited. The Town Council/County Commission could not pass legislation, particularly of a budgetary nature, without final approval from the AEC. For over a decade the Constitutional rights which most people take for granted were limited here in Los Alamos. Then, in 1960, it all started to change.

Los Alamos was to be turned over to Los Alamos! The excitement was palpable. People could talk of nothing else. Families sat around the kitchen table and tried to make decisions about buying the government house they were renting or maybe building a "dream home" in the up-coming new developments of Barranca Mesa and White Rock. Los Alamos was about to make its first moves to becoming a "real" town. You had to have been there -- it was truly amazing.

It took seven years to get it done. One of the things that was done was planning what would be the first City/County Hall of an independent Los Alamos. For years, we had stashed what little local government we had in the Old County Courthouse which was a converted Sundt from the war years.

That original City/County Hall, the Los Alamos County Municipal Building, was to be the landmark of the political independence of Los Alamos and its establishment as a true polity - not just a legal construct. The significance of that building was stated by then County Administrator Paul Noland in his remarks at the dedication ceremony June 24th 1967 "This building symbolizes Los Alamos as a normal New Mexico town and a normal New Mexico County". That significance was under-scored by inclusion in that ceremony of the signing of the final documents which gave Los Alamos full autonomy and self-actualizing, self-determining Independence.

It was a time of Hope and Confidence and Optimism in, and for, the Future of Los Alamos -- a time of Civic Pride.

Voting to re-build the Muni through the democratic process of the citizen's initiative as guaranteed by our Charter re-affirms the self-governance, self-actualization, self-realization, and self-reliance of an independent Los Alamos.

Voting to re-build the Muni renews the proposition that Los Alamos was, is, and should be a place with its own separate identity and destiny.

Voting to re-build the Muni re-dedicates the citizens of Los Alamos to the vision of a future to which the Muni was first built and dedicated by our founding generation.

Voting to re-build the Muni re-establishes its significance as the symbolic and central building of our civic life, with the site and the unique architecture emphasizing and enhancing that significance.

Voting to re-build the Muni says that the citizens of Los Alamos believe in their County and its two small towns; that we honor those who founded Los Alamos and that we hereby acknowledge their hopes and dreams for the future to be our own.

Voting to re-build the Muni makes our statement about who we are, about what is truly important to us, about the significance of our County and its two small towns to us, about our hopes and dreams for the future.

Only this building on this site can make that statement.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

41) Is There Any Hope?

Yesterday was the Council election.  Today I got the following e-mail:

"Hall, Berting win. ALL ordinance issues pass. You still think there is hope there? And you have a paper that covers nothing. Very sad."

If we re-build the Muni, there may yet be a spark of hope.  If we don't, I don't see there is any hope at all.  I should explain that.

Jim Hall, previous and now future County Councilor and others, are of the theory that if the Lab were to close it would be the end of Los Alamos.  The thesis goes that we have to compete with Sandia, Hanford, Livermore, and other national labs for the best and the brightest or LANL will become a second-rate lab with second-rate people doing second-rate science.  It is believed that if that happens it will be the start of a downward spiral resulting in the closing of the Lab and the end of Los Alamos.  The conclusion is that Los Alamos must be radically altered in order to provide the lifestyle that it is believed the best and the brightest want.

If you subscribe to the above, then there is no point in having a distinctive seat of government -- all that's needed is an office building.

But, by that logic, Los Alamos must always be a chameleon -- always re-inventing itself as times change and the expectations (or imagined expectations) of the best and the brightest change.  Los Alamos can never be a real town with a history and a continuity of identity, character, and population.

I see no future in that; indeed I see the above thesis as the end of Los Alamos.  The fact is that Los Alamos can never compete, head to head, with the host towns of other national labs.  Certainly not by trying to be just like they are.  People don't actually have to live here in order to work at the Lab.  They can live in Santa Fe, the Espanola Valley, or Jemez Springs area and commute.  The commute itself just isn't that far - 35 miles at most - and each community has access to the various lifestyles that people want.  Santa Fe is becoming a fair size city with shopping and night life.  Espanola offers a semi-rural lifestyle with a greater variety of shopping than here and easy access to Santa Fe.  Jemez offers the village rural lifestyle with easy access to all the amenities of Rio Rancho and Albuquerque.  Given that, it may be fairly asked, "Does Los Alamos need to be at all?"  As a matter of security, and the Lab is in the high-security business, it would be in the Lab's best interest if there was a 20 mile non-residential perimeter.  Far better for the Lab to clear the town (and possibly White Rock) and simply build better commuter transit.  Far better for the Lab employees to not feel like they have a target painted on their backs as well -- reduces the stresses of life when you feel like you are safe.

I subscribe to a somewhat different theory.  The best hope for Los Alamos is to become a real town (think of any other town this size anywhere in America).  We don't have to provide the lifestyle that is found in other host towns.  We can carve out our own niche which essentially ignores the Lab. Rather than Beaufort being our "model" we would be better served to look at Auburn, Ca, or even Bisbee, Az or any town in New England. We can expand and diversify our productive economic foundations, encouraging businesses of industries other than Science to take root here.  The measure of success in that endeavor would be when people meet each other for the first time they would ask, "and what kind of work do you do?" instead of "and what division do you work for?" 

If you subscribe to the above then beginning to act like a real town: that means preserving that which is "of Los Alamos" as a statement of continuity of true independent identity (most towns don't flatten their original seat of government).  That means  rebuilding the Muni, based on the original architectural designs of Max Flatow from which the first version was built.

Of course -- it would be really helpful if the Lab got out of the high-security business.  Perhaps instead of Los Alamos accomodating the Lab, it is time that the Lab accomodate Los Alamos.  Perhaps it is time for Washington to re-think where the high-security work of the nation would best be located.  After all, its not like Los Alamos is "the secret city" any longer.

Is there any hope for Los Alamos?  Kinda depends on which theory you subscribe to.  What we do about the Muni is the test.  What we do about the Muni will define the future.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

40) The First Decision

To achieve any goal, you must make a first decision -- the decision to achieve the goal.

The Municipal Building petition has achieved its purpose to place the future of the Municipal Building and the future of Los Alamos in the hands of the citizens.  It is fitting that it do so, for the Municipal Building is the people's building -- as the agora of ideas and ideals where people come together realize their dreams, hopes, and aspirations for their County, its two small towns, themselves, their progeny, and for those who will inherit a future that those now deciding will never know.  This, indeed, was the purpose of the founding generation of Los Alamos when first they imagined, then realized, a town and county that would be more than a company town -- a town, now two, and a county with its own destiny to fulfill.  Not for nothing is Marjorie Bell-Chambers book, "The Battle for Civil Rights - How Los Alamos became a County" adorned with a full photo cover of the Municipal Building which was raised as the embodiment of that early vision. 

Rebuilding the Municipal Building is both the right thing to do and the practical thing to do. How often in life do those two things converge? 

No goal is ever achieved without first having made the decision to achieve the goal. This vote decides to begin the work.  Though there are those nay-sayers who, desperately grasping at straws of detail and minutia, will try to convince whomever they can that it can't be done, the fact is if we have a will to do this, then we can do this. Having thus decided to begin the work, and having also thus decided the nay-sayers and cynics be damned, we can then meet what ever hiccups we may encounter as we work diligently to accomplish the goal. 
Lao Tse wrote, "When the best of governments act the people say: We ourselves have done it".  This is the true essence of the word "community", for it entails setting aside some small amount of personal preferences (site use), conveniences, and tastes (the architectural aesthetics or the view) for a purpose which effects equally all of our citizens.  We now have it within our grasp to restore a true historic landmark. In its re-building, we can repair those flaws which it may have had. In its rebuilding we can restore the vision of Los Alamos with its own separate destiny and repair those flaws of policy which have created an unwarranted stagnation.  By voting to put the Municipal Building back where it was, as it was, re-built, restored, better construction, we, ourselves, will be re-invigorating the dreams, hopes, and aspirations of the Vision for the future of Los Alamos to which the Municipal Building has been, and can again be, the embodiment -- a Vision re-built, restored, better construction.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

39) Ride, boldly, ride........................

"Over the mountains of the moon, down through the valley of shadow, ride boldly ride, ' the shade replied, ' if you seek for El Dorado"  Edgar Allen Poe.

The signature drive for the petition to restore the Original Municipal Building is entering its final push, and it is appropriate now to discuss what this is truly all about.  The previous post talked of Continuity, but there is something even more............................

Restoring the Muni is not about restoring the past, for that was never what the Municipal Building was ever about.  The architecture and materials were not reminicsent of the War Years, nor of the Post-War, nor even were they reflective of the Cold War.  Throughout its 40 years the building was unique in the town.  And for a reason: steel and glass was held to be a construct of the Future. 

The future is what the Muni was about, what it stood for, that was the intent in its planning and design.  The Muni was to be a symbol of a belief in the future of Los Alamos -- that come what may, ir-respective of what might transpire with The Lab, Los Alamos would endure throughout the generations.  It was a symbol of Optimistic Hope erected by a founding generation which had witnessed too much deprivation in the Depression, too much destruction in WWII, and too much doubt lingering like gathering storm clouds in the new era of the Cold War.  It was a statement that against such darknesses there yet remained a future worth building for.

To restore the Muni is not to restore a dying past, nor is it to look longingly backwards to "simpler times" (if, indeed, there has ever been a time which could concievably be thus described with any accuracy).  To restore the Muni is to restore Optimism in an age of angst. It is to restore Vision in an era of narcisstic entitlement. Against the backdrop of our own doubts in doubtful times, it is to re-new a Faith in The Future -- the simple proposition that, come what may, Los Alamos, as an independent, self-governing, self-actuallizing entity, will endure throughout the generations.

This is not about the past.  This is truly about the future. 

Saturday, August 28, 2010

38) Community

Has it occurred to you the Los Alamos doesn't have a Founder's Day? Most small towns do (even the fictional Eureka which is a take-off on Los Alamos). Founder's Day celebrates the founding of the town and the generation which labored to make it happen. It is a celebration of the town itself; a celebration of having the town at all. Hold that thought................

When you look in the mirror, who do you see? Pull out a picture from your high school days. Look closely – beyond the signifiers of age, are you really much different? I'm pretty much the same – perhaps a bit more weathered though perhaps no wiser. Yet the me in the photo of 40 years ago pretty much looks like me now. Its called continuity.

Who do you look like? Your mother or your father? And is there not a grandparent and a great-grandparent whom you resemble? I can pull out photos of my Dad in his 20's and the similarity is rather striking. I can compare photos of my Dad age 5, myself age 5, and my son age 5 and except for the background you could swear you were looking at the same kid. That, too, is continuity. Hold that thought...................

Every town grows and experiences change. New things are added. Some things are lost. Yet, look closely. Even London retains vestiges of Londinium. Today, Kit Carson could look at Taos and see all that is new, all that has changed over a hundred years – and yet, he would still recognize the place as Taos. The vast megalopolis that is Los Angeles retains the village from whence it sprang.  So it is with all towns and cities, just as it is with us as individuals. You can see the growth and change, yet what that came from still remains. Certain aspects, the most important aspects, remain thereby establishing a line of continuity. Break that line of continuity and identity ceases to exist.

It is sometimes said that we need to keep the site of the original Municipal Building as a park, or perhaps build a performance pavilion.  Either way, it is said that this will be a place for people to gather as a "community".  Really?  What is gained is temporary, what is lost is permanent.  It becomes a fun zone for residents of the present without regard to those who came before or those who will come after.  In what way is that "community" ?

To restore the Municipal Building, as it was, where it was (better construction) is to restore to Los Alamos a line of continuity, a heritage and identity. And more. The Municipal Building embodied and symbolized the crowning achievement of the Founding Generation of Los Alamos – Los Alamos as an independent, self-governing entity. To restore the Municipal Building is to honor that generation which made it possible for you to have a town in which to live at all.

The day when we re-dedicate the restored Municipal Building will be the first time that the people of Los Alamos will have truly celebrated the Founders of this town in a celebration of the town itself – of its past, its present, and its future.

That, more than a park or a performance stage, is what is meant by "community".

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

37) Walkabout

I have been walking the neighborhoods and precincts of Los Alamos and White Rock, knocking on doors, and meeting and talking to the residents of the County since mid-March.  Perhaps it would be useful to write something daily here, relaying what I hear -- downside is I am not really a diarist and then there is the time problem of just writing it (I type slow)..........besides, what I hear is best absorbed over time and doesn't really lend itself well to immediate report and analysis.

The exercise has proven educational to say the least.  I wish that Council Chambers were filled with the people I have heard from telling Council what they tell me.  Probably not likely.  Things folks say to one another in single conversation rarely are expounded in the public arena; probably has to do with the formality of the latter setting and the time constraints thereof which tends to weigh against discourse.

What occurs to me is that the Leadership LA program would best be served by having its "students" engage in a similar exercise.  Though like as not the results would be less than to be hoped for since the exercise would be a contrivance, not a conversation.

One thing is crystal clear:  County government, policy makers, and policy advocates are so out of touch with the citizenry that they might just as well be from different galaxies.  That fact cannot be in the long-term best interests of Los Alamos and her future.