Pirate Laureate of the High Desert Outback of the American Dream


Je Suis Charlie

¡Viva Chávez!
César Chávez Celebration XIV / Celebración de César Chávez XIV
Wednesday 30 March 2016
/ Miércoles 30 de Marzo 2016
Highlights of the 2015 event at Circus Circus Reno

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Happy High Holly Days

   Everybody knows the dice are loaded.
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed.
   Everybody knows the war is over.
Everybody knows the good guys lost.
   Everybody knows the fight was fixed.
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich.
   That's how it goes.
Everybody knows...
Everybody knows the scene is dead
   But there's gonna be a meter on your bed
That will disclose
   What everybody knows...
   Everybody talking to their pockets.
Everybody wants a box of chocolates
   and a long red rose. That's how it goes.
   Everybody knows.

— Leonard Cohen

Sparks council allows anybody with a pulse to plumb and wire:
nd we didn't even get kissed afterward

The circular legal logic of a circular firing squad
Barbwire by Barbano / Monday 12-14-2015 Sparks City Council Meeting Special Online Report / UPDATED 12-22-2015 and 1-12-2016
and 1-19-2016 and 1-11-2018 & 3-15-2018

"This is not personal, it's business" — Sparks Mayor Geno Martini

And so Hizzoner admonished the standing-room-only crowd in the city council chambers as the hearing began. He apparently forgot that his words came from the script of The Godfather, a euphemism for cold-blooded mob assassination. As my sainted mother used to exclaim, Madonna du Carmela!

Smoking Guns and Re-runs: View the Dec. 14 and Nov. 23 council proceedings for yourself on the Sparks Centennial Channel. Also available via Charter on-demand, Charter Channel 191 or AT&T U-Verse 99.

      The Reno Gazette-Journal didn't even do us the courtesy of sending their new Sparks reporter who could use a bit more experience in Rail City skullduggery. KRNV TV-4 sent a cameraman to get background video and aired a 20-second voiceover at 11:00 p.m. [UPDATE: The RGJ's 12-22 "Sparks" page had nothing.]
      As we heard weeks ago, the fix was in early. The current council appears to have fallen into the pattern of the John Ascuaga's Nugget-controlled councils of 1975-83 where decisions were illegally made in secret and all public votes were unanimous, as was every one last Monday. To keep things looking rosy at city hall, the councillors of old did their deliberating in private — illegal, but effective until the "reform" anti-Joe Conforte council of '75 itself got reformed by the voters eight years later.
      Like Alexander Dumas' Corsican Brothers, today's corporate minions can read each other without ever meeting and sometimes without speaking. Perhaps a psychic got the vote count exactly right early on.
      In three hours of testimony, the non-questioning council listened impassively, then called their staff back to repeat what staff said earlier. Of about 40 who turned in forms to testify, I estimate the count at about 34 against to 6 in favor. [UPDATE: Not a bad guesstimate. The city clerk's tally was 39 opposed to 6 in favor.]
      After allowing people to let off steam, the councilcritters openly rationalized themselves into thinking this was a good idea, that it would exempt the city from liability because this antiquated ordinance had so many flaws that the republic would fall and the angel of death would take first-borns if they didn't strike it from the face of the earth.
      It thus became necessary to burn down the city in order to save it.
      The vote was 4-0 to repeal the standards with the newest councilmember, Charlene Bybee, abstaining due to a conflict of interest with the Associated Builders and Contractors, the non-union organization which happens to favor keeping licensing requirements. Julia Ratti reinforced her reputation as a marshmallow regrettably once endorsed by organized labor.
      As Justice Clarence Thomas might say, it was Kafkaesque. Their self-delusion is little short of amazing.
      Assemblymember Ira Hansen. R-Sparks, brought in a last-minute Legislative Counsel Bureau opinion that the vote would constitute an illegal repeal of rules under Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) 237. He recommended they postpone for further study, as he did on Nov. 23 when he advised them to wait and see what Reno does. City staff torpedoed Ira's research at the end to make the council feel warm and comfy.
     Their annual comprehensive financial report was presented and the presenter didn't even offer a brief overview for us peons or the great unwashed watching in TV land. Sparks is in serious financial trouble because of the
Marina corporate welfare project and they discussed none of it. Everything's rosy.
     THE SORTA BRIGHT SIDE: If labor didn't put up a fight over this, it would be open season on unions (more than usual) for the foreseeable future. We put up a helluva fight. And it's never over.
     We did get lip service that the city might call workshops to come up with new regulations. Believe it when you see it. Representing the Reno-Sparks NAACP (as I did on Dec. 14, noting that we passed a resolution in opposition to repeal last week), I successfully lobbied the Sparks council NINE FREAKIN' YEARS AGO to establish a diversity commission. Never happened despite continual prodding.
     Reno will probably get new standards. City staff, still suffering from the Cashell-induced Republican hangover, has recommended weak new standards for plumbers and electricians which require NO high school diploma or GED, exactly the position of the Builders Association of Northern Nevada. It will never fly at council, but the staff doesn't care. That's how they think and who they are. City manager Andrew Clinger was an apparatchik of Gov. Veto El Obtúsè. Odds-on betting is that a city staffer surreptitiously removed the standards from a 300+ page garden-variety building code revision in 2013.
     Julia Ratti is the only Democrat on the Sparks council but proved as weak as her reputation. I witnessed a group-think dynamic in play all Monday afternoon. Everybody backslaps everybody and Sparks City Hall seems to house one big happy pro-business family. Ratti, Schmitt, Smith and hizzoner are all lame ducks. With the three council seats up next year, our work is cut out for us.
     A BIZZARRO KAFKAESQUE CLOSE: Gloria “Lou” Alanko testified about the disastrous new home she bought in 2005 from the developer behind all this, AJ Witt of Silverwing. (How's that for the ultimate fly-by-night warning?)
     Awhile later, I followed her to the microphone and reiterated what I had printed in my column. With the construction defect law neutered, today she would have no recourse to threaten legal action. She would be in a no-way-out box if unqualified workers screwed up construction as they did in 2006. Somehow twisting my words against me just before the vote, City Attorney Chester Adams said he agreed with me and that's why he advised repeal of the qualification and licensing standards.
     Franz Kafka, call your office.
     Labor leaders have said several times that Sparks residents blithely go to the Marina and think all is wonderful. They won't see reality until things start to collapse. (I've started that with my revelations about the toxic turf at Golden Eagle Park which seems expensively epidemic throughout northern Nevada.)
     Sparks City Hall press releases consistently assert that city inspectors ensure construction to the highest international standards. (We can't even buy kid-safe Astroturf. so who needs certified electricians and plumbers?) In the columns I've written since Nov. 17, I have reiterated how lack of enforcement over many years opens the city to liability. So the council wiped out their authority while still guaranteeing code compliance. So unqualified workers may be depended upon to perform work at the highest level and nothing will ever go wrong. Right?
     If it does, a smart lawyer will have one helluvan argument: The city removed qualification standards and yet certified the work as world class. But it wasn't. So the city is liable for damages.
      They don't care. They want Silverwing to do the cheapest possible construction, flailing at a failing and dying downtown.  And so we continue our work for labor rights and public safety.
     Be well. Raise hell. / Esté bien. Haga infierno. (Pardon my Spanglish.)

Full house: Renters face a bleak future in the Truckee Meadows
Barbano: Shoddy developers still call the shots
By Dennis Myers / Reno News & Review 3-8-2018

Chickens Beware! Reno Gazette-Journal names fox its citizen of the year
Reno News & Review Editorial 4 January 2018
BONE DRY MARTINI always drank the corporate welfare Kool-Aid

Leading questions and lead-headed leaders
Barbwire by Barbano / Expanded from the Tuesday 1-19-2016 Sparks Tribune

Sparks councilman voted despite conflict of interest
Barbwire by Barbano / Expanded from the Tuesday 1-12-2016 Sparks Tribune / Updated 1-14-2016

Faraday's fair name befouled in fallow fields of North Vegas
Circuitous reasoning followed by circular logic leads to Sparks City Council forming circular firing squad
Barbwire by Barbano / Expanded from the Tuesday 12-22-2015 Sparks Tribune

What's been Nevada's best-funded, most successful school system for over 100 years?

Ruth Stacy guest column / Reno Gazette-Journal 1-3-2016

One View Opinion: Certification of Plumbing and Electrical Workers Needed

The Reno and Sparks City Councils are being swayed by builders and contractors to abolish requirements that workers who install plumbing and electrical systems in residences be certified. This approach insures that builders and contractors have cheap labor, leaves that labor pool formally unskilled, and puts home buyers at risk of shoddy workmanship in what is most families’ largest investment.

In this important issue where certification of construction workers is being viewed by local government as largely concerning contractors and labor, a local non-profit called ACTIONN (Acting in Community Together in Organizing Northern Nevada) is working to bring a public voice. The group, made up from 43 local faith and other community groups, had representatives at several of the workshops and hearings in Reno and Sparks, to help present the public interest.

From concerns of its members, ACTIONN developed standards for developments in Northern Nevada. These standards are requiring apprenticeship and training programs providing pathways to living wages; requiring businesses to pay a living wage; requiring developers to hire local and to buy materials locally, where possible.

Sparks City Council recently voted to remove its entire ordinance requiring certifications for all construction. Reno conducted several workshops and has a draft ordinance to come before the City Council in January 2016.

Reno’s draft ordinance would exempt residential construction projects of 3 floors or less of frame construction from certification requirements, as long as the contractor maintains a working ratio of one certified journeyman or licensed plumber to six subordinate employees, and one journeyman or licensed electrician to six subordinate employees.

The argument for abolishing the certifications is that it makes available a supply of cheap labor and provides entry level construction work for those who cannot meet the requirements of being able to read English or do not have a high school diploma or its equivalent. Economic development requires a skilled, not a cheap, workforce to draw new investment.

There are non-profits that provide English as a Second Language classes at little or no cost, and there are non-profits like Northern Nevada Literacy Council that offer individualized programs and classes to working persons to help them get their high school equivalency at no cost to the worker. Requirements for certification provide motivation toward a more qualified work force.

Lack of certification exposes home buyers to the danger of shoddy workmanship. There are no statistics on defective residential construction nationwide, or even in any one state. The figure has been estimated to be three to five percent of new construction, according to Dr. Ruth Martin, author of Crumbling Dreams. Testimony at one hearing indicated that northern Nevada is not free from construction defects.

In states like Nevada where the Legislature recently pulled the teeth of construction defect legislation, the home buyer has virtually no protection if the builder/contractor does not honor any warranty that comes with the home. City inspectors are few and lack the time and expertise to truly inspect each home before they issue a certificate of occupancy. The City has immunity, and an overwhelmed contractor can walk away, file bankruptcy, or get a license under a new company name, to avoid financial responsibility.
Ruth Stacy, MA, is a volunteer leader with ACTIONN and a legal researcher/writer retired from the State of Nevada.


Testimony of Gloria "Lou" Alanko before the council on 12-14-2016

My name is Lou Alanko, and I’m here to talk about certifying plumbers and electricians. After reading statements by J. Carter Witt, owner of Silverwing Development, I decided to speak out.  

I own a Silverwing house, and I have to disagree when he says that certification would “cost his company massive losses because he could lose experienced workers…”

I say Hogwash!

If he had had more of those experienced workers building my house, I probably wouldn’t be here now.

Shortly after my Silverwing house closed on July 29, 2005, I requested a second walk-thru because of issues discovered after moving in, over 30 items on the list. In December, I submitted a Warranty Service Request for the outstanding items. It took Mr. Witt’s experienced workers almost 14 months to complete the work.

On 7/18/2006, I paid ($300)* for a home inspection on my new house. I figured if there’s so much wrong that I can see, I wonder if there’s more that I can’t see.

On 7/29, I submitted a Warranty Service Request to repair six items from the report, including safety issues.  Eight months later, the work was finally completed, work I would have never known about if it wasn’t for the home inspection report.

In the meantime, there were other problems — a roof leak in the attic, frozen drain lines, and a broken pipe leading to the street.

I don’t mean to single out Mr. Witt, but he seems to be spearheading the campaign to get Sparks to remove the certification requirement for electricians and plumbers and to stop Reno from reinstating it.

When developers like Mr. Witt say certification will cost his company massive losses, we should realize the ones who will suffer massive losses are homeowners who get stuck with expensive repair bills down the road.

I’m requesting that you not only require certification of plumbers and electricians, but that you also enforce that requirement.

Not enforcing the requirement in the past is no excuse for removing the requirement now.
I repeat: Not enforcing the requirement in the past is no excuse for removing the requirement now.

As we move into a new era of growth in Sparks and Reno, developers may be tempted to cut corners.

One area they shouldn’t cut is public safety.

Please do the right thing and certify your plumbers and electricians.

Thank you.
* added orally during her testimony

The following bulletin was widely distributed before the council meeting

Dear Friends:

     Today's the day that Sparks City Hall will decide whether or not to drink the toxic Kool-Aid of anti-education and low wages mixed with a twist of bigotry. They vote today to remove licensing qualifications for electricians and plumbers.
     Builders Association pointman Don Tatro has said worker education is unnecessary, "just show up on time" (TV-4, Dec. 11 2015) and "28 percent of workers have no diploma," adding that state and federal law are enough. (Barbwire, Sparks Tribune, 12-1-2015)
     He must be new on the job. Nevada is the only western state without a licensing law and the feds don't license local construction workers.
     A contractor told the council last month that his "whites and Mexicans don't read." (Barbwire, Sparks Tribune, 12-1-2015)
     The Reno-Sparks NAACP last week voted to oppose the removal of licensing requirements for electricians and plumbers which comes before the Sparks council at 2:00 p.m. today.
     Sparks councilmember Ed Lawson played a trumpish card yesterday by asking a Sparks voter "shouldn't we ask for a citizenship verification?" I hope he will support hiring trained workers to build a wall around the city — with a moat, since he seems to be a big fan of red herrings.
     Lawson added that "we don't license these contractor's (sic), so how do we have the ability to red tag the labor? We inspect the work that has been done, not the people doing it. I think this is a State issue."
     He likewise ignores that there is no state licensing law for electricians and plumbers.
     Fight back! Call the council at (775) 353-2311 or e-mail.
     Show up at Sparks City Hall this afternoon at 2:00 p.m. if you can. Proceedings will be broadcast via Charter Cable 191 and AT&T U-Verse Channel 99.
     Complete smoking gun details at
     Be well. Raise hell.

They didn't even kiss us afterward
12-14-2015: Sparks unanimously allows unlicensed plumbers & electricians
Contact Mayor Martini, City Manager Driscoll and 5 voting councilmembers


Highlight, capture and import the above into your e-mail window—and show up if you can.
Proceedings will be broadcast via Charter Cable 191 and AT&T U-Verse Channel 99.

Call your Sparks councilcritters at (775) 353-2311.
Find ward maps and e-mail addresses at

Don't diminish the value of technical education
SAFETY WARNING: Sparks City Council votes Dec. 14 to allow unlicensed plumbers & electricians
Guest editorial from Stan Jones and Andrew Barbano
Reno Gazette-Journal online 12-10-2015 / Print edition 12-14-2015

Listen to radio campaign rallying Sparks workers & citizens
Featuring the voices of Jim McClain, Donna Lewis and Andrew Barbano

NAACP unanimously opposes removal of licensing standards

     WHEREAS the NAACP has always supported the need for an educated workforce,
     AND WHEREAS the City of Sparks is proposing to remove licensing qualification requirements for plumbers and electricians,
     BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that the Reno-Sparks NAACP opposes passage of Sparks City Council Agenda Item No. 10.2 on its 14 December 2015 agenda, which would remove all such licensing qualification standards.

— Passed unanimously at the 12-10-2015 Reno-Sparks NAACP general membership meeting

Dirty deeds done dirt cheap—again and again
Barbwire by Barbano / Expanded from the Tuesday 12-8-2015 Sparks Tribune

Turf and training: Dirty deeds done dirt cheap
Contractors oppose education with a twist of bigotry and racism before the Sparks City Council
Barbwire by Barbano / Expanded from the Tuesday 12-1-2015 Sparks Tribune / Updated 12-2-2015

On artificial turf, don't breathe unless necessary
Toxic turf all over town
Barbwire by Barbano / Expanded from the Tuesday 11-24-2015 Sparks Tribune

Sorcerer's apprentices work cheap in Nevada
Want minimum-wage plumbers and electricians building your house?
Barbwire by Barbano / Expanded from the Tuesday 11-17-2015 Sparks Tribune

FYI: 100 Years of Union Apprenticeship Training: Still the Best

Andrew Barbano is a 47-year Nevadan, chair of the Nevada César Chávez Committee, producer of Nevada's annual César Chávez Day celebration, first vice-president and political action chair of the Reno-Sparks NAACP, labor/consumer/civil rights advocate, member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413/AFL-CIO and editor of and and As always, his opinions are strictly his own. Check local listings for other Nevada cable systems. E-mail Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Sparks Tribune since 1988.

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Copyright © 1982-2016, 2017, 2018 Andrew Barbano

Barbwire by Barbano moved to Nevada's Daily Sparks Tribune on Aug. 12, 1988, and has originated in them parts ever since.
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