Monday, June 4, 2012

How do you solve it?

I've just hit the tip of the ice berg in my postings about the issues in Otero County.
So now the question is how do you solve these issues?
Tomorrow is election day. GET OUT AND VOTE!
Regardless of the outcome of this election you need to hold your public officials accountable. Demand open meetings and fiscal accountability.
Look back at what has been done and then look forward to where you think we need to be.
A good example of this would be the on going issue with the Forest Service.
Commissioner Rardin has stated several times that Otero County has been fighting with the Forest Service for 20 years. This is true. Now look at both Commissioner Rardin and my other opponent former Commissioner Nivison. Over the last 20 years one or the other of them have been in office pretty much the entire time. How long do we keep putting the same people in office that keep beating the same dead horse year after year?
It's time for a change of horses. A new face, new ideas, someone who knows, understands, and has experience with the law, the open meetings act, and complex budget issues. As well as someone who has the people skills to deal with both the public and employees in a professional manner. Even if we disagree with one another on some issues. And yes, we will disagree on some issues.
But I can promise you that I will always listen with respect to your thoughts and ideas and that I will always base my decisions on what is in the best interest of the majority of the people of Otero County.

One other issue that has been mentioned by Commissioner Rardin on several occasions. That is the notion that the County Commission position is a "full time job"
It's not!
Otero County has a County Manager that is paid to run the day to day operations of the county. From what I have seen and had dealings with, she does her job well.
A single Commissioner, by law, has no authority to run county operations. A single Commissioner has no authority to make decisions, spend money, enter into contracts, or give direction to any county employee. Including the County Manager.
This power only comes through a majority public vote of a quorum of the Commission. And then they as a commission give direction to the County Manager.

For over 10 years the people of High Rolls/Mountain Park (and to a somewhat lesser degree all the people of the Sacramento mountains) have relied on me and trusted me as a member and officer of the High Rolls Fire Department to protect their lives, homes, and property by my actions, not just my words.
For the last 3 1/2 years the people have trusted and relied on me to make the right decisions in regards to the education of their children as a member of the Alamogordo Public School Board.
I ask now for your support and trust by electing me as the new Otero County Commissioner, District 3
Your vote and support is appreciated.

Public Profile and News Paper Ads

To cover a little more in depth the "Primary candidate questionnaires" that were published recently in the Alamogordo Daily News as well as my advertising that is currently running in the paper.
I mentioned that I feel the two top issues in this election are the lack of even a basic understanding of Government operations, and the budget.
I firmly believe that any government body is by far much more effective if they have public involvement and operate in an open manner.
Currently County Commission meetings are held mid week in the daytime.  This is not at all convenient for the public in general to attend and become involved. Not that it would really matter, as if you follow the Commission agendas you will find that public comment is "not permitted during regular commission meetings"
New Mexico state law is very clear on what is allowed to be discussed behind closed doors in executive session. The list of permitted discussions is very limited in nature. Every agenda that I have looked at in the last year lists topics that are outside the permitted discussions.
Topics to be discussed in executive session must be listed on the agenda and be in specific detail. Frequently the listings are very vague. When questioned as to the specific nature of the topic I have been told "that is in executive session. If the commission makes a decision they will announce it after the session is over" By law, decisions are not allowed to be made in executive session. All votes must be made in public.
Discussion between a quorum of the commission that relates to county business is limited to legally published meetings. In the case of Otero County a quorum consists of 2 members.
A check of Commissioner Rardin's county paid for cellular phone finds that the commission is talking to each other on average of every other day. Frequently records show phone calls to one commissioner, immediately followed by a phone call to the other. While there is no hard proof that county business is discussed during these phone calls, it's hard to believe they are talking about the weather.
Fiscal responsibility. Paying over $12,000.00 in a year to one commissioner (Commissioner Rardin) in travel expenses is irresponsible. In looking over the documents related to these trips you find that some of them are questionable to say the least.
For example. A trip to Arizona where Commissioner Rardin gave a public talk at a church in regards to his desire to "take over the forest"  What did this trip bring to Otero County?
A five day trip to a conference in Reno Nevada. Commissioner Rardin made this trip along with five other county employees. Commissioner Rardin and three of these employees attended the full five days, and all stayed at the same motel.
Three of these employees collected between $935.80 and $967.00 in per diem. Commissioner Rardin was paid $1,596.27 with few receipts submitted.
In the most recent financial audit the auditor stated "The county is not in compliance with the per diem act and is not providing proper stewardship of public funds"  This was in reference to the 21 audit "findings" or faults with the way the county is using tax dollars. 
A salary study needs to be done in Otero County. We create a new county department and pay employees to kill coyotes and feral hogs at a rate that is higher than what some of our Law Enforcement officers are making, then there is a problem. This new department is costing the tax payers about three times the amount that was previously being paid for a long term, highly effective program to do the same job.
It's time to bring some much needed financial accountability back to Otero County

Otero County and Law Suits

Recently the lead article in the Alamogordo Daily News was about Otero County suing the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) over a road that a private mining company wants access to use.
Citing "eminent  domain" the county plans to sue BLM and then purchase the road.
Currently Otero County is also being sued by the Forest Service over management of the forest. Commissioner Rardin has stated several times that the county has budgeted $700,000.00 for this law suit.
There have been no dollar figures put out yet in this latest suit but I would take a guess that in attorney bills and the cost of buying the road you would be talking in the area of a minimum of $300,000.00
Everyone that I have talked to about this issue seem to feel that these figures are on the low side.
My question, and the question that everyone should be asking, is "where is the money coming from"?
Looking over the budget presented on April 20, 2012 finds that there is NOT $700,000.00 budgeted for the Forest Service suit. In fact there is nothing budgeted for that.
There is also nothing in the budget for the suit against the BLM.
While there are funds available in the "cash carry over" this amount is being depleted at a record rate.
It's time to put fiscal responsibility and common sense budgeting back into Otero County.

And the TRUTH of the matter is...

Recently the Republican Party of Otero County allowed time for each candidate to speak at their monthly meetings. This was a much appreciated opportunity for each person to give their views on the office they sought.  Each candidate for a particular office had time at a different meeting from their opponent so there was not supposed to be any debate between candidates.
However while giving my talk Commissioner Rardin stood up and stated that I was "just mad" because I had applied for a particular job with the county, did not get the job, and sued the county over it. Well I didn't recall that happening so I denied it. Commissioner Rardin then stated that I was "a liar".
Before I could gather my thoughts, yes I was a bit shaken by his unprofessional conduct, he left the meeting. Not allowing me time to present the facts.
So, as I have done with every issue in this election, I submitted to Otero County a request for public information concerning Commissioner Rardins statements.
What I found was that the county has no record of my applying for the job in question, no record of my filing a law suit against the county or even a notice of intent to sue the county. Just as I had stated previously.
So, under Commissioner Rardins "leadership" is the county in such a mess that they have no idea that someone applied for a job, or worse yet that they were sued and never knew about it?
Or does it just show once again the unprofessional conduct by Commissioner Rardin and the fact that when confronted with facts that he does not like, he resorts to name calling and lies?
I have been researching county issues for years, and have found the various county offices and employees to be quite organized, and well aware of what was going on in their respective departments, so I would have to believe the latter.
Commissioner Rardin spoke at the next months meeting and I was encouraged to confront him with the true facts of the matter.
I declined the opportunity to do so because I refuse to stoop to his level of "professionalism". That particular setting was not the place for a debate between candidates.
It's time for a change for the better of Otero County, time for professional leadership and time for accountability on the County Commission.