Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Meet George Jetson?

In a couple of weeks, voters in Las Cruces, NM and surrounding Dona Ana County will have to decide an interesting question: Should they approve an increase in their sales tax? OK, what's so interesting about the sales tax? Well, the bulk of the additional $6.5 million a year that would be raised is slated to be used to help finance the building of Spaceport America.

Spaceport America?

If it is built, Spaceport America will serve as a portal for those of us who want to travel into space for some reason--tourism, research, exploration, maybe even long-distance commuting. (Think Beijing in two hours...)

This is space travel as a private venture, jumpstarted by entrepreneurs who have made their billions in companies like Amazon.com, PayPal, Budget Suites, and Microsoft. These entrepreneurs have already demonstrated their ability to launch rockets hundreds of miles into space. And they have the potential to do manned space travel at a much lower cost (and with greater safety) than the soon-to-be-retired Space Shuttle.

Southern New Mexico, it is important to note, is not alone in vying to be an outpost for this fledgling industry. Plans are also underway in states such as Virginia, Florida, California, and Texas. Which brings us back to the referendum...

The influx of taxpayer money is essential to get the Spaceport America project off the ground. There is plenty of support for it, from Governor Richardson (who, by the way, is running for president) on down. But there is also plenty of opposition among locals, who fear being burdened with higher taxes for what is a very risky proposition. (By the way, this is one of the poorest areas in the entire United States.)

So would you vote for or against the tax? Do you think it will pass or fail? Here is what one panel of experts says:

Z-man: He would vote for it and thinks it will pass. (Mostly, he just wants to get on one of the rockets...)

Julie: She would vote for it and thinks it will fail. (She definitely does not want to go into space...)

Desi: She would vote for it and thinks it will fail. (I'm not sure why she would vote for it. In discussions, she seemed completely skeptical about the notion of regular, private space travel.)

Steve: I would vote against it and think it will pass. (My guess is that the pro-Spaceport America side is better funded and will be able to get its message out better...not to mention get out the vote on April 3rd.)

Come election day, with me predicting something different than at least some of the gang, we all will probably be reminded just how bad a forecaster this lowly political scientist is!

~Steve

PS: Speaking of forecasting, I rose dramatically in the ESPN.com tournament challenge this past weekend. With three of my four Final Four teams making it, I am now at the 46.4 percent mark, tantalizingly close to the median (which has been my goal since that dreadful first weekend showing).

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