Last weekend I wrote about Councilor Mark Scott’s “progressive” lighting ordinance and at the last city council meeting, two councilors at least attempted to “shield” Rio Rancho citizens from this “glaring” government overreach. Councilors Smith and Robinson both introduced amendments to defuse the worst parts of the ordinance, and while two decent ones were passed (at the dismay of Councilor’s Scott and Wilkins), the big disappointment came when the entire ordinance was unanimously passed anyway.
Rio Rancho City Council Passes Highly Restrictive Light Ordinance
So here’s the short version. First, every person in Rio Rancho will have to update their fixtures at some point. When yours falls into disrepair you’ll have to replace it with a shielded light fixtures as dictated by this ordinance. You’ll have to obey some rules concerning height and placement. But until that comes, every citizen …. right now …. must go replace their bulbs with new bulbs emitting 790 lumens or fewer, well, unless your neighbors within 300 feet of your house don’t complain. You’re technically out of compliance if you have a bulb that emits 791 lumens or more, but the council even admitted that this ordinance is not enforceable and can only be complaint-driven. In fact, the 1 …. 2…. 3…. 4…. people who spoke favorably of this ordinance stated that voluntary compliance is going to be what makes this law work.
So wait, let’s get this straight … the option to not pass this law and just let voluntary cooperation be the order of the day is not realistic, but passing an unenforceable law and hoping for voluntary compliance (fingers-crossed) is realistic?!?! Are you kidding me?!?!
In fact, my favorite part of the council meeting was when Councilor Everett asked who was going to enforce this law, and the entire council chamber fell silent. (Oh! We hadn’t thought of that). Kudos to our new police chief, Chief Michael Geier, for pointing out that the city would have to spend more money, because the city doesn’t have any code enforcement officers on duty at night. Not only that, but code enforcement has received 6 lighting complaints in the past six months (did I forget to mention that we already have an ordinance covering nuisance lighting?); 5 were from one person who lives in the city (4 of which were not actual violations) and 1 from a person in Placitas complaining about Home Depot on 550. (Which when code enforcement went out to Placitas to see if it was a legitimate complaint, they couldn’t find Home Depot because of the glare from the Santa Ana Casino.
How the Nanny-State came to Rio Rancho & wearing the Tea Party flag.
So we have a city councilor who happens to own a lighting company, which yes, he does indeed sell outdoor lighting (according to his website), telling the entire city of Rio Rancho that he knows what’s best for every citizen living here. Councilor Scott (along with Wilkins) have both openly ascribed to the Rio Rancho Tea Party’s four core values: free market, limited government, fiscal responsibility, and constitutional freedoms. Yet, they have no problem writing an ordinance violating them.
Rio Rancho businesses won’t be forced to sell compliant fixtures and bulbs, but this ordinance does force Rio Rancho citizens to buy shielded fixtures and bulbs under 790 lumens. And let’s be clear, this ordinance is not about nuisance glare because we already have an ordinance against nuisance glare. This ordinance was originally about keeping a dark sky for astronomy buffs. (In fact, one of the amendments was to take out the words “environment for astronomy” from the purpose of this ordinance.)
Councilor Scott wants us to believe that decreased lighting means an increase in safety using anecdotal evidence. So he wants us to abandon the free market, expand government, violate our constitutional freedom, and be fiscally irresponsible in order to pass his legacy light ordinance. With a stroke of pen, the city council has effectively made criminals out of nearly all us. Where was the Rio Rancho Tea Party?! Why aren’t they defending their four core values?! The Tea Party has opposed the Democrats dictating what health insurance we can buy, why aren’t they opposed to the Republicans on the council dictating to us what lighting we can buy?
Exceptions to the lighting requirement
Those people that don’t need to be in compliance with this law are as follows:
- Government: traffic control devices, temporary emergency lighting, navigation lights, stadium lighting (hands-down the most annoying) and special temporary/periodic situations approved by City Manager
- Local businesses: Public right-of-way lighting are exempted from height requirement, and digital billboards
- Citizens: Seasonal lights, flag poles for US flag only, covered porch lighting under 790 lumens, motion-detected security lights of any power not on longer than 30 minutes.
So the government is exempted, PNM and Clear Channel are exempted, and you’re exempted provided that you replace your bulbs to 790 lumens or less. But don’t worry, this is all for your good! And you’ll learn to appreciate the government’s nanny-like nature because obviously we need laws to regulate our circadian rhythms.
Once again there’s one standard for the serfs, and another standard for our lords. Thanks City Council, keep it classy.