Just weird:
Land commissioner’s Web site is loaded with political puffery

You can count on politics in New Mexico to be frequently weird and sometimes sad. That's sure true for the state land commissioner's race.

Former land commissioner and environmentalist Jim Baca is running against incumbent Patrick Lyons, a champion of the oil and gas industry.

The Lyons campaign is just weird.

Check out the "Welcome to New Mexico" Web page for state, federal and local governments (www.newmexico.gov). Click on "State Land Office." You'd think you'd find information about the office itself, about how many acres of New Mexico land the office oversees, about the duties and responsibilities of the commissioner.

But what you find is a page of political puffery on the incumbent land commissioner, touting his achievements in glowing terms. You'll get the same page when you search the Internet for "New Mexico State Land Office." There's no useful information about New Mexico state lands, only about Lyons.

Is it a misuse of public funds to sell yourself for re-election using the official Web site of your office? Isn't that worse than using official stationary for the same purpose? Shouldn't you use your vast campaign war chest to buy your own Web page or blog or something - like Baca does?

Other state officials, such as Attorney General Patricia Madrid or Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron, aren't using their official Web sites for political purposes. If they did, you know what certain members of Lyons' Republican Party would say - you sure do.

For Democrats, the Democratic primary election between former land commissioners Baca and Ray Powell was a sad one. No one wanted to make that choice. Both men have done superb jobs in the past protecting state lands and harvesting honorable profits for New Mexico's educational system from state land use and leases.

Baca won a close Democratic primary. The whole business stung for a while, but the issue is perfectly clear. Baca must win this election to counterbalance, in New Mexico, the disastrous environmental policies of the Bush administration.

Take just one issue - Otero Mesa, where there are vast acres of grassland on top of the largest quantity of pure underground water left anywhere in our drought-prone region.

Lyons would open Otero Mesa for oil and gas drilling. Baca and other Democrats would not.

The oil and gas lobby insists that drilling can be done without harming ground water. But how is that possible, when the recent history of drilling shows that the state Environment Department has recorded some 600 incidents of underground water pollution and nearly 7,000 cases of soil and surface water pollution? How can drilling be safe, when the more than 40,000 wells already in existence in New Mexico have unlined waste pits near each one, full of brine and industrial toxic wastes used in drilling?

Anyone who says it can be done should not be elected to this office.

V.B. Price is an Albuquerque free-lance writer, author, editor and commentator.
September 16, 2006