A Legal Conundrum

By: Contributor
13 August, 2013

There's More Over Here

There’s More Over Here


“I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!”—Barry Goldwater



David Leal Cortez Photo

David Leal Cortez Photo

(Editor’s Note: Jeff appears to embody Goldwater’s famous remark above. Certainly, “moderation” does not appear to be part of his vocabulary. He’s a classic gadfly, whom a wiser leader would ignore. Rather, the mayor encourages supporters to engage in thuggery against the sign man. Let us hope nobody get’s killed.)


To: Dist. Att. Donald Gallegos
Taos Police Chief David Weaver
Taos town Att. Brian James

Donald, David, Brian: Chief Weaver stopped to see me late this afternoon at Southside Copies. He said that you three met today related to my picketing. It seems that you came to the following conclusions/course of action:

Signs not being held in my hands will be considered refuse, waste or trash. The step stools that I set the signs on will be considered the same. Anyone who wants them is free to take them. Presumably, I do not have the right to try to reclaim this property or make any attempt to stop someone from taking my property.

You consider the places along Paseo Del Pueblo Sur where I ordinarily picket to be in the state right-of-way, therefore in the town right-of-way.

If I cross the street anywhere other than at a crosswalk I will be ticketed for J-walking.

The Taos Police will make no attempt to stop people from taking my signs and step stools. However, you will respond to my calls, and file an “incident report” if I request. You will not follow up or attempt to recover the property

My brief analysis:

While the codes do allow for the removal of signs in the right-of-way, there is no provision for private citizens to enforce the code.

There is nothing in the code that would indicate step stools would or could be considered refuse or trash. 18NMAC 20.5.7 H. is quite clear in defining “refuse.” A new or nearly-new step stool could not in any way be included among the items described in 7 H. And again, citizens are not given the power to enforce this law. D. defines the right-of-way as “all roads, patrol yards, and rest areas owned, controlled, or maintained by the Department (NMDOT). The term ‘road’ means the entire width of the right of way and shall include, but not limited to: travel lanes, roadside, shoulder, median, ditches, culverts, ramps turnouts and construction and maintenance easements.” The only word in here that concerns me is “roadside.” I have no idea what is meant by this term, nor is it defined; in the case of an unclear word, the word is considered meaningless. Other than that, it is clear that my signs and step stools are not in the right-of-way.

For 18 months or more the town has been waiting for the NMDOT to provide a more suitable or clear definition of state right-of-ways within the town. I believe both Bill Morris [former Planning Director] and Brian James have had correspondence with the state on this issue. Additionally, the town has asked the state to provide maps of the right-of-ways in Taos. I believe the town received maps that were less than ten years old for a brief stretch on Paseo Del Pueblo Norte.

Only one map, produced in 1977, was provided for Paseo Del Pueblo Sur; this map goes from roughly the Ford dealership on the south to just north of Walmart— but even here it is difficult, if not impossible, to determine the right-of-way. The spots where I commonly picket are not covered on any of these maps.

The town, in its haste to pass a new sign code in late May, 2013, was aware of these deficiencies in defining the right-of-ways (on Hwys. 64, 68, 535, and 240), but passed the ordinance anyway. The town staff and I recommended delaying the vote until these and other deficiencies could be cured.

I commonly walk across the highway where I’m picketing three to five times, unless someone is messing with the signs, at which time I may immediately make an “unscheduled” crossing, an emergency, if you will. Chief Weaver let me know today that I will be ticketed for J-walking if I cross other than at a crosswalk.

Of course, this makes it especially difficult for me to stop Amos and his helpers, Darren’s family, Casa Los Cordovas employees and hanger-on, and others who are stealing my property. These people are doing quite well at stealing my things, and don’t really need any more help than is already provided by the town.

The town has a long history of selective enforcement of laws (and, laws that don’t exist) against me. All day long people J-walk throughout the town; I asked Chief Weaver how many tickets have been written in the town for J-walking over the last few years. At this point he walked away and got in his vehicle.

On a frantic day like Sunday (Aug.11), where my signs were being picked off for two hours, I’d say I crossed the road (including running down the road) about 15 times, or 30 total crossings, not once at a crosswalk.

Just picking a number, I’m guessing there are 2000 J-walking incidents in Taos every day (not counting the Plaza) along roads that have crosswalks— this would be about one crossing somewhere in town every 25 seconds during daylight hours. I’m guessing there are a few, at most, tickets written per year. And how often are tickets written against Taos News vendors who tie up traffic, stand in the middle of the road, and scurry across the road?

The D.A. has now given his blessing to vigilante lawlessness. An interest he once had in seeing Amos prosecuted over the 3-3-13 motor vehicle assault has vanished. Last Monday Amos grabbed and shoved me. Nothing will be done.

But you three know that I will continue to protect the First Amendment and my property, endangering my life, and that of those close to me…. you continue to empower a crooked administration by promoting larceny and violence directed at me.

I’m not a violent person, unlike the people the mayor surrounds himself with. And I have no use for your empty words about being concerned with my safety. With all due respect, you’re full of shit. Get me to an honest judge, and the right-of-way issue will fall my way; but I can’t get you to give me a ticket.

And this is America.

So be it.

Jeff Northrup

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