Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Christmas Day NM Space Party? "Santa" Branson Says It's So, Plus: Slicing Up The Space Pie, And: Fundraiser Updates On Mayor And Guv 

It's no secret that the colorful entrepreneur Richard Branson is given to hyperbole, but his latest boast may have pushed the envelope. Branson says Virgin Galactic now plans it's first launch of passengers into sub-orbital space from the New Mexico Spaceport on Christmas Day:

Virgin Galactic, the space tourism company co-owned by Abu Dhabi’s Aabar Investments, will stage its first flight on Christmas Day this year. Richard Branson, whose Virgin Group co-owns Virgin Galactic, said in Dubai that he would be on board the first public flight on December 25...The news follows the first successful test of SpaceShipTwo, which took off from a space port in the Mojave Desert in California on April 29.

No doubt progress is being made, but Branson has been predicting a lift-off every year for at least four years. We suspect this holiday deadline may also pass without much notice, but we do hope Santa grants his wish.


Meanwhile, we see that Aabar Investments in Abu Dubai now owns nearly 40% of Virgin Galactic and that they are pressuring Branson to build a Spaceport in the wealthy Middle East nation.

Branson's quote on this should be of interest to New Mexico policy makers because it indicates that the pie consisting of tourists who pay $200,000 to go into sub-orbital space is going to be cut up:

The British entrepreneur said he expected a space port in Abu Dhabi about two years after the launch of Virgin Galactic’s first commercial flight into space, which is billed for the end of this year from Spaceport America in New Mexico.

“The idea was to get the space program up and running in the U.S., which it will by the end of this year,” said Mr. Branson at an event for Virgin Mobile in Dubai. “Get the space port in New Mexico bedded down and then I think Abu Dhabi is likely to be the next place that we open a space port in. My guess would be it will take a couple of years.”

This may not be a New Mexico exit strategy already being crafted by Branson as some may fear, but the  lesson may be that if New Mexico is to compete,  it not only has to concentrate on the bricks and mortar of the actual Spaceport but start looking at the on-the-ground experience it provides potential space tourists.


ABQ area residents stuck in homes that are worth a lot less than what they paid for them will probably have to wait even longer before they break even. Real estate pros say it's quite simple--follow the jobs. When good-paying jobs come on line, housing prices and sales will get stronger. Right now, we're stuck:

The Albuquerque metro was dropped from the May list of metros in the Improving Markets Index...pointing to just how tenuous the housing recovery is here. Albuquerque was first listed in the index in February on the strength of increases in housing permits, home prices and a tiny uptick in overall employment. The index doesn’t explain why Albuquerque was dropped, but data show the continuation of a trend of net job losses and flat permits....Jim Folkman of the ABQ Homebuilders Association says: “...Sustainable growth in the housing market is nearly always driven by new job creation and, regrettably, we still lag behind other states in our geographic region..."


We're saying here that the noise is going to get louder in the next decade about the role of athletics at the state's two largest universities--UNM And NMSU--particularly the expensive football programs that are perennial laggards. It's getting louder:

Members of the New Mexico State University community are pushing back against Regents Chairman Mike Cheney’s public exhortation that Aggies support athletics, in particular the long-struggling football program. A petition on the website change.org urges the five member Board of Regents to “stop diverting funds from academics to support failing athletics programs.” The petition had been signed by more than 300 people, including alumni and current students, by Friday. Meanwhile, a letter...signed by nearly 100 faculty members, took aim at the struggling Aggie football team: “Supporting football disproportionately is unjustifiable.”


Mayor Berry's $500 a pop fund-raiser tomorrow sponsored by ABQ GOP attorney Paul Kennedy is worth a mention, As a defense attorney Kennedy has settled a number of lawsuits against the ABQ police department totaling millions of dollars. He remains active in suing the city in police abuse cases.

When both were in private practice, Kennedy shared law office space with Rob Perry, the city's current chief administrative officer who is in charge of the day-to-day running of city government--including  the city attorney's office where lawsuit settlements are discussed.

The Kennedy fund-raiser doesn't violate the city campaign law that bans contractors who do business with the city from donating to a mayoral campaign, but the connections are such it demonstrates why we always follow the money.

Meantime, the city ethics board has agreed to hold a hearing on a complaint against the mayor that claims he has violated the contractor ban.

And in related news....

The attorney for the family of ABQ civil rights attorney Mary Han, the longtime law partner of Paul Kennedy who police say committed suicide but whose family questions the circumstances of her death, says they are hiring private investigator Michael Corwin to look at Han's 2010 death at her ABQ North Valley home. The AP updated the case in March.


ABQ City Councilor Dan Lewis is seeking a second four year term on the council this year. He represents the West Side and his campaign says:

City Council President Dan Lewis, turned in over 750 petition signatures from registered voters in District 5 on Monday and 425 qualifying contributions to qualify for over $40,900 in public financing. Lewis far exceeded the 500 petition signatures required to be placed on the October ballot and the 400, $5 contributions required to qualify for public financing. Lewis completed both requirements in 19 two weeks ahead of the May 31st deadline.

Lewis is a Republican. Dem Eloise Gift has announced she is running for the Lewis seat.


It's well-known news that New Mexico's jobs record has been dismal during this post-recession period and while you can't blame it all on the sitting Governor, it is odd to hear her being called a "job creator" as she appears at out-of-state fundraisers:

Ohio Republicans will hold a statewide fundraising dinner this year, with New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez headlining the June 29 event. "I'm elated that Gov. Martinez will be the keynote speaker for our annual State Dinner," state Republican chairman-elect Matt Borges said. "She's a job creator, tax cutter, and was elected the first female governor of New Mexico and the nation's first Latina governor. I can't wait to meet her in person.

Martinez will take a 66% NM approval rating with her to Ohio, according to a SurveyUSA poll released by KOB-TV Monday night and conducted in the state May 14-17. In an ABQ Journal poll last September, the Guv scored a 69% approval rating. That's keeping Dem challengers away from her door and her on the road....

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