Residents of Otero County, New Mexico, to vote on Spaceport America today

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Here's a story that isn't a real attention-grabber in the election today, but will become more important as time goes on (that is, once it's constructed) if the spaceport is approved by residents.

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico – New Mexico's bid to build Spaceport America gets voter scrutiny this week, with Otero County residents being asked to approve a one-eighth of one percent increase in sales tax to help support development of the commercial inland spaceport.

Voters in neighboring Sierra and Dona Ana counties have previously approved a Spaceport Gross Receipts Tax – with tomorrow's balloting in Otero County viewed as a step toward tagging New Mexico as a gateway to space.

Spaceport America is to be a expansive complex to be constructed inside 27 square miles of state-owned land, 45 miles north of Las Cruces, New Mexico. To get up and operating, the spaceport's price tag is an initial $198 million – not to exceed $225 million as stipulated by the state's legislature.

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson made a political flyby here Oct. 24 during the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge. He urged all the residents of Otero County to vote go for Spaceport America.

"It'll be close," Richardson later told "But you know we came from behind in Dona Ana...we came from behind in Sierra. This is not a partisan vote. It's a vote about jobs, education and the future."
Richardson was my favourite Democratic candidate during the primaries (even though I knew he wouldn't win) precisely because of his personal interest in space and the way he has taken the initiative in turning New Mexico into a new centre for private spaceflight.

One other technology-related proposition today is proposition 1A in California. This newspaper (The Press Democrat) recommends it:

Proposition 1A: High-speed rail -- YES

Imagine getting from San Francisco to Los Angeles by train in 2½ hours for about $50. High-speed rail is efficient, environmentally friendly and less expensive than air travel. It also will help get the state's economy going by creating jobs and creating new business opportunities.

I recommend it too. Both of these propositions are about the long term, and a decade or two later when flights to and from space from Spaceport America are a daily occurrence and high-speed rail connects cities in California, the decision will be seen to have been a no-brainer.


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