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.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

36) The Pony Cart

Los Alamos is a Pony Cart being pulled by a Clydesdale.  Oh, and there is a haywagon hitched to the back of the pony cart.  Of course all anyone can see is the horse.  Because of that the pony cart, which was once fresh and new and rather nice, has been allowed to get shabby and rickety.  But, hey, don't we have a fine Clydesdale!

Problem is the driver in the pony cart can only see one part of the Horse, and that is so big that the driver can't see the road.  So the Horse just meanders along in whatever direction the Horse wants to go with no knowing on the part of the driver where that direction might lead.

Some seem to think that the thing to do is build a large, ungainly, superstructure on the pony cart.  That, of course, will put extra weight and stress on the axles, wheels, and under-carriage, but the superstructure crowd isn't thinking about that.

Now, wouldn't it make more sense to get some ponies to pull the cart, get the cart back into decent repair, and hitch the Clydesdale directly to the haywagon?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

35) Continuity

Something I've been hearing is, "Well, its all about the people -- nothing else really matters".  Really?

People are temporary -- they come, the go, they live, they raise children, they die and their children and children's children repeat the cycle.  Populations cycle, though they never really change.  And yet.........

At the end of the premier performance of Beethoven's 3rd Symphony a critic asked the composer, "Who are you writing for" to which Beethoven replied, "I am writing for a generation not yet born".  It is the fact of the impermanence of our existance which drives us to leave some kind of mark, some legacy, beyond the span of our short years.  Art, Literature, Music, Science, Engineering, Architecture are the works which live beyond us and create a continuity from one generation to the next.  These are not a matter of the false pride of Ozymandius "Behold my might works and tremble".  They are the Gift we give to those whom we will never know.  Without them each generation would have to re-invent the wheel.

The Dark Ages were brought about by the total obliteration of the Roman Empire including her Legacy in the Arts, Sciences, and Engineering.  The Rennaiscance was launched by the re-discovery of this lost knowledge -- a re-discovery without which our modern world would not be possible.

To my knowledge there are only two buildings standing in the Los Alamos Townsite which hearken back to the War Years -- the CB Fox building, and the Little Theater.  Did you know that the Downtown Revitalization Master Plan adopted in 02 envisioned flattening both?  Had the Plan been implemented an entire era would have been lost forever.

Look around you now.  How many of the structures of the AEC era, 1947 - 1967, are being demolished?  How many will remain?  Did you know there was a proposal made which, if implemented, would have flattened every government built house in northern area?

Here's a rather odd contradiction:  Recently the Historical Society rebuilt and restored the Romero cabin and Council has approved a plan which includes erecting a statue to an early scientist not for his scientific achievements but for saving The Lodge from demolition.  Both of these are pre-War structures and each is the last surviving representative of its era.  Yet, the people who celebrate these structures are the same who would have the Municipal Building and other structures of the post war years demolished and lost forever.

The Dark Ages were caused by the breaking of continuity with the Past -- a past that was obliterated out of pure spite.  That continuity was broken for over 400 years.  It changed nothing.  The darker side of human nature remains.  Where do you suppose we would be today if the the knowledge and works of the Ancient World had been preserved and built upon and added to in an unbroken continuity though the generations?

People are temporary; that which they build and create is what counts.  When the thread of continuity from one generation to the next is summarily cut, then the future becomes very uncertain indeed.

Friday, June 25, 2010

34) The Lamp

I have a small red plastic heart -- one of those little trinket charms that come from a bubble gum machine.  It might be worth a penny.  It was a gift which I've had for years and have no plan to get rid of it.

I also have in the house a lamp.  It is what most people these days would call "god-awful".  It is supposed to be art-deco in style.  Its made out of aluminum.  And it doesn't work.  I have no plan to get rid of it either.

It is said that one person's trash is another's treasure.  A current councilor said to me, "I just don't understand how anyone could love an old barracks."  You don't have to understand why someone treasures something; you do have to respect that they do -- particularly when the thing treasured does no one any real harm.

In "Picture of Dorian Grey"  Oscar Wilde wrote, "A cynic is a person who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing."  We live in cynical times; we live in destructive times; we live in times when the treasures of some are cast aside by those who consider them to be trash.

Before there was the biblical story of Lot, there was the Greek story of Diogenes who wandered the streets of a doomed city holding the Lamp of Truth in his hand looking for one honest person.

The Lamp is my wife's.  It was made by her beloved grandfather and is one of the few things she has of his and of him.

The question arises: is your definition of "trash" so correct, right, and true that it justifies casting aside that which someone else treasures, though the thing in contention does no harm? It is an ethical question. Good luck with that one.  As you wrangle with it, one by one, the public buildings of Los Alamos pre- 1970 are falling.

The Lamp flickers and fades.  Will you let it go out?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

33) When developers get it right

Roger Waterman had a good idea.  It was called Bradbury Row and it was the best idea being pursued at the time.  For that matter, it was one of the best ideas that has been proposed or pursued in Los Alamos in a very long time.

The idea was simple -- acquire the LA Apartments, rehab them, rent them, and use the rental incomes to finance building a retail/commercial portion fronting Central.  This was a great idea -- create a classic mixed use development in a non-destructive manner while preserving buildings of a previous period of Los Alamos history and development.  Had this gone forward, the total amount of the land space would have been brought into full economic use and the addition to Los Alamos in economic activity would have been substantial.

Unfortunately events conspired against Roger's very good idea. 

But it is still a very good idea, and still very do-able -- a mixed use residential/retail/commercial development can still be done.  It would provide housing for single adults while simultaneously creating a shopping promenade that would tie the Mari-Mac center with the older traditional center twixt 15th and 20th.  If you have ever been to the Santa Monica 3rd Street Promenade, you know exactly what this would look like.

Reality Check -- which would give Los Alamos the greatest benefit on the LA apartment site: a Bradbury row style development, or a government office building which doesn't earn a dime nor in any consequential way contributes to the over-all economy?

Friday, June 11, 2010

32) The Cosmic Test

So, you are walking along the beach in Santa Monica.  It is early morning and you are the only person out and about.  Well, almost the only person.  You see a transient sleeping on a park bench up ahead.  The person's shopping cart with all the worldly possesions is parked close by, and there is a jacket hanging on the end of the bench.

You have a $20 bill burning a hole in your pocket.  What do you do?

A)  You move to the far side of the promenade and pass on by.
B)  You don't move to the far side of the promenade ---- just pass on by.
C)  You wake up the transient and give the person the $20.
D)  You wake up the transient and offer to buy the person breakfast.
E)   You report the transient to the authorities.
F)  You slip the $20 into the pocket of the transient's jacket and continue on.

I'm not going to give you an answer.  But consider the following:  What is your first reaction upon seeing the transient?  Have you ever really seen one?  What are you thinking?  What assumptions have you already made about the transient?  Is your choice influenced by sex, age, and general appearance of the transient? Why?

Which of the above choices is more about you, and which is more about the transient? Does it occur to you that the choice you make regarding the transient says more about who you are, about your world view, than anything else -- and that the same reasoning/feeling/beliefs that you bring into play here probably also direct most of your other choices?

Why do you/did you make the choice you made?  And why to that?  How deeply are you willing to explore your own motivations? 

What else can you learn about yourself and your relationship to the Cosmos?

How does the above apply to your perceptions of Los Alamos?

31) The Look of Love

When I first moved into the duplex I'm renting, the yard could have been declared a National Weed Life Preserve. So I got busy. My first summer, I dug up the entire front yard. Did this with a shovel and went about a foot and a half deep. Then I got out a hand held 3 prong cultivator and proceeded to go through every inch of the area digging out the weeds and roots systems. Once done I re-planted grass over the whole.

Since then I have done much of the backyard as well; we have put in raised garden beds and they and the beds that came with the house have been filled with flowers and vegetables. In the back there were once a couple of apple trees. These had been cut down some time before I moved in, but they insisted on living and with the watering for the lawn and other things, they came back. This year one of them will actually be producing apples. We will also have summer and other squash, snap peas, green beans, potatos, tomatos, lettuce, carrots, kale, spinach and a variety of herbs for the kitchen. Come winter those herbs will be hanging in bunches in the kitchen ready for use and giving off a wonderful smell.

So how come? After all, I'm just a renter -- why bother? Hmmm..ask my neighbors why they bother. The folks next door to me and across the street are also renting ---- and improving their grounds as well.

The County is about to hire a Code Enforcement Officer. Think that through. If you love, or at least respect, the home, the town, and the community in which you live you work to take care of it. You don't let the grounds go to weed. You don't let buildings fall into decay. You don't see "eyesores", you see a place that just needs a little help -- rather like Charlie Brown's Christmas tree. You don't need The Lawn Police, because you do what needs to be done out of respect, and love, of your home, your neighborhood, your town, your community.

The fact that we need a Code Enforcement Officer says a lot about Los Alamos ---- and nothing good.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

30) Summer Reading List

Recently a lady told me her son's theory as to why Los Alamos seems so screwed up. Goes like this: We have very smart people who live here. Their job is to think. They work at their job of thinking 40 hours or more per week. They think. A lot. So when they aren't at work, they simply stop thinking.

With that in mind, here is a Reading List which will require that you think ----

Irving Rein: Rudy's Red Wagon

Alan Watts: The Wisdom of Insecurity

Lao Tse: The Tao teh Ching

Henry David Thoreau: everything he ever wrote.

While you read this, try to apply what you learn to life in Los Alamos.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

29) A Matter of Inclusion

It is a matter of inclusion.

Right now the Golf Course is exclusive to golfers. Non-golfers cannot use the facility. They are excluded. But it doesn't have to be that way. A voter said to me, "we need a Chilis or Applebys. We used to have Trinity Beverage which was a good local alternative but they're gone". So, put a variation of TBC in the clubhouse. 1) the non-golfers of Los Alamos will be able to use the golf course facilities thereby increasing local revenues to the golf course, 2) a TBC facility at the golf course is what tournaments are looking for -- they want a food and beverage manager, a liquor license, tables, chairs, waiters. They don't simply want a kitchen and bring-your-own-everything-else. By providing this aspect to the facility, the golf course attracts tournaments and tourists who are spending money earned outside the county line. Creates a new income stream for Los Alamos. 3) The amount that the County government spends on supporting the golf course may well decrease, but even if not, local residents will be more supportive of supporting the golf course if they see that it is useable by the non-golfer population.

It is a matter of inclusion.

Right now the Stables are exclusive to horse owners. Non-horse owners cannot use the area. They are excluded. But it doesn't have to be that way. We can have, and the quit-claim deed allows for, a rent-a-horse riding stable. Non-horse owners would still be able to enjoy the horse experience. They would be able to rent the horse for trail rides, or take lessons in horsemanship. This would generate a whole new source of local revenues and attached grt. Tourists come to western mountain towns expecting to do a trail ride. A riding stable would fill this need thereby creating a new income stream to Los Alamos as more tourist dollars, earned beyond the county line, are spent in the county.

Its a matter of inclusion.

Right now the airport is exclusive to airplane owners. Non-airplane owners cannot use the airport. They are excluded. But it doesn't have to be that way. We once had a fairly successful air passenger service. We can do so again. When people can go to the airport for a flight to Abq, Santa Fe, or the Denver area then they will more readily support the airport activities. They will spend local money on those flights. And tourists will be able to fly directly to Los Alamos paying for those flights with money earned outside of the county line.

It is a matter of inclusion.

Pajarito Mountain figured this out. Rather than being exclusive to skiers they are open to snowboarders, sledders, and tubers during the winter, and in summer months they are open to bikers, hikers, picnicers, bird-watchers. Increased inclusion increases income.

Its a matter of inclusion.

Just as the golf course seems to be exclusive to golfers excluding non-golfers, and unnecessarily so; just as the stables seem to be exculsive to horse owners excluding non-horse owners, and unnecessarily so; so, too, Los Alamos is exclusive to Scientists excluding non-Scientists.............. and unnecessarily so.

It is a matter of the reality of inclusion and the perception of exclusion. Inclusion is what is truly meant by "diversity", be it diversity of population or diversity of economic activity.

It is not enough to say, "well, people have equal access" when the parameters of the access are narrowly defined. It is not enough to say, "everyone can share" when the barriers to the sharing are such that the sharing is not possible. In fact, the conditions make the statements lies which are readily seen through by all those who are excluded by the conditions. And that creates jealousy, resentment, anger, and open hostility. And unnecessarily so when it need not be so.

Over the past few years, county policy makers have been following advice best suited to Winrock Shopping Center. But, then again, county policy makers have tended to think of Los Alamos as an office complex surrounded by a shopping center. Wrong model.

You want a model for Los Alamos success? Look at your Mountain. They have it figured out.

Monday, May 24, 2010

28) Something else Los Alamos Needs

Los Alamos has a great mountain bike event -- brings in folks from all over the country, maybe all over the world -- people who will stay in our hotels, eat at the diners, buy souveniers. And its pretty exciting to watch people engage in a sport which requires strength and stamina.

Notice though we don't have the "other" kind of Bike Run. Why is that? Brings in folks from all over the country -- people who will stay in the hotels, eat at the diners, buy souveniers. And its pretty exciting -- the thunder of American Steel, the flash of ...........................................................................sun on chrome................okay, and the flashing of flesh as well. :)

And, just as a follow-up, if we are going to have either or both, why is that we don't have someone who builds custom bikes -- be they mountain bikes or choppers. A local manufacturing business that creates an income stream from outside the county line..........................? That'd be even more of a novelty than a Bike Run.

27) The Los Alamos Problem

I am "of Los Alamos". Being "of Los Alamos" is not a matter of where you are from -- there are those who grew up here who are not "of Los Alamos", and there are those who came from elsewhere who are "of Los Alamos". See, to be "of Los Alamos" is a matter of the heart. If you would prefer to live here than anywhere else you can think of then you are "of Los Alamos". Not everyone who lives in Los Alamos is "of Los Alamos", and not everyone who is "of Los Alamos" lives here. That's unfortunate on both accounts -- means a lot of people are living where they don't really prefer to be and that causes a certain amount of general unhappiness.

But that's the thing: You go where the Job takes you and if it isn't where you truly prefer to be then you make do as best you can. A study last year (sorry, can't cite this directly -- didn't have the sense to download the entire thing) pointed out that 50% of all Americans are not living where they would prefer to be. And it works out that half the folks in the urban/burban environment would prefer the small town lifestyle while half the folks in small towns would prefer the urban/burban lifestyle. That, too, is unfortunate -- means a lot of square pegs being jammed into round holes which is never comfortable for the peg.

Well, people have a tendency to leave it all and take it all with them -- or try to import it later. Mostly its just a matter of trying to round the peg and square the hole. Problem is you wind up altering the character of each to the detriment of both. They become neither-nor's in an uncomfortable fit which doesn't really fit. More is lost than is gained and everyone loses.

Los Alamos has become truly Lab-centric and Lab-myopic. To the detriment of both. The myth is that if the Lab closes, Los Alamos closes. Yeah, well, maybe not -- actually probably not, but if your lifestyle, livelihood, and life are dependent on the Lab its hard to imagine otherwise. And maybe you don't want to imagine otherwise. There is, after all, some perverse comfort in believing that everyone is in the same boat and if you have to drown when the boat sinks, well, so does everyone else. Worst thing imaginable is that the boat capsizes, everyone gets dumped in the drink, and then the boat doesn't have the courtesy to sink.

So what would really happen if The Lab outright closed? Well, first a lot of folks would leave town. Some would be happy to do so, more would be reluctant to do so but wouldn't really have much choice. But not everyone. Some would be able to stay fairly easily, others would re-arrange their life choices in order to stay with some difficulty. Still, Los Alamos population would shrink to a village.

And would recover...................and be very different.

The people who would stay would be those who derive a significant portion of their income from outside the county line. That would be retirees of course. It would also be those businesses who have a fairly decent business beyond the county line. And, it would be easier for everyone.

There would be a lot of "affordable" housing. Actually, a lot of affordable everything since there would actually be a surplus of land, housing, and business space. That would be very attractive to a lot of people who aren't here. The commuter flow would reverse: rather than people living in Santa Fe and commuting to Los Alamos there would be an increase of people living in Los Alamos and commuting to Santa Fe (some current residents already do this). Creates a whole new income stream for Los Alamos. Arts, crafts, and music would find Los Alamos ideal -- they could actually afford to live here and the natural setting is certainly inspirational. Another new income stream. Mom-and-Pop-shop business would become the norm, catering to the necessities of a new population with a very different demographic. Over time, small manufacture would develop -- businesses in a variety of industries that would understand the only way to make any money is regional sales, not simply local. Another new income stream. In fact, the local economy would be significantly enhanced by more income streams from beyond the County line than currently exist.

The overall net result would be a whole new population with an entirely different demographic making their living in very different ways. The urban/burban lifestyle expectations of the Big Box, and National Chains would be absurd and the focus would be on re-establishing and re-invigorating a robust small town lifestyle -- you know, what we used to have.

There would be some interesting changes to government as well. Cancel most of the County supported amenities. Cancel also the County expenditures on said amenities. Cancel the Government Palaces -- not needed. Cancel the expenditures also. Government would have to concentrate on necessities and maintaining what exists. No big aquatic center - would have to re-open the high school pool. Probably fewer tennis courts. LA Transit would actually have to charge fares. No Civic Center/Performing Arts Center -- have to make do with what was once simply called the Civic Auditorium (the Duane Smith). While the drop in population and the loss of the grt from the Lab would be a huge hit, the demand for amenities would also drop like a rock because the folks as think they should have those amenities wouldn't be here.

As to the drop in Lab grt, well we haven't really had that big ol' windfall all that long anyway, have we?

So let's see what do we wind up with -- the people who want the urban/burban lifestyle with all the amenities thereto would be gone, which means the demand for the urban/burban lifestyle would be equally gone and the stresses, and costs, to meet that demand would be non-existant. There would be no millionaires -- the whole income demographic would shift downward and begin to look more like a bell curve.

We wind up with a small town with a small but diverse economy and a very diverse population made up of people who really, really want to live here and are willing to do what it takes to be able to live here -- in other words people "of Los Alamos".

We wind up with Los Alamos as it was in the 60's - when it was the Los Alamos Scientific Lab, and much smaller, and when mom-and-pops were healthy, when the population size wasn't much different than it is now, and when Los Alamos had a much more robust everything. Means we get to start all over again and do it right.

There is really no reason we can't do this now -- and keep the Lab. Actually, the windfall profit gives us the resources to Get It Right and build that non-Lab, non-Science economy and society. Los Alamos would become a very successful and robust little town and little County.

Reality Check: Los Alamos really is a small town. Remove the Lab from the equation and you get a small town. Put the Lab back into the equation and you still have a small town -- with an Attitude problem. We really don't have to lose the Lab -- we just have to lose the Attitude.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

*** "When, in the course of human events............."

Has the right of democratic self-determination of the people of Los Alamos met its final demise? Has the Social Contract been abrogated? Has the Los Alamos County Council become an elected Oligarchy? Or, has that same Council, regardless of who may be its individual members, become the thrall of an established, un-elected Power Elite?

The Council action on Ordinance 555 and its LAGRI petition precurser is instructive.

By concentrating on the subject material, Council once again chose to look at the proposal in a manner which avoided directly dealing with the underlying issue. The subject matter of any Ordinance initiative or Referendum initiative is but the tip of the iceberg.

The underlying issue, reason, or purpose of any citizen initiative invariably goes to a break-down in the social contract between government and the governed such that citizens find that their only recourse is to set aside the normal processes of representative government and re-establish the principle that ultimate authority for governance rests with, and derives from, the people. A Referendum intiative, commonly referred to as simply "referendum", which by its nature seeks to overturn a legislative action, is a direct challenge to the governing body. An Ordinance initiative, commonly referred to as simply an "initiative", by its nature of seeking to implement policy which has been ignored by elected representatives, is a somewhat more indirect challenge to the governing body -- though an Ordinance initiative which places strictures on the actions of the elected representatives is certainly a direct challenge to the governing authority.

Thomas Jefferson wrote, "It is the propensity of the functionaries of every government to gather unto themselves the rights and properties of their constituents................". The citizen initiative is the means by which those constituents may counter that propensity. Jefferson also wrote that he believed every society should have a revolution every 200 years or so in order to correct the tendencies towards governmental abuses. Certainly, as a challenge to the governing authority, the citizen initiative can be seen as a form of that revolution and, as such, is an action upon which citizens are normally reluctant to embark. People would prefer to trust their government to govern wisely and well and are usually reasonably tolerant and patient of governmental mis-steps. Still, "when in the course of human events.........".

That the governing body and the power elite would attempt to deflect these attempts of the citizenry to re-assert its hegemony is understandable. They will make every effort, in whatever manner, to retain thier power. The arguments will include those already given; that an avenue of public input exists, that the voters are not to be trusted to make the "right" decision, or that there is no legal basis for citizen action. Indeed, the County Attorney has broadly interpreted the case of Johnson v The City of Alamogordo far beyond its parameters in order to make a case which would scuttle the entire intiative process. The argument is untested in New Mexico courts, but, given that the right of initiative is a firmly established precedent in other States, it is unlikely that the argument would survive any direct challenge. Indeed, the "right to Petition" was listed in the Declaration of Independence as one of the driving reasons for that Declaration. Yet members of the Council will cling to this untested interpretation as yet another way to protect thier own postion.

Such tactics only makes matters worse. The governing body and power elite become further entrenched and divorced from the citizenry which can only increase the citizens' frustration. "Throwing the bums out" by the normal proceedure of regularly scheduled election is no longer seen as a viable alternative. Citizens are left with but two increasingly draconian options. The lesser of these two is the Recall initiative by which the entirety of the elected representatives may be summarily dismissed. Yet this does not preclude their being replaced by others of like mind. Should this be the case then it is not unlikely that citizens will seek to disband the governing body entire and replace it with a governmental form which citizens hope will be more responsive and responsible to the people in whom the ultimate authority of and for governance rests.

Reality Check: If the Council does not take heed to the underlying point of direct citizen action, if the untested opinion of the County Attorney is allowed to prevail, then resort to the more draconian measures will be a matter not of "If" but of "When".

Can you spell "revolution"?

Friday, May 7, 2010

25) The Fork In The Road

People will say, "what's the big deal about 1967?" There is a timeline which many of today's residents of Los Alamos are not familiar with.

1947 -- it is determined to turn a temporary military base into a permanent science facility engaged in top-secret work. This will require a resident population. But all of this is created as a Federal Preserve, and the constitutional rights of the residents are severely limited.

1949 -- Los Alamos County is formed. Residents now have some voting rights, but the Pajarito Plateau is still a Federal Preserve. The "town" has a town council, but it can pass no legislation without AEC approval. Residents cannot own property.

1959/60. Congress passes the enabling legislation which will eventually separate the Town from The Lab and the AEC.

1967 -- The first Town/County Hall of an independent Los Alamos is dedicated. Los Alamos is now responsible for its own destiny.

However, in order for the citizens of Los Alamos through their elected representatives to begin to fullfil that destiny, the County government is given a stipend for the purpose of supporting essential services until such time as Los Alamos can develop the economic base needed. It is realistically recognized that for Los Alamos to build such an economy will take time -- several years, possibly decades, and that the bulk of the work will fall to the children who grow up in Los Alamos when they have come of age.

1968 -- The next step in the process is to form a governmental structure. That is accomplished with the completion and adoption of the County Charter.

1969. -- This is the last year that anything goes right for Los Alamos. In June of this year, the County Commission is considering it budget. A representative of the AEC tells them they will have to begin to devise a plan and strategy whereby the amount of monies from the Lab/AEC will be less than 50% of the total budgetary income of Los Alamos. This is the first challenge and call to County to begin the work of building an economic base which is distinct and separate from the Lab for it was always intended that Los Alamos would be distinct and separate. And then the representative says something very telling:

"You cannot rely on the Lab, for the Lab is unreliable".

PAUSE: Realistically, the County could not have done anything significant in regard to the building of a distinct and separate economy prior to this time. To do so requires a lot of planning and work and time -- the earliest date that County could have begun the process would have been January 1970.

The budget for FY70 is passed. It relies on more than 50% of Lab money to finance. What no one knows is that Los Alamos is about to get hammered by the first and largest RIF in Lab history..........................

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

24) Do You Believe in Magic?

Magic is an interesting thing. It rests on the prinicipal of creating an illusion which is so strong as to obscure reality replacing that obscured reality with the reality the magician wishes you to believe. As an entertainer, I've often worked with other entertainers in other disciplines and magicians are truly cool. (So are jugglers -- unfortunately I didn't practice as much as I should have..........and juggling, btw, is also part illusion). The magicians who do the Big Tricks are the Rockers of the Profession, but it is the magician who does "table" or "close-up" magic who can really get you going. No matter how close you stand, or observant you think you are, the close-up magician has total control of the situation.

Total control is the name of the game. It has been said that "perception is reality". The only people who really get this are magicians -- and con artists. By controlling perception, you control reality and, therefore you control the situation. There are two ways to control perception and, hence, the situation. Either you are the creator of the illusion, or you are perceptive enough to see the illusion for what it is.

The belief that The Lab and Los Alamos are inseparable is an Illusion. The magician creating the Illusion is actually The Lab. Others may use the Illusion for their own purposes, but this originates with The Lab -- for its own purposes. The purpose isn't particularly nefarious, insidious, nor in any way was it meant to be harmful. In fact, it wasn't even meant to be aimed at the residents of Los Alamos. The Illusion was designed with Congress in mind.

It is 1944. A secret location must be found for a secret Project involving a Gadget. Security is an absolute. Ideally, the location should be as geographically isolated as possible, since geographic isolation provides a level of security that an entire cordon of officers couldn't hope to pull off.

It is 1947. The Project is done, but it is decided that the location should be made permanent for there is more work to be done as a result of the Secret Project which must be as secret and secure. Both The Lab and the Town of Los Alamos are born at the same time -- The Town is not the spin-off from The Lab for under the conditions of secrecy and security required a resident population must be available living behind Gates and Fences. No commuters allowed.

Reality Check: without the Town of Los Alamos, there could have been no Lab.

It is 1960. The enabling Legislation, an Act Of Congress has been passed setting the process by which full authority and independence is to be transferred from the AEC to The Town, and now, County of Los Alamos. The Gates are down, the County is open. The security needs still are there but The Lab has withdrawn into its own little shell.

It is 1989. The Cold War is over. Now, The Lab faces its real challenge. For the past 30 years there has always been the anti-nuke crowd, but there has also been The Soviets. Now there aren't any Soviets, but the anti-nuke crowd is still there and the balance of power has shifted.

The Lab has always depended, and still depends, on Congress for its very existance. And its money. As long as there were The Soviets, getting the money wasn't too difficult, except for that little hiccup in 1970, when the anti-war crowd, and the anti-Nixon crowd (helped enourmously by Nixon) joined forces with the anti-nuke crowd. But as of 1989 the math changed. "The Soviet Threat" was no longer leverage and The Lab needs leverage of some kind because of the 535 people who serve in The House and Senate, only 4 (now 5) represent New Mexico. Means there are 530 votes which gain nothing for themselves or their constituents by funding The Lab. That's a tough crowd.

But they are a fairly decent bunch (political shenanigans aside). Most of them really do want to do what is right, and most of them don't want to do anything that would be truly harmful to anyone else. And they all remember that little hiccup in 1970 when some very idealistic types thought that if you cut the Defense Budget the Pentagon wouldn't have any money to run its precious little war in some jungle/rice paddy paradise. The result of that hit not only Los Alamos, it hit every small town nationwide which had any contract with the Defense Department in any way shape fashion or form. A lot of people around the country lost their livelihoods -- and some took their own lives. No one in Congress ever ever ever wants to be responsible for that sort of thing again.

So The Lab comes up with Plan B. Tell Congress that if The Lab doesn't get The Money, the result will be 1970. Well, that's a little hard to believe, hence The Illusion -- That Los Alamos and The Lab are inseparable. Okay, well that'll only get so much traction as well, because what the heck its only the one little town. So make The Illusion more far-reaching. Ever since the Gates came down and there was a place called Rio Rancho, some small number of folks have been commuting to their jobs at The Lab. Kismet. Extend the influence range of The Lab to include all of Northern New Mexico. Congress may, reluctantly, let a small town go down the drain, but it won't let the economy of half of an entire State go down the drain. That would be enough of a version of 1970 as to essentially be 1970.

See how that works? Its Magic. But, and this is a big But, there is the threat of Heresy. Heresy is that Los Alamos and The Lab are separate. So at all costs, Los Alamos must be made to be totally dependent on the Lab and Los Alamos must never be allowed to institute its own Plan B -- fundamental productive economic diversification. The Los Alamos Plan B could undermine the effect of The Lab Plan B.

Right now The Lab is living on borrowed time -- bestowed by Osama bin Laden. Various nuclear weapons reduction treaties have reduced the prinicipal purpose for having a Lab in the middle of no where. The non-weapons, pure Science stuff, could be done anywhere. Do not think that congressional types have not thought about what a boost it would be to the economies of their constituents to snag one of those little plums. When the time comes, as it eventually must, that the weapons component of the Lab work is no longer required, then the only leverage The Lab will have is the ghost of 1970.

Control of perception is control of the situation. Either one is the maker of the Illusion, or one is perceptive enough to see through the Illusion.

Reality Check: The percieved/believed Los Alamos/Lab relationship is an Illusion wrapped in an Engima and enveloped in the Smoke from the Hookah Pipe that is puffing on the South Mesa. Know the Truth and the Truth shall set you Free -- but only if you want to be set free. Problem is, in times of percieved peril people would really rather hide in the little cages they have built in their own minds -- or have had built for them.


23) The False Argument.

There is a thesis being put forward, the first part of which says, "In order to attract the best and the brightest, LANL must compete with Sandia and Livermore................" There are essentially two parts to this:
1) For LANL to compete, it must engage in the highest possible level of Science.
2) Los Alamos is the host town to LANL, Albuquerque is the host town to Sandia, and Oakland is the host town to Livermore. Therefore, in order to attract the best and the brightest, Los Alamos must somehow compete with Albuquerque and Oakland.

However, the argument then concludes: ".............therefore, Los Alamos must provide the same level of amenities and lifestyle as Albuquerque and Oakland or the best and the brightest will not come to Los Alamos -- they will go to Albuquerque or Oakland and Los Alamos will only attract second-rate scientists which, in turn, will reduce LANL to second-rate Science leading to its eventual closure."

This is a False Argument.

The logic is screwy at best. First, the conclusion contains, and is, the premise which makes the argument circular. Second, the under-lying premise is false, creating a reducto ad absurdum by which the entire argument fails. Badly. Let's tear this apart --

a) Albuquerque and Oakland are urban/burban environments and provide the amenities and lifestyle which attach thereto. Thus, (substituting) : "Los Alamos must provide the amenities/lifestyle of the urban/burban environment or the best and the brightest will not come to Los Alamos".

b) This "or" statement is actually an "if - then" statement, to whit: "If Los Alamos does not provide the amenities and lifestyle of the urban/burban environment, then the best and the brightest will not come to Los Alamos".

c) The inverse of (b) is: "If Los Alamos provides the lifestyle and amenities of the urban/burban environment, then the best and the brightest will come to Los Alamos".

d) (c) may be reversed to: "The best and the brightest will come to Los Alamos if it provides the lifestyle and amenities of the urban/burban environment".

e) Since Los Alamos is a laboratory host town, as is Albuqueruque and Oakland, we may then subsitute: "The best and the brightest will come to a national laboratory host town which provides the lifestyle and amenities of the urban/burban environment

f) Since the "if - then" statement derives from an "either - or" statement, the statement becomes "A and not B" thus: "The best and the brightest will come to a national laboratory host town which provides the lifestyle and amenities of the urban/burban environment and the best and the brightest will not come to a national laboratory host town that does not provide the lifestyle and amenities of the urban/burban environment". (Yeah, I know, looks for all the world like an A and not A, but it really is A and not B).

g) Where-in we find the basic premise "The best and brightest will come to the urban/burban environment and the best and the brightest will not come to a non-urban/burban environment" which may be reworked into the following:

h) "The best and the brightest will come if and only if there is an urban/burban lifestyle/amenities environment".

Thus the basic premise of the argument is that the best and the brightest seek/prefer the lifestyle and amenities of the urban/burban environment.

Putting the premise into its proper place in the argument we get "Since the best and the brightest seek/prefer the lifestyle and amenities of the urban/burban environment (premise A), and since Los Alamos must compete with Albuquerque and Oakland for the best and the brightest (premise B), Therefore Los Alamos must provide the lifestyle/amenities of the urban/burban environment."

This is its own logical can of worms. Premise A is unproven, and assumed to be true. The premise is stated as a tautological truth, that all persons included in the set "the best and the brightest" seek/prefer the lifestyle/amenities of the urban/burban environment.

Premise B is likewise unproven and assumed to be true. Without going through all the steps Premise B actually works out to be "The best and the brightest have a choice of either Los Alamos, Albuquerque, or Oakland". This re-work eliminates the phrase "Los Alamos must compete" -- an important distinction.

Setting aside the problem of a conclusion supported by no more than 2 unsupported assumptions, the test of the argument lies in the truth or not of Premise A. If Premise A is true we get: "All best and the brightest prefer the urban/burban amenities/lifestyle. If given a choice of three host towns, they will choose that which best provides the urban/burban amenities/lifestyle."

If Premise A is not true then we get "Some best and brightest prefer the urban/burban amenities/lifestyle and some of the best and brightest prefer something other than the urban/burban amenities/lifestyle." Putting it all together we get:

"The best and the brightest have three laboratory host town choices. Those who prefer the urban/burban amenities/lifestyle will choose accordingly. The rest will choose based on some other factor(s). Los Alamos is a small town whch does not offer the urban/burban amenities/lifestyle. Therefore, Los Alamos will be the choice of some, but not all, of the best and the brightest and the best and brightest who choose Los Alamos will do so based on factors other than the urban/burban amenities/lifestyle."

The False Argument stated at the beginning is sometimes modified thus: the best and the brightest will choose based on The Science and their spouses will choose based on the amenities/lifestyle. This assumes that all spouses of scientists will prefer the urban/burban amenities/lifestyle. Plug "the spouses of the best and the brightest" into the above substituting for "the best and the brightest" and we still wind up in the same place:

"The spouses of the best and the brightest have three laboratory host town choices. Those who prefer the urban/burban amenities/lifestyle will choose accordingly. The rest will choose based on some other factor(s). Los Alamos is a small town whch does not offer the urban/burban amenities/lifestyle. Therefore, Los Alamos will be the choice of some, but not all, of the best and the brightest and the best and brightest who choose Los Alamos will do so based on factors other than the urban/burban amenities/lifestyle."

Reality Check: Los Alamos is a small town. Small towns do not provide the urban/burban amenities/lifestyle since small towns are not urban/burban. If Premise A "all best and brightest prefer the urban/burban amenities/lifestyle" or its alternative "all spouses of the best and brightest prefer the urban/burban amenities/lifestyle" is true, then Los Alamos is eventually screwed. If Premise A is not true, then pursuing policies based on the assumption that Premise A is true will leave Los Alamos equally screwed.

Here's the good news. The False Argument uses the phrase "Los Alamos must compete.....". That brings in the concept of Competitive Advantage -- where Los Alamos has some real opportunities.

Monday, May 3, 2010

22) Alternatives

The best way to support the Lab is to ignore the Lab

Think of it this way : If Los Alamos got a note from DOE which said, "beginning this date next year, LANL will begin a phased closure to be completed over a period of 4 years. You have that long to come up with something else. It's been nice doing business with you. Have a good day.", what would we begin to do to change our economic base?

Why aren't we doing it now?

We have businesses here that do not rely on LANL -- who do over 50% of their business outside the county line, some as much as 90%. That is one source of revenue. We also have plenty of retirees who are pulling their checks from the Feds and other sources. Again, another source of revenue.

Some will say, but the Lab brings in so much money it could never be replaced, so why bother to try. Folks, it don't matter how much ya got, what counts is what ya do with it.

Right now we have the funds from LANL GRT to be recruiting and establishing businesses that could make goods and provide services that could be sold beyond the county line -- beyond the state line. For every successful business that gets established here, a new source of revenue is added to the local economy. There are over 7,000 LAHS grads -- do not think they all went into the sciences. If we can get just 1% of them to open businesses in the 238 areas which have been left fallow, we could significantly increase the non-LANL portion of the economy and thereby reduce the toxic dependency that the county currently has.

In a few years, LANL will be downsizing -- more of its budget will be "normal operations" and less will be clean-up and construction. The START and other nuke agreements will continue to downsize the stockpile reducing the operations portion of LANL in that area. We must not bank our future, and the future of our children and their children -- for Los Alamos belongs to them more than to us -- on remaining a one-trick pony. Both the trick and the pony get old and tired.

By beginning to upsize the non-LANL non-Science sectors of our economy in manufacture (no I don't mean steel mills), trade, transportation, and tourism now, we can off-set the reductions that LANL will inevitably see.
By diversifying our economic base we will also diversify our population demographics making it possible for people from all walks of life - professions, trades, crafts, arts, and other -- to make a living in Los Alamos. This broader, non-LANL, non-Science demographic will make for a healthier community and one which is less likely to be viciously manipulated. It will also provide a greater variety in demand for goods and services and a healthier retail sector (If you are the only person looking for something, you ain't gonna find it -- if 100 of you are looking for the same thing, it'll be available).

Some who read this may not like my references to Los Alamos of the late 60's (and what, exactly do you have against the 50's and 60's) but I know what Los Alamos was then and what it should have become. But the Times are what we make them to be and we make them to be what they are by Choice. We can Choose to get Los Alamos on a politically, socially, economically healthier path. We can create a town that is self-sufficient and therefore a better host to a large enterprise such as The Lab.

But we absolutely must break from the negativity. "Yes, but...." is how nothing gets done. The Lab will do what the Lab will do in the best interests of The Lab. Time Los Alamos does what Los Alamos does in the best interests of Los Alamos.

And it is absolutely not in the best interests of Los Alamos to have the personal, professional, social, cultural, economic, and political lives of the people of Los Alamos so dominated by a single effect as to fit the classic definitions of addiction, which distorts all other aspects of life into the one twisted fanatasy.What irritates me beyond belief is the attitude of some that not only can Los Alamos not become its own entity, but that it has no right to. That if the Lab goes Los Alamos will not only vanish from the face of the planet but that it SHOULD vanish from the face of the planet.

It is the ten year anniversary of the Fire. Many of the homes destroyed have been rebuilt or replaced. Much of the mountainside is showing new green as tiny spruce, pine, and aspen begin to renew the forest. Take a clue from that. Where there is a will there is a way -- but there must be a will, and right now our will belongs to The Lab, Science City, and LACDC. This must change. Now.

Our assets are not in our degrees or our woodlands. Our assets are our courage.

I have a photo on my desk of a small sailing boat at sea under a full moon. The caption reads: Risk -- you cannot discover new oceans if will not risk losing sight of the shore. Please to read my blog entitled "O Pioneers" (its in the April postings). Risk does not always pay off -- it can indeed lead to disaster. Well, nothing ventured nothing gained. More importantly, Safety and Security are an Illusion. If beyond the edges of the map there be dragons then go forth -- and domesticate the critters. For as sure as you were born -- you will certainly die of something at sometime unappointed by you. What you do twixt mortal birth and Cosmic birth is what counts.

Final thought and final lines from E.A. Poe's "Eldorado" -- "Over the Mountains of the Moon, down through the Valley of Shadow, Ride Boldly, Ride, if you seek for El Dorado."

Los Alamos is Where Discoveries Are Made -- seek to discover new oceans.

21) The 60,000 sq ft Boondoogle.

The County is considering putting a 60,000 sq ft "Municipal Building" at the site of the LA Apartments - north side of Central. The reason given is that this will somehow enhance our economy. Really? The site is prime economic property – it is along Central, centrally located within the area 4th street to 20th, near banks, restaurants, shopping, and residential. How can retiring such property from potential economic use -- either as residential, commercial, retail, or mixed use – in any way enhance the over-all economy of Los Alamos? Indeed, retiring such land from economic use would represent a cost and loss to the Los Alamos economy. Would the promised increase in economic activity counter the decrease from retiring the space?

Some would say, "well, if we don’t do something the space will sit empty. It won’t be developed right away". There may be some truth to that – but consider the time frame. The proposed government building is supposed to stand for 75 for 100 years. That is 75 to 100 years during which time the land will be lost to economic activity. Do you really think it would take 75- 100 years to find productive economic use for the land? Do you really think it would sit empty for 75 - 100 years? The site originally had affordable housing on it, and realistically we could, at the least, build new affordable housing units again in fairly short order. The previous site owner had planned to fold the existing housing into a mixed use development – again, this is a much better use of the land and, with proper planning, could be accomplished within the next few years.

So how much does the Los Alamos economy lose if the land is retired from economic use for the next 75 - 100 years? Bear in mind that County has to build something somewhere – the question here is the cost to retiring privately develop-able land vs building on land which is not slated for, nor useable for, such private development. Let’s go through the list....................

1) there is the loss of direct economic activity -- commercial use, estimated at $100/sq ft revenue to the economy; retail use, estimated at $200/sq ft revenue to the economy.
2) there is the loss from parking – this is tricky because parking for the government building would be somewhat less than 100 % use as it would be "shared parking".
3) there would be the loss in subsidiary economic activity in goods/services purchased by the private user. For example, private owners contract out maintenance and janitorial services, government does not. The loss would be not only in the $ paid to such services, but in the loss of jobs and employment income which would then be spent in the economy.
4) cost of construction.
5) there would be the loss in tax revenues generated by the total of 1 - 4 above which are generally re-invested in the community.
6) monies pumped in to the economy are circulated in the form of spending/payments to other economic activities. This is called the multiplier effect increases total economic activity and revenues to the economy. The losses associated to the total of 1 - 5 above are subject to this multiplier. Right now the Los Alamos multiplier is fairly low, however this can change over time – and certainly over the span of 75 - 100 years.

Reality Check: There is a general principal that govenment buildings should retire the least amount of land from productive economic use as may be possible. And for good reason. The 60,000 sq ft boondoogle could easily result in a total loss to the Los Alamos economy upwards of 25 - 30 million dollars per year. For 75 - 100 years. In what fantasy nightmare does this constitute "economic development"?

Friday, April 30, 2010

20) The Dealer and The Junkie

It has been said that Los Alamos is a one-horse town. People have no idea how apt that is. "Horse" is street language for heroin.

The Dealer is always happy to supply the Junkie -- until the Junkie no longer has anything to offer in exchange for the Horse. Then The Dealer drops The Junkie, because the Dealer doesn't need The Junkie and can always find a new customer. So The Dealer is always looking for ways to expand The Market and find new potential Junkies. The Junkie, however, needs The Dealer and believing he/she cannot live without The Dealer will do anything to keep The Dealer happy -- anything to stay on the Horse. The Junkie lives in constant fear of losing The Dealer. But to every Junkie there must come a time of Choice -- to either break with The Dealer, get off the Horse -- or Die. Because Dealer Dependency means certain Death.

Reality Check: Los Alamos must get off The Horse. The Lab and Science City are so pervasive as to invade every aspect of our personal, social, cultural, economic, and political lives. We absolutely must declare, and fight for, our economic independence. It will be damn difficult; it will take time; we will see more failures than successes and it will seem so much easier to just give up. But if Los Alamos is to survive there is no other alternative.

19) The Young Guns

My parents moved here in 1952 because Dad had a job offer from the Lab. Not that he expected to. Mom and Dad lived in D.C. and Dad had seen this ad in the local paper for a drafting position somewhere in New Mexico, so he had applied for the job sort of as a lark mostly because he had always wanted to see The West and he figured if the prospective employer wanted to talk to him, they'd pay for the trip. They did, and he got to see The West. But he didn't really figure he'd get the job. See, Dad was 21, Mom was 20, I was 1, and nobody had been to college. Mom and Dad only had high school degrees. But he got the gig as a design draftsman and Mom, an artist, got a job at the Lab as a technical artist.

Think of that: you could actually land a job at The Lab which would estalish a career, pay well, allow you to raise a family here -- with no more than a high school education.

We are beginning to hear the mantra "grow our own". That could be fine, depending on what you are trying to grow. But the question has to be asked, "grow our own what?".

When I was in LAPS, I knew a lot of kids who were un-scientific and certainly not hard-wired for math. Now, the emphasis on academics and Go To College has always been pretty heavy here, but there were several offerings in practical arts. I took woodshop and drafting in junior high. In high school I took metal shop and two years of graphic arts -- with real honest to goodness printing presses and line copy photography. Other kids took electronics, home ec, and auto shop. What I learned in my practical arts classes I still use today. I also took history, civics, Latin, speech, band, chem, bio, along with the requisite 3 years of English (high school back then was 10 - 12). The only thing I learned in my one algebra class that I still use is the pythagorean theorem and that only to help my wife figure out triangle sizes for her quilting projects.

I hear tell its a bit different these days. Few electives, little in practical arts, and 4 years of math including Physics. I would never have graduated. The truth is that if you aren't a science type then the commencement speech you get is, "We've taught you everything we can, now go away."

So let's see - of 316 professional/business activities the mortality plan is to emphasize 16 that we already have plenty of, and ignore the 238 possible professional/business activities from which we could be expanding our economy. We aren't going to recruit non-science/tech types -- we're just going to "grow our own" whiz kids as more fodder for the Lab and Science City. We are going to keep our demographics exactly as they are now -- overpaid, overeducated, overwhite -- shove the non-science kids out the door and keep the non-science types in the wider world from coming in the door and somehow this will solve all our problems.

Reality check: More of the Same, Piled Higher and Deeper will only get you more of the same social - economic problems --- piled higher and deeper.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

18) What Los Alamos Really Needs

Okay, now for something a little tongue in cheek.......Warning! This is a bit risque and your children should not be reading this................ (I have edited out the somewhat more, ahem, descriptive parts :)

There is one business that Los Alamos needs more than any other. It is a business which will totally, radically, alter the social/cultural milieu and character of Los Alamos forever (or until it gets closed, which ever comes first). The following is a bit of "poetry" (blank verse, free verse, no verse, whatever, just get into the flow of the thing) that I wrote several years ago after an evening of poetry reading at a coffee house that was two blocks from where I lived in Palms -- in my bachelor days. I've been meaning to read it at a local poetry reading they have here, but......well......... (I'll do this in paragraph form with a / to indicate the line breaks)
"Polite Society"

I am a bit too old / and a bit too jaded / for this. / An evening of poetry. / Drinking exotic coffees. / Making polite conversation. / Eating French pastries / in a smoke-free environment / with oil stains hung on the wall / which reflect someone's vision / of something (I'm not sure what). / Surrounded by fresh young faces / with bright eyes / and glorious idealism. / On stage a lovely young lady / peaches and cream skin / lithe, nubile form / lilting voice / and sparkling eyes / which reflect a virginity / that is more than sexual. / Such sweet naivete / weaving fancies of utopian bliss / with callow cadence / decrying social failings / with ponderous pentameter. / Polite drawing room clap. / Burgeoning sophistication. / The Polite Society of Tomorrow. / Was I ever that young? / A callow dreamer / looking out from the window of a sheltered life / gushing of Love and Social Perfection / in torrents of verbiage / twisted into clever contrivances / finding "The Meaning of Life" / and calling it Poetry?

I need a damn cigarette / and a good Dive.

A smoke filled / dim lit / Dive. / A place where you can swagger / a place where you can brag / a place where you can forget / a place where you can get your throat cut. / Populated by denizens of shadows. / People who have stories to tell / and the good sense not to tell / who have walked down the back alleys / that polite society knows nothing of / and have moved through fog and dark / with grace, cunning, and daring / haunting the night / with haunted eyes. / Their voices, male and female / have a hard edge / reflecting the edge on which they live. / They do not discuss / "The Meaning of Life" / They live it.

The true netherworld. / With a stage in one corner / a stage with a woman. / A sleek stripper /..[edit]...../ whose sweat glistens / in all the right places. / There is something esoteric / in a stripper's sweat. /......[edit]............../ She gyrates in slow motion / to a raspy sax / the smoke in the room / providing her only veils.

A hidden Dive / with an alley door / and a pool table / in eyeshot of Salome. / A green felt playground / for the hard bitten / who wager their dollars / and souls / on the drop of the eight ball / under a harsh light / and the scent of Salome's sweet sweat. / Bump and grind and the clack of balls / a well turned form and a well turned cue / and eyes of hard steel ponder the possibilities/ .........[edit]...................

A dusky Dive. / A dark world / wherein hover the shades of poets / Milton, Dante, Poe, and Wilde. / But the only readings done here / are the backs of playing cards by sharps / or the fronts of tarot cards by gypsies / and the careful sizing up / of one's current company.
You get the drift. There's a bit more imagery "ivory on felt..... Salome on satin sheets..the pungency of alchohol, tobacco, and sweat......lonely walks, dark alleys, rising fog, heavy silence broken by a passing train or a cat in a trash can..... slipping into the night listening to the steady rhythm of souls echoing off pavement and the ebb and flow of traffic......." with a contrast to "Polite society, genteel sophistries cloyingly correct".

Maybe someday I will read it to the local poetry society -- without the edits. But for now,

Los Alamos needs a damn cigarette and a good Dive.