Experience hath shown that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny. - Thomas Jefferson
Las Cruces recently gave a green light to red light tyranny. Citizens are angry at what the city wants to do to those who do not pay red light camera fines. Also, citizens are upset because the story was picked up by national news organizations and comedians. It casts the city in a very bad light.
It started several years ago with a political move against the local, vibrant home building industry. At the time there were well over a thousand houses a year built, which poured money hand over fist into the coffers of the city government. The city gladly spent said money hand over fist.
Then a new progressive slate of anti-growth and anti-business city leaders was elected. The once vibrant building industry cratered with thousands of industry people being put out of work. This happened primarily because of the efforts of city leaders to reign in the industry along with national issues constricting building financing.
But the city government needs for ever-expanding amounts of money did not decrease. The city got fat on building revenue, so other sources of revenue were needed. The red-light camera scam was adopted. Oddly, it was adopted just as other cities were discarding their red-light systems.
The obligatory discussions were brisk, but adoption was a foregone conclusion given the financial needs of the city. Citizen input was solicited and ignored. It was never put to a vote of the citizens.
The legal sticking point was how to collect on the tickets. Since no police officer witnessed the infraction, the collection had to be administrative rather than criminal. Therein is the rub. Some people refused to pay. The city saw a pile of money glimmering from unpaid fines.
Recently Albuquerque disbanded its red-light camera system. But the City of Las Cruces last week decided tyranny was in order. Those who do not pay red-light camera fines will find their water and natural gas turned off. The city claims they are forced to get rough with the citizens. Now, my air conditioner requires water to work. They intend to turn off my air conditioning going into the summer heat season. How reasonable is that?
This action confirms that red light cameras are principally a money-maker. If the city wanted to stop a behavior, why would they also count on the money from the tickets? At some point there should be no offenders. But if you sign a contract with a firm that must be paid, you are counting on the tickets.
The city is abusing citizens one at a time because they know that if they try to abuse citizens in a group there is too much pushback. Individual citizens subjected to the full tyranny of the city must submit.
State intervention needed
Know this: the City of Las Cruces has no business being involved in utilities if they can shut off the utilities for reasons outside of the delivery of service. The Public Regulation Commission needs to take all utilities away from them. The city has shown it is an unworthy steward of the public trust.
Likewise, the leadership of Las Cruces must go; they are not worthy of the trust the citizens put in them when they placed the leadership in authority. It is time for the State of New Mexico to take over the city management. Taking away the ability to cool a home in the heat of summer could lead to inadvertent citizen deaths. The citizens are being put at mortal risk by the leadership’s shortsighted use of tyranny to satisfy their need for money. Hopefully, the state can restore the right of citizens to receive their life-preserving utilities.
Like most wrongdoers who are caught, the leadership of Las Cruces can place themselves in a rehab clinic for leaders who just cannot keep from embracing tyranny. Maybe after they are successfully discharged and are certified to not be attracted to tyranny they can play some minor role in the city again.
However, some people say once a person of tyranny, always a person of tyranny.
Swickard is co-host of the radio talk show News New Mexico, which airs from 6 to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday on a number of New Mexico radio stations and through streaming. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.