As we were growing up we probably heard the expression, “What is the magic word?” This was a prompt to use our manners by expressing a “Please” and “Thank you” in polite company.
I assert that there is another Magic Word that is heard far too infrequently in our local county governing body. That word is “HOW?”
Let me illustrate this with a couple of examples taken from the local current events.
The county councilors are going to be deliberating on a proposed rate increase for our sewage services. In the course of their duties they have had to do this often for a wide variety of funding proposals, from routine utility type services to the luxury expenditures like swimming pools, splash pads, and flow trails. The magical word “How” is not relevant in the discussions I and the public have been privy to. In the back and forth banter, questioning and speeches that go on seldom do any of the councilors use the word “How”. HOW are we going to fund this now as well as 5 and 10 years from now. HOW is this truly a benefit to the larger body of citizens instead of a special interest. HOW is the rate hike actually improving services for the populace? How, How, How? When the question of HOW is even posed, the response from the presenter is hardly a consideration as often it is a sore lack of response.
Few Los Alamos citizens are aware of how our budget has ballooned in the past decade. We as a scientific community have a firm understanding of the concept of “exponential” as it pertains mathematically to many functions, but we seem to be blind to how it is being used economically in our little local budget. When spending grows and a budget becomes irresponsibly managed the outcome is predictable and ugly. The current GRT situation is a perfect example of a roadblock to the out of control spending habits that have been exercised in Los Alamos. Nobody wanted to know HOW we could continue to afford the things we wanted. Like petulant children, we just wanted them now with no real responsibility for the outcome. Any cautioning advice was mocked as being ignorant or foolish.
The sad situation is like writing on the wall. Either we will have to raise taxes, which will stretch thin families that are just barely getting back on their feet from the National downturn from a few years ago. Or we will need to seriously look at cutting the budget. The harsh reality is that the current lack of foresight WILL cost people their jobs. It will hurt people financially in personal ways. The proposed tax increases that the council seems to be lobbying for within their ranks will hurt the few small businesses struggling to survive in an already hostile economic and social environment here on the hill.
More of this sad reality is that instead of leadership, the current council is ready and poised to start finger pointing to deflect blame from themselves and their responsibility for this crisis. They want to fund a trip to Washington to shake their fists at the Company that has taken over as the new contractor for the Laboratory. They want to blame them like they are some big bad meanie that is taking away their fair share. The problem they don’t see is that rather than looking like responsible leaders who can steer and lead in the face of adversity, they are only continuing to look like whining children who want to face no responsibility for their own actions.
First off, a little common sense and asking HOW along the way could have prevented so much of this. Further, listening to caution from the members of the community could have pulled us back to some sanity.
I have personally heard excuse after excuse from each one of the sitting council for why we must spend on this or that. I have heard the excuse that the money is already there to be used, or the popular and vague excuse that it will be good for growth. I have not heard them caution against any spending, unless it was in favor of other spending.
Do we really want to continue to repeat our spending failure? HOW will we adjust to the loss of the money we had coming in? Their answer is to whine or to tax. That is not leadership. That is NOT even adult responsibility.
Shiny new things are great for Los Alamos, but if in trying to buy them you are never willing to really examine HOW the county can afford these things in the long term, you are not being a responsible steward for your community.
If you don’t want to choose me as a leader for the next council, I ask you, I beg you, consider to at least use your vote to help steer where our current leaders won’t. Vote for new voices that will both listen to the people and be of real character, capable of asking HOW, and also of taking firm action based on the sound judgement that comes from listing to the answer or, once again the lack of answers.
If you do choose me to be one of your leaders in our local government, I swear to you that I will take the position seriously. I view that position as a steward of our community and it’s resources, both fiscal and public. It is not a blank check to try and use government to bolster a personal agenda. It isn’t a position of authority, but rather of service. Service to you and service to what really is the betterment of our community.
So I will end here with a “Please” vote for me. I will be the leader who is willing to ask HOW, listen to the the people, and actually lead instead of spend.
Helen M. Milenski
The Solution is Simple; Helen M. Milenski for Los Alamos County Council.