You'd think the Texas Railroad Commission would be better attuned to its public image.Two of the three commission seats are up for election May 29. It's important what impression Texans have of the agency that is supposed to regulate the oil and gas industry (it has nothing to do with railroads, which makes even the name an image problem).Too many people in Texas see the commission as a servant of and beholden to the oil and gas industry, not as a regulator on behalf of the people of the state.Recently things took a step in the wrong direction. The commission's staff has restricted public access to key parts of the commission website.Even with full access, it's hard for most people to find information about a well being drilled near their home. But with some effort, Average Joe and Jane can figure out how to get the information they need from the site. Take this example:Joe and Jane, average Tarrant County, Barnett Shale-area residents, and their neighbors leased their mineral rights to Big Friendly Energy in 2008. There's a five-year term on the lease, drilling hasn't started near their homes, and they're eager to get some royalty checks.A drilling site springs up about a half-mile from their house, and a rig moves in. Is this the big day? Are Joe and Jane about to receive money for their natural gas?They check the sign erected at the pad site (required by the Railroad Commission) and see that the well will be the Big Friendly Tasty Freeze No. 1H. With that, they can go to the Railroad Commission website and learn a lot about the well, including whether it will penetrate their drilling pool and generate royalties for themBut not between 8 and 11 a.m. Monday through Saturday. Since April 30, the parts of the site they'll need have been reserved exclusively for use by industry representatives and the commission's staff.Guess that shows who is where on the commission's priority list, huh? The public comes last.Commission spokeswoman Ramona Nye says use of the site has grown to the point that it "has slowed down our staff's ability to process drilling permits, well completion reports and GIS mapping updates" filed by companies. The commission's tech experts are working to restore full public access, which Nye says will take about 12 more weeks.The decision to restrict public access was made by the staff, not by the elected commission members. Chairman Barry Smitherman did not respond to a request for comment left at his office Monday.Some candidates have raised the issue of public openness in the current election campaign.State Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, says he wants the commission to be "more user-friendly.""We've got to get to the general public," Chisum said. When a well is to be drilled or a pipeline laid, he added, "The people who live there should have a reasonable expectation of what's going to happen."Christi Craddick, an Austin attorney and small-business owner and the daughter of Midland representative and former House Speaker Tom Craddick, also says she wants the commission to achieve a better public profile. That should include an upgraded website so people can easily check the status of a well or on pipeline inspections, she says.Craddick also said the commission members should get out of Austin more often, holding town hall meetings and attending homeowner association gatherings. She said the commission is "behind the 8-ball" when it comes to public image.Booting the public off the website, even for a limited time, doesn't help.