Sunday, December 2, 2012
This beautiful area of north central New Mexico where I live has been carved into counties as the population and terrain made it harder and harder to govern. What is now Taos, Colfax and Mora counties was once one huge county. Colfax needs carved again. I suffer the problems on living on its far southwest corner. I am in fact closer to the county seats of Mora and Taos than I am to that of Colfax.
In my blog Off to Vote Early I mentioned the difficulty of voting early. It is an hour and 45 minute drive in the best of weather. A couple March's ago it was a 36 hour drive because of snow. I listed some statistics for the County of Colfax in that same blog. Raton is the county seat and the biggest city but has a declining population due to the downfall of mining and the drought which is having a prolonged downward spiral on ranching. As of the 2010 census it was barely over half of the population of the entire county. And my side of the county has grown in population to the point it is over 1/3 of the population.
We have one District court and it is in Raton. We have two Magistrate courts and one is in Raton and the other in Springer. Both towns are on the eastern side of the county. Springer and Raton are a 45 minute drive from each other on Interstate 25. Angel Fire is an hour and 30 minutes from Springer. Here again in good weather. Want to get an eviction notice? You have to go to Raton or Springer. All calls for jury duty are to Springer or Raton which are considered to close to us to allow a paid hotel stay. All deputy sheriffs are dispatched out of Raton. Want to fight a ticket - Raton again.
There once was a part time magistrate court in Cimarron between Raton and Angel Fire but when they built the new court house in Raton they closed that one. And none of the municipal courts like the ones in Angel Fire or Cimarron can help with any magistrate issues even if it is just advice and forms.
So the question becomes of what happened to Circuit Court Judges? I bet more of us would show up for Jury Duty if we just had to pop down to a conference room at the Legends hotel. And the country would save on mileage costs to jurors. A why not local "legal" centers with clerks that dispensed advice on what forms you needed to file and provided said forms. Even received them for the action of the court. Would be really cheap to allow the Municipal courts to provide such services.
And while we are at it why not having joint holding cells in municipalities. Now if a sheriff or state police officer arrests a DWI on a county road he has to haul them completely back to Raton. There is that city again. With its downturn in population soon it will be only county offices.