Follytix & foolishness, the perennial fall classic


Expanded from the 10-22-00 Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

This country desperately needs campaign reform. I suggest postponing the political season till January when we don't have important things like the World Series to worry about. Alas, so much follytix, so little time.

SEE YOU IN THE MOVIES. A month or so ago, I saw a Reno Gazette-Journal promo on TV late news. It said that the next morning's edition would carry a story about the U.S. Justice Dept. conducting an anti-trust probe of the Century/Syufy movie theater chain.

Not one word ran. I nosed around the local Syufy Corporate Welfare Dispensaries (aka Reno and Sparks city halls). The rumble in the political jungle is that Syufy traded Regal Cinemas a theater in another state for the downtown Reno riverfront property.

City officials say that Janet Reno and company are interested because the swap gave each company local dominance.

With the closure of the Greenbrae 8 in Sparks and the Keystone II at the Reno Hilton, the Syufy family now enjoys a first-run motion picture monopoly in Washoe County.

I am sure that three Reno city council incumbents would prefer that nothing print on this story until November 8. Sorry, gentlemen.

[Writer's note: Four days after this story ran, the Gannett-Journal finally printed something.]

AIAZZI MELTDOWN. One of the cardinal rules of politics is never run against someone not on the ballot against you. Ill-tempered Reno incumbent Dave Aiazzi ignored it at a community advisory board meeting last week.

He launched a face-to-face, full frontal personal attack on former Councilmember Judy Pruett-Herman,who's running against incumbent Pierre Hascheff.

Aiazzi said it was "his job" as an incumbent to tell his constituents that Judy Pruett-Herman should not be elected and would destroy the council and city if she wins. Other councilmembers say that the character assassination against Pruett-Herman is just beginning.

One of Mr. Aiazzi's campaign mailers trumpets all the achievements of the current regime but fails to mention the keystone issue: the tax increases imposed on Washoe County by Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, and Gov. Dudley Do-Right at the council's request to pay for the downtown Reno Union Pacific Railroad train trench.

END CORPORATE WELFARE AS WE KNOW IT. As I've written many times, I will not support any tax increases until the state's corporate welfare queens (theater chains, gambling and mining) kick the habit and get off the public dole.

The gambling industry is the biggest addict. It doesn't pay a fair share for the growth it spawns and the social costs its low wage jobs impose on the public. (Please read the state study proving it.)

Municipalities all over the state are pushing bond issues and tax increases as a result.

OOPS DEPT. Republican U.S. Senate Candidate John Ensign recently mailed a fundraising letter noting his desperation for more TV spot money. (Why Ensign needs any more cash remains a mystery. The latest campaign reports show him continuing to outpace Democrat Ed Bernstein by 2 to 1.)

In the opening line, Ensign writes "I hoped it wouldn't come to this. Ed Bernstein has resorted to outright lies."

When accusing the other side of inaccuracy, you should try for accuracy yourself. The letterhead and envelope which brought it read "Congressman John Ensign," a title Ensign gave up two years ago.

That's okay, John. I can understand how the heat of a tight campaign can make candidates stretch the truth — and sometimes even their incumbent status.

OOPS, PART DEUX. Last Friday, CNN's "Inside Politics" ran a correction. Veteran anchor Judy Woodruff delivered network regrets at running the wrong photo in a story about southern state congressional candidate Sam Graves.

The retraction committed the sin of omission. I saw the original story and was amazed that this guy Graves looked so much like admitted hitman Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, Gambino Crime Family member and former enforcer for godfather John Gotti.

MORE POLITICAL LIES. Last week, I decried the false advertising of the local billboard industry. Its current TV campaign trumpets "a possible loss of 5,000" jobs if billboards are banned. That's the equivalent of two Reno Hiltons. Actually, the current proposal doesn't ban billboards at all.

The industry also threatens elimination of some $250,000 a year in free space donated to local charities. (In truth, they only "give" otherwise unsold space and make the charities pay production and installation, so their actual donation is zero.)

A new ad in the current edition of the Reno News & Review goes from misleading to outright lying: "Banning Free Speech in Reno: A Little Extreme," screams the headline.

"An initiative will appear on the Reno ballot that will not only ban commercial free speech on outdoor advertising structures, but would cause thousands of people to lose their jobs, hurt tourism and use taxpayer money to enforce a ban on free speech."

So a toothless ordinance asking the City of Reno to please limit billboards will destroy both lives and the First Amendment? Thank God the patriotic billboard industry warned us.

Long ago, Samuel Johnson said it best: "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."

ABSENT LOGIC. The Reno Gazette-Journal printed a good story yesterday about local Republicans upset that their party's absentee ballot request form has a space for Social Security numbers on a return-mail postcard. Veteran reporter Frank Mullen was told by party member Judy Green that the return card "didn't say mandatory or optional, they just had a space for the number."

Mrs. Green's memory appears faulty. I've seen a half-dozen of the pieces. In red ink, they all state "Social Security No. Required."

Mullen properly notes that it's against Nevada law for voter registrars to require the information, so the party's request is highly improper.

Republicans rightly fear identity theft should they mail those postcards.

Be well. Raise hell.

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© Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 31-year Nevadan, a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of NevadaLabor.com, where the past five years of columns may be accessed. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988. For more detailed research, use the search engine at the front page of this site.

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