Branson appealed to keep Homans’ job

The turmoil surrounding the management of Spaceport America in New Mexico has been relatively quiet the last couple of weeks, after the resignation of executive director Rick Homans at the insistence of the new governor, followed by the dismissal of the spaceport’s board of directors early this month. That situation is still in flux, the Las Cruces Sun-News reports this weekend, based on an interview with new Governor Susana Martinez. She tells the paper that there will be a “sense of urgency” (in the newspaper’s words) in filling the board and executive director positions, which remain vacant.

One revelation in the article is that Sir Richard Branson personally appealed to Gov. Martinez in a phone call to keep Homans on as executive director. Martinez, though, said she went ahead with plans to ask Homans to leave because she needed to better understand the current situation with the spaceport, including its contract with Virgin Galactic, and was finding it difficult to get those details. “What we want to do is get a hold of the contract (with Virgin Galactic) and make sure we know what the long-term commitment is financially,” she told the Sun-News. “They have not been very willing to share the very hard data of what is the state’s commitment long-term.”

6 comments to Branson appealed to keep Homans’ job

  • chance

    Not an unreasonable position to take, but I think it could have been handled a bit more smoothly.

  • Put politely, it appears that the Governor is dragging her heels on appointing a new Board and Director. A month into her term and she doesn’t have a copy of the contract with Virgin? Not plausible.

    Perhaps the point of this dissembling is to try to force a change in that contract so that Virgin pays more, the state pays little or nothing.

    However as I pointed out in “The Lurio Report” (Jan 26) the vast majority of state spending on the project is complete. So the whole thing looks like a posturing “Kabuki dance” to show her bona fides as fiscally responsible, by seizing upon the most visible large project in the state.

    To apply the same metaphor as I used in the Report, this show can only go on so far before it becomes the “Death By a Thousand Cuts” of the Spaceport.

    Governor, this political show has gone on too long. Please stop it.

  • Agreed, it looks like grandstanding to me. This project is so important to the future of the region and the state. I hope that someone can explain it to Gov. Martinez before she causes irreparable harm. Time is of the essence here – if we don’t get the site operational before VG needs it, Sir Richard will probably pick up his marbles (and his spaceships) and go elsewhere.

    If NM wants to earn money from the spaceport, NM needs to own it. If we need to own it, we need to pay for it.

    We have voted to pay for it. In return, Virgin Galactic has signed a 20-year lease, which pays back the entire cost of construction.

    If, somehow, “private industry” picks up some of the tab, then “private industry” will own some of the spaceport, and NM will get less of the profits (both economic and educational). Plus, a smaller say in the future direction and development of the spaceport site, which also leads to fewer benefits to NM and more to “private industry”.

    It seems very simple to me. I don’t see why our Governor doesn’t seem to understand this.

    It’s so easy to construct conspiracy theories, isn’t it?

  • Rick Homans

    Just to clarify — I did, actually, provide all the documents to the Martinez Administration. I have sent the following response to the Las Cruces Sun-News, and I include it below. I hope this helps to clear up some of the representations by Governor Martinez. I, too, am hopeful that the Governor will settle the unsettled issues quickly and move forward with the Spaceport America.

    NMSA provided information and documents to new Administration, contrary to claims by Governor Martinez

    By Rick Homans

    In your Sunday story, Governor Martinez declares that the Board of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority and me, its Executive Director, withheld information from her and the transition team.
    This allegation is wholly untruthful.
    In fact, I responded completely and timely to all requests for information and even sought out members of the new Administration to provide briefings and documents.
    I was thanked for my responsiveness by Mr. Sherman McCorkle, Chairman of the Spaceport Transition Team, Mr. Jon Barela, Secretary-designate of the Department of Economic Development (EDD), and Rick May, Secretary-designate of the Department of Finance and Administration (DFA).
    Rather than accuse me of improper activity as an excuse for her wholesale firing of the leadership of the NMSA, I would prefer it if Governor Martinez were honest and just said she wanted a change at the NMSA. Period.
    Here are the facts regarding the information I provided to Governor Martinez and her team.
    First, soon after Jon Barela’s appointment as Secretary of EDD on December 2, I called him with congratulations and offered to meet anytime to provide a full briefing.
    Second, on December 14th, I met in Santa Fe with Mr. May of DFA and the NMSA analyst, to provide a comprehensive, two-hour, power-point briefing. I had requested the meeting with Mr. May.
    Third, on December 15th, I received an email from the Spaceport Transition Team with about 25 questions. My staff and I compiled the answers and documents by the following afternoon and over-nighted the packages to individuals for whom we had physical addresses. I hand-delivered the two remaining packages to Mr. McCorkle’s office in Albuquerque on Friday.
    The email requested copies of Virgin Galactic’s business plan, as well as the Development Agreement and Facility Lease Agreement between the NMSA and Virgin Galactic.
    I informed Mr. McCorkle that these specific documents, because they had been declared confidential by attorneys for NMSA and Virgin Galactic, would have to be hand-delivered by me to Mr. Barela, since he would be the incoming Chairman of the NMSA. I said he would be entitled to review them and to share them with the Governor and other EDD staff.
    Fourth, after numerous attempts to reach Mr. Barela via phone and email, I met with him the following Tuesday, December 22nd, in Albuquerque. I
    hand-delivered a binder with the Virgin Business Plan and the two agreements. Mr. Barela started the meeting by saying he only had about 20 minutes. The meeting, however, lasted over an hour.
    Fifth, I met for two hours on December 30 in Albuquerque with members of the Spaceport Transition Team, including Mr. Barela and Ryan Cangliosi, now
    deputy chief of staff.
    The day before, I received a last-minute request from the transition team for additional documents. I provided that information by end of the day.
    The chairman of the NMSA board, Ben Woods, had also asked Mr. McCorkle if he could attend the meeting. This request was denied.
    In summary, I have responded quickly and thoroughly to absolutely
    every request for information that was made of me and the NMSA.
    I was surprised to read in a Sun-News story on December 30th that Governor-elect Martinez had claimed this information had been withheld from her and her staff. I gave her the benefit of the doubt and attributed that misstatement to poor communication between herself and Mr. Barela.
    I was offended, however, to again read this charge in your story this past Sunday. I hope I have corrected the record with my account of the facts above.

    Rick Homans was the founding Chairman of the Board of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority from 2005 to 2007, and was its executive director from July 1, 2010 through January 7th, 2011.

  • Thomas Matula

    When I was working with the spaceport task force in the 1990’s the Republican Administrations were the biggest stumbling block to progress. Indeed it was why the USAF lab had to fund the initial study. Unfortunately it looks like Gov. Martinez is continuing in that tradition.

  • D Moran

    The sad thing is that the spaceport is costing a fraction of only one of our three major sports stadiums in a single city, Houston. And the governor may be forgetting about potential revenue from tours of the facility outside of folks going into space. It is too bad that vision seems to be completely lost in modern American politics.

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>