Sunday, June 13, 2010

“Political Earthquake” Shakes Mora County

"Mora County had the equivalent of a political earthquake" says David Gulliani, Las Vegas Optic June 7th 2010.
by Kathleen Dudley, Drilling Mora County

Two Mora County Commission seats were taken by Democrats John Olivas and Paula Garcia during the primary election June 8th 2010. Uncontested for the November ballot and new to political life, Olivas begins his four year term as the District 2 Commissioner this coming January 2011, while Garcia will run against Republican opponent, Antonio Pino, in District 1. But with 61% of the primary vote, her win in November should be for certain.

Garica heads the New Mexico Acequia Association and is well known and revered in Mora County for her protection of the local culture which is synonymous to agua in the most traditional sense—the lifeblood of Mora County. And as president of the Mora Land Grant, her ties to the land and water represent the gente de Mora.

Olivas “lives off the resources of the land” he says, which puts him squarely dependent upon an unspoiled Mora County. His participation in the grassroots citizen efforts over the past two years to protect Mora County from oil and gas development goes deeply to the roots of his family and his determination to keep Mora County agricultural and free of dirty industrial development.

Both Olivas and Garcia have spoken out against oil and gas development since the first public oil and gas commission meeting was held May 7th, 2008 in Mora. During the primaries, Olivas ran a strong campaign opposing industry's development in the County, while Garcia took a softer, more political position yet still obviously opposed to any industrial development that would damage water quality or the culture of her county.

Two of the three current commissioners will exit their positions in January 2011, while Commissioner Laudente Quintana will remain an additional two years. Once the Mayor of Wagon Mound, he fought along side the citizens of the Village of Wagon Mound, the only incorporated village in Mora County, to protect their water source from a local rancher’s threat. They won.

It appears both Olivas and Garcia will have an opportunity come 2011 to work along side Quintana as they work to guide Mora County strongly in concert with goals and visions of the Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP)—originally adopted in 1995, and modified January 2010. While the heart of the revised CLUP remains intact, there are clearly changes that will make the new commissioners’ jobs more complicated than past commissions.

For one, there is a palpable threat from big money-- the largest corporation in the world, Royal Dutch Shell, ranking number one in money and power. Along with Shell, CEJA out of Oklahoma and possibly ConocoPhillips, their signed mineral leases in the Las Vegas Basin are being logged at the county clerk’s office.

Come January, there will be an entire change of tenor at the commission meetings—evening meeting times we are told, to include more citizen participation, citizen advisory groups, and a chance to work together to create the vision set out by the people when they had a chance to be heard 15 years ago.

While there were other seats in this June election, none rivaled the commission race. But the message from the commission race was clear, a mandate to protect the county, to uphold the CLUP and to stay the course:

Mora County Declaration of the Public Welfare: “The connection between our land, our water and our people has sustained our culture since the first settlements in Mora County and our future depends on keeping these connections strong. Water is a vital link which, if severed from the land, will also fragment our people from their land. The allocation of our limited water resources must recognize traditional subsistence agricultural and grazing activities as a priority over other types of more profitable land uses. Water is not just a commodity to be bought and sold or exploited for short-term gains. Water is the life blood of Mora County's traditions, culture and land use. A sustainable future for Mora County requires protection of the most valuable resource for our communities – the water!” Source: Mora County Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) 8-11-2009