Thursday, October 27, 2011
Spaceport America: Frustrating Wait Gets Longer, Plus: The Latest On The Judge Murphy Bribery Case Debacle, And: Your Blog Voted "The Best"
Susana & Branson
If there has been one frustration with Spaceport America it is the timetable for actual lift-off of the historic flights that will take space tourists from New Mexico's terra firma into sub-orbital space. Now word comes that more patience is going to be required. It will be at least two more years--late 2013--until commercial flights at $200,000 a pop get underway. From the WSJ:
(Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic) won't start passenger flights for at least two more years and operations will ramp up significantly more slowly than previously anticipated, according to its chief pilot...David Mackay said Virgin Galactic...likely won't begin commercial flights until 2013.
"We would certainly like to be in commercial operation by then," said Mr. Mackay, a former airline captain and Royal Air Force test pilot. The new schedule marks another delay from the initial timetable that called for passenger flights to commence by 2008. Virgin Galactic press officials have declined to predict when paying passengers will be taken on suborbital thrill rides to the edge of space.
...Virgin Galactic's pioneering rocket ship was supposed to take off every few days and morph into a fleet of spacecraft carrying hundreds of passengers each month. Branson...talked about transporting as many as 50,000 passengers over 10 years. Now, those ambitious growth projections again seem to have been substantially scaled back. Mr. Mackay said current plans call for initiating passenger service with only a single flight per week.
Despite the delay, closely held Virgin Galactic is continuing its expansion. The company has invested about $270 million, and recently dedicated a facility at a state-financed spaceport in New Mexico.
One other thing to watch is the need for the Spaceport to get financial support from the Legislature. Spaceport officials and the Guv have said they want the facility to be self-supporting but informed insiders say that isn't going to happen in the next couple of years and a subsidy of several million dollars annually will be needed. That could make some waves at the Roundhouse.
What the Alligators see as a political haymaker and not a sound judicial case continues to appear to head south on special prosecutor Matt Chandler. State Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Daniels put out a 100 page order Wednesday denying Chandler's motion that he recuse himself from any matters connected to the bribery case Chandler is bringing against Las Cruces District Judge Michael Murphy.
From one of the Legal Beagles monitoring the action:
The order is 100 pages, but some of it is pretty interesting--especially the part in which a former prosecutor in Matt Chandler's office admits that he and Mr. Chandler took some action in the case only for the political publicity....
You mean Matt, the 2010 GOP nominee for attorney general who was handed the Murphy case by Susana Martinez when she was running for Governor as Dona Ana County district attorney, may have been taking political advantage of this case? Shocking!
The byzantine case has been given the moniker of respectability by several Republican-leaning journalistic types but its twist and turns are leading nowhere but down a rabbit hole. Chandler, the Clovis area district attorney, continues to generate damaging headlines against the NM judiciary and former Dem Governor Big Bill, but not much in the way of evidence that this isn't pretty much a political operation.
We await Matt to prove us wrong, but so far there's no egg on the Gators' faces.
More blowback on our position that the Legislature should have stepped up to the plate and approved a $212 million job-creating capital outlay bill instead of the smaller $86 million bill that was ushered through by conservative Dem Senators and R's. One argument for the smaller amount is that plenty of capital outlay is already in the pipeline. Here's that from a Santa Fe insider:
The Governor(s) and legislators in recent years have authorized over $425 million (including the $86 million authorized this year at the special session) for construction, renovation, etc. currently in the pipeline, authorized $206 million in 2011 for public school construction (another $147 million available in 2012), and the NM Finance Authority has financed $250-$300 million in local infrastructure loans in the last year...
Which is fine. But not all of it creates jobs and much of it has already been spent, while the state continues to combat a shrinking work force and a flat-on-its-back economy. Approving capital outlay that creates direct construction and other jobs is the easiest way for Santa Fe to encourage an economic recovery.
Rep. Martin Heinrich continues to try to eat into Hispanic support for rival US Senate Dem nominee Hector Balderas. He announces that State Reps Eliseo Alcon and Eleanor Chavez have endorsed him as has Clara Apodaca, CEO of the National Hispanic Cultural Center and NM first lady from '75 to '78.
Meanwhile, Balderas took to the Huffington Post to pan GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain for suggesting that an electrified fence be constructed on the US Mexico border to keep illegal immigrants out. Cain at first said he was not serious about the electric fence, but then reversed himself and said he still thinks it's a good idea for controlling immigration (not to mention the potential upside for El Paso electric shareholders).
From the reader mailbag:
Keep punching for a bigger state tourism budget. Most people know nothing of our unique culture, architecture, and diversity, and have no reason to experience it unless they're told about it. I drove through the state twice--on I-40 both before and after it was Route 66 --and was not impressed. But when a Native American friend talked my wife and I into a one-week visit in 1981, we were hooked for life. Even when work situations made it impossible to live here, we visited as often as we could, for as long as we could. Keep kicking butt on this one, Joe.
Thanks for that. It's hard for us not to beat the drum for the state to be more aggressive in promoting the unique marvels of New Mexico. It's pretty much a no-brainer.
The long-running and well-known morning radio duo of Tony and Myles--Tony Lynn and Myles Copeland--have come to the end of the line. Clear Channel, owner of KBQI-FM--Big I 107.9, announced the two were axed from the station after a more than ten year run because of lower ratings and revenue. In recent months radio giant Clear Channel has been laying off numerous employees across the nation.
Thanks to readers of ABQ The Magazine for once again voting us "The Best" in the city in their annual poll. It's the second year in a row that we have been so honored and the third time overall. Editor Dan Mayfield relayed the news as he was working on the big December "Best" issue.
We've had a good run here--over eight years now--and deeply appreciate the ongoing support and confidence from our readers and advertisers. And we also appreciate our critics who keep us on our toes, but who we also enjoy proving wrong.
Again, thanks for making us the state's #1 political web site.
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