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Las Vegas bans balloon releases — except for city events

Updated June 5, 2024 - 4:42 pm

Las Vegas on Wednesday banned the intentional release of helium-filled balloons outdoors, an ordinance some City Council members acknowledged would be next to impossible to enforce.

The law, proposed by Councilwoman Nancy Brune, squeaked by in a 4-3 vote.

A first offense would merit a warning, and subsequent infractions would be subject to civil fines of $250 for a second offense and $500 for additional violations within a year.

A pair of city-sponsored events, such as one that honors first responders killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, were exempt from the ban.

“I think it’s a great concept,” Councilman Brian Knudsen said at Wednesday’s City Council meeting. “I don’t think we should have balloons being released in the air, but I don’t know that this is the right path because all this does is put a (law in the book) that we’re never going to implement.”

Knudsen and city executives said that the offense is complaint-driven and that code enforcement officers already are spread thin.

As it stands, the team comprises under 20 staffers in charge of overseeing hundreds of code violations, officials said.

“We have some very, very serious issues in the city right now, and we don’t have the resources to deal with them,” Knudsen said.

Councilwoman Victoria Seaman said tracking offenders would be difficult because the evidence might be gone before officers arrive.

‘The balloons keep showing up’

Brune noted that airborne balloons — some of which can spark when they make contact with electrical lines — have been blamed for dozens of power outages.

Christian Daniels founded Desert Balloon Project after he became concerned about desert tortoises ingesting the littered balloon remnants.

In the past four years, Daniels said he and volunteers have picked up about 4,000 balloons along valley hiking trails.

“Unfortunately, the balloons keep showing up,” he told the council while speaking in support of the ordinance.

“It’s become clear that the unintended consequences have become too significant to overlook,” said Brune, adding that similar laws have been implemented at other U.S. cities. “There is a safety aspect to this ordinance.”

Last year, Gov. Joe Lombardo signed Assembly Bill 321, which outlawed the sale of foil balloons without anchor weights attached to them. Such balloons were banned from having an electrically conductive tether.

NV Energy lobbied for the state law and supported the city ordinance.

Knudsen expressed concern for the ordinances’ exemptions and for the financial consequences of fines in underprivileged communities.

“If we make it so that our council people can do an event but nobody else can, then I think that’s unfair,” he said. “This opens up a door of finding people, citing people who may not completely understand the law because there’s no strategy around signage, there’s no strategy around implementation that has been presented to us.”

Legislative remedy

Councilwoman Francis Allen-Palenske said the ordinance was not practical at the city level.

“The real remedy is not here, the real remedy is in Carson City,” she said.

Brune suggested that the city could post signage at city parks, something Knudsen said he would support.

“Stopping the release of balloons is not the issue,” Knudsen said. “It’s the fact that balloons exist.”

Mayor Carolyn Goodman echoed concerns about how the city would enforce the ordinance.

She also lamented littering in general.

“Pick up your trash and stop dumping and leaving it everywhere,” Goodman said.

Contact Ricardo Torres-Cortez at rtorres@reviewjournal.com.

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