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Cabellyup: Money for nothing and the kicks for freeI'm making Sparks and Reno an offer they can't refuse. Hire me to screw up your construction contracts and I'll save you $400,000.
Expanded from the 9-13-2009 Daily Sparks Tribune
Updated 12-13-2009 and 12-21-2009: Now it's Sparks' turn
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The two towns have forked over more than three-quarters of a million hiring consultants to make sure that construction workers are paid according to law. Those efforts have failed miserably through misfeasance, malfeasance and nonfeasance.
If the town fathers will instead hire me In the future, I'd be glad to screw things up at half price.
I can't possibly do any worse than your guys.
If it's imaginable, Sparks has been more shameless than Reno, willfully refusing to enforce the law requiring that construction workers be paid area-standard wages on the Scheels-Target-Marina-Red Development fiasco.
So why pay a consultant upwards of half a million bucks to tell you to do what you're not gonna do anyway? I don't think Rail City PR man Adam Mayberry will be sending the Tribune a press release with an answer anytime soon.
I was present when the Reno council told labor representatives that not one penny of corporate welfare money would go to the big, fat and rich Cabela's sporting goods outfit until all wage discrepancies were addressed and satisfied.
It turned out to be a lie horsefeathers and pickle smoke.
WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR. For those not familiar with the shell game of city finance, we need to take a brief diversion into STAR bonds fantasyland.
Both cities have entered into STAR bondage and the fetish is now spreading statewide.
"STAR" means sales tax anticipation revenue bonds. The law allows three of every four dollars of sales tax money generated by a new project to be handed back to the developer to pay for construction of his palace.
All the recipient has to do is hire an economist to swear that half the customers will be visitors. There is no followup or accountability to make sure that a world-class tourist attraction like Target gets five of every 10 customers from out-of-state.
STAR bonds are debt instruments with payment guaranteed by the anticipated sales tax stream. Contrary to what both cities say publicly, if the welfare recipients don't pay, local taxpayers are on the hook. If Cabela's goes cabellyup, Reno is stuck. If Red Development lives up to its name, Sparks goes down.
TAP CITY. A few years back, Reno and Sparks corporate welfare cookie jars were pretty much tapped out. Even today, the downtown Reno redevelopment district continues to borrow money from general tax revenue to meet its bond debt payments. Any of you who thought Artown was some self-generating community freebie of spontaneous cultural awareness, you've just lost your political virginity.
Artown was and remains a publicly bankrolled PR veneer to make people love the corporate welfare programs that make sure we continue underfunding education, school construction, parks, road building and repair, police and fire protection. And I'm a guy who favors public support of the arts!
Sparks and Reno have squandered upwards of a quarter-billion in property taxes over the past couple of decades. The worst result is "B" Street oops, I mean Victorian Square, a ridiculously Nevadian exercise in bad taste which was supposed to duplicate downtown London right in front of John Ascuaga's geeky fiberglas cartoon gold miner. Fortunately, Sparks cops were never subjected to being costumed as British bobbies as originally planned.
SYUFY MEANS NEVER HAVING TO SAY YOU'RE SORRY. The downtown Sparks movie theater was actually the shape of things to come. Workers on that 1997 project were stiffed for their proper wages due to government ineptitude. Out-of-state contractors took the money and ran while city hall lifted nary a finger. You may read the full history of that mess linked to the web edition of this column. (Go to the NevadaLabor.com search engine and type in "Syufy.")
Read more about it
Download Judge Steve Kosach's decision in .pdf format
On 9 Sept. 2009, in a 6-1 vote with Councilmember Jessica Sferrazza in dissent, the Reno council voted to appeal Washoe District Judge Steve Kosach's recent decision overturning state labor commissioner Steve Tanchek's ruling that Nevada wage laws need not be enforced on Cabela's.
Now you know why Tanchek is often mockingly called the state business commissioner.
Appointed by former Republican Gov. Dudley Do-Right and retained by his GOP successor Jim the Dim, he's the latest in a long line of guys who don't follow the law requiring that Nevada workers get compensated properly on tax-funded projects.
Tanchek's predecessors appointed by conservative Republicrat Bob Miller were no better. One even considered the job part-time while he pursued his master's degree at UNLV.
Matters have now gotten so bad under Tanchek that labor lawyers should review bringing an action to remove him from office for non-performance of his statutory duties. Such an action is now bolstered by Judge Kosach's August 18 decision.
"The court finds that the commissioner has the clear authority to enforce prevailing wage laws on projects financed by STAR bonds, such as Cabela's," Kosach ruled, adding that state law "is unambiguous in that it provides that contracts for construction projects paid for by the proceeds of STAR bonds are subject to prevailing wages."
Then, the judge kicks Tanchek in his glass balls: "And yet, despite the labor commissioner's underlying findings that both the legislature and the parties intended prevailing wages to be paid on projects such as Cabela's, he went on to find that no prevailing wages were required to be paid in this case. The commissioner's opinion leads to an absurd result," Kosach concluded, ordering Reno to comply with the law.
NEVER GIVE A INCH. Unwilling to admit wrong, Reno will instead take this mess to the Nevada Supreme Court. [UPDATE: Now it's Sparks' turn.]
This is the hangover of Reagan-Bush-Cheney, where all that matters is what you can get away with, law and morality be damned. The Reno council has even been skating dangerously close to violating the state open meeting law with sense-of-the-members polling during secret sessions.
Cabela's was supposed to establish a $2.5 million escrow account at the start of construction in order to take care of any wage violations. The welfare queens apparently never did so.
SEE FOR YOURSELF. Watch a rather disgraceful display by consistently abusive Reno Councilman Dave Aiazzi during the council vote on this issue. (Is he from South Carolina or what?)
You have to be a victim of Charter cable to get it on SNCAT digital channels 13 and 213 beginning at 10:00 a.m. PDT today. The twenty minutes in question should air around noon. [UPDATE: The meeting is available on demand at SNCAT.org. Unlike Sparks, which has funded a searchable database making it easy to find and view debate on a specific agenda item, Reno meetings must be slogged thru. Item J.11 of the Sept. 9 Reno council session comes in exactly three-and-one-half hours into the show and lasts about 21 minutes. Unjoy.]
UPDATE: In the RED
Labor commissioner gives City of Sparks 30 days to investigate
THE ANTIDOTE TO POLITICAL AND CORPORATE PROPAGANDA. I am heading fundraising to get community radio station KJIV back online and ready for an fm launch. Go to ReSurge.TV for more information, to get on my mailing list, contribute or volunteer if you think it important to have at least one non-corporate, non-governmental electronic medium not beholden to corporate contributions or advertising.
Be well. Raise hell.
Andrew Barbano is a 40-year Nevadan, second vice-president of the Reno-Sparks NAACP, labor/consumer/civil rights advocate and editor of NevadaLabor.com. As always, his opinions are strictly his own. Reruns of his legislative session TV programs are cablecast Monday through Friday, 2-4:00 p.m. on Reno-Sparks-Washoe Charter digital channels 16 and 216 and high-definition channel 80-295, available on demand at Barbwire.TV. Check local listings for other Nevada cable systems. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks Tribune since 1988.
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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.
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And they wonder why the newspaper business is dying?
Phillips, Kevin; Numbers Racket: Why the economy is worse than we know
Harper's Magazine; May 2008; page 43
Phillips has authored numerous books on history and politics over the past 40 years. His most recent, Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism, was published by Viking on April 15, 2008.
NAOMI WOLF: Fascist America in 10 Easy Steps
There are some things common to every state that's made the transition to fascism. Author Naomi Wolf argues that all of them are present in America today.
Johnson, Chalmers; REPUBLIC OR EMPIRE? A National Intelligence Estimate on the United States; Harper's magazine; January, 2007. I love it when heavy hitters validate what I've been saying for years in the tiny Sparks Tribune.
Barlett, Donald L. and Steele, James B.; America: What Went Wrong? (1992); America: Who Really Pays the Taxes? (1994); America: Who Stole the Dream? (1996) ; Andrews & McMeel/Universal Press Syndicate.
The Orwell Diversion by Alex Carey
Excerpted from the book available below
ORDER Taking the Risk Out of Democracy
Corporate Propaganda versus Freedom and Liberty
By Alex Carey
Edited by Andrew Lohrey
Foreword by Noam Chomsky
University of Illinois Press
SEE ALSO: Lapham, Lewis H.; Tentacles of Rage: The Republican Propaganda Mill, A Brief History; Harper's Magazine cover article; September, 2004, page 32.
By one conservative estimate, the corporate right has spent about $3 billion over the past three decades manufacturing public opinion to suit big business goals. Lapham's number covered the early 1970's to the present day. Alex Carey noted that by 1948, anti- New Deal corporate propaganda expenditures had already reached $100 million per year, not adjusted for inflation, for advertising alone. (Carey, ibid; page 79)
Adjusted for inflation, that 1948 $100 million becomes $801,659,751.04 in 2005 dollars.
Conservatives Help Wal-Mart, and Vice Versa
As Wal-Mart struggles to rebut growing criticism, it has discovered a reliable ally: conservative research groups.
New York Times 9-8-2006; Free registration may be required.
BARBWIRE: Labor Day '94: People vs. corporate con job, 9-4-94
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BARBWIRE: The Nevada Republican Party Becomes Communist, 3-30-97
A prescient Plato on the dangers of oligarchy
The sands of time do not cloud the long memories of the sheiks of Araby
Rinfret, Pierre A.; Peace is Bullish; Look magazine, 5-31-1966
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Copyright © 1982-2009 Andrew Barbano
Andrew Barbano is a 40-year Nevadan, editor of NevadaLabor.com and JoeNeal.org, former chair of the City of Reno's Citizens Cable Compliance Committee and serves as second vice-president, political action chair and webmaster of the Reno-Sparks NAACP. As always, his opinions are strictly his own. E-mail email@example.com.
He hosts news and talk Monday through Friday, 2-4:00 p.m., at Barbwire.TV and Reno-Sparks-Washoe Charter digital cable channels 16 and 216, high-definition channel 80-295. Barbwire by Barbano premiered in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune on Aug. 12, 1988 and has originated in those parts ever since. Tempus fugit.
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