Ballot Boxing 2005

Expanded from the 7-24-2005 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune.

This week, former Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas, will briefly step back into the political arena on Sam Shad's Nevada Newsmakers.

I can't forecast the topics, but perhaps viewers got a hint from an anonymous pundit whom Mr. Shad quoted on the July 18 installment of his statewide program:

"It is quite likely that the 'gaming' candidate will be the Democratic candidate for governor and the 'chamber' candidate will be the Republican candidate. With organized labor pressing a Democratic initiative on minimum wage (likely to be fought by 'chamber' types spending big money) and anti-tax, grassroots Republican/Libertarians pressing a Republican initiative on tax or spending limitations (or both and likely to be fought by labor-education types spending big money), it's an election cycle that could shake the foundations of the state's politics unlike anything since the Sawyer (1958, '62 and '66) and O'Callaghan (1970 and '74) elections."

The chamber in question is the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce. Under the leadership of business lobbyist Sam McMullen during the 2003 legislative session, the gambling industry's tax shuffle plan, endorsed by Gov. Dudley Do-Right, was defeated. All the feckless governor could do was sign on to McMullen's alternative, which spread the pain of a major tax increase across a broad spectrum.

The gamblers' Grotesque Receipts Tax would have imposed new burdens on everyone but themselves. Sen. Neal and I calculated that the gambling industry's net annual exposure statewide would have been a miniscule $6 million, pocket change to a multi-billion dollar behemoth.

The above statement validates widely-circulated insider rumors that the gamblers will try in 2007 to cut their taxes and shift the responsibility to non-gaming businesses. Sen. Neal was in the thick of the fight in 2003. You may access the blow-by-blow at (Also see Casinos Out of Politics.)

The first airing of Sen. Neal's appearance happens on Monday, July 25, at 12:30 p.m. on KRNV TV-4 in northern Nevada. Those afflicted with Charter cable may view a rerun at 9:30 p.m. on cable channel 12 in Sparks-Reno-Carson-Douglas. (Tune in a couple of minutes early, Charter doesn't run a tight ship.) Audio will re-air on White Sheets Radio KKKOH at 9:00 a.m. this Sunday, July 31. The southern Nevada television schedule will be linked to the web edition of this column, where you may also view the program on the web.

THE GOOD SENATOR AND ME. I worked on Sen. Neal's various campaigns from 1998 through the 2003 legislative session and still maintain his web archive because, as you can see from the above, his issues are still very current.

MR. ROGERS' NEIGHBORHOOD. The potential non-partisan gubernatorial candidacy of megabucks lawyer and TV mogul Jim Rogers has the potential of bringing the Jesse Ventura effect to Nevada follytix. The big difference lies in our lack of election-day voter registration, which brought the ex-wrestler to a narrow victory in Minnesota. The colorlessness of the current Elephantight and Donkeykong field would make Rogers interesting by comparison. However, if Reno Mayor Bob Cashell jumps in on the Republican side and Las Vegas Mayor Oscar (hic) Goodman uncorks one for the Democrats, it's anybody's ballgame. Looking purely at resumes, Cashell is the most qualified for the statehouse, but a job application and two bucks (plus exorbitant sales tax) will buy you cup of coffee almost anywhere.

PHONY PATRIOTISM. Tomorrow, representatives from across the entire political spectrum will use a bit of public comment time to brief the Sparks City Council on the depredations of the Orwellianly-named Patriot Act, which the U.S. House of Misrepresentatives voted to renew last week. The activists are looking for a future council resolution condemning erosions of the Bill of Rights enacted in the name of national security.

In actuality, latter day J. Edgar Hoovers in the government had a laundry list of jackboot measures on the shelf and merely used the 9/11 debacle to get them enacted. As New York Times economic columnist Paul Krugman has asked many times, when will Dubya's administration solve problems rather than use them?

Hundreds of municipalities and organizations have joined the campaign against this abortion of the Constitution. Links to the opponents may be accessed in the web edition. The Nevada campaign to fight this perversion of Paul Revere will meet this at 6:30 p.m. this Wednesday, July 27, at 1890 Donald Street, off Neil Road in southeast Reno. For more information, call (775) 826-4514.

If you can't make the council session, Charter cable sufferers may view it in on Sparks-Reno SNCAT-15, speaking of which…

CABLE CAPERS. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., is trying to accomplish nationally what Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, has failed several times to impose on Nevada – a ban on public utility franchise fees.

This is part of national offensive against consumers. Its goal is total deregulation of all utilities. (Didn't anybody learn from Enron and Adelphia?) Franchise fees fund public access television, which, along with the Internet, NPR, PBS and this newspaper, stand among the few media not totally in the thrall of the corporate right-wing attack machine. You may read the extensive Nevada history of the issue at the website I've built in conjunction with my continuing service on the City of Reno's Citizens Cable Compliance Committee. (Also see "Smoking Guns," below.)

UNION, YES. Readers of this column got first break on the looming labor victory at the huge Quebecor printing plant in Fernley. Last week, the graphics-communication arm of the Teamsters Union scored a major win after two years of organizing. The victory was all the more impressive given the goofy rules whereby every no-show was counted as a vote against union representation.

If our legislature enacted such a provision in place of Nevada's non-binding "none of the above" option, our politicians would have to sing far different tunes to win our votes.

Be well. Raise hell.


Chancellor's words fuel rift with Gibbons
Las Vegas Review-Journal 7-17-2005

...and more ammo

Salient points about utility franchise fees

     1. Franchise fees are pass-throughs, so the competitive disadvantage idea is shaky. Utilities make money on the float, although smart regulators make sure that such "arbitrage income" is flowed through to the ratepayers.
     2. Where cable is concerned, the loss of franchise fees is analogous to the loss of the 15% seed money which the federal government provides to NPR and PBS. WIthout them, the system would collapse, as would public and educational cable access.
     3. The telephone and cable companies are in cahoots on this, as they were at the legislature. The RGJ article makes a reference to this.
     4. At least Reno Gazette-Journal reporter Ben Kieckhefer asked about replacing the revenue, which is critical before any repeal. Communities have come to depend on it. Way back when, pass-throughs were not automatic and utility stockholders were liable for paying the fees. The electric utilities went to court sometime in the 1970s and won a decision that says no cost can be imposed by government which the utility cannot flow through to ratepayers, an argument related to the 5th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
     5. While there is an overlap between ratepayers and taxpayers, they are not the same and franchise fees are not necessarily residents paying themselves. A good analogy is renting a park facility for a company picnic. Franchise fees are indeed user fees. If they were removed, cable and other utilities will not commensurately reduce their prices.

Clicke here to access the abovenoted RGJ article and the history of this issue. | U-News
Casinos Out of Politics (COP) | Sen. Joe Neal
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Copyright © 2005 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 36-year Nevadan and editor of Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.

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