Sen. Mark Boitano, R-Albuquerque says he's going to introduce a bill to stop the relatively recent practice of naming public buildings after living, or at least sitting public officials.
“Public buildings with gigantic names sprawled across them of sitting public officials are basically free advertising for the officials. It is at the taxpayers’ expense and with no public approval. It is not right or fair,” Boitano said in a press release.
He have the examples of the gym at Pojoaque Valley High School named for House Speaker Ben Lujan and the African American Performing Arts Center named for state Rep. Sheryl M. Williams, D-Albuquerque at the state fairgrounds.
"In the case of the building named after Speaker Lujan, voters on election day see that huge billboard when they enter the gym that is used as a polling place. While his name is plastered right on the polling place, his opponent cannot have any signs within 100 feet of it. That is not right or fair,” Boitano said.
“The free advertising is a double whammy against current law. We’ve taken steps towards campaign reform by limiting campaign contributions and gifts that can be accepted from lobbiests. We need to take the next step to stop taxpayer money being used for 24/7 advertising. It uses public money inappropriately by giving the free advertisements. State dollars have been and could continue to be used being used to promote the sitting official over challengers."
Boitano says he'll pre-file a bill next week to put into law criteria outlining how a public building is named and specifically requires that no public building built with state monies be named for any elected official while they are still in public office.
UPDATE 10 am Saturday I got House Speaker Ben Lujan's response to Boitano's proposal:
“How come they’re not saying anything about the Manuel Lujan (Exhibit Complex) at the state fair or all the things named after Pete Domenici? ”he said, citing two prominent Republicans. Domenici, a former U.S. senator, is the namesake of a federal courthouse in downtown Albuquerque. Manuel Lujan is a former congressman and secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
“We have better things to work on than this bill,” the speaker said.
Boitano when I spoke to him yesterday, said he’s not criticizing Luján, Williams or anyone else with a public building named after them. “I don’t think they went around asking to have buildings named after them,” he said. “I’m sure it was done by independent third parties.” But he said having a building named for a sitting politician is virtually "free advertising. "
Also, a spokesman for Gov. Martinez said she's on board with Boitano's bill and looks forward to signing it into law.