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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Another Dicey Launch Date For NM Spaceport? Speculation Grows That Virgin Galactic Stays Grounded, Plus: Readers Are On The APD Beat, And: Race For Control of state House Underway 

Sir Richard Branson
"Due to technical difficulties. . . " That seems to be the unofficial motto of the NM Spaceport and Virgin Galactic--the company that for ten years has been working furiously to put civilians into suborbital space. It insists that this year is the year that will see Virgin's Richard Branson launch from our southern NM Spaceport and begin an exciting 21st era of routine space travel. But first. . .more of those technical difficulties.

According to Parabolic Arc, a blog aimed toward the scientific community and which has been spot-on in tracking Virgin's progress or lack thereof, we learn that;

Even as Virgin Galactic confidently predicts it will send its founder, Sir Richard Branson, and his two children into space by the end of the year and then promptly begin commercial service, the reality behind the scenes is quite a bit less certain. 

And then there's this little hitch--the suborbital space journey may not turn out to be all that it's been cracked up to be:

Sources say that the ship can’t reach the 100-km (62-mile) and above altitudes that Virgin Galactic has been promising its customers for nearly a decade. (The 100 km boundary is the international definition of space.) The ship might exceed 80 km (50 miles), which is the definition of space used by the U.S. Air Force to award astronaut status to X-15 pilots in the 1960′s. From a legal standpoint, Virgin Galactic would be fulfilling its customer agreement if the ship reaches 50 miles and above. However, ticket holders who have relied on the company’s public promises and failed to read their agreements carefully are likely to be disappointed if they can’t get to 100 km and enjoy the same interval of microgravity they were promised.

If Virgin does get off the ground but falls short of the altitude expected, will will there be rebels among its star-studded passenger list who have paid at least $200,000 a ticket and often more? Stay tuned. . .

HOW MANY?

Another 200,000 figure is being tossed around. If and when the Spaceport does take flight with paying passengers, the state tourism department says we can expect some 200,000 a year to the remote location near T or C. That's probably a good a guess as any. The problem remains: What year?

THE APD BEAT 

Reader Stephanie Padilla writes of a police officer's defense of the fatal police shooting of homeless and mentally ill James Boyd:

Joe, this caught my eye : The officers, whose job it is to protect the K-9 officer had to make a split-second decision based on the totality of what they have witnessed and experienced over the past hour with Boyd, decided that their partner was in imminent danger. Are you kidding me? They killed a man to protect a dog? I'm sorry if I'm not giving a "highly trained police officer" the respect it deserves, but seriously? Dogs now outrank people?

Another reader on the same topic:

Is the life of a dog more important than the life of a human. The officer put himself in a position of danger. The dog is a tool, as crass as it sounds, so is it the opinion of this writing officer that the threat to a tool deserves death? Boyd died because an officer put himself in dan
ger.

Reader Norm Gagne writes:

These Nine Principles of Policing showed up in an NY Times story about the new New York Police Commissioner, Robert Bratton. Interesting reading in light of our current situation.

Another reader writes of APD:

So, according to the Journal, APD moved away from community policing because they are low on manpower. But the city has been saying repeatedly that they had enough officers. Now they say the officers are going from call to call. Another question is how is APD utilizing its officers? Are they inside on desk duty? Are those that have physical problems - medical leave - being allowed to work detective positions where the physical demands are less?]

A reader wants more cops on the street:

Supporters of APD should demand the Mayor Berry restore pay, sign a current collective bargaining agreement and restore the number of officers patrolling the street available to respond to calls for service. Supporters of APD should demand that only capable leaders are promoted, new training techniques implemented and accountability be held across all ranks. Mayor Berry's anti-union stance and uncooperative attitude has had a negative impact on morale and a damaging result in officer retention. It is time to end the partisan rhetoric and implement a pay raise the men and women of APD deserve. This needs to be the first step in restoring confidence and attracting and retaining quality officers.

And one more:

The supporters of this Mayor should demand that the numbers of officers be increased to start community based policing instead of the current pattern of reaction based response we are now seeing. We will not be able to attract new business to the area until APD regains the trust of the community and business owners. There are not enough officers available to do any proactive policing or make positive community contacts and interventions. Mayor Berry's practice of reverting money budgeted for vacant police officer positions into his pet projects is not an effective or efficient way to manage public safety resources.

GUV CHASE

The Democratic Governors Association is going to have to have some decent polling to get involved in the Guv's race here and so far it hasn't happened. That means no early infusion of cash to help out the Dem nominee following the June 3 primary. If state Dems are to nationalize the election against Gov. Martinez they will have to get the ball rolling on their own and post some polling numbers that would get DGA in. Meanwhile, the Republican Governors Assocation, Martinez's largest donor in the 2010 election, is expected to again help her shake the money tree.

WOMEN IN PRISON

A reader writes: 

Joe, New Mexico is losing population yet we are putting more women in prison and are being told we must now build a bigger prison for women. Is this the free market for corrections at work? Is this the only answer Susanna Martinez and the legislature can come up with to turn our economy around? Put more of our citizens in prison? How about not putting people in prison for stupid things? How about not keeping them there by judges setting bonds that are unreasonable? The bondsmen are doing wonderful, but that is not the economic boost that we need.

HOUSE ACTION

The battle for control of the NM House is well underway. In the thick of it is ABQ Dem Rep. Liz Thomson. She's serving her first term after taking her NE Heights seat away from Republican Conrad James in 2012. But in '14 James is going for a rematch. That has Thomson busy raising money. She writes to supporters:

In the coming months, the New Mexico House will be the target of right wing special interests looking to extend their reach beyond Washington D.C. Anti-union right-to-work groups and out of state oil producers are already spending thousands of dollars to fund Republican State House candidates.In 2012 I narrowly won my seat in House District 24 by 270 votes. It is the definition of a swing district- and as it goes, so goes the New Mexico House. This time around, I am going to need the help of supporters like you to fight back against the onslaught of special interest money.

The House is narrowly controlled by the Dems who have 37 members to the GOP's 33.

JEFF WATCH

Well, it appears we won't be watching her much anymore. Navajo Country Dem State Rep. Sandra Jeff lost her appeal before the NM Supreme Court and will not appear on the June 3 primary ballot. But Jeff watchers aren't completely out of luck. The renegade Dem says she will run as a write-in candidate in November. She will face off with the winner of the primary in her district which features two candidates who, unlike Jeff, submitted the proper number of petition signatures to make the ballot. No R has filed for the seat.

Jeff's chances of now keeping the seat are slim to none. That's happy news for Dems who fear she would have crossed over and caucused with the R's and threatened the speakership of Ken Martinez. Her appeal loss makes it more difficult for the GOP to take control of the House.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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