Setting the record straight
I would love to discuss the work we are doing to create jobs for New Mexicans, support our public schools and protect the health of our lands. However, Pat Lyon’s recent Op-Ed was so filled with inaccuracies and untruths that I must set the record straight.
I would love to discuss the work we are doing to create jobs for New Mexicans, support our public schools and protect the health of our lands. However, Mr. Lyon’s Op-Ed was so filled with inaccuracies and untruths that I must set the record straight.
First, Mr. Lyons said I was “sued” by our beneficiary the University of New Mexico because “a sweetheart deal with Mesa del Sol wasn’t beneficial.” This is false – there was no suit against me. In fact, Lyons penned an op-ed, published in the Albuquerque Journal on February 27, 2009, blasting former Land Commissioner Jim Baca for the same alleged “sweetheart deal.” He praised himself and my administration for partnering with UNM and the private sector to make Mesa del Sol a reality.
Second, Dixon Apple Farm would not “still be producing” apples after the devastating Las Conchas Fire and raging 1,000-year floods. The “Land Office fire team” he established was a group of about two dozen of our state employees, scattered statewide. Our employees are outstanding but are uncertified and untrained to fight a forest fire. Created to do prescribed burns, the group’s motto was, “We lite em; We don’t fight em.”
Lyons provided this group with a 300-gallon water barrel pulled by a pickup – no match for one of New Mexico’s worst forest fires. When some of the world’s best firefighters battling this fast moving blaze were told to “stand down,” the Land Office team could not have saved the apple orchard. The team would not have been able to assemble, let alone battle this inferno.
Third, Lyons claimed the White Peak deal he did was “for the benefit of New Mexicans.” However, the State Supreme Court reversed the deal, declaring it unconstitutional and illegal. I shut down three more similar unconstitutional, illegal land exchanges at White Peak, and I am changing the agency’s policy so future land exchanges are conducted with transparency and public involvement.
In general during Lyons’ administration, land that could generate high commercial potential for the trust was traded for land with little revenue-producing potential. Total acreage to the trust may have increased, but the total value to the Trust was greatly diminished.
This was what happened with the Mesa del Sol/Dixon Apple Orchard trade. About 3,000 acres of prime commercial property, with long-term revenue-generating potential, was exchanged for the orchard and 8,500 acres adjoining it that contain significant and abundant culturally-sensitive artifacts. The 8,500 acres was leased for $100 a year for 70 years.
The Center for Innovation, Testing, and Evaluation (CITE), which Lyons referenced, is involved with the Pegasus Project. After a statewide selection process, the land choices were narrowed to state trust land in Las Cruces and Hobbs. Contrary to Lyons’ assertion, when and if Pegasus becomes a reality, state trust lands will be a part of the mix. CITE CEO Bob Brumley has said he is pleased that my administration is working cooperatively with his team and the local communities to bring more jobs to our state.
Lyon’s touted his Motorplex project in T or C. It was ill-advised, poorly planned and never happened. No jobs were created and no economic development was realized.
I am committed
I am committed to continue to work collaboratively with our local communities to create jobs and protect the health of State Trust Lands. We have established business parks, affordable housing, recreational facilities, nature preserves, master-planned communities, senior and teen centers and school sites, using state trust lands in ways that enhance the quality of life in our communities, earn more money for our beneficiaries and help keep our taxpayers’ bills lower.
I will work hard each day to continue to earn the public’s trust by doing business in an open, transparent manner.
Powell, M.S., D.V.M., is the New Mexico state land commissioner.
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