Wholly Noise

Expanded from the 7-10-2005 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune.
UPDATED 7-24-2005

Come, follow me, my children, as I take you from the den of iniquity to the holy of holies, from Wal-Mart to Sparks City Hall.

Tomorrow, the Sparks City Council will review various noise complaints and proposed remedies. They are walking smack dab into a First Amendment fight.

I'm not about to defend noise as free speech. To do so would endorse the likes of Self-Righteous Bill O'Reilly or Lush Rambo the Freedom-Loving Racist.

The council will arrive at no perfect solution to various noises in a growing community. The symphony of life in the Truckee Meadows has long been underscored by the dull roar of the freeway system.

If you want to live quietly in a no-growth area, head for Nebraska where you can buy a house for $60,000 which will be worth perhaps $40,000 by the time you die of boredom. (Be careful about Nebraska jokes. Their pro football team has just been scheduled to shuck and bake the UN,R Wolf Pack into a corn-sweetened West Cupcake State.)

If the city council is going to modify local noise ordinances, I'm afraid the first place it must look is the ban on Sunday construction. Sunday restrictions are primarily religious in origin, a governmental establishment of religion.

Depending on which end of the telescope you prefer, Gomorrah South is way ahead of us or behind us. Last year, the Las Vegas City Council passed a ban on Sunday new car sales, just as Clark County did in 2001 when it was criticized as blatantly anti-competitive.

For some bizarre reason, Sunday used car sales are still cool. [1] Maybe Las Vegas sees a need for busted tourists to hock their wheels for enough to get a bus ticket out of town after a rough Saturday night. Who'da thunk that when they advertised "what happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas," they meant leaving behind your car as well as your money and your marriage? [2]

The local cacophony over cacophony was brought to a head by the multi-headed Arkansas monster that devoured the world. No, not them, dammit – I mean the ubiquitous and iniquitous Wal-Mart.

As reporter Peter Schelden so admirably covered in last Sunday's Tribune, apparently the world's largest retailer is up to its familiar tricks as it builds on the busy Pyramid Lake Highway. The razorbacked beast thinks nothing of bending or breaking the law. [3] (See the Wal-Mart War Room at NevadaLabor.com.)

"In a letter to the Sparks Planning Commission dated Jan. 11, 2004, about 25 residents asked for building restrictions, including an eight-foot brick wall to separate residences from the Wal-Mart store and its parking lot," Mr. Schelden wrote last Sunday.

"Basically, everything that we asked for isn't happening," Sparks resident Suzann Howard told Schelden. "Street lights are going to be glaring into our windows. We weren't given a privacy wall. The only thing they're doing is giving us 15 feet and a line of trees. We have the mega Super Wal-Mart moving in next to us with a huge parking lot and they're just taking advantage of us. It's just awful," she added.

"' Wednesday night, it was 11 o'clock at night and they were out there fired up with lights on,' Howard said. 'My husband was yelling at them from the balcony. They kept it up for another hour. It was awful. They're working every Sunday. They're working at night. Nobody really seems to want to listen,' " she told the Tribune.

Last April, Sparks councilcritters suspended enforcement of a noise ordinance and began a series of community meetings. The report before the council tomorrow illuminates the controversy. (Note to the city manager: Please consider providing important council meeting documents to the public via the city's website, as Reno has long done. That's not to say I don't enjoy my visits to city hall.)

Several people at the hearings said the same thing: It's okay to put in place regulations regarding time, place and manner of work, but the city will have a hard time singling out construction noise.

At the May 18 hearing, "a construction worker said that this is a noise problem…he thinks that noise should be addressed, not construction as a whole…(Another) man said…he feels this is unfair. He believes it is his God-given right to work on Sundays."

With all due respect, that gentleman needs to re-read the 10 Commandments, but he raises a substantial point. Sunday is a Christian day of religious observance. Moslems and Jews respect the more ancient Saturday sabbath. I don't see how the council can construct a Sunday ban which will withstand a court challenge. (Then again, Dubya has barely begun stacking the U.S. Supreme Court.)

This will come as little comfort to some people who spoke at the June 1 hearing: "A member of the construction industry said that he believes that people will not be happy when (they) find out that they cannot install a deck on Sunday…A Vista (Blvd.) resident said that she has lived in a construction zone for eight years and that the only time during the eight years that she has not had triples on her street has been on Sundays. She said that when they try to take that away from her, she becomes concerned."


Sparks to continue not enforcing ordinance on construction hours

Reno Gazette-Journal 7-12-2005

Some rightly pointed out that governmental entities can work whenever they want, only private construction faces restriction. On May 11, a citizen noted "it is OK for a person to work on their car anytime they want, but it is not OK to work on a deck or a roof."

The minutes note that Councilman Ron Schmidt pointed out "it was never the City Council's intention to prohibit homeowners from working and that they are willing to change the ordinance now."

Noise is noise. A guy working on his engine and revving loud in his driveway can be just as noisy as construction. Climate makes the Nevada construction season very short. Councilmembers must make sure whatever they do will survive a court challenge. That may well mean putting in standards for noise in general. Sundays may prove a more nettlesome question. Stay tuned.

CONCRETE PROGRESS. It's no secret that little Fernley just down the Truckee in Lyon County ain't so little no more. The Laborers and Teamsters union members at Lady Bird Johnson's Nevada Cement may soon have company.

The Teamsters Graphic Communications Conference is campaigning to represent 219 printers, production and maintenance workers at Quebecor's huge Fernley printing operation. Employees vote on July 14 and 15. For updates, watch NevadaLabor.com.

Be well. Raise hell.


(1) Sunday car sales banned throughout Gomorrah South
       Las Vegas Review-Journal 6-3-2004

(2) What happens in Vegas...stays skulduggerous:

       JOHN L. SMITH: Ex-councilman doesn't like Las Vegans losing their shirts in $1 deal
      Las Vegas Review Journal 7-15-2005

       Columnist Jeff German: LVCVA giveaway excuses must stop
       Las Vegas Sun 7-9/10-2005

       Columnist Jeff German: Putting a spin on slogan tale
       Las Vegas Sun 7-8-2005

       Tourism bureaus say slogan deal unusual
       Las Vegas Sun 7-7-2005

(3) BARBWIRE Special Late-Night Extra Edition — Bring on the Hog Ranch


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Copyright © 2005 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 36-year Nevadan and editor of NevadaLabor.com. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.

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