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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Bring On The Coalition: The Way Out Of The Driver's License Mess Is Obvious But Not Easy, Plus: ABQ Crime Beat And Spaceport Counterpoint; Problems Persist 

Rep. Pacheco
ABQ GOP State Rep. Paul Pacheco argues that he has worked hard to get Gov. Martinez to compromise on driver's licenses for undocumented New Mexicans and it's time to approve "driving privilege cards" for the undocumented but no licenses.  But Pacheco conveniently forgets that a majority of Republicans in the state Senate--11 of them--voted last year for another compromise that Democrats also supported. It sailed through the Senate but was buried in the GOP-controlled House. That measure allowed the undocumented to have licenses (not cards) but ones that would not comply with federal Real ID requirements.

The way out is simple, if not realistic, given the lockstep nature of the House Republicans. If only three of them joined the 33 House Dems in supporting a two-tiered license system we would have a bill on the way to the Governor. Would she sign such a compromise that had at least some bipartisan support in each chamber? She'd have a hard time saying no, given the level of frustration over the long-running dispute.

It's how the federal government got a budget recently--some R's in the House majority voted with the Dems--leaving the radical Republicans in the dust. The question is if anyone has the guts in that House GOP caucus in Santa Fe to do the same?

How about you, Rep. Dianne Hamilton? If the speculation is true that you're retiring from the House, you can sign up for the compromise. Now we're down to two. Since you're negotiation skills with the Governor proved somewhat fruitful, Rep. Pacheco, we leave it to you to round up two more R's and put this issue behind New Mexicans once and for all. (Or maybe just one more R, if you go for the coalition compromise).

THE CRIME BEAT

A reader writes of the spike in the number of homeowners shooting and killing criminal suspects in their homes:

It should come as no surprise that Albuquerque citizens are arming themselves and that self-defense shootings have increased dramatically. Since Mayor Berry was first elected in 2009 Albuquerque’s violent and property crime rates have increased by 14%. In 2015, murders spiked by 53% with citizens literally being killed in their driveways or in their homes. Do not expect things to improve any time soon with people choosing to protect themselves with their guns instead of calling 911 for the police. APD averages 15 minutes to dispatch a police officer to a 911 emergency call. By the time a police officer arrives at a scene after you call for 911 for help, you just may be seriously injured or dead. APD has only 404 sworn officers assigned to the field services responding to 69,000 priority one 911 emergency calls a year. Expect things to only get worse thanks to Berry and APD Chief Eden's mismanagement of a once great police department.

THE SPACEPORT BLUES

Christine Anderson
Reader Brent Eastwood is a political scientist specializing in international affairs who is an avid follower of the NM Spaceport. He writes again from DC with the latest developments and his reaction:

Joe: If you remember my last complaint, that the NM Spaceport America website featured untruths, misleading statements and flat-out whoppers, well, here we go again.

Claim One: “We are the home to Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo.”

Not according to Virgin head Richard Branson. Uh, there’s been a change of plans. Again.

Sir Richard said on January 4, 2016, that he wants to support a new bid to become the main tenant of a Spaceport in the United Kingdom. Yes, the British Government is building a new spaceport in England and Branson wants to “operate its SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle from a future British spaceport.”

So either the spacecraft stay in Mojave, California or they get shipped to England, and New Mexico never sees them launch.

One week later, NM Spaceport Executive Director Christine Anderson said that Branson’s remarks about the British Spaceport were “simply a slip of the tongue.” http://spaceportamerica.com/press-release/spaceport-america-q-a-with-christine-anderson/

I guess we are to conclude that this was a Freudian slip. Anderson said they were asking for a “correction to the news article,” even though it was covered in numerous media outlets and all indications were that Branson was indeed sincere about his yearnings to launch from England. This “blame the journalist” charade is getting kind of old, don’t you think?

Claim Two: “We are also home to SpaceX’s Falcon 9R.”

Still misleading and inaccurate; still not corrected.

If and it’s a big If, if, SpaceX ever lands one of its “recycled” rocket boosters on one of the floating barge /drone ships that it is operating, the NM Spaceport will get to “test” the recovered booster in New Mexico. The only problem is that SpaceX has failed to land the booster successfully on any of its floating barges. Unfortunately, they failed the mission again on a barge in the Pacific Ocean (Sunday the 17th). The “hard landing broke the landing leg,” according to SpaceX’s Elon Musk. So again, we wait and wait for another big-name pseudo-tenant to get its act together.

Claim Three: “Give us another $2 million and we will be build the critical and essential southern access road.”

Still no construction on this “road to nowhere,” and according to Anderson, the project is still not out to bid! Here is her latest “dog ate my homework” explanation…

Doña Ana County road engineers have completed the road design and it has been submitted to the BLM. The draft Environmental Assessment is being prepared by Spaceport America environmental contractors and should be delivered to the BLM on Jan. 8. The EA will be made public for a 30-day review on the BLM’s website. If all goes smoothly, it is expected DAC can release the Request for Proposals in mid-May with an award in July 2016.

Huh? It’s the usual stuff. Lots of acronyms and bureaucratese, lots of promises, lots of excuses, lots of “trust me” and zero results.

Claim Four: “Just give us more money.”

Yep you guessed it. She wants more money because there is a shortfall in her operating budget. She’s asking for another $2.8 million from the legislature this session. Anderson is calling this a “bridge” year. That’s right. Another bridge year until the Virgin spacecraft fly. She promises that this will happen in 2018. I think this qualifies the whole project as a “bridge to nowhere.”

The arguments of Spaceport Director Anderson can be found here.

UNPRECEDENTED

Reader Steve Cobble writes from DC in reaction to our calling the state's loss of population for two years in a row "unprecedented":

Joe, You're right about the unprecedented nature of New Mexico's population exodus. The last time the Land of Enchantment lost population that badly was probably when the Pueblo Revolt threw the Spanish out in 1680! 

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