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.