The Santa Fe City Council has rejected an amended joint powers agreement with the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities over concerns about the organization’s impact and one councilor’s plan to introduce a measure removing the city from the group.

“I don’t think we should just approve an updated JPA because we want to go along to get along,” said City Councilor Renee Villarreal, who noted she intends to propose the city end its affiliation with the coalition. “Some of my colleagues say we should have a seat at the table, but I think we should have it at the right table.”

The council voted 5-3 against the agreement, with Mayor Alan Webber and Councilors Carol Romero-Wirth and Jamie Cassutt-Sanchez voting in favor. City Councilor Michael Garcia, the city’s representative on the coalition, abstained.

Rejecting the agreement does not pull the city out of the organization.

Villarreal has been the loudest critic of the coalition, which was established in 2011 to give communities surrounding Los Alamos National Laboratory more of a voice in its job development and cleanup. She questioned in previous committee meetings how the city stood to benefit.

“Our values have not aligned,” Villarreal said. “I’m trying to understand changing the JPA, what does that change? How does our voice actually get heard since it hasn’t been heard the last 10 years?”

Jemez Pueblo is the only other member that hasn’t yet signed the amended agreement, which removes Los Alamos County as the coalition’s fiscal agent, a role it has held for years.

City Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler agreed with Villarreal, noting that in her three years on the council, she has yet to see a report on how the city benefits from the coalition.

The city of Santa Fe, like other members, pays $10,000 a year to the group. The U.S. Department of Energy previously provided $100,000 in grant funds, but the Energy Department’s inspector general in 2019 recommended the federal agency seek reimbursement of up to $300,000 after accusing the coalition of failing to account for spending and prohibited lobbying practices.

Española Mayor Javier Sánchez said the coalition has failed to provide updates to members and should focus more heavily on advocating for cleanup efforts at the lab.

“One of the questions that keeps getting brought up is that this is not helping with cleanup. When we talk candidly about some of the fumbles that we have perhaps made in the past, that’s one that we are here to rectify and fix,” Sánchez said.

(20) comments

Erich Kuerschner

I would like to echo what Greg Mello said:

“Yes, councilors Villarreal -- in depth, over a long period of time -- and also Vigil-Coppler deserve credit for leading the debate Wednesday night.

It was shocking that Israelevitz was present -- again, meaning that nobody in Santa Fe City government was available who knew much that was pertinent to the question at hand. His snow job didn't go over well.”

To understand how the RCLC ACTUALLY operates (as distinct from how it PURPORTS to operate) one of the FEW insights is reported here:

https://losalamosreporter.com/2019/03/03/no-vote-from-rclc-on-support-for-hm-63-at-friday-meeting/

Even support of a NM House Resolution (non-binding) to merely STUDY the connection between LANL and poverty could not be passed.

Key quotes from the above article:

Espanola Mayor Javier said he felt quite conversely that the members of the board are elected to be the voices of the people they are representing.

“We don’t go back to our councils to ask how we vote on something as simple as the joint powers agreement. So I think conversely not only we do have the right, but the responsibility and obligation to speak for our communities,” Sanchez said. “That having been said, I am in favor of the study. Just read a couple of quotes from the (news release on)SB 11 that passed. First from the Governor – ‘ensuring that adjacent communities will be able to depend on a steady stream of important revenue’. We also have Senator (Richard) Martinez who says this is about bring better economic security to Northern New Mexico and our entire state. We also have Christine Chandler who said that this revenue stream is to help provide essential services and programs for New Mexicans in her community and district which includes everything from Rio Arriba, Espanola to Taos.”

Sanchez said it would he thinks “it would only be a no-brainer to delve into that a little bit further.

He said that with every dollar that goes into LANL, sometimes we see that poverty remains, or in fact grows so maybe this study would help us to understand how we can truly develop economically all of Northern New Mexico. All of the representatives who put forward this bill.”

But the motion of then Chair Henry Roybal (who could not be present) was sabotaged by the now current chair (Darien Fernandez, of Taos- also more on that later), perhaps because of the comment by Los Alamos County Councilor and (RCLC board secretary David Izraelevitz ) who stated: “ he suspected the Council would have some issues with it.”

I also appreciate that SF RCLC rep Garcia abstained from voting on the JPA resolution, as he formerly stated at an RCLC meeting (in discussing handling the transition RCLC director position)

City of Santa Fe Councilor Michael Garcia said he wanted to make sure whatever direction the board moved in that “they did it in a correct manner”. He said it was up to the body to look at not what’s best for their individual community but what’s best for the whole coalition.

How different from the POV that the RCLC be used to further individual member core values expressed by , Councilors Villarreal and Vigil-Coppler,

Erich Kuerschner

The quote from Michael Garcia is here:

https://losalamosreporter.com/2020/08/05/regional-coalition-of-lanl-communities-will-be-without-executive-director-services-as-of-august-27-as-contract-with-cplc-ends/

Khal Spencer

"...to merely STUDY the connection between LANL and poverty ..." Sounds like left-wing question begging to me. Commission a study that will tell activists what they want to hear.

If LANL (or Sandia, or the bases) were not here, I doubt Uncle Sam would be throwing bags of money out of airplanes for people to catch. My guess is if you work for LANL or SNL you get a pretty good salary. If you don't work for these STEM-drenched places that require advanced degrees and high levels of skill, there ain't a whole lot else going on in this part of the state that pays well and would draw people in or keep our best people here. That was something we also lamented in Hawaii when I lived there--the best left the state. My wife once offered to her students that they could work hard and be nationally competitive or stay in Honolulu and fold sheets. My wife, who was a full professor and program manager for the rather large remedial studies program serving multicultural students at her college in Honolulu, offered her expertise at the local colleges and was offered a few paltry bucks per credit hour. She got a job at LANL. I did some fishing at UNM and was told by a department chair "you would never accept the salary we could offer you". So if the labs were not here, would the highly skilled people stay in the state? My guess is the grass is actually greener elsewhere.

I agree with some that the income disparity between the haves and have nots is probably intensified and made more painful by high paying national lab jobs, but the fact that they are there doesn't explain New Mexico's long history of poverty, as discussed by organizations such as the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Extractive industries, farming, ranching, and tourism are not high paying areas. And, of course the whole political history of this area has contributed to poverty.

https://www.ukessays.com/essays/politics/why-is-new-mexico-poor-politics-essay.php

Sure, perhaps the Feds could or should spend money on something besides the weapons labs but we still need to be competitive for dollars, whether they are Federal or the private sector's greenbacks. We need to stop looking for whipping boys or excuses that can be blamed on someone else, and start working on making New Mexico a better state.

Erich Kuerschner

Hi Khal:

Not clear what you are saying here?  Of course if STUDY is the end of an effort, nothing is gained. But to state that PLANNING, STUDY is NOT a useful process **EVER** CAN'T be what you are saying?  Is it?

STUDY re poverty in NEW Mexico is SORELY needed, as most of what is offered as "study" is really marketing, to lobby for personal gain, often at the expense of the rest of the community.  Even the LANL commissioned BBER study (useful to you or not?) points out that most of the economic (not fiscal) impact comes from the spending of income received by the recipients, (and is QUITE unrelated to a PRODUCT being produced).  In short, many (but not all) of the weapons "jobs" are not really jobs at all, but more akin to transfer or welfare payments.

My father (and this I and the rest of his offspring) benefited from this weapons expenditure in an era when these weapons still had some utility. As Uber hawk Paul Nitze stated:

http://www.nytimes.com/1999/10/28/opinion/a-threat-mostly-to-ourselves.html

 (and Hillary Clinton, Madeline Albright, and the entire panel at DefenseOne on “The Future of Defense” that included two former DOD Secretaries, as well as current Director of National Intelligence) many military leaders no longer see this utility. Do you?

When the Manhattan project was started, Harold Agnew and other doctoral candidates received $125/ week while carpenters and electricians were paid $500/week. The change in relative values was NOT determined by broad market evaluations, but simply by the MIC. What is the point of retaining a highly paid (and misdirected) workforce if they do not PRODUCE?

For the record, when my father left NM (for greener pastures, he was at top of earnings possibility in 1957, just before Sputnik)  NM was ranked 34th in relative  median income.  While NM is not a rich state in terms of many attributes, it has fallen  CONSIDERABLY since, by (I assert) diverting effort from productive uses to unproductive uses. What is to be gained by keeping an obsolete industry alive, to create entry opportunities?

As DDE put it:

"National security does not mean militarism or any approach to it. Security cannot be measured by the size of munitions stockpiles or the number of men under arms or the monopoly of an invincible weapon. That was the German and Japanese idea of power, which in the test of war, was proven false..... arms become obsolete and worthless; vast armies decay while sapping the strength of the nations supporting them"

-- Dwight D. Eisenhower “The Long Pull for Peace”, April 1948

Khal Spencer

Hi Erich

Before I funded yet another study, I would do a deep dive into the research already out there. I would not be surprised if the people pushing those bills have not hit the library but maybe I am wrong.

My hunch is that as time has gone on, New Mexico has gotten hooked on more and more Federal/Defense dollars to the exclusion of developing a home grown economy. But New Mexico has always been closer to the bottom than the top, even before Uncle Sam laid the golden eggs. One only has to look at the salaries of coaches vs. faculty at UNM to know where our priorities are. That is not the fault of LANL.

I concur with Ike's various comments on the military-industrial complex. The whole nation is hooked on it. But NM is one of the worst states in terms of being floated on federal funds.

Erich Kuerschner

Hi Khal:

Thank you for your interest in so many governance issue. There is nothing like peer review to discover what does and doesn’t work.

Not clear what you are saying here? Of course if STUDY is the end of an effort, nothing is gained. But to state that PLANNING, STUDY is NOT a useful process EVER CAN'T be what you are saying?

STUDY re poverty in NEW Mexico is SORELY needed, as most of what is offered as "study" is really marketing, to lobby for personal gain, often at the expense of the rest of the community. Even the LANL commissioned BBER study (useful to you or not?) points out that most of the economic (not fiscal) impact comes from the spending of income received by the recipients, (and is QUITE unrelated to a PRODUCT produced). In short, many (but not all) of the weapons "jobs" are not really jobs at all, but more akin to transfer or welfare payments.

My father (and this I and the rest of his offspring) benefited from this weapons expenditure in an era were these weapons still had some utility. As Uber hawk Paul Nitze stated:

http://www.nytimes.com/1999/10/28/opinion/a-threat-mostly-to-ourselves.html

(and Hillary Clinton, Madeline Albright, and the entire panel at DefenseOne on “The Future of Defense” that included two former DOD Secretaries, as well as current Director of National Intelligence) no longer see this utility. Do you?

When the Manhattan project was started, Harold Agnew and other doctoral received candidates$125/ week while carpenters and electricians were paid $500/week. The change in relative values was NOT determined by broad market evaluations, but simply by the MIC. What is the point of retaining highly paid (and misdirected) workforce if they do not PRODUCE something of value?

For the record, when my father left NM (for greener pastures, he was at top of earnings possibility in 1957 working for the USAF just before Sputnik) NM was ranked 34th in relative median income. While not a rich state in terms of many attributes, it has fallen CONSIDERABLY since, by (I assert) diverting effort from productive uses to unproductive uses. What is to be gained by keeping an obsolete industry alive, to create entry opportunities?

As DDE put it:

"National security does not mean militarism or any approach to it. Security cannot be measured by the size of munitions stockpiles or the number of men under arms or the monopoly of an invincible weapon. That was the German and Japanese idea of power, which in the test of war, was proven false..... arms become obsolete and worthless; vast armies decay while sapping the strength of the nations supporting them"

-- Dwight D. Eisenhower “The Long Pull for Peace”, April 1948

Chris Mechels

Another such effort, which started as an effort to "sweeten" the LANL image after the 1995 RIF (Reduction in Force" is the LANL Foundation, which continues to waste our tax dollars, but has walked away from its original mission, and should be terminated. LANL spends a lot of our money for what are, essentially, bribes. It corrupts all of Northern New Mexico...

Charles Montano

Charles Montano, former LANL employee of 32 years. AKA pumbanm.

Charles Montano

Using taxpayer resources to lobby on behalf of private interests is illegal, i.e. an unallowable cost under Federal Acquisition Regulation and similar state laws. And "lobby" is precisely what the US Department of Energy is wanting local towns and municipalities do on behalf of military industrial giants like Bechtel, Lockheed and others who earn billions feeding at taxpayer funded troughs like Los Alamos National Laboratory. A gold star at minimum, and our vote, is deserving for those few elected officials who see through the smoke and act accordingly, i.e. refuse to play along.

Dave Mccoy

It is timely to end a coalition which is largely manipulated by the DOE. A larger question is how can New Mexico ever clean up nuclear waste if it continues producing it? Politicians who favor continued pit production are not doing the public a favor. We should have learned by now from the thousands of deaths and the many billions of dollars for cancer and disease of nuclear workers that it is a dead end for New Mexico and the nation. So what if pits for duction brings 2 million or 10 million dollars to New Mexico? It is wrong morally ethically and environmentally for New Mexico our nation and the planet. Proliferation of nuclear weapons is not halted by producing more of the same.For radioactive waste that can last in talks a city for millions of years "clean up" needs to be considered for what it may not be. Currently, New Mexico is under consideration for all of the nation's nuclear waste -- Military and Commercial.

Greg Mello

Khal, I especially liked your comment, "Tossing the RCLC is the least of our soul-searching and pretending it matters may be fostering a myth," because the RCLC manages to capture a lot more public attention, including our own, than it deserves.

And yet it must be done. Done, and move on.

Folks are missing the point here. The RCLC has never been effective in promoting cleanup, or contra Coghlan, in impeding cleanup. There was never any hope of the former, or hope it could help "diversify" LANL either, whatever that awful specter might mean. Those were always lies. The actual planned purpose of the RCLC has always been to suborn local governments and tribes -- to keep the natives from becoming restless by providing a fake venue in which individual representatives could feel important while being manipulated by Los Alamos County, the Department of Energy, NNSA, and our congressional delegation.

Khal, we aren't speaking of the loss of current pit jobs but rather the loss of potential pit jobs. NNSA anticipates 4,000 pit-related jobs in all at LANL, about half of which don't exist yet.

Yes, councilors Villarreal -- in depth, over a long period of time -- and also Vigil-Coppler deserve credit for leading the debate last night.

It was shocking that Israelevitz was present -- again, meaning that nobody in Santa Fe city government was available who knew much that was pertinent to the question at hand. His snow job didn't go over well.

The Council was very poorly supported by City staff on this issue as well as the Midtown issue. The Council is clearly being manipulated in both cases.

The City of Santa Fe's drinking water supply is not threatened by LANL. This is another myth.

LANL can never be "cleaned up." Some contamination can and should be. Our society has other things to do to survive. Khal, you made this point as well, but as we know, this is a detailed issue.

Neither does the BBER study say LANL has, or might have, a negative economic impact on surrounding counties. That portion of the BBER analysis concerned fiscal impact only. A very strong argument can be made for a negative economic impact, but the BBER analysis doesn't do that.

Stefanie Beninato

I so appreciated the people who spoke out against the RCLC last night and in the comments section now. It has been nothing but a waste of taxpayers' dollars; and lobbying with our congressional delegation as described by the mayor of Espanola did not stop pit production (plutonium weapons) from happening.

I was also impressed with Councilor Villarreal's eloquent opposition to the city's continued membership in the RCLC and her revelations about how her motion was slow walked through the process. I thank the other councilors who voted against the amendment of the Joint Powers Agreement. I hope they will continue this opposition to Santa Fe's membership in the organization when it finally comes to a vote at council.

Khal Spencer

It has always seemed strange to me that DOE would fund an organization to work against the programs DOE wants to implement. Or, that RCLC would work against the economic implications of all these weapons related jobs in the surrounding communities. Yes, I know some say pit jobs don't do much for the real economy but loss of pit jobs regionally would require them to be replaced or people will leave and property values plummet--its what happens when we close defense production and that's why defense production never ceases. It seems the RCLC would be hopelessly conflicted.

Tossing the RCLC is the least of our soul-searching and pretending it matters may be fostering a myth. Where's Greg Mello's comment? Where's my second shot of Whistle Pig?

Richard Reinders

DOE probably knew they were incompetent and posed no threat to their mission while Andrea Romero was flying to DC and partying.

Mike Johnson

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

Khal Spencer

Its never been clear to me of what the use this organization has been except squandering public money on stuff like WhistlepigGate. Each community has a phone and can call our Federal representatives, who actually have some control on how Federal money is spent. Not to mention, call each other.

Besides, no one wants to chomp down too hard on the hand that feeds it to the tune over well over two billion dollars a year and over 10,000 jobs. Cleanup and continuous environmental hygiene improvement are both necessary but as a state chemist and I sometimes chat about while mountainbiking, is neither straightforward nor easy. Kinda like sucking all that tetraethyl lead back into a gasoline production plant that was, unfortunately, spewed out on the countryside for half a century. Its tough to clean up ever ybit of the spilled milk no matter how hard you cry.

Mike Johnson

And isn't it curious that the main grifter and "entertainer" responsible for this hundreds of thousands of $$ in theft of taxpayer funds was not even mentioned here. I guess since #ResistRomero authored and sponsored the "Flood NM with Dope" bill, all is forgiven? The taxpayers once again get the shaft, while Andrea gets the pork.......and more opportunities for entrepreneurial activities like her ostrich farm......

Stefanie Beninato

If you were listening, you heard the reps from RCLC say the organization felt that the $8000 it would cost to go to court would not be worth it because $26,000 was owed. That sounds like a recovery of $18,000. Obviously someone who had some ethics would have been working to repay the amount rather than ignoring what probably is a wishy washy demand letter. Then again she had the backing of Webber (who does not live in her district) and Egolf who allowed the unsupported sexual harassment charges to be leveled against Carl Trujillo during that election cycle. Every time I see her name as a sponsor on a bill I cringe.

Jay Coghlan

In addition to scandal, the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities has failed miserably in its self-proclaimed twin goals of promoting mission diversification which member parties could support and accelerated cleanup at LANL.

Concerning Lab mission diversification, the exact opposite has occurred. LANL’s nuclear weapons programs have grown in annual funding from $1.9 billion in 2011 when the Coalition was founded to $2.9 billion today. That growth has principally been for expanded production of plutonium “pit” bomb cores. The City of Santa Fe has repeatedly passed official resolutions calling for resolving chronic nuclear safety problems before expanding pit production, comprehensive cleanup and a new site-wide environmental impact statement that among other things would examine wildfire protection. The Department of Energy Inspector General has recently reported that the Lab is woefully behind on wildfire protection, which is shocking given the catastrophic Cerro Grande and Las Conchas Fires.

DOE and the Regional Coalition have completely ignored those City resolutions. DOE and Los Alamos County covet tens of billions of taxpayers’ dollars for expanded pit production, none of which is to maintain the safety and reliability of the existing nuclear weapons stockpile. Instead it is all for speculative new-design weapons which can’t be tested because of an international agreement, or worse yet may prompt the U.S. to break that agreement and resume testing, after which surely other nations would follow. The Coalition has done nothing to help ensure safe plutonium pit production given that DOE and Los Alamos County supply 80% of its funding.

The Coalition has spent $2 million taxpayer dollars on itself. According to the NM State Auditor $51,000 was improperly spent on fancy meals, alcohol, major league baseball tickets, etc. During that time, the Coalition has actually stood in the way of accelerated cleanup because it supports a 2016 “Consent Order” governing Lab cleanup that prioritizes the budget that DOE wants instead of having cleanup drive the budget. As a direct result, DOE added $950 million to LANL’s nuclear weapons programs in FY 2021 while proposing to cut cleanup by nearly half. The New Mexico Environment Department is so unhappy with progress in cleanup at the Lab that it recently sued DOE to terminate that Consent Order.

The City and County of Santa Fe should get out of the Coalition before wasting anymore time and money. Since the Coalition stands in the way of genuine cleanup, the City and County should help accelerate Lab cleanup through the Board of the Buckman Direct Diversion Project whose essential drinking water supply is threatened by decades of LANL contamination.

For much more please see https://nukewatch.org/newsite/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Critique-RCLC-Joint-Powers-Agreement.pdf?x68309

and

https://nukewatch.org/newsite/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Local-govts-should-leave-Regional-Coalition.pdf

Jay Coghlan

Nuclear Watch New Mexico

www.nukewatch.org

Richard Reinders

The efforts to monitor cleanup are duplicated in other groups, it has been one large scandal, the city should bail and stop wasting tax payers dollars. Focus on the city and its many problems.

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