The Silver State -- a suicidally cruel & unusual place


Expanded from the 5-6-2001 Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

At a press conference at the aptly-named Depression Deli in 1982, I said that Nevada would have to make a decision about her character. The options included either going forward or going retro. We could become an actual state with a real government which takes care of its constituents. Or we could plunge headlong toward the 19th century and return to our roots as a boomtown mining camp.

The answer has taken 20 years, but consensus now emerges -- Families enter at their peril. Bring on the drinks, the guns and the whores. Clear the suicide table and deal the cards.

We've been the national champions of self-destruction for more than a decade. Gov. Dudley Do-Right has made sure we will continue as number one. His budget cuts will disconnect suicide crisis lines all over the state. Suicide is such an appropriate metaphor that the whole fabric of our society can be viewed as unraveling into a rope with which we will hang ourselves.

Lawmakers and organizations have joined Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas, in recognizing that the state must revamp its tax structure to serve its people. Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Mark James, R-Las Vegas, last Wednesday said "I have sat on the senate floor for five sessions and I cannot tell you how many times I have listened to the senator from North Las Vegas speak on various subjects and rarely has my voice been in chorus with his because I have not agreed with him on a lot of things. But I cannot sit here today and allow him to stand and to speak on an issue like the one he just spoke on without adding my voice to his."

At the March hearing on Neal's gaming tax hike, the Nevada Women's Lobby endorsed Neal's proposal. Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas, voted with Neal to raise the world's lowest gross gaming tax on the state's largest casinos. Before the 2000 election, four prominent Nevada State Assembly members said they would be open to reviewing Nevada's tax structure with an eye toward increases.

The Progressive Leadership Allliance of Nevada (PLAN) testified that way in March and reiterated that position at a press conference last Thursday. This is a far cry from 1999 when only former Nevada Common Cause Chair Patricia Fladager and myself stepped forward to endorse Neal's demand that the gambling industry pay its fair share for a change.

Casinos have kept their taxes stagnant since 1987 while facilitating increases on everyone else. The Nevada teachers' union blew a golden opportunity to throw in with Neal. Instead of supporting his gaming tax hike initiative, the teachers cut a non-aggression pact with the gamblers and circulated a business income tax petition. The casinos let other interests do the dirty work and blow out the teachers petition in court.

Now, the wheels are about to come off the state's education and social services systems. Tribune columnist Bill Hanlon recently predicted that some of the 15 new schools under construction in Gomorrah South will be boarded up rather than open this fall. Gov. Guinn and Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, are pursuing a Nevada version of Ronald Reagan's "New Federalism," exempting themselves from blame by forcing counties and cities to raise property taxes and fees.

As usual, the books will get balanced on the backs of the physically and mentally disabled. That's what I decried during the Reagan Recession of 1981-82 and again a decade later during the Gulf War downturn caused by Dubya's Daddy. Democratic Gov. Bob Miller appointed his eventual successor, Kenny Guinn, to head a budget-slashing commission. Guinn promptly destroyed programs for the weakest among us. They've never recovered.

BANDAGES AND BANDIDOS -- Carson City is in jeopardy of falling for the same con Washoe County swallowed in 1985 when a corrupt group of public officials gave away (for $3 million) our $120 million county hospital. Carson-Tahoe Hospital is in danger of panic selling because of fear the Washoe octopus may expand and destroy it. Click here for the shabby story...SEE THE BARBWIRE ENERGY CRISIS WAR ROOM for commentary from one of my legislative spies about how Nevada utility ratepayers are being led like lemmings over a cliff on AB 661 (More below)...Also, how this area will get a new power plant this summer but derive no benefit.

IMPORTANT DATES: This afternoon at 5:00, the Alliance for Workers Rights holds its monthly meeting at the PLAN conference building, 1101 Riverside Drive, in Reno (just west of where Booth Street crosses the Truckee and dead-ends into Riverside). Congrats to AWR Executive Director (and PLAN President) Tom Stoneburner for his award from Nevada Hispanic Services. Stoney led the successful fight to provide interpreters at the state casual labor office in Sparks. TUESDAY, May 8 -- the Assembly Energy Committee hears AB 661. Sierra Pacific Powerful, casinos and mining interests want the bill amended to deregulate big users so that they can shop power providers while you and I get stuck paying astronomically higher rates. SATURDAY, May 19, also at the PLAN meeting hall, Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, the former consumer advocate who force-fed us utility deregulation in 1997 and had to eat it this year, will address the monthly meeting of the Nevada Utility Reform Alliance at 1:00 p.m. At 5:30 that same afternoon, tune in to KOLO TV-8's Nevada Newsmakers for some heavy duty crossfire. Host Sam Shad will be joined by TV-8 reporters Andrea Engleman and Dennis Myers, KKKOH Radio personality Rusty Humphries and me. I promise we shall...

Be well. Raise hell.

NevadaLabor.com | U-News | C.O.P. | Sen. Joe Neal
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© Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 32-year Nevadan, a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413 , editor of NevadaLabor.com and JoeNeal. org/ He managed Sen. Townsend's 1980 initiative petition which forced the 1981 Nevada Legislature to establish Nevada's first office of consumer advocacy. He lobbied the 1981 session on utility issues and coordinated intervention in five cases before federal and state utility regulatory bodies. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.

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