With friends like these, who needs enemies?
From the 6-18-00 Sparks (Nev.) Tribune
One man plus the truth constitutes a majority.
--Jack Tell, founding publisher of The Las Vegas Israelite
I stand with Joe Neal because the senator stands for justice. The blindfolded lady holding the scales is often very cold and lonely company.
For anyone just back from six years in Siberia, you need to know that the seven-term North Las Vegas Democrat has uttered the unspeakable: he wants to raise the taxes of Nevada's casino plantation overlords and ease them on the worker bees.
The gambling-industrial complex has done a masterful job thus far of vilifying and demonizing this kind and generous man.
So all-powerful are the casino kings that they have ordered many of Neal's best friends to turn on him.
Much of it is understandable. Small non-profit organizations look to casinos for a few hundred bucks every now and then and think that's big money. Actually, the gamblers give crumbs to their communities, taking much more than they give. But a thimbleful of wheatmold is manna from heaven to the starving.
Neal has had his share of endorsements from politicians and press pundits around the state. Their comments are posted on his website.
But many of those who support him have turned their backs. Gov. Dudley Do-Right openly threatened recriminations against anyone supporting Neal's initiative.
A couple of dozen members resigned from the Nevada Highway Patrol Association after Gov. Guinn made threats in person. NHP troopers are the lowest paid cops in the state. A starting teacher and a freshman trooper begin at about the same pay, $26,000 a year, for jobs which both carry the risk of armed assault.
Should Neal's proposal to increase the world's lowest gaming tax pass at the polls in 2002, it will provide more money for education, highway patrol salaries, economic diversification, gambling industry audits and gambling addiction programs. It will also substantially reduce Nevada's exorbitant auto registration fees.
The fattest casinos would leave a larger portion of their billion-dollar annual profits at home rather than investing in California or paying federal taxes.
A sensational Nevada Commission on Economic Development study has proven Neal's assertion that gaming does not pay a fair share for the growth it causes. The research points the finger at low wage gaming jobs as the reason the state can't pay its bills.
As a result of the state's inability to keep up with growth and the community costs of a stingy major industry, municipalities all over the state are looking at raising taxes.
The gamblers, enjoying the fullest cooperation of their Carson City legislative subsidiary, have facilitated tax increases on everyone but themselves since the gross gaming tax was last raised a pittance in 1987.
They have already spent millions trying to convince every Nevadan not to sign Neal's tax increase petition, which would merely allow voters to decide the issue at the polls. Public opinion surveys for many years have shown about seven in ten citizens favoring an increase.
Gov. Guinn and many others have trashed government by petition, which happens to be a right guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Las Vegans remember when the guv was a strong advocate of raising local taxes at the polls.
The Nevada teachers union has apparently made a deal with the devil. Rather than support Neal, it is circulating its own petition for an income tax on all businesses which will leave gaming almost untouched and kill Neal's proposal at the same time. Gov. Dudley Do-Right is leaning strongly toward a sales tax on services such as laundry and auto repair.
How powerful and ruthless is the industry campaign? Here are but a few examples of their fearmongering.
1. Small counties will lose their health clinics, see other essential services cut and permanently lose control of their own affairs to Las Vegas.
2. All Nevada casinos will close their doors. (I have a fair offer. Give me the keys. I'll find a way to manage.)
3. High rise construction in Las Vegas will become a thing of the past, especially in light of the threat of California tribal gambling (funded by Nevada casinos).
4. Elko will lose its charter airline, all its casinos and all their jobs.
The gamblers have also mounted a blank check challenge to Neal in the North Las Vegas Democratic primary. A casino crony ad agency has been hired and the unknown candidate himself admitted to the Las Vegas Business Press that if he beats Joe Neal, he'll never have to work again.
Neal's allies in the labor movement have been split on the issue, largely as a result of responding to emotional appeals from the industry without analyzing the facts. Neal's strongest labor support is here in northern Nevada.
Nonetheless, unions which oppose his petition support his re-election because he has been the Nevada worker's strongest advocate for three decades.
Sen. Neal will once again step into the lion's den this Wednesday at noon at the Atlantis Hotel-Casino in Reno. He will speak at a luncheon hosted by the political action committee of the Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce.
Tickets are $50, proceeds of which will go to fight the Neal and teacher initiatives. Those not wanting to donate against Neal can attend for $20 each. Sen. Neal has also reserved a limited number of no-charge seats for those on limited or fixed incomes. Contact me by Monday if you want to attend.
You will witness Nevada history in the making.
POETIC JUSTICE UPDATE: The establishment was rocked to its greedy foundations the day after this column ran. The Las Vegas Review Journal disclosed the results of its statewide poll showing Neal's petition proposal unscathed by the gaming industry disinformation campaign. Nevada voters would approve it today in a landslide, 63 percent to 26 percent. The teachers' union proposal, however, was termed "dead on arrival" by the newspaper's pollster.
Be well. Raise hell.
© Andrew Barbano
Andrew Barbano is a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of U-News, where the past four years of columns may be accessed. He manages Sen. Neal's website. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.
Site maintained by Deciding Factors
Comments and suggestions appreciated