Commission Chair Gary Blount forgets taxpayers have every right to know how politicians spend our money. The spaceport spectacle has been wrapped in secrecy for years. Taxpayers STILL have no idea how much we’re paying for the Union Carbide property, or when the contract expires, what rocket might launch from it, how much the $10 million Environmental Liability Insurance Policy will cost us, and whether $10 million is enough.
In response to multiple Camden County Judges’ decisions this week against Chairman Blount and County Attorney John Myers, Blount made some preposterous claims:
Blount said: “The stakes are high, but voters should sign off on the county’s plans.” The Truth: No one, not even the Commissioners, can articulate “the county’s plans.” Every time they hit a roadblock, the “plans” change. We don’t know how much their “plans” will cost or how taxpayers will benefit from their “plans.” Even their Economic Summary documents were pure speculation base on specified outcomes, not real input data or real spaceport experience. Plans? We suspect spaceport promoters will now start name-dropping companies that really, really, really gotta have Spaceport Camden. Just ask yourself --- what kinds of companies would wait seven years for spaceport planners that always plan it wrong?
Blount said: “Do they want to surrender the recently awarded FAA license for Spaceport Camden…?” The Truth: The license does not allow Camden to do anything but to continue spending money that is needed elsewhere. It does not allow launches except for a tiny fictional rocket on a novel trajectory that no orbital rocket uses. It obligates taxpayers to the risks, liabilities, and expenses of owning the Union Carbide property that has NO economic value. That's exactly why Union Carbide still owns it. VOTE YES to keep it that way.
Blount said: “Do they want to surrender [. . .] the economic opportunity that accrues from this $450 billion industry?” The Truth: Blount knows that most of the worldwide space industry does not locate near spaceports. Blount knows that most of the worldwide space revenue is for information services with only a few percent coming from launch costs. Blount knows that no spaceport in the free world will have Spaceport Camden’s contingent liabilities of launching over American civilians and their homes, and over visitors to a National Park unit. Seven years of spaceport spending hasn’t brought Camden a single dollar or job from “this $450 billion industry.”
Blount said: “. . . do county residents want a diversified economy, increased STEM opportunities for students and new high-paying jobs?” The Truth: “diversified economy”: The authors of Spaceport Camden’s Economic Summary claim Camden County already has hundreds of “space industry” jobs that average $150,190 each but they cannot identify a single one of them. We do have more than 2,000 civilian STEM jobs in Camden County – one of the highest percentages of skilled workers for any County in Georgia. The US Census points out that we are higher educated, have lower poverty, and have more opportunity than much larger counties. “increased STEM opportunities”: Without a spaceport, our schools have done a great job training future scientists, teachers, technicians, artists, and leaders. Every career is a good career if it is the one you want. “and new high-paying jobs”: The Joint Development Authority cannot spend $100,000, much less $11,000,000, without knowing exactly how many jobs will be created. They demand a claw-back for the money if the jobs aren’t delivered as promised. The way Blount, Steve Howard, and the Camden County Commissioners have found to waste money on the spaceport demonstrates why we should leave economic development to the professionals. Mr. Blount, name those jobs you promise. We assume Blount has read the parts of the FAA’s license, the FAA’s final Record of Decision, and the Final Environmental Impact Statement demonstrating that Camden’s approved rocket exists only in someone’s imagination. The head of the FAA’s licensing department wrote:
Hey! Maybe a Camden High STEM graduate will start a rocket factory here with “new high-paying jobs” and build the first Camden Special rocket! Wouldn’t that be something?! But should taxpayers be on the hook?
Blount explained: With only 10% of eligible voters signing the petition, Blount pointed out that the majority of voters must learn how to showcase what the spaceport can offer to them.
The Truth: Spaceport Camden has spent nearly a million dollars on public relations, lobbyists, consultants, and websites trying to “showcase’ their spaceport. We’ve learned that Blount has no idea how the spaceport can repay taxpayers; he has no idea how much it will cost before the first rocket launches; he has no idea when that might be; he has no idea what the 10th or 25th job might be; or how much it will pay; or who will meet that payroll. So, who will voters learn from?
Petition circulators worked hard to reach more than 4,000 Camden voters. We did not employ PR spokespersons or employ taxpayer dollars on expensive, yet worthless studies. Petitioners used common sense and the evidence of failure provided by spaceport promoters who kept moving the goal-line. For instance, where are all those successful small rockets from Astra, Firefly, ABL, and Vector, all of which have orbited ZERO satellites?
Blount said: “The Department of Defense understands Spaceport Camden is critical for America’s national security and is already interested in the opportunities this project offers.”
The Truth: Does Blount really think we believe that? If the Department of Defense is “already interested” in Spaceport Camden, then let them buy it, just like they own Vandenberg, Cape Canaveral, and Kings Bay. The Department of Defen$e think$ in billion$, not million$. If they want it, it’s pocket change. And they’re the only ones who could afford the environmental cleanup bill.