Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Dr. No Still Needed, But Not As Much, Plus: New Mexico's Space Race; The Latest News And: A Letter From Gallup 

Dr. No
Once he was the capitol chaperone, urging the revelers in Santa Fe to raise glasses with cheap grape juice not champagne. It was a message that echoed across the state as the Great Recession cast its shadow. But today, unlike the past two budget cutting sessions, the voice of State Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith is not quite as loud. The Deming lawmaker, who earned the moniker "Dr. No" from Governor Big Bill for his parsimonious ways, is still a major powerhouse when it comes to the budget, but that power is now being shared.

Unlike his relationship with Richardson, who fought Dr. No tooth and nail, Democrat Smith finds himself mainly in agreement with a Republican Governor whose party also takes joy in handling the budget scalpel. In that regard, the heyday of Dr. No is over. He has no foil on the Fourth Floor.

His economic perspective is now also looking dated to some Democrats. With a Republican Governor, they argue, it is best for their party to get on the opposite side of the budget argument and push back against Martinez. But Smith and the conservatives are not easily persuaded.

The public mood in New Mexico does appear to be shifting toward anxiety over budget cuts, not a push for more of them. That is an opportunity for the Democrats, but no Senate leadership has surfaced to become the face of a new era--a centrist Democrat.

Dr. No stands on shifting philosophical sands. When this legislative session ends, the state budget over three years will have been pared to $5.4 billion from its $6.2 billion peak. That's a 13 per cent cut. And the state work force has been trimmed by some 9 percent since the bull market crashed and burned.

There will always be room for fiscal conservatism, but for now it has run its course as Santa Fe's dominant political philosophy.

Governor Martinez has been somewhat ahead of the curve on this. During the campaign she said no further cuts to public education classrooms and Medicaid. She bent that promise by proposing cuts, but wee ones. How odd it is to see a Republican Governor argue against deeper budget cuts and with Dr. No going along.

We've often said that this life-changing recession was going to have us seeing things you never thought possible.

Well, how about that? Someone in the Martinez administration is finally saying out loud that they are excited about the economic potential of the Spaceport. It comes from Christine Anderson, the new executive director of the facility:

I am excited for the opportunity to lead a project that has such a high potential for success. I look forward to working with Governor Martinez and the Board of Directors to ensure that the Spaceport is developed into an economic engine that can drive development and job creation in New Mexico.

That's the most enthusiasm we've seen for the project from the new administration, but concern over Martinez's push to privatize the Spaceport still lurks. In announcing Anderson's appointment she said:

My administration is committed to working closely with Ms. Anderson and the Board of Directors to attract private investment and see the project through to its full potential...

We suppose she can keep wishing for "private investment" but this is a public works project. It is similar to how we funded ABQ International Airport--except this one is to be the airport for future space travel--suborbital and orbital as well as commercial and military. It's not only about putting rich tourists in suborbital space, although that will be the spark plug.


There is talk of having a Lockheed or Boeing manage the Spaceport similar to the way Lockheed manages Sandia Labs. But that's not owning it. The state would still control it, much the way the federal government does with Sandia. If that's what Susana means by privatization, then it addresses the darkest fears. That is a workable model.

It is the job and responsibility of the Governor to bring the Spaceport to its "full potential." We hired her to do that, not a private company. Maybe that happens down the road, but the administration will be putting the cart before the horse if it attempts to offload the Spaceport before we achieve the original mission--completing the project and putting tourists in suborbital space with Virgin Galactic.


Those hoping for the best with this deal can take some comfort in the credentials of Anderson, who is a retired Air Force civilian:

Anderson was the founding director of the Space Vehicles Directorate at Kirtland’s Air Force Research Laboratory. She served as director of the Space Technology Directorate at the Air Force Phillips Laboratory, also at Kirtland, and as director of the Military Satellite Communications Joint Program Office at the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles, where she oversaw management of a $50 billion portfolio of assets.

The previous executive director under Governor Big Bill was Rick Homans, who held a variety of posts under Bill and who was criticized for not having space experience. He is credited with getting the project up and running and nurturing a relationship with Virgin Galactic, the anchor Spaceport tenant.

Push will come to shove if and when the Spaceport needs additional dollars for final completion. Will Martinez support the funding, if needed? We suppose that's when we will truly see how "excited" Ms. Anderson is about the Spaceport.


If Santa Fe doesn't do this deal right, it could be taken from right under our noses. Monday's New York Times puts it right in front of everyone. We have competition:

Dr. Stern’s institute (Southwest Research Institute) announced that it has signed a contract and paid the deposit to send two of its scientists up in Virgin’s SpaceShipTwo vehicle (in New Mexico). Southwest also intends to buy six more seats — $1.6 million in tickets over all.

That follows an announcement on Thursday that Southwest is buying six seats from another suborbital company, XCOR Aerospace of Mojave, Calif., which has been charging $95,000 a seat for tourists. XCOR’s Lynx space plane carries just two people — the pilot and the paying passenger — so each flight will carry an experiment and an institute scientist...

Scientists, tourists, the military, private corporations. Again, the Spaceport is anything but just a playground for the rich--it represents one of the brightest hopes for the new century for New Mexico--a state whose people are so sorely in need of opportunity. Will we let it pass us by?


The Spaceport, movie making, the national labs, the military bases, tourism, the heathcare industry. All of these are present or future cornerstones of the New Mexican economy for the generations to come. Our political leadership needs to build them up, not inhibit them.


Northern state Senator Pete Campos is spreading the word that he will form an exploratory committee for a possible run at the 2012 Dem US Senate nomination. If he does, he could become one of the first candidates to start raising money. A legislator is allowed to raise money for a federal race while the Legislature is in session

State Auditor Hector Balderas, also from the north, says he is "95 percent" in, but he is not raising money yet. Former ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez is taking a serious look at the contest.

The most prominent Anglo possible candidate is ABQ Dem Congressman Martin Heinrich.


It's the battle of the secretaries of state and it's Mary's turn at bat after Dianna complained about missing documents, among other things:

Enough is enough. I did a good job. I have a reputation. She's now attacking me, and it's a defamation of character. I have the current Secretary of State accusing me of being a criminal?" I'm not going to tolerate that. It's in the law that the elected official and the deputy must have archives come in and transfer their hard drives into a hard drive to be archived....

TV news added: Herrera said Duran could easily track down those documents by going to the state archives and requesting them.


A reader writes of the sensational political antics in Gallup as voters prepare to elect a mayor:

Here is a dispatch from the wilds of western New Mexico: You will recall watching grainy security camera footage early last year of 70+ Gallup Mayor Harry Mendoza throwing haymaker punches as he chased 60+ Gallup Independent publisher Bob Zollinger around a bank parking lot. Mendoza pled no contest to a petty misdemeanor and issued a one sentence court ordered apology. He then hired attorney Sam Bregman to file a defamation and invasion of privacy suit against Zollinger who has run several new stories and over a dozen editorials accusing Mendoza of participating in a vicious gang rape in the late 1940s when Mendoza was a teenager.

Mendoza who faces stiff opposition in his campaign for re-election. He has adopted an innovative campaign strategy that may be a new contribution to the annals of La Politica. In his ads, Mendoza prominently features this quote which he attributes to Zollinger:

“If Harry Mendoza runs for Mayor again and wins I’ll sell my business and move out of Gallup.”

Mendoza’s ads claim that this “comment has been confirmed by several individuals.” To date, Zollinger has not commented publicly on Mendoza’s claim.

Election day in Gallup is March 8.

We're just thinking what a great movie this would make--a modern version of the old Western. See, those film incentives do come in handy.


Reader John Hooker writes:

A CEO, a Tea Partier and a Union worker are sitting at a table. There is a plate of a dozen cookies. The CEO proceeds to take 11 of the cookies and eats them. He looks at the Tea Partier and tells him, "Watch out! That union guy wants your cookie.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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