SEPTEMBER 26. 2006

 All Commissioners present except Curry, who was out of the country.

 Two speakers from the audience responded to the Chair’s request for comments on Items Not on the Agenda.  The first addressed the issue of the Vehicle Forfeiture Ordinance adopted four years ago in efforts to reduce Driving Under the Influence.  The speaker alleged “Public safety has been short- changed in the past four years” because DAC has not sold impounded cars, alleging further that the city is operating a similar program successfully.  The county attorney responded by saying that legal problems have arisen because of the wording of the original ordinance and that a new attorney is working on the issue. He also pointed out that the Las Cruces impoundment project has not covered the cost of enforcing that entity’s ordinance.

 A second speaker, a researcher needing access to public documents, complained about the $800-$900 cost of obtaining the records.  Commissioners had no response.

 Commissioner Vásquez-Butler presented Volunteer Recognition awards to the Rodey Community Coalition, in his southern district, a group that has worked for several years to develop a community center, build a second access bridge into the community and improve roads. The Commissioner lauded the coalition’s work as an example of the improvement that can be made by the empowerment of citizens.

 Of particular interest to the League was Agenda Item #3, a power point presentation of the results of the Election Review Panel that was formed by the Commission in June and worked through the summer to analyze the problems with the voting process in DAC.  Panel Member David Lutz conducted the presentation, a summary of the 18-page report distributed to the Commissioners.  The report details multiple mismanagement problems in the BOE (Bureau of Elections) that resulted in inefficiency in the conduct of elections.

 Six recommendations for improvement constitute 3 pages of the report:

1)      Hire a well-qualified Supervisor of the Bureau of Elections.

2)      Segregate Duties and Specialization of Staff

3)      Establish BOE Management and Organizational Operating Procedures

4)      Provide more Extensive Poll Worker (and Presiding Judge) Training

5)      Educate the Public in regard to Voters’ Responsibilities

6)      Consolidation and Permanent Polling Places

 Bureau of Elections Interim Supervisor Lynn Ellins, formerly a co-chair of this Election Review Panel, reported to the Commissioners that he already has begun the recommended staff re-organization and training and that morale seems greatly improved in the Bureau.  He has scheduled much more thorough training for Presiding Judges, training that should reduce the number of errors on election night so that results of the vote count will be more readily available.

Ellins also pointed out that many failures to follow the state-mandated election calendar occur because needed materials are not received in a timely fashion from the Secretary of State’s office in Santa Fe.

 Noting especially the absence of partisan strife among Panel members, Ellins recommended that the Task Force remain in place to evaluate Bureau of Elections performance during the November election.

 Commissioners thanked the Panel effusively for the thoroughness of their work, echoing Ellins’s observation of their non-partisanship and requesting that they be prepared to report again after the election.  Task Force members agreed to do so.

 Ellins continued at the podium to address Presentation of Required Relocations of Polling Places for the 2006 General Election.  He noted that changes were especially necessary in Hatch, where recent flooding destroyed previously used polling places and that 7 other polling sites were non-compliant with ADA requirements.  The BOE will send letters notifying all affected voters of the changes.

 Approval of the 15 items on the consent agenda was rapid.  Most of the items dealt with county purchases (including a 15-acre land parcel for Vado Drainage Improvements, 8 Police Pursuit Interceptors and 6 Ford Expeditions for the Sheriff’s Department, new software) and approval of a resolution to submit a loan application jointly with the City of Las Cruces for the purpose of funding the design, construction and purchase of equipment needed to remediate the Griggs and Walnut Superfund site.  The county manager was authorized to sign most of the required documents relating to these agenda items.

 A proposed City annexation of 210.77 acres, prompted Commissioners to urge that the City and County work together on analysis of drainage and proper planning of the area.

 Extensive public input greeted the presentation regarding flood control and possible solutions, including a temporary moratorium.  Commissioner Vásquez-Butler, introducing the resolution, stated that “The County must take more responsibility for informing and protecting property buyers.” 

 At least 16 homeowners, farmers, builders’ association officials, hydraulic engineers and others presented objections to the idea of even a temporary moratorium on building because of the economic hardship that would strongly affect a large percentage of DAC population.  Several opined that a new Task Force is unnecessary, that county employees are already working to identify ways to prevent property damage from floodwaters. One homeowner testified that it was impossible to find out whether her house was built on a potential flood site without referring to maps made in the 1950’s.

 Commissioner McCamley echoed the sentiment that existing regulations do not protect homeowners and wondered if flood control should be included in impact fees.  Commissioner Evans pointed out that existing regulations must be more stringently enforced and wondered if the county needs additional codes inspectors. 

 Finally it was agreed that (1) no moratorium on building will be declared, (2) the County Manager will appoint appropriate staff (a special committee) to continue evaluation of the situation and (3) have final reports ready by December 12 for the Commission meeting on that day.   

Johnnie R. Aldrich

LWV of Greater Las Cruces