Today’s Doña Ana County Commission meeting was well attended by folks from all over the county wishing to give their public input on the regional transit issue. That item was up for discussion as an “Approval” item and slotted on the agenda as number 16. But their voices were never heard.
Commission chair Isabella Solis invited public input as usual but reminded the public that if they were there to speak about an item on the agenda to please wait and speak then.
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Then, during her personal comments, she went on an almost 2-minute diatribe about “respect” and asking the public to respect the board as well as each other. Presumably, this was in anticipation of a lively discussion from the scores of supporters in the room to speak on the transit issue.
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But then, when the issue came up on the agenda and the sponsoring commissioner made his motion to approve the item, a second was not forthcoming.
You won’t believe what happened next.
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The funding of the South Central Regional Transit Authority has been a political issue in recent history, but no matter what the issue, for a Commission Chair to actively dismiss public comment like this is pretty unheard of.
To hear what Commissioner Garrett had to say after his motion was declined to be discussed, watch here:
The SCRTA operates bus routes throughout the rural parts of Doña Ana County, servicing the 100,000 or so residents who don’t live within the County Seat of Las Cruces. They have partnerships with smaller municipalities, and even other cities outside the county, to facilitate transfers stretching from Truth or Consequences in Sierra County to El Paso, Texas. Now that the funding from Doña Ana County died at the Commission today, the future is uncertain.
Also worth noting is that Commissioner John Vasquez was absent without explanation during this contentious moment today. He stood up and exited the chambers before the resolution of item 15, and didn’t return until after the chambers had been cleared of the rowdy and upset members of the public. At the last meeting, Vasquez made mention of the transit system and that he’d ridden the busses and talked with folks who counted on them for work, school, and medical services.
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So, where was Vasquez on this vote? We may never know.
Open dialogue between the public and the elected officials is central to democracy. Nothing good ever comes from the silencing of dissent, especially at a so-called public meeting.