BY BRANDI ENGEMAN
Tuesday night during the regular Los Alamos County Council session, contractor DPS asked for councilors’ feedback on the draft of the Chapter 18 Nuisance Code rewrite. The responses by some councilors were eye opening.
First, thank you to Chair Ryti and Councilor Hand for speaking up for the voiced concerns from our community and recognizing that certain aspects of the draft are going to disproportionately impact families who do not have excess financial means and small business/contractors.
I was disturbed, however, by the continued focus on aesthetics and disregard for the community’s feedback on such inclusions.
I’d like to highlight two comments that were the most concerning. During the discussions around car maintenance and covering said maintenance, Councilor Derkacs asked a clarifying question about appropriate covers and indicated that blue tarps should be excluded because “we don’t want to see that”. I’m not sure who “we” indicates (the council, the community, her neighborhood?).
Later, in response to public comment objecting to that language and bringing up the fact that requiring a car cover may impact those with less financial freedoms, Councilor Izraelevitz suggested that a car cover was “only” $50 and someone doing maintenance could scrape that much together. For comparison, I looked up the price of a tarp, it sits about $8 on Amazon.
This disconnect between members of their community who make minimum wage has to stop. For someone on a fixed income, scraping together $50 dollars so they can change their own oil or do maintenance may mean the difference between eating that week or covering up for their car in a manner that aesthetically pleases their neighbors. I am pleading with these two to stop putting their own needs and experiences above the lived experiences of some of us around them.
Additionally, not addressed were the concerns regarding privacy on one’s own property and a continued pushback from Councilors Izraelevitz and Derkacs to add weeds back to the code in some manner. There is already language in the code that prevents vegetation from becoming a hazard and that should be plenty. Requiring residents or code officers to become experts on “weeds”, or suggesting that weeds will somehow harbor both rodents AND snakes in a manner unsafe to the public is disingenuous at best. And before the council suggests that the Extension offices get involved, they should go look at the property surrounding it.
I hope council will consider working from a more good faith angle with their constituents and, not, as suggested by appointed Councilor Lepsch, feel the need to “set boundaries” for those they feel would take advantage of a less restrictive code and realize most of us are living in harmony with our neighbors, even those who may not share our aesthetic values.
I encourage every member of the public to make public comments to DPS and county staff as well as Council and attend the upcoming CDAB meeting on September 9 to listen and provide further feedback. Share this information with your neighbors and start a conversation about what you would like to see improved in the draft.
Our community can balance safety, health, and personal choices in a way that encourages true community care and engagement without the need for bloated codes.
Comments on the code are being accepted until tomorrow, Friday, Sept. 2. You can write to: