Man tires of waiting for Virgin Galactic, gets (partial) refund

In October of 2022, New Mexico’s Spaceport America hit its 11th anniversary of being open. Alas, it’s prime tenant Virgin Galactic has failed to launch a single paying customer during that time.

One customer finally said “enough.” He asked for and received a refund of his $175,000 back from the company. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, a Mr. Shefket Chapadjiev paid Virgin $175,000 back in 2007 for a ticket to space. He’s now 84 years old and in poor health.

Echoing the comments of the Rio Grande Foundation, Chapadjiev, a native of Bulgaria, told the paper, “This has been for 15 years, and always we’re supposed to be flying next year, next year, people from Bulgaria keep asking me, ‘What happened?”

Chapadjiev says his refund from Virgin Galactic came minus 10% of the amount he paid.

Shefket Chapadjiev, 84, wearing a jacket he received from Virgin Galactic while waiting — in vain, as things turned out — more than a decade for a hoped-for trip to space on a commercial spaceflight.

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RGF considers Think New Mexico’s education reform report

The Rio Grande Foundation often works with Think New Mexico. From RGF’s perspective Think New Mexico is a politically-centrist think tank working here in New Mexico. Sometimes we agree with them and sometimes we don’t, but their latest report is on K-12 education policy (an issue we work on) and, since New Mexico will be a “blue” state for at least another two years, it is more likely that centrist ideas rather than conservative ones will get traction in the Legislature.

There are 10 proposals, all of them are thoughtful and open to consideration. A few are questionable from RGF’s perspective such as adding time to the school year. It seems like a lot of schools waste a lot of time they already have in the classroom. We’d like to see evidence that more time will be used effectively. Going to a “balanced” school year also has merit, but for young people working summer jobs, it MAY not make sense. It would seem there should be options.

Improving teacher and principal training including residencies sounds like a great ideas, but again, we want to see data that this has been effective elsewhere and it needs to be tracked, if implemented in NM, in some ongoing way.

Small schools and districts make sense, but we’re not sure about smaller class sizes. Making it easier for charter schools to be organized and operate is also a good thing as would a more rigorous curriculum. We question whether student assessments can be depoliticized though. Same for revamping colleges of education.

Finally, improving school board quality seems like a good idea, but the additional training, disclosures, and transparency may make it even more difficult to find people willing to serve in some rural communities.

So, since RGF supports many of the recommendations in this report, why isn’t it OUR report? For starters, the report mentions Mississippi’s success in turning their education results around. We have what they did and see that as a simpler starting point. It is ALSO largely the same plan as what Susana Martinez TRIED to implement in New Mexico, but failed due to legislative opposition.

Finally, WE believe that this Legislature (and Gov.) are too beholden to the status quo unions to do anything substantial to improve K-12 education in NM. Sadly, that will require a sea change especially in the Legislature. Our view is that IF/WHEN that sea change comes, we’d rather just do what Arizona and West Virginia have done and allow education $$ to follow the child. Parental accountability is the best accountability.

That being said, Think New Mexico’s report is a solid and worthwhile contribution to the education reform conversation in New Mexico.


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A disappointing election night for NM conservatives

Rarely have their been more compelling differences between the two major political parties in the United States in an election than there were in 2022. While the national GOP seems poised to take the House, it is likely that control of the US Senate will head to a runoff. In New Mexico Democrats held their big majority in the House while MLG held off a strong challenge by Mark Ronchetti and won all of the relevant statewide races.

What happened?

Was it abortion? Was it Trump’s election denials (nationally) and the candidates he backed in certain races? Was it just the fact that the nation is evenly split and New Mexico is a blue state and has been for decades and thus, in what proved to be a non-wave election, Democrats won big (again)?

It seems like all of the above are true.

For starters, it is worth noting that New Mexico is a BLUE state and has been for many years. In a “red wave” election Ronchetti and Republicans had a chance, but 2022 turned out to be a mediocre year nationally for GOP candidates and just the latest tough year here in NM.

What’s next?

We have a 60 day session in January. A new Democrat will take over as Speaker of the House. It is not going to be easy. If the GOP has a solid presidential nominee in 2024 there could be some good changes to the New Mexico Legislature. All of them are up for election then.

In the meantime, the Rio Grande Foundation will both continue and expand upon its efforts to do much needed education of the citizens of New Mexico on economic and education policy issues and what New Mexico needs to do to thrive.

Red wave turns out to be a trickle | The Seattle Times

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“Environmentalist” consultants pull “cost” of global warming in New Mexico out of thin air

A new report attempts to tally the supposed cost of climate change in New Mexico and around the nation. Here’s the full report and here’s an article about the report. The author recently presented to the Legislature’s Revenue Stabilization and Tax Policy Committee.

If readers are hoping for some fancy, detailed, and halfway convincing analysis of various disasters and whether all or part of them were the result of global warming/climate change, you’ll be sadly mistaken.

The report simply claims that “Weather-based disasters and duress have cost New Mexico $5.3 billion in the past 42 years while nationally, extreme weather events caused $150 billion in damage in the past year alone.”

How much of this is driven by “climate change” as opposed to natural deviations in the weather? Who knows? What are the costs and tradeoffs of the “energy transition” our Gov. has planned for us? Again, no information is provided. How about the fact that over the years more people live and build businesses along coastlines and into the mountains, thus making them vulnerable to floods and other disasters.

What is left unsaid is how greater economic prosperity has allowed humans to deal with climate issues, thus preventing deaths.

The Collapse of Climate-Related Deaths - HumanProgress

Candid analysis of the costs and tradeoffs of various environmental policies and what impacts foreign countries and their public policies are having are all worth study, but this isn’t the report for that.



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New Mexico education reform: why not just “do” Mississippi?

At Rio Grande Foundation we have closely followed Mississippi’s recent education success.  As we noted we discuss in a blog post AND our podcast (to name two) Mississippi largely followed the plan put forth by former Gov. Susana Martinez which was NEVER implemented by New Mexico’s Democrat-controlled Legislature.

We’re not the only New Mexico think tank to find Mississippi intriguing, Think New Mexico’s latest report also takes on New Mexico’s broken K-12 education system and cites positive results in Mississippi as a model to consider. With the horrendous recent NAEP scores in which New Mexico was dead last in all categories, it certainly seems worth considering.

The latest NAEP 4th grade reading scores further highlight the stark contrast between Mississippi’s success and New Mexico’s failure.


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Report shows Albuquerque (and other cities) are wasting resources by “recycling” plastic

A new report from Greenpeace released this week calls plastic “recycling” a myth and finds that of 51 million tons of plastic waste US households generated in 2021, just 5 percent was recycled.

How does this affect YOU? For starters, Albuquerque’s Solid Waste Department spends considerable resources collecting “recyclables” including plastic. According to the Department the cost of the recycling program rose 900% in two years. That has resulted in higher fees on Albuquerque residents.

With such low recycling rates for plastic it would seem there is little point to the effort. This is especially true since aluminum is worth actual money. Why waste time and effort working to recycle something that is basically un-recyclable when aluminum is easily recycled and can generate 44 cents/lb?

It’s time for the City of Albuquerque to follow price signals by abandoning plastic recycling.

collection of empty used plastic bottles on white background. each one is shot separatelySustainability Measures and Government Regulations to Bolster Aluminium  Recycling | Aranca

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Tipping Point NM episode 451: Conflicting Polls, Key Race Predictions, Low Test Scores, Environmental Success Story, Keller increases political positions in CABQ

With a week to go before the 2022 election the ABQ Journal released their poll which has MLG up 8. There is another poll from Emerson that finds a much narrower race. The latest Emerson poll puts Herrell in the lead. The Journal has a fairly tight race between Michelle Garcia Holmes and Melanie Stansbury. Interestingly the Journal has Herrell losing. Paul and Wally discuss the challenges of polling and how this election is going to impact the credibility of certain pollsters.

Paul and Wally make their own predictions regarding some top New Mexico and national races.

Paul recently undertook an in depth analysis of the recent NAEP scores to figure out if lockdowns impacted learning. There is certainly some correlation there: (Math analysis & Reading Analysis)

RGF has released a new tool to allow the public to engage with candidates.

There is an environmental success story that has received little attention and environmentalists don’t seem to care about.

According to a new audit Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller has massively padded the City of Albuquerque’s payroll, specifically political or “unclassified” positions.

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Early childhood “success” based on what?

One of the most frustrating aspects of New Mexico public policy is politicians  and their sycophants who claim success for some government program or another without evidence.

Elizabeth Groginsky, MLG’s Secretary of Early Childhood Education and Care is the latest New Mexico bureaucrat to do this with her new opinion piece in the Albuquerque Journal. The Secretary makes all manner of arguments for “bold investments” in early childhood education. The problem is that New Mexico has been making such “bold” investments for a decade (see chart below).

New Mexico lawmakers cautious on early childhood funding, even though cash rich - New Mexico In Depth

Rather than relying on a bunch of studies that purport to show this spending has been a success, it would seem that after a decade we’d have some positive REAL academic outcomes from those 0-5 year olds who are now students in New Mexico’s K-12 system (there should be plenty of current 4th graders who went through New Mexico’s pre-K program).

Unfortunately, as we discussed recently, the NAEP scores that just came out (which tested both 4th graders and 8th graders) were disastrous. It’s easy to spend more money on government programs. It’s considerably more difficult to achieve results.

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