BY GARY STRADLING
Republican candidate for
Los Alamos County Council
Thank you to many, many county residents for your almost uniform agreement. When I meet you at home, or in the park, at fairs, at parades, you agree that adequate housing is the county’s most critical issue. You do not want As per usual! Most of you already understand the concept of basic supply and demand economics. Truly affordable housing is impossible without sufficient supply.
What kind of community do we want? Most of you say to me, “A community complete with shopping and trading services.” A full-spectrum business community is impossible without a full-spectrum working population. A community with only LANL workers cannot thrive, as we see.
Subsidized housing is economically distorted and requires continuous investment. It does not perpetuate. You all agree that we want a commercially and economically balanced community. We don’t want to be just a dormitory community for LANL, nor a subsidized dormitory community for “guest workers”.
I have a 40-year vision of a balanced, full-spectrum Los Alamos community.
From the panicked comments in the press and social media, it appears that my opponents of the county council incumbent and their supporters realize that you have woken up. Well, they should come on board. As per usual will accelerate the slide of our local economy. That’s all they offer. They offer different ways to rearrange the deckchairs of the Titanic. I suggest a course change. In the 41 years that I have been here, we have lost and continue to lose the kind of business enterprise support that made this community a community in its own right.
Not only do about 12,000 (mostly LANL) workers commute daily, but most of us have to travel out of town each week to conduct normal community activities: errands, dry cleaning, shopping for clothes, medical care, entertainment, dining out, repairs, etc. etc A full-spectrum community has these services locally.
A letter released today seems hopeless. It must be a sign of distress for the author to make so many false statements about my campaign arguments (all available at http://stradling4council.org) misrepresenting my projections and estimates and attributing to me statements that I have not made and do not believe. I repeat here what I said:
- Los Alamos County has experienced stagnant housing growth in the four decades I have been here. The county announced progress in a brochure this summer, but the “progress” consisted of just 661 new units, in several small subdivisions, over the past few decades. LANL has been hiring aggressively, claiming 6,500 recent new hires and anticipating another 5,500 over the next three years. These are LANL numbers. While part of this is replacing retirees, retirees don’t leave the county, so new hires need housing. Although some of them are operating remotely, we currently have a considerable number of daily shuttles in the county. I estimate we need 10,000 more units, but we can adjust our target over time. In any event, the existing departmental land is insufficient. As per usual wasn’t enough before the LANL hiring spree, and the pursuit business as usual is to be asleep at the wheel.
- LANL has a serious problem. According to a senior LANL executive, 60% of new hires leave within 5 years.
Either the flavor of an expensive, commercially flat bedroom community or the alternative of a long drive doesn’t appeal to them. But think of the crushing cost! The extreme cost to the government and LANL to find world-class recruits, recruit them, bring them here, and then lose them. And think of the impact on those employees and their families, lured here by a promising scientific opportunity and high salaries, only to leave discouraged. Nobody moves for fun! So many people I talk to are in temporary housing, or have just bought very expensive housing, or are commuting to work.
- The 2019 Los Alamos Housing Market Needs Analysis Study stated that if all infill housing opportunities were exploited, only 4,500 new residential units would be provided. There are reasons for infill developments, but they will be piecemeal, slow, will also impact the environment and infrastructure of our existing city, and ultimately cannot meet the needs. You’ve heard the discussion about proposals to fill the county with ancillary housing units and eliminate parking requirements for new developments. You recognize that this will negatively transform our community. Our only reasonable solution is to acquire more land from the DOE.
- We live in more than a thousand square kilometers of wilderness (see Figure 1). Access to wilderness recreation areas is not uncommon and never will be for us. When you hear such scary tactics, you should call a time out for people to take a deep breath and come back to rationality.
- Figure 2 shows that thousands of acres of DOE land could be developed in the county, while providing greater access to open space. A thousand acres, shown in Figure 2, is the size of White Rock and is dwarfed by unused space. Almost every home in our county is only a block or two from a trail, canyon, or park. It’s not going to go away. The same access to open spaces can be continued with other layouts. Los Alamos County is 70% larger than the District of Columbia. They have 45 times the population. Why the panic?
- Our county’s infrastructure is a permanent undertaking. With the development of infill housing, our strained infrastructure will need additional support. New housing developments must also be accompanied by additions to utilities, roads and schools. The breathless derision of the critics is inexplicable. It is serious work and must be done in a measured way. There is no reason to panic.
- Moreover, these As per usual candidates have a habit of discouraging our remaining companies trying to hang on here. As I survey the community, I hear Sirphey-style stories again and again about how our current county processes are impediments to business development: barriers to expansion or renovation, endless delays in obtaining permits for any change, administrative formalities. I hear of contractors turning down jobs in the county due to the added burden of doing business here. I listen and I take notes, but if I am elected, I will want changes.
- Finally, accomplishing this task of acquiring government land for development is why I am running. I am willing and able to generally represent you in county government, provide county advice and oversight, tax accountability, etc. I have no other agenda than the one you delegate to me with your vote. Recently, former councilor Antonio Maggiore told me disparagingly of land transfer efforts: “We have tried and failed before. You cannot transfer land. We have been to DC once a year for four years in a row and the land transfer was on our wish list. I said, “You’re not doing it right! When I had a bureaucratic challenge of this size, I was in DC almost every week, talking to key players until I found the right solution. Policy decisions depend on many factors, which change over time. This is not an algebra problem with a set solution. I promise to apply my proven skills to our problem and believe the probability of success is high enough to warrant me coming out of retirement to accomplish it for you.