Tuesday's Albuquerque Journal featured an editorial penned by the Journal’s editorial board that chastised the Governor, the Legislature, and the Almighty Alcalde himself for their actions regarding Albuquerque’s red light scam-era program. Their apparent position is that the Legislature is trying to grab the money, the mayor has pulled the plug too quickly and Governor Richardson is simply playing politics because he vetoed a similar measure last year (ABQ Journal – Subscription).
The whole editorial is based on the assumption that the program is fair and working to reduce accidents at scam-era enforced intersections. Despite numerous attempts to cook the books, countless news conferences, and even a Task Farce report, the city has not provided one shred of evidence that the scam-eras have been working in the interests of public safety. The only thing that the scam-eras have demonstrated is an unblinking ability to fill the city's coffers with "excess revenue."
To be fair, The Journal’s editorial board has long been supportive of Marty and his scam. They have repeatedly (and we believe intentionally) overlooked some of the very real problems with mercenary style law enforcement as a replacement for live police officers whose only motivation is enforcing the laws that they have sworn to uphold. To make matters worse the STOP program based on nuisance abatement ,deprives defendants of their right to a fair and impartial hearing.
We have never been able to understand why many in our society are so quick to defend the rights of convicted murderers and terrorists yet fail to fight for the common everyday rights of their fellow citizens. The scam-era program is a perfect example of how we’ve got everything upside down and backwards.
It’s the everyday rights of ordinary people that are being relentlessly stripped away not the rights of murderers and terrorists. The STOP program is a perfect illustration of how the Constitution is being shredded for the claimed benefit of “public safety.” Even if claims of accident reductions are true (which there has been no conclusive evidence to support), the system of “justice” created by the STOP ordinance strips the accused of their rights as fast as a scam-era can snap a photo.
It all starts with that first flash. More often than not, drivers are unaware of a "violation." The first clue that a motorist may have violated the administrative law created by the city is the “citation” they receive in the mail some ten days after the fact. Ask yourself, can you remember where you drove ten days ago and if you can the specifics of any particular intersection?
It’s our contention that most drivers cannot remember the alleged offense and as a result are not only deprived of the ability to gather evidence in their defense but are even deprived of the ability to accurately and truthfully testify in their own defense.
To further aggravate the problem, Redflex receives a bounty for each citation issued. That’s little different than hiring someone off the street to write down license plate numbers at intersections and paying them per vehicle. There’s a direct incentive to deprive the accused of their right to a fair trial by delaying notification and forcing the accused to rely on the accuser’s evidence for their defense.
When the citation is contested, the recipient is forced to go before an administrative hearing officer whose primary objective is the same as the accuser’s – to find the accused guilty. If you have any doubt about the veracity of that statement, why does the city continue to prosecute “violations” even when they know that there is a high probability that many of the citations issued over a particular time period, were in fact issued in error. The drivers who failed to contest their citations were simply "convicted" and their money taken illegally.
Unlike criminal allegations, if you wish to appeal an administrative decision the burden of appeal rests with the accused who is in essence, required to sue the city in District Court in order to get their money back. When you study the process, it doesn’t take long to realize that the burden of proof lies squarely with the accused.
Tuesday's Journal editorial continually disregards the most offensive components of the scam-era system consistently defending the indefensible.
Governor Richardson needs to sign SB442 not to pay for courts, but to make sure that criminal violations of New Mexico’s traffic law end up there. Marty needs to leave the program’s suspension in place not because he’s trying to out-maneuver the governor, but because his golden goose has been revealed to the pig it really is.
More importantly, it’s long past the time to right our concept of justice by placing the emphasis on everyday rights and freedoms. If we are courageous enough to protect our everyday rights and those of our fellow citizens, then we will be protecting the rights of those who are accused of far more serious crimes while simultaneously protecting the rights of their victims. Otherwise we will remain upside down and backwards, frittering away our daily liberty for the promise of security while letting murderers and terrorists walk freely among us.
----- Update -----
We originally identified the Legislature's raid on Albuquerque's traffic scam as SB422. The correct bill is SB 442. Thanks to a reader with a sharp "eye" we have corrected the error above.
The Piercing Truth
This is right from the dictionary and seems to describe Albuquerque, Berry and Schultz. Fascism (f ash ,izem) noun An authoritarian right wing system of government and/or social organization. (in general use) extreme right wing, authoritarian, chauvinistic and/or intolerant views or practices. Fascism tends to include a belief in the supremacy of one group over another, national, ethnic, especially social strata or monetarily; a contempt for democracy, an insistence on obedience to a powerful leader, and a strong demagogic approach. Compliments of one of our Eyes