Burning down the house
Expanded from the 9-30-2007 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune
Updated 10-1-2007

During the influence-buying scandals of the Clinton years, which now seem picayune by the far lower standards of Dubya and his dunces, Asian businessmen and government officials marveled at how cheap it was to buy U.S. politicians.

While U.S.-installed puppet President Suharto ruled Indonesia, no American company could hope to do business there unless it made a member of the Suharto family a part owner. Now that's corruption on an entrepreneurial level which Wall Street respected.

I would respect our local leaders more if they didn’t sell us out for so little – and endanger our lives in the process. Here are but a few recent examples.

THE USUAL GANG OF IDIOTS (with apologies to the staff at Mad magazine). The Washoe County Commission has done it again. These are the same guys who last year broke their commitment to acquire the Ballardini Ranch and in the process gave away $13.5 million in taxpayer dollars. This was in the finest tradition of their 1985 predecessors who gave away Washoe Medical Center to the current crop of bandidos who are running Renown into the ground. (Congratulations to the majority of 900 Renown/Washoe Med nurses who voted [491, a landslide of almost 70 percent yes, vs. 213 no] last week to continue group representation through Service Employees International Union Local 1107.)

Last week, the county commission couldn't move fast enough to turn over $27 million in auto rental taxes to the megamillionaire developers of the downtown Reno baseball stadium. The Reno City Council already approved the project despite serious deficiencies.

The Reno fire chief, probably under pressure from City Manager Charles McNeely and his councilcritter bosses, has been wussy in making fire safety the issue.

The $91.5 million stadium deal includes $10 million to relocate the downtown Reno fire station and $6 million to acquire the RTC/Citifare bus station, but little or no mention has been made of the costs of rebuilding new facilities. The bus station stands on donated federal land purchased with federal transportation money. The feds could ask for their entire investment back according to reports published a few years back, but not in the recent news flow.

The fire station deal is far worse. Reno Firefighters Local 731 estimates the cost of replacing the fire station at a whopping $23 million.

Worse, a location must be found in the next 10 days, as the city wants to start bulldozing for baseball in January.

Where's the other $13 million supposed to come from? I think they will nominate thee and me.

The dollar considerations are secondary. Firefighters raise serious questions about safety in the entire downtown core, from the casino district to the fairgrounds to Plumb Lane if the downtown Reno facility is closed without a strategically effective replacement.

If the county commission and city council had exercised any due diligence for public safety, they might have asked some hard questions after being made aware of these issues by firefighters. But they haven't, so tourists and downtown condo-apartment dwellers should be forewarned that in case of fire, they are largely on their own.

The height of irony will come when the baseball stadium is used as an emergency shelter for those displaced by a fire for which adequate response was not possible.

CAR TALK. The United Auto Workers should vote down the new deal proposed by General Motors. It echoes what happened to pension plans, both union and not, over 50 years ago. Although the money was 100 percent worker funds, control was split between labor and management. Then along came corporate raiders like Clinton-pardonee Marc Rich who looted pension plans before escaping to Switzerland.

The UAW seems poised to accept a deal to slough off GM's obligations at a big discount.

"GM expects auto workers, including retirees, to pay for the costs of corporate mistakes and bad public policy," writes In These Times editor David Moberg at Truthout.org.

"The retired workers will bear the risks of the new health trust, even though they have already paid for the benefits now being placed in jeopardy," Moberg notes.

That's exactly what happened with underfunded, management-skimmed pensions.

CABELLYUP. The Reno City Council, with Jessica Sferrazza as usual the lone voice of dissent, last Wednesday voted to give Cabela's sporting goods over $34 million in taxpayer money. She noted that there is nothing in the agreement to make Cabela's live up to its promise of 250 new jobs.

Remember their promise to attract three million new tourists? That preposterous number (Washoe County attracted only 5.18 million last year), was revised before the council. Now, Cabela's only promises pie-in-the-sky to tune of 2.5 million. And the usual gang of idiots inhaled the pickle smoke, drank the Kool-Aid and once again gave away the store.

Blackie Evans

ADIOS, OLD WARRIOR. Former Nevada State AFL-CIO Executive Secretary-Treasurer Claude S. "Blackie" Evans passed away of a massive heart attack last Friday at his Henderson home. First elected in 1978, he led the statewide union umbrella organization for more than 20 years and brought the Nevada labor movement into the modern era.

The Missouri native came out of United Steelworkers Local 4856 at the Titanium Metals plant in Henderson, having been elected at age 22 as the youngest president in the union's history. Democratic Gov. Mike O'Callaghan appointed him to a seat on the Nevada Industrial Commission, the former state agency insuring workers injured on the job.

The Nevada State AFL-CIO's Arnold-Jones-Evans annual college scholarship competition is named after Evans, the late Jim Arnold, Sr., and former Nevada labor commissioner Stan Jones.

Evans was close friends with former national AFL-CIO leader Lane Kirkland and traveled with Kirkland to meet with labor leaders in Israel. The nickname "Blackie" came from the jet-black hair of his younger days. The Associated Press reported that "the former Golden Gloves boxer became active in union affairs and developed a reputation as a tough labor representative."

Future Gov. O'Callaghan, as a teacher and boxing coach at Henderson's Basic High School, taught Evans the sweet science.

"He did more for the working guy than anyone I know," his successor, Danny Thompson said.

Gov. Jim Gibbons stated "Nevada has lost a true leader, a man who spent his life working to make the lives of average Nevadans better."

ERROR MESSAGES. Last Saturday's Las Vegas Review-Journal story on Evans, as well as the Associated Press report published in the Reno Gazette-Journal, contained errors and conflicting information. The RJ reported that Evans "served eight years as head of the Nevada Industrial Commission under Gov. Mike O'Callaghan." According to historian and Nevada State Archivist Guy Louis Rocha, Evans was an NIC commissioner but the panel back then was chaired by John R. Reisner.
Stan Jones says that Evans held the seat reserved for a labor representative. The RJ wrote that Evans was born Nov. 26, 1935, in Duenweg, Mo., rather than Joplin, as noted by AP. The Associated Press also stated that O'Callaghan appointed Evans as state labor commissioner. Actually, Stan Jones of Reno held that post during the O'Callaghan years, 1971-79. (Jones' tenure began under Republican Gov. Paul Laxalt in 1967.)

I will post remembrances at NevadaLabor.com.

Be well. Raise hell.

Smoking Guns...

NEW! Health Care War Room
NevadaLabor.com Exclusive: 1995 Washoe County Grand Jury Report detailing the scandals and skullduggery which resulted in the theft of Reno's public hospital
AFL-CIO leader asks affiliates to pressure management
Statewide 16,000-member seniors group endorses union drive

(1) Boxing Pandora / BARBWIRE 9-23-2007

(2) Striking blows for justice / BARBWIRE 9-16-2007

(3) Party like it's 1929Union-busting Reno hospital offers excuses for rape and pillage
   BARBWIRE 8-12-2007

(4) Washoe Med renown for toxic sludge / BARBWIRE 8-5-2007

(5) Washoe Med antes into the game to put Medicare into a death spiral; Barbwire by Barbano; Daily Sparks Tribune, 6-12-2005.

(6) Like Washoe Med, Carson-Tahoe Hospital commits suicide and the taxpayers will pay — He who ignores the doofusses is bound to become one, Barbwire by Barbano; Daily Sparks Tribune, 8-5-2001; Carson City Nevada Appeal, 8-8-2001.

(7) Getting down and dirty / BARBWIRE 4-8-2001

(8) Washoe Med: Get Rich Quick at No Money Down; Barbwire by Barbano; Daily Sparks Tribune, 5 November 1995 et seq.

NEW 1995 BARBWIRE ARCHIVE — Analysis of the Grand Jury Report
Additional columns uploaded just in time for the nurses' union vote

NEW NevadaLabor.com Exclusive
Grand Jury Report downloadable in Adobe Acrobat Reader .pdf format
Title page, also in Acrobat Reader

...and more ammo


[A] Cabela's eyes Washington for retail location
        Puget Sound Business Journal (Seattle); January 25, 2006.

    "(Company spokesman James) Powell said that by tracking catalog purchases, Cabela's knows the Pacific Northwest is a 'loyal' market. The average Cabela's retail store, he said, attracts an average of 3.5 million visitors per year."

[B] Reno-Tahoe Marketing and Sales Plan for 2005-2006; page 9; Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority.

    "The destination has begun to receive tourism investment projects. Cabela's incorporated, the World's Foremost Outfitter of hunting and outdoor gear, announced Reno as the site of a 150,000 square foot superstore to open in early 2007. Cabela's is more than a retail store – it’s a visitors destination and is anticipated to bring more than an estimated 3 million visitors annually."

[C] 2006 Reno-Sparks Visitor Profile Study; page 7; Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority.

The Dean's List

   The Dean of Reno Bloggers could very well be Andrew Barbano, self-described "fighter of public demons," who started putting his "Barbwire" columns online in 1996 and now runs 10 sites.

      RENO NEWS & REVIEW, 11-9-2006



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Copyright © 1982-2007 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 38-year Nevadan, editor of NevadaLabor.com and a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413/AFL-CIO. As always, his opinions are strictly his own. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.


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