Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Sharing memories of Mayor Ken Miyagishima

As I’m writing this, the midterms are looming, but I figure I’ll have plenty of time to delve into who’s playing the victim soon enough. Today, I’d like to pay my own version of tribute to Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima, who’s announced he won’t be seeking another term. He’s been our mayor for 15 years. I’ve learned about local politics because of Mayor Miyagishima. I’ve learned that, for some reason, the longer he served, the more I heard Las Crucens from all political parties criticize and complain about him but, once they stepped into the voting booth, they’d reelect him every time. OK, so I really didn’t learn much there. I’m still scratching my head over that puzzle. Let me just focus on some of my most vivid memories of his time in the office.

In 2008, the city started using monitored traffic cameras at several intersections to issue traffic citations to any motorist violating traffic laws. They were incredibly unpopular and one organization called “Don’t Flash Me Bro,” started by resident Joe Bourgeois, challenged the city and even claimed the agreement with the monitoring company violated the city charter. The council’s response: Ignore the allegations and continue to do as they pleased … until the state ordered them to remove the cameras from two intersections on the state’s right-of-way instead of under city control. Eventually, the city canceled the program and ended that particular embarrassment.

In 2015, after Las Crucens voted overwhelmingly against an increase in the gross receipts tax, Miyagishima and the city council took our concerns into consideration … and then just did what they wanted anyway. They increased the GRT by the highest amount they were legally allowed. After all, they clearly knew better than us regular people, right?

The biggest memory for me was the gun control legislation resolution the city planned to pass in 2018. The idea was to pass a resolution to represent Las Cruces as a city that wanted the state legislature to pass more stringent gun control laws. Whatever your position on gun control, this part should have you all cringing. At the first meeting addressing this, City Hall was flooded with citizens who opposed this resolution. Many open-carried firearms, which were perfectly legal. Mayor Miyagishima decreed that anyone carrying a firearm wouldn’t be allowed to speak, thereby showing his feelings for freedom of speech and civil discourse. Then, a second public meeting was scheduled in the auditorium of then Oñate High School (no firearms allowed on school property). Once again, the building was filled with citizens opposing the resolution. The meeting went on for hours as everyone, including myself, got up and spoke against it. Only one citizen spoke in support of the resolution. Now here’s the kicker: After all the dissent, Mayor Miyagishima and the city council voted to approve the resolution. In essence, they chose to represent Las Cruces as being in agreement on something we were clearly not. They lied about us and used us as a political tool to advance their personal political agendas. They betrayed the people they were elected to represent.

These were just a few of the messes the mayor has presided over. To be fair, it sounds like maybe he learned to listen to his constituents a little … at least those who just want him to go away. Mayor Miyagishima said he may consider running for state office at some point, so let me finish by apologizing to the rest of New Mexico for what we may be unleashing on you. Hopefully, you’ll have better luck keeping him out of the office than we did.

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Randy Lynch writes/hosts The Midnight Ride blog (midnightride.co) and internet radio show on Radio New Mexico (myradionm.com). Contact him at [email protected]

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