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Peter’s Take: Lights Out

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotShould Arlington turn night into day in its residential neighborhoods?

Late last week, ARLnow reported on an issue that it described as second in controversy only to the streetcar: the installation of new LED streetlights in Arlington residential neighborhoods.

The controversy raises some complex technical issues relating to the brightness and color of the light emitted by alternative kinds of LED bulbs, and the standards governing how bright the light ought to be along entire streets in individual residential neighborhoods.

But, the overwhelming outcry against these lights from citizens in the neighborhoods in which they have been installed sends an unequivocal message similar to the message about the streetcar: it’s time for the County Board to suspend the installation of 5500K LED light bulbs and consider other options.

One of the options that must be open: replace the 5500K LED light bulbs already installed in residential neighborhoods with lower intensity, warmer LED light bulbs like the 3500K LED bulb.

A decision to replace the 5500K LED bulbs with a lower intensity, warmer LED bulb might be resisted for a variety of reasons, including the cost of doing so and the reluctance to admit that the decision to use the 5500K LED bulbs in residential neighborhoods was incorrect.  Neither of these reasons is a valid justification for rejecting this option.

A private sector analogy is appropriate. Suppose you were a member of the Board of Directors of a condo or a town house complex, and you had joined with other Board members in selecting a particular type of light bulb and light pole placement for the external lighting on the private land owned by the condo or complex. After the lighting system actually was installed, you found there was an outcry that the lighting was way too bright and intrusive. What would you do?

You could simply take refuge in the content-free argument that “after many community meetings, this issue has already been decided”. You could try to placate the condo or home owners with a cheap “fix” that doesn’t really address the core problem. Or, you could acknowledge that based on what we know now, a new light bulb or lighting system is the best choice, and that’s what we are going to install.

Let’s keep an open mind to all options.

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

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