Taos Sign Code Controversy Breaks Out!
The only vice which cannot be forgiven is hypocrisy. The repentance of a hypocrite is itself hypocrisy. — William Hazlitt. At the forum for aspiring judges, one of the candidates mentioned a quote from William Hazlitt about hypocrisy. The quote above isn’t the one she mentioned but it seems particularly apt, given issues of sign regulation and free speech. Here’s to holier than thou!
While we observers shall learn much about candidates campaigning for office in Taos during the next month, the candidates themselves will learn much about the Town of Taos sign code. According to Friction insiders, a debate has begun among candidates for judge in the 8th judicial district about the regulation of campaign signs.
We find signs a welcome symbol of the silly season but caution candidates about the use of color and design. There are too many signs with red letters and white backgrounds, which force drivers to slow down and decipher the message, creating traffic safety problems.
The sign man, as you might remember, was accused of creating a safety hazard by placing a few signs long side the road. Now there are hundreds of signs springing up, thanks to aspiring community leaders and judges? Since the best legal minds in the county are debating the sign code and its capricious and arbitrary enforcement, perhaps Jeff Northrup’s appeal of his conviction to district court of municipal judge Richard Chavez’s decision will be heard with some clarity, some day.
The 8th District Court system—despite the presence of three judges—is a function of slow, slower, and slowest. Even cases with speedy trial issues take years to be heard. More than 90% of all cases filed here in Taos County end up at magistrate court, where one smiling and energetic judge handles the entire caseload—chop chop. Eh? He wears robes, too.
Recently, his honor, muni Judge Chavez, fined Northrup, the aging protester, gas and animal guardian, some $300 plus $29 in court costs for his use of multiple sandwich boards with messages, protesting corruption at the town and Coop. In effect, the judge criminalized dissent. According to the Town, it is legal to carry a protest sign but you cannot place temporary protest signs willy-nilly at the side of the road (especially while you walk opposite the Centinel Bank or the Mayor’s hospitality shop). But if you are a candidate for office or flog discount alcoholic beverages, you can do what you want.
The County has never busted Jeff. Indeed, as is well known, County Commission meetings are bastions of free speech. A Commissioner will say anything, impolitic or not, despite the contemporary notion of “political correctness.” But in the Town it is against the rules to criticize the Mayor and his supporters. At the County criticism is considered good form.
Editor’s Note: The County, at the urging of a group, apparently chaired by retired District Court Judge Peggy Nelson, recently passed a resolution opposing a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court regarding “Citizens United,” a decision that treats corporations as “people” and allows the investment of unlimited wealth in political campaigns. In effect, Citizens United is an attempt to forever institute “thought control” over the voters in America so that corporations can control the government and enterprise system.
Jeff Northrup, a local political protester, is a symbol of the resistance to the political domination and destruction of democracy in Taos by local government and the oligarchs at KCEC. As local attorney Jeff Shannon pointed out to an august committee of judges, members of the committee selected to appoint district court incumbents, 8th judicial district judges have supervisory control over municipal courts–a duty, this writer would argue, they have consistently shirked. Injustice in the lower courts is one more tool of the hierarchy aimed at quashing free speech and dominating the masses. (Ask the people of Taos Pueblo about “justice.”)
The Town sign code itself makes a variety of distinctions between temporary and permanent, commercial and non-commercial signs. Commercial establishments receive a de facto pass for placing sandwich boards in the highway right away. The right away itself, a function of state and federal regulations, is, allegedly, under the town’s jurisdiction. Consequently the mayor and manager send out their foot soldiers to prey on the Taos’s single protester. Fine him. Confiscate his property. Throw him under the bus.
We think “free speech” or the resistance to political domination and exploitation is a legitimate issue in the broader community. Local politicos frequently retaliate against the press and protesters, whether by using the cops or courts to shut down the critics. There is more than one candidate for the judiciary who has participated in this cabal–due, dare I say it, to the conspiratorial behavior of passive-aggressive men and women clad in black. Resistance begins at home–at the roots of democracy.
When it comes to free speech, one must try cases in the press because the muni and district courts demonstrate a view more in common with the old Soviet Union than case law, which affects the First Amendment as interpreted in the greater US of A. Elected officials swear to uphold the U.S. Constitution when they are elected to office but do they sing the words to the Star-Spangled Banner or do they just sing for their supper? I think you’ve seen the menu.
But first things first: Vote on May 8th. Thanks to last year’s PRC hearings, the Coop members know how KCEC has gone on a spending spree—travel, Propane, Internet, Broadband, and the ill-fated Command Center itself. As Jeff has pointed out, Coop trustees have instituted policies of expansionism and travel that have increased the cost of electricity. Now Trustees are asking Town residents to pick up the tab for the ill-conceived Command Center.
Both The Taos News and the town watcher, Jeff Northrup, have called attention to the Coop’s exploitation of member ratepayers and Town taxpayers. Vote for Mylet and Adang on May 8th at the Coop election. Both believe in free speech and the rights of the free born Americanos to speak and protest.
Raise hell and save Jeff from the clutches of corruption. Save yourself from the powerful and keep the hands of greedy politicos from pilfering your purse.