Power games, rape and pillage at the public trough


Expanded from the 4-15-2001 Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

SHILL ALERT. This Thursday at 11:00 a.m., National Public Radio broadcasts "Talk of the Nation" live from Lawlor Events Center in Reno. The first hour will be devoted to gambling, the second to public lands issues.

Two panelists have been announced for the first hour. UNLV Prof. Bill Thompson and Nevada State Archivist and noted historian Guy Louis Rocha will join host Juan Williams. The unannounced third panelist will be former Las Vegas Mayor, two-time gubernatorial candidate and current Democratic National Committeewoman from Nevada, Jan Laverty Jones-Scheutz.

Now vice-president in charge of looking out the window for Harrah's, Jones-Scheutz is going to have a busy week. In addition to fielding media inquiries about Harrah's nationwide energy crisis publicity stunt (adding energy cost surcharges to hotel guest bills), Mrs. Scheutz will be in court. Tomorrow, she faces former Las Vegas City Councilman Steve Miller in pre-trial proceedings in Miller's long-delayed libel case.

Miller was the frontrunner to become Las Vegas mayor in 1991 when Jones began running advertising accusing Miller of cocaine dealing. The facts seem otherwise. Back in the 1980s, Miller bought a car for his daughter, sight unseen, and sent it to a body shop for detailing. The body shop called Miller after finding a strange white powder in a door panel. Miller called the cops who arrived after workers had washed away the powder. End of story -- until Jones published an embellished version that launched the millionaire heiress' political career.

A Jones-friendly Las Vegas court dismissed the case. Miller took it to the Supremes who ordered it reinstated. Both actual and poetic justice lurk therein.

Jones-Scheutz, while mayor, testified as a glorification witness for casino mogul Steve Wynn in his now-overturned libel action against the publisher of Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith's unauthorized Wynn biography. By bankrupting Smith's publisher, as noted in this column several years ago, Wynn took out of print some of America's most treasured literature.

In spring of 1998, Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas, was polling within single digits of gambling-anointed gubernatorial nominee Kenny Guinn. Wynn persuaded Jones-Scheutz to enter the race on the last day of filing.

Neal has long been a proponent of raising Nevada's gross gaming tax, the lowest in the world. When Jones easily knocked off the underfunded Neal in the Democratic primary, the gambling industrial complex ensured Nevadans a choice of two casino-approved candidates. Jones ran a lackluster campaign, handing the election to Guinn. She has been richly rewarded for her service and continues to reap.

Perhaps some of that money will go to the man whose political career and personal reputation she damaged. The long-delayed Miller vs. Jones case goes to trial April 23.

QUEEN BEE VS. WORKER BEE. Mrs. Jones-Scheutz is the physical embodiment of the tobacco industry's public relations strategy as adapted by gambling. Send a fair-faced maternal presence out to hatchet your opponents. After two southern Nevada television confrontations with Sen. Neal, Jones assigned that part of her job to someone else.

She did acquiesce to take on fired Harrah's bartender Darlene Jespersen, who held her own with the polished Jones on a CBS network telecast last year. After more than 20 years of exemplary service, Jespersen was terminated for refusing to wear makeup as part of a new cosmetic policy.

Jespersen received the Hellraiser Award in the March-April edition of Mother Jones magazine and will soon appear on Fox Network's "The O'Reilly Factor." She was bumped last week because of the return of the U.S. hostages from China. Watch NevadaLabor.com or sign up for notification about a new air date.

EASTER LILIES FOR THE EXALTED. Sen. Maurice Washington, D-Sparks, wants to stop Sen. Neal's bill (SB 254) calling for a two-year moratorium on the death penalty. SB 254 just passed the conservative state senate with bi-partisan support.

"I'm definitely in favor of capital punishment," Rev. Washington says, "the book says an eye for an eye."

Perhaps, unless you're a Christian. The Old Testament contains such a stipulation. It also says you should kill any child who sasses back a parent. The coming of one Jesus of Nazareth was supposed to represent the transition from the Almighty and Terrible God to the Almighty and Merciful God. Apparently Rev. Washington has missed the central message of Christianity.

FLOWER CHILD, PART DEUX. Michonne Ascuaga, the boss' daughter, has been publicly screaming about the corporate welfare now greasing its way through the legislature which will fund a new downtown Reno convention center for Harrah's and the Carano family interests.

Last week, she told the Reno Gannett-Journal "it seems a little twisted to us" for the Nugget to compete with the tax-funded Reno project while paying taxes toward it. Actually, casinos only collect room taxes from tourists, moneys which should have always gone to the community but were long ago shunted toward promoting private businesses.

John Ascuaga's Nugget is the biggest corporate welfare queen in Sparks, sheparding the lion's share of its property tax money toward beautifying its front door. Last week, Sparks City Councilman John Mayer expressed righteous rage because of decades of council inaction on using any downtown redevelopment millions for the blighted western segment of "B" Street. (Maybe I'll start calling it "Victorian Blvd." when Ascuaga takes down Last Chance Joe, that ugly 1950s-vintage gas station fiberglas gold miner out front.)

SHORT SHOTS FOR SUNDAY. Assembly Bill 369, an attempt to unwind utility deregulation in Nevada, is up for final action at the ledge tomorrow. For consumer details and how to contact lawmakers, see the Energy Crisis War Room at NevadaLabor.com...The issue of fuel spills at Naval Air Station Fallon is not new. Neither is Navy stonewalling. Citizen Alert and this column were digging into that one long before anyone else. In 1990, I printed reports of animals ordered buried alive after landing in pools of toxic leakage.

Be well. Raise hell.

NevadaLabor.com | U-News | C.O.P. | Sen. Joe Neal
Guinn Watch | Deciding Factors


© Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 32-year Nevadan, a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413 , editor of NevadaLabor.com and JoeNeal. org/ Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.

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