Grassroots Guerrilla Warfare Against Speed Cameras in Arizona

The next national meeting of the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee will be held in Tucson, Arizona from . And you’re invited.

The program will include a showing of the new film, Death and Taxes, produced by NWTRCC with Tucson filmmaker Steev Hise and the Pan Left Collective. Workshops and panels will cover topics about the role of war tax resistance in seeking the abolition of nuclear weapons, ending the militarization of the border, and stopping the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. There will be a beginner’s workshop on war tax resistance, stories of long time war tax resisters from around the U.S., and organizing strategies for peace and justice.

What ever happened to the tollbooth-destroying family of Rebecca and Her Daughters? Seems they’ve recently been spotted in Arizona. Excerpts:

Arizona speed cameras incite a mini revolt

A masked man, a citizens group, a judge and other motorists are behind the fight against photo enforcement.

Arizonans drive long distances on their highways, and they like to do it fast.

But since the Grand Canyon State began enforcing speed limits with roadside cameras, motorists are raging against the machines: They have blocked out the lenses with Post-it notes or Silly String. During the Christmas holidays, they covered the cameras with boxes, complete with wrapping paper.

One dissenting citizen went after a camera with a pick ax.

Arizona is the only state to implement “photo enforcement,” as it’s known, on major highways and is one of 12 states and 52 communities, plus the District of Columbia, with speed cameras, according to the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The cameras, paired with radar devices, photograph vehicles exceeding the speed limit by 11 mph or more. A notice of violation — carrying a fine of $181.50 — is then sent to the address of the vehicle’s registered owner.

Initially, the cameras were thought of as a revenue generator, expected to bring in more than $90 million in the first fiscal year of operation.

But , the cameras generated about $19 million for the state’s cash-strapped general fund, according to a report on photo radar released by the Arizona Office of the Auditor General last month.

As of , only 38% of issued violations were paid, the report said.

The program was designed to encourage people to pay the fine and not fight their violations: No points are added to an offender’s license, and it doesn’t affect insurance.

But, critics note, that hasn’t stopped people from wanting their day in court. About half of the total violations issued are still pending because people have ignored the tickets or have requested hearings to challenge them, according to the state Department of Public Safety.

The violations put an “inordinate” load on the courts, said Terry Stewart, a court administrator with Maricopa County. People have flocked to request hearings at Phoenix courts, and at one point last year, one court branch had cases set up through .

“You just have irate litigants and irate defendants coming in, just mad at the entire photo enforcement system in general,” said Steven Sarkis, a Maricopa County justice of the peace.

The most high-profile protester has been Dave VonTesmar, who has achieved statewide fame through his efforts to fight the tickets with a monkey mask. The 47-year-old flight attendant has allegedly sped past the cameras at least 40 times.

His defense?

There’s no way to prove that he was the driver wearing the mask, he says. Lots of people, he adds, drive his car.

VonTesmar, who signed up for the military on his 17th birthday, says he doesn’t fancy himself a criminal.

Amid empty soda cans on the floor of his white station wagon are various rubber disguises, including the famous monkey mask, a Frankenstein, koala, panda bear and a ghost mask that glows in the dark.

So far, four of VonTesmar’s cases have been dismissed, and he’s been found responsible for seven. The remaining 29 are pending, said VonTesmar’s attorney, Michael Kielsky.

Another dissenter is John Keegan, a judge for the Arrowhead Justice Court, who has called the cameras a constitutional violation. He rejects every photo radar ticket that comes before him.

So far, Keegan says, he’s dismissed more than 7,000 violations, potentially worth more than $1 million.

And here is some news about a small-scale tax revolt happening now in Argentina, from the pages of El Diario (translation mine):

Neighborhood Service: Tax resistance in the Commercial Workers Center neighborhood

Because of lack of service, they won’t pay any more municipal taxes

The critical situation in the streets in which we live in the Commercial Workers Center of Villa Nueva, after intense stroms, has generated tax resistance of a sort among the inhabitants of the area.

Following a meeting, arranged by Civic Front councilwoman Olga Vivas, and attended by a large number from the neighborhood, the attendees decided that if the neighborhood is “no man’s land” it will not agree to pay for the services that are not being provided.

In addition to not paying taxes, the comrades warned that they will take their case to Justice, starting legal actions over the damages and losses caused by the negligence of the Department of Public Works in charge of Natalio Graglia.…

Stories like this always bring a smile to my face:

Inmates at S. Fla. jail accused of scamming IRS

Detainees at a South Florida county jail are being accused of scamming the Internal Revenue Service by filing for fraudulent refunds and taking in as much as $100,000.

About 50 inmates from the Stock Island Detention Center in Key West were allegedly involved in the scheme.

The detainees allegedly used a standard IRS form to claim bogus refunds, filing for about $1 million in all. Most of the requested refunds were for about $5,000. Many checks were sent directly to the jail.

The scheme was discovered after a how-to note was found in an inmate’s cell.

A chief local investigator on the case who recently retired tells The Miami Herald that evidence was brought before a Miami grand jury . Indictments could come this week.