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Je Suis Charlie
"Our republic and its press will rise or fall together." — Joseph Pulitzer

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Photo: Debra Reid, Sparks Tribune


   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.
   Everybody knows. Everybody knows.
That's how it goes.
Everybody knows.

By Leonard Cohen (1934-2016) & Sharon Robinson
© 1988 CBS Records, Inc.

I hope you understand I just had to go back to the island.
Leon Russell, 1942-2016

Last Chance Joe meets Sherlock Holmes
Barbwire by Andrew Quarantino Barbáno / Expanded from the Sparks Tribune 11-15-2023 / Expansions in blue

Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes
Made of ticky-tacky,
little boxes,
little boxes,
little boxes
all the same
Pete Seeger

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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.

RENO NEWS & REVIEW, 11-9-2006

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Just whose idea was it that all those apartments and high rises sprouting like weeds in this backwater boomtown should evoke the latest in minimum security prison chic?

Gloomy places beget gloomy people. The ambient architecture of today's mucky Truckee Meadows can best be described as Nouveau Communist East Berlin.

In 2015, the bi-partisan and bi-polar Sparks City Council watered down construction quality standards as part of destroying corporate welfare Victorian Square and handing it to some developer. (Barbwire Special Edition 12-14-2015)

The order of the day was "do something, even if it's wrong." Their wish was granted.

As with developments all over the region, Sparks design standards are basically Early American Cardboard Container. If exist any standards at all.

Victorian Square had been Sparks' contribution to the theme-casino madness spawned in Gomorrah South starting in the 1960s.

Apparently nobody recognized the grotesquerie in the concept of turning an old west railroad farm town into a bad copy of old London when Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson walked the earth.

I wonder what their chronicler, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, would have thought of goofy Last Chance Joe gracing Queen Victoria's capital.

The original idea included costuming Sparks police as British bobbies wearing Conehead hats walking around downtown Victorian Blvd. Fortunately, that never happened. The closest the renamed "B" Street ever got to looking like London was fancy streetlights. (And it hasn't even been a boulevard since the nice trees lining it were cut down many years ago.)

Reno quickly got into the act because the gambling industry immediately glommed onto this new way of generating redevelopment funds by skimming casino taxes and earmarking them for downtown districts.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if there was a government agency that would come over and give your place a new paint job or build an extra room for the kids all for free? Never in your wildest dreams, but the gambling-industrial complex makes its own avaricious fantasies come true.

Parks, roads, school, police and fire protection have always been underfunded in the High Desert Outback of the American Dream. Siphoning taxes away from the general public good led directly to the car-choked mayhem of today.

Charting the growth of Nevada corporate welfare tax giveaways over the past half-century would take more than this entire edition of the Tribune. (For depressing chapter and verse, access the Barbwire Corporate Welfare Archive at

One example will suffice. About 30 years ago, I asked the Nevada Dept. of Taxation for a list of all government tax breaks and freebies. I got about a dozen pages in the mail.

Today's jungle book requires an inch-thick bound volume studded with all-star names: Tesla, Panasonic, Cabela's, Apple, Switch, Scheels, Target, the Sparks Marina, the Reno Aces, the Oakland A's, the Las Vegas Raiders and major hotel-casinos from here to Gomorrah South. And don't forget the LV and Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors authorities, the original freebie queens.

In short, billions that could have gone to communities simply did not, while governments acted as corporate welfare collection agencies.

Nevada voters apparently approve of all this tax ugliness because they keep electing politicians who allow vacuuming the public purse for the greater good of the wealthy few.

With all that government money subsidizing these bandidos, why must we also allow them to add insult to injury by constructing ugly buildings?

A short jaunt around town leaves observers besotted with unguents of ugliness. If we must be condemned to choking in traffic jams on pot-holed streets, shouldn't we at least occasionally get something nice to look at?

Alas and alack, many taxpayers are condemned to coming home to overpriced monochromatic rabbit warrens designed in Victorian Blah Modern.

I suppose such cookie-cutter crackerbox colorlessness reflects the claptrap imaginations controlling boomtowns which attract transitory populations.

Driving around these days is like living inside an old Humphrey Bogart movie.

Bogie told Ingrid Bergman that "we'll always have Paris," but even Paris looks boring in black-and-white.

Look at the bright side. If Hollywood ever needs to find a movie location that looks like Soviet-era Bucharest, maybe today's investment in boxiness will pay off.

Betwixt now and then, when traveling Truckee Meadows byways, I will continue to long for the occasional dark pleasure of beholding creative, colorful graffiti.

PARTING SHOT: Have you recently noticed how a newly bombed-out city looks black-and-white and bloodless?

¡ se puede!

Be well. Raise hell.
/ Esté bien. Haga infierno. (Pardon my Spanglish.)
être bien, élever l'enfer (Pardon my French.) Stammi bene. Scatenare l'inferno. (And Italian.)
Andrew Quarantino Barbano is a 54-year Nevadan and editor of,,, BallotBoxing.US,,,, and among others. He is a longtime member of the Reno-Sparks NAACP and Sparks-based Communications Workers of America Local 9413/AFL-CIO. As always, his comments are entirely his own. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Sparks Tribune since August 12, 1988.

Breaking News —> Masks work!

Upsy daisy Nevada crazy
Barbwire by Andrew Quarantino Barbáno / Expanded from the Sparks Tribune 11-8-2023 / Expansions in blue

A Carson City judge just nuked the state teachers union's petition to place the Oakland A's Gomorrah South corporate welfare stadium to a vote of taxpayers who will get stuck with the tab.

Letting people vote? In Nevada? Outrageous.

At the same time, a new union of sorts for renters was announced.

One outta two ain't bad.

Said renters' rights outfit is about half a century too late. Back in northern Nevada's previous boomtown era c. 1978, even casino execs were living in tents by the river. (I've still got the film I shot.)

The coming of the MGM Grand (now the Grand Sierra) spurred a population boom as irritating as anything today.

Once upon a time

Reno City Council passes rent control
Barbwire 7-17-2019


More traffic than small town roads could handle and nowhere for people to live.

Rents skyrocketed resulting in skyrocketing fortunes for real estate speculators.

I am not exaggerating when I say California hustlers were driving around town with briefcases full of cash looking to pay whatever the market would bear for housing and "sewer fixture units."

One sewer fixture unit equals one faucet. NVEnergy nee Sierra Pacific Power was out of water. (This was before Warren Buffet's outfit dumped a junky, poorly maintained water system onto the public for a premium price, spawning the birth of the Truckee Meadows Water Authority.)

To build something, you have to bring water to get a building permit. I knew a guy named Blackie who ran a dry cleaner and laundromat — with lots of sewer fixtures.

A suit walked in one day and asked how much to buy his operation.

Blackie told me he thought about it for a minute, came up with his wildest-dream figure and doubled it.

The suit said "deal."

"When I got up off the floor after fainting, I thought I was dreaming, Blackie said."

Blackie soon retired. His former laundromat is now a bar near downtown with far fewer sewer fixture units.

Then as now, calls for rent control erupted. Reno City Hall actually held a hearing and gave mobile home renters rights leader Barbara Bennett a cold shower. (I was there.)

She asked for a "rent justification" ordinance, mandating that landlords justify rent increases with facts and figures until the crisis subsided. That model has been copied many times elsewhere.

A Democratic state senate candidate advocated for temporary rent control until vacancies exceeded five percent.

The power company and the Republican establishment, with a little help from city hall and the gambling-industrial complex, saw to it that he lost in an upset to a self-described Republican "slumlord."

In the aftermath, then as now, the little people were hopeless.

In 1979, Reno voters made Barbara Bennett the city's first woman mayor. She was up against a roiling Red Sea without Moses to help her part the waters.

She called city hall "infested with special interests." She told me of the curious case of a local construction company that always submitted the low bid on city contracts about five minutes before the deadline.

She suspected a city hall night janitor of opening the locked cabinet containing competitors' bids and giving them to the outfit in question.

There is justice in the world. The crooks went bankrupt and out of business a few years later.

A high city official, who retired rich, was also implicated.

Barbara Bennett was a senior citizen and the fight wore her down. When new Gov. Richard Bryan (D) offered her the position of director of state youth services in 1983, she took it.

She remains the only mayor to have a park named after her and the only mayor to make the Reno Gazette-Journal's 1999 "100 Who Made a Difference" in the 20th Century.

Bennett's resignation gave Vice-Mayor Pete Sferrazza the gavel but neither he nor a vocal minority on the council could affect the entrenched power.

Into the breach came a Democrat and a Republican, Marshall Schultz and Brent Tyler. Schultz was a renter and Tyler was a sales exec for Young Electric Sign, builders of the current Reno Arch.

Brent also had sideline: He was the best political pollster — and the best damned Republican -- I ever knew. (I said so when when I wrote his obituary.)

Brent and Marshall started a renters' rights advocacy organization. After a few years, it withered as construction caught up and then faded when Mr. Schultz died.

I got an e-mail from an Oregon reader this week with a link to a Nevada Independent story headlined "Group thought to be first tenants union in Nevada seeks to tackle high rents."

Well, they thought wrong. Also, it's not a union, which is a workers' rights organization, but I appreciate their co-opting the name and the spirit of organizing.

Solidarity forever! Rock on.

DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN. I tried to use the power of the Internet to start a renters' rights information exchange a little before the pandemic hit.

I launched and offered to post tenant compliments and complaints. KRNV TV-4 covered the story.

I got lots of interest but no one — not one renter — would participate.

One guy said it all: "If I make a complaint, my landlord will know who I am and evict me."

As in 1978, renters have no rights save the cosmetic in this no-cause eviction state.

It's the equivalent of fire-at-will for workers without a union. Alas, at least weak federal laws protect union employees, who are today only about 15 percent of Nevada's workforce.

Renters can only complain. So make rent control an election issue, dammit! Get some enlightened people elected for a change.

As Frederick Douglass advised: Agitate, agitate, agitate.

Organize. Organize. Organize!

DIVINE INSPIRATION DEPT. I was motivated to write the following heresy while watching an episode of "Law & Order Special Victims Unit."

Intrepid detectives were desperately searching for a woman based on a single clue: a closeup photo of her upper body cleavage wearing a pseudo-leopardskin halter.

Needless to say, the director of the show displayed the display frequently, the better to increasingly build, er...suspense?

QUESTION: Why do men who are obsessed with large female breasts become Christians?

A: Because they can't wait to be born again.

¡ se puede!

Be well. Raise hell.
/ Esté bien. Haga infierno. (Pardon my Spanglish.)
être bien, élever l'enfer (Pardon my French.) Stammi bene. Scatenare l'inferno. (And Italian.)
Andrew Quarantino Barbano is a 54-year Nevadan and editor of,,, BallotBoxing.US,,,, and among others. He is a longtime member of the Reno-Sparks NAACP and Sparks-based Communications Workers of America Local 9413/AFL-CIO. As always, his comments are entirely his own. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Sparks Tribune since August 12, 1988.

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$75 dead or alive: Still crazy after all these years
A mass murderer becomes famous on TV a century later

How come nobody noticed 'til now?
Barbwire by Andrew Barbáno
/ Expanded from the 2-21-2018 Sparks Tribune

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory owners Max Blank and Isaac Harris. Is not Mr. Harris eerily familiar to television junkies?

From the Emmy-winning opening slate of the blockbuster "Cheers" television series. Combined with its "Frasier" spinoff, it lasted 20 years.
The "shirtwaist kings" immigrated from Russia and made a fortune manufacturing "Gibson Girl"-style blouses. (Photo, "The American Experience"/PBS)
The Emmy-winning opening slate of the "Cheers" television series before the "slate" of creators is superimposed. Looks like Mr. Harris' dead ringer (at left) is having a bloody good time.

"Who ya gonna believe, me or your own eyes?" Chico Marx disguised as Groucho Marx in "Duck Soup" (1933)
Back to the story of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist holocaust

Triangle tragedy recalled as requiem
"The Fire in My Mouth," a new oratorio by Pulitzer honoree Julia Wolfe, premiered with the New York Philharmonic Jan. 24

By Michael Cooper / The New York Times 1-23-2019

Wasting workers where everybody knows your name
Barbwire by Andrew Quarantino Barbáno
Expanded from the Sparks Tribune 10-18-2023

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Copyright © 1982-2023 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 54-year Nevadan, editor of and; and former chair of the City of Reno's Citizens Cable Compliance Committee. He is the executive producer of Nevada's annual César Chávez Day celebration and a longtime member of the Reno-Sparks NAACP. As always, his opinions are strictly his own. E-mail

Barbwire by Barbano moved to Nevada's Daily Sparks Tribune on Aug. 12, 1988, and has originated in them parts ever since.
Whom to blame: How a hall-of-famer's hunch birthed the Barbwire in August of 1987
Tempus fugit.

Betty J. Barbano
2-7-1941 / 12-27-2005

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