From political dens of iniquity to the holy of holies

Expanded from the 8-12-2001 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune
Updated 9-21-2007

Last week's Barbwire rang some bells after it was reprinted in the Carson City Nevada Appeal. I have been informed that in the rush to privatize Carson-Tahoe Hospital, capital city officials have not reviewed the 1995 Washoe County Grand Jury Report which detailed the Machiavellian machinations behind the similar theft of Washoe Medical Center.

Through pure political corruption, the Washoe County Commission gave away our always-profitable county hospital for a paltry $3 million. It was worth up to $134.2 million in 1985 dollars. [For continuing updates, see the Health Care War Room.]

The Carson privatization is not yet a done deal. Under the current proposal, the elected hospital board will become an appointed, private body under the thumb of hospital administration. That's the same thing which happened with Washoe Med.

The Washoe Health System behemoth modeled its organization chart after that of President Joe Crowley's University of Nevada-Reno. Both institutions have a nefarious habit of placing prominent people on powerless advisory boards. Whenever pesky critics -- like the Sparks Tribune -- arise, the board brahmins get trotted out to trash the questioners. Real executive power remains with the unelected, unaccountable administration.

Crowley treated the Board of Regents like mushrooms and successfully marginalized the now-ineffective elected body (See just about any column in the 1996 Barbwire Archive for the full story.)

Washoe Med violated its promise to the public to pay for indigent care and to cut health care costs, choosing instead to build a cronyistic empire profitable to the chosen few.

Carson City must keep an elected board supervising the hospital. Nevada's open meeting law is the big argument used against such ideas.

"Washoe Med and Sutter (from California) attend every board meeting," one official told me. Avoidance of giving info to competitors is the rationale for secrecy. That attitude is a warning. Secret skullduggery by government resulted in last week's federal court win by the ACLU and local activist Sam Dehne against the misnamed Nevada Ethics Commission. Secrecy facilitated the Washoe Med giveaway.

Carson-Tahoe must remain accessible to the public. The privatization should be placed before the voters.

"The Grand Jury recommends that in the future, before consideration is given to conveying a major county asset or privatizing a major governmental function, the 'pulse of the public' be taken first...The Grand Jury feels the public is not well served by public officials who presume to know the will of the people or those who superimpose their own will over that of the people," the report concluded.

As Justice Louis Brandeis once so wisely stated, "sunshine is the best disinfectant."

DON'T THROW ROCKS, THROW STONEY. As so comprehensively reported by Holly Wray in last Friday's Tribune, tomorrow at 3:15 p.m., the Sparks City Council reviews the latest round of complaints against the city's continuing criminalization of work. (See the Labor Day Barbwire of 9-3-Y2K.)

Alliance for Workers' Rights Executive Director Tom "Stony" Stoneburner will make the case for the beleaguered job seekers of Galletti Way. Stony's presentation will be simple: put a moratorium on the city's constitutionally questionable ordinance or face major civil rights litigation. The city has been busting people seeking day-labor work near the state employment office on Galletti.

THE L-WORD. The Nevada Libertarian Party holds it annual convention this Saturday at Reno's Eldorado Hotel-Casino. James Dan will be one of two dinner speakers. A former Renoite now doing business in Las Vegas, Dan ran for State Assembly in Gomorrah South last year.

Former Libertarian David Rigdon, now a Republican in his first term on the Reno City Council,will share the microphone. Rigdon first ran for council when he was a 22 year-old Libertarian in 1993. (Council races are non-partisan.)

Rigdon was encouraged by Dan and others to make the race, but after initial support, the Libs went on the lam leaving Rigdon out on a limb. Rigdon's party switch contributed to his success as a Griffin-machine candidate in 1998. Now, he's biting the hand which fed him and has announced he will seek the Reno mayor's position next year.

Reno Mayor Jeff Griffin is already raising money toward a run for a third term. Republican Washoe County Commissioner Jim Galloway is also rumored to be considering a run against Hizzoner.

RUSSO NO-SHOW. Former Sparks Councilman Ernest Walker informs me that 1998 Republican gubernatorial candidate Aaron Russo will not attend the L-Convention due to health reasons. After losing to future-Gov. Dudley Do-Right in the GOP primary, Russo went on to switch parties.

I'm sorry the bombastic one has scratched. L-Party issue debates are always interesting but a Russo rant would have brought the confab some much-needed visibility. The former Hollywood producer knows how to give the crowd a show. He has recently surfaced on local cable television spots trashing Gov. Guinn for not funding the medical marijuana program in his state budget. The state agriculture department is implementing the voter-imposed mandate under regular operations, but will accept funds raised by citizens. Russo's goal is $30,000. For more info on the Libertarian gathering, call Walker in Sparks at (775) 359-6754.

TIME FOR THE ALMIGHTY. From political dens of iniquity, we now proceed to the Holy of Holies. This Saturday at 11:00 a.m., Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church dedicates its new cornerstone and time capsule at 2655 N. Rock Blvd. in Sparks. Guest of honor will be the Rt. Rev. John Richard Bryant, Bishop of the AME Church. Rev. Anthony Steele, who replaced the very active Rev. Carey Anderson, is the church's new pastor.

After a service and reception, the bishop will tour the church complex which includes a $1.5 million senior housing facility. In 1994, Bethel became the first church in the state to develop low-income housing. Later in the day, the bishop will lead a contigent touring the historic church building at 220 Bell Street in Reno. Bethel AME is the oldest historically African-American church in Nevada. It was established in Reno in 1907 as an offshoot of a Virginia City congregation dating from the 1880's.

Birthplace of the Reno-Sparks NAACP, Bethel AME moved to Sparks in 1993. For more information, call Pastor Steele or David Love at (775) 355-9030. The Bell Street location was recently placed in the National Register of Historic Places. (So was the Mapes Hotel, but so far I haven't heard that Mayor Griffin wants to implode this building. Don't give him any ideas.)

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Copyright © 1982-2004, 2007 Andrew Barbano

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

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