Petition to Protect T or C’s Historic Downtown and Dark Skies

by a Collective of Concerned Citizens and Business Owners | November 18, 2020
4 min read

Editor’s Note: The following letter was presented to the Truth or Consequences City Commission during the public comment portion of its meeting today. Signed by 35 citizens and business owners, the letter alerted the commissioners to the signatories’ collective concern that the ongoing change-out of overhead lights downtown posed a threat to the character of T or C’s night skies and its Hot Springs Bathhouse and Commercial Historic District, 56 acres roughly bounded by Post, Van Patten, Pershing and Main streets that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the New Mexico Register of Cultural Properties.

City Manager Morris Madrid responded by assuring the commissioners that LED replacement lights were Dark Skies-appropriate. (Formal Dark Skies designations require communities to meet strict light pollution standards in order in order to preserve optimal viewing of the stars.) Later in the meeting the commissioners approved a resolution authorizing the transfer of $233,416 from the electric utility investment fund to the electric utility operating fund to partially support “pole and lighting replacement.”

Those who wish to endorse the letter writers’ request that the city pause and, if necessary, modify the lighting replacement program in order to ensure the protection of night skies and the preservation of the historic character of downtown may send an email to, asking that their names be added to the following letter.

Dear Mayor, Mayor Pro Tem, and Members of Our City Commission:

We are writing to make you aware that the light bulbs in the overhead fixtures in the Historic District of Truth or Consequences are being changed out. Where once there were warm-toned, non-invasive, sodium bulbs there are now LEDs that are markedly brighter, of a harsher quality light, and colder in hue.

The LED light bulbs are:

  1. Impacting our night skies.
  2. Changing the atmosphere of our historic downtown and potentially adversely affecting its “feeling,” as per . . . [language] from 36 Code of CFR 800.5(a)(1) of the regulations governing Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.

The preservation and protection of our night sky and historic downtown are key to our community’s economic development. T or C relies on a tourist-based economy. Many people visit (or move to) T or C because of our historic downtown and our town’s close connection to nature.

We ask you to protect and promote these very assets that draw people to our town to spend money in our restaurants, to stay in our hotels and to shop in our locally owned businesses.

We ask the city to:

  1. Cease replacing light bulbs within the city’s jurisdiction until the right replacement bulbs can be identified.
  1. Consider simply leaving the existing sodium bulbs. These bulbs have the lowest sky-glow impact and are, in fact, remarkably energy efficient. With technology changing so rapidly, we urge the city to wait to replace bulbs.
  1. Remedy the impacts that have already been made, (re)replacing bulbs that have been changed. As best we can tell these include lights along the length of Broadway, fixtures on Foch Street, a fixture at the old water tower and fixtures at the station house on Clancy Street, near the river. There may be others.
  1. Ensure changes to the city’s lighting to preserve our dark skies. We urge the city to consider adopting a “Dark Skies Ordinance.”
  1. Contact the State Historic Preservation Officer of New Mexico to get specific recommendations on the best, least intrusive, LED light bulbs to use. Should funds for this project be coming from state or federal sources, the city is required under Section106 of the National Historic Preservation Act to undertake an assessment of potential effects to the Historic District.
  1. Consider that the use of LED lights may potentially impact the health of residents and visitors. LEDs are proven to impact sleep cycles and have been linked to breast and prostate cancer.

We ask our city commission to preserve and protect what our community already has. We have a downtown on the Historic Register. We can see the stars. We ask you to act to protect our night skies and preserve our historic downtown. Doing so is in the best interest of our economic development.


Martye Allen
Beverly Bagahs
Carol Borsello
William Brown
Carolyn E Cazares
Carlis Chee
Susan Christie
Maura Ciccorelli
David Dawdy
Merrill Dicks, Downtown Business Owner
John Greek
Ingo Hoeppner, Downtown Business Owner
Durrae Johanek, Downtown Business Owner
John Johanek, Downtown Business Owner
Mary M. Kinninger
Susan Lynch
Tracy McGowen
Martin Mijal
Robert Moore, Retired Vet
John Noel
Mario Portillo, Downtown Business Owne
Maria Serrot
Rebecca Speakes
Priscilla Spitler
Haruhuani Spruce
Rob Stroup, Business Owner
John Rawlings
Souheir Rawlings, Business Owner, Art & Soul
Lillis Urban, Downtown Business Owner
Therese Van Buskirk
David Vandy, Business Owner
Myra Vandy, Business Owner
Charles VanGelder
Sharon VanGelder
Teina Wells

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Understanding New Mexico's proposed new social studies standards for K-12 students

“The primary purpose of social studies is to help young people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world.”
—National Council for the Social Studies 

Reader Michael L. Hayes of Las Cruces commented: What impresses me is that both the proposed standards and some of the criticisms of them are equally grotesque. I make this bold statement on the basis of my experience as a peripatetic high school and college English teacher for 45 years in many states with many students differing in race, religion, gender and socioeconomic background, and as a civic activist (PTA) in public education (My career, however, was as an independent consultant mainly in defense, energy and the environment.)

The proposed social studies standards are conceptually and instructionally flawed. For starters, a “performance standard” is not a standard at all; it is a task. Asking someone to explain something is not unlike asking someone to water the lawn. Nothing measures the performance, but without a measure, there is no standard. The teacher’s subjective judgment will be all that matters, and almost anything will count as satisfying a “performance standard,” even just trying. Students will be left to wonder “what is on the teacher’s mind?” or “have I sucked up enough.”

Four other quick criticisms of the performance standards. One, they are nearly unintelligible because they are written in jargon. PED’s use of jargon in a document intended for the public is worrisome. Bureaucrats often use jargon to confuse or conceal something uninformed, wrong or unworthy. As a result, most parents, some school board members and more than a few teachers do not understand them.

Two, the performance standards are so vague that they fail to define the education which teachers are supposed to teach, students are supposed to learn, and parents are supposed to understand. PED does not define words like “explain” or “describe” so that teachers can apply “standards” consistently and fairly. The standards do not indicate what teachers are supposed to know in order to teach or specify what students are supposed to learn. Supervisors cannot know whether teachers are teaching social studies well or poorly. The standards are so vague that the public, especially parents or guardians, cannot know the content of public education.

Three, many performance standards are simply unrealistic, especially at grade level. Under “Ethnic, Cultural and Identity Performance Standards”; then under “Diversity and Identity”; then under “Kindergarten,” one such standard is: “Identify how their family does things both the same as and different from how other people do things.” Do six-year-olds know how other people do things? Do they know whether these things are relevant to diversity and identity? Or another standard: “Describe their family history, culture, and past to current contributions of people in their main identity groups.” (A proficient writer would have hyphenated the compound adjective to avoid confusing the reader.) Do six-year-olds know so much about these things in relation to their “identity group”? Since teachers obviously do not teach them about these other people and have not taught them about these groups, why are these and similar items in the curriculum; or do teachers assign them to go home and collect this information?

Point four follows from “three”; some information relevant to some performance measures requires a disclosure of personal or family matters. The younger the students, the easier it is for teachers to invade their privacy and not only their privacy, but also the privacy of their parents or guardians, or neighbors, who may never be aware of these disclosures or not become aware of them until afterward. PED has no right to design a curriculum which requires teachers to ask students for information about themselves, parents or guardians, or neighbors, or puts teachers on the spot if the disclosures reveal criminal conduct. (Bill says Jeff’s father plays games in bed with his daughter. Lila says Angelo’s mother gives herself shots in the arm.) Since teacher-student communications have no legal protection to ensure privacy, those disclosures may become public accidentally or deliberately. The effect of these proposal standards is to turn New Mexico schools and teachers into investigative agents of the state and students into little informants or spies.

This PED proposal for social studies standards is a travesty of education despite its appeals to purportedly enlightened principles. It constitutes a clear and present danger to individual liberty and civil liberties. It should be repudiated; its development, investigated; its PED perpetrators, dismissed. No state curriculum should encourage or require the disclosure of private personal information.

I am equally outraged by the comments of some of T or C’s school board members: Christine LaFont and Julianne Stroup, two white Christian women, who belong to one of the larger minorities in America and assume white and Christian privileges. In different terms but for essentially the same reason, both oppose an education which includes lessons about historical events and trends, and social movements and developments, of other minorities. They object to the proposal for the new social studies standards because of its emphasis on individual and group identities not white or Christian. I am not going to reply with specific objections; they are too numerous and too pointed.

Ms. LaFont urges: “It’s better to address what’s similar with all Americans. It’s not good to differentiate.” Ms. Stroup adds: “Our country is not a racist country. We have to teach to respect each other. We have civil rights laws that protect everyone from discrimination. We need to teach civics, love and respect. We need to teach how to be color blind.”

Their desires for unity and homogeneity, and for mutual respect, are a contradiction and an impossibility. Aside from a shared citizenship, which implies acceptance of the Constitution, the rule of law and equality under the law, little else defines Americans. We are additionally defined by our race, religion, national origin, etc. So mutual respect requires individuals to respect others different from themselves. Disrespect desires blacks, Jews or Palestinians to assimilate or to suppress or conceal racial, religious or national origin aspects of their identity. The only people who want erasure of nonwhite, non-Christian, non-American origin aspects of identity are bigots. Ms. LaFont and Ms. Stroud want standards which, by stressing similarities and eliding differences, desire the erasure of such aspects. What they want will result in a social studies curriculum that enables white, Christian, native-born children to grow up to be bigots and all others to be their victims. This would be the academic equivalent of ethnic cleansing.


This postmortem of a case involving a 75-year-old women who went missing from her home in Hillsboro last September sheds light on the bounds of law enforcement’s capacity to respond, especially in large rural jurisdictions such as Sierra County, and underscores the critical role the public, as well as concerned family and friends, can play in assisting a missing person’s search.

Reader Jane Debrott of Hillsboro commented: Thank you for your article on the tragic loss of Betsey. I am a resident of Hillsboro, a friend of Rick and Betsey, and a member of H.E.L.P. The thing that most distresses me now, is the emphasis on Rick’s mis-naming of the color of their car. I fear that this fact will cause Rick to feel that if he had only gotten the facts right, Betsey may have been rescued before it was too late. The incident was a series of unavoidable events, out of everyone’s control, and we will never know what place the correct color of her car may have had in the outcome. It breaks my heart to think that Rick has had one more thing added to his “what ifs” concerning this incident.

Diana Tittle responded: Dear Jane, the Sun undertook this investigation at the request of a Hillsboro resident concerned about the town’s inability to mount a prompt, coordinated response to the disappearance of a neighbor. From the beginning, I shared your concern about how our findings might affect Betsy’s family and friends. After I completed my research and began writing, I weighed each detail I eventually chose to include against my desire to cause no pain and the public’s right to know about the strengths and limitations of law enforcement’s response and the public’s need to know about how to be of meaningful assistance.

There was information I withheld about the state police investigation and the recovery. But I decided to include the issue of the car’s color because the individuals who spotted Betsy’s car emphasized how its color had been key to their identification of it as the vehicle described in Betsy’s Silver Alert. Because the misinformation was corrected within a couple of hours, I also included in this story the following editorial comment meant to put the error in perspective: “The fact that law enforcement throughout the state was on the lookout in the crucial early hours after Betsy’s disappearance for an elderly woman driving a “light blue” instead of a “silver” Accord would, in retrospect, likely not have changed the outcome of the search” [emphasis added].

I would also point to the story’s overarching conclusion about the inadvisability of assigning blame for what happened: “In this case, a perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances, many of them beyond human control, hindered the search that it would fall to Hamilton’s department to lead.”

It is my hope that any pain caused by my reporting will eventually be outweighed by its contribution to a better community understanding of what it will take in the future to mount a successful missing person’s search in rural Sierra County.

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