Steppenwolf, wooden stakes and Wal-Mart


Expanded from the 1-14-2001 Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

Wally World sued the City of Reno on December 22 and nobody noticed. I was informed by sharp-eyed northwest Reno citizen advocate Mike Tracy late last week.

Top gun lawyer Steve Mollath filed legal action to overturn the city's denial of a special use permit for a Wal-Mart superstore at the corner of McCarran and Seventh in northwest Reno. Mollath successfully represented K-Mart against the city after it turned down a similar project in the same part of town in the mid-90s. He says he has never lost when suing Reno in such a case.

I called the city attorney's office to ask for a copy of the filing. The official response was "we haven't been served yet." That's a convenient way to keep the public in the dark, which is business as usual in those parts.

In order to facilitate negotiation, Mollath has not formally served notice, but has forwarded a copy. He can send the constable with the official paperwork anytime within 120 days.

He has been meeting with city officials with no result thus far, but thinks he's got "a slam-dunk."

Mollath says the city had no authority to turn down Wal-Mart over traffic concerns. Perhaps, but council members placed a host of other reasons on the record. However, the strongest argument remains the traffic numbers calculated by credible experts.

Mollath says the city gave up authority to reject projects on the basis of traffic when it signed onto a regional planning agreement mandated by 1995 legislation sponsored by Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno.

In order to stop Wally World, Mollath says, Reno would have to stop all building in the area, something the city has not done. I'd be interested in the city's viewpoint if they'll admit to having read the suit. Anyone wanting a copy may e-mail me to request one. I should have an electronic copy by mid-week. Don't go to the county clerk which by law must charge taxpayers an unconscionable $1 per page.

Driving a stake through Wal-Mart's wooden heart ain't gonna be easy. Much more and continuing statewide updates at the Wal-Mart War Room page.

CITY HALL RESUME MILL. Longtime Reno official Ralph Jaeck was recently a finalist to become city manager of Capitola, Calif., but was not selected. If he's shopping, who else is job-hunting at Reno City Hall?

THE LONE WOLF HAS COMPANY. Nevada's Steppenwolf, Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas, is once again being proven correct after years of going it alone.

Neal stood alone as prime sponsor of the bill which gave Nevada the toughest fire safety laws in the world, a measure which casinos opposed despite more than 100 deaths in Las Vegas hotel fires two decades ago. Now, when Joe Neal cries fire, people listen. A half-dozen or so lawmakers have recently said they are amenable to reviewing a gaming tax increase.

No one would support Neal's bill to do so in 1999. His initiative petition to raise the gaming tax failed after an expensive gambling industry campaign of fear and intimidation. Neal will introduce another gaming tax hike this year. Two other such measures have been requested, one rumored to come from the Nevada Gaming Control Board itself. Neal's initiative would have beefed up the underfunded regulatory agency.

"Neal has been right on every issue he's championed," veteran Las Vegas Review-Journal political columnist Steve Sebelius recently wrote.

LORD VADER STUBS HIS SABRE. Harvey Whittemore, multi-millionaire golf course developer, lawyer and top juice lobbyist for the Nevada gambling industry, royally screwed up by telling the truth last week. Speaking before the Washoe County Bar Association, His Lordship said the gambling industry supports the Nevada State Education Association initiative to impose a four percent income tax on every Nevada non-casino business. The ink was barely dry on last Thursday's Reno Gazette-Journal when a press release came from the Nevada Resort Association saying the industry does not support the teacher's tax. Written by the same reporter, the Friday Gazette-Journal story publishing the industry position failed to mention the earlier statement by the NRA's chief representative.

Perhaps the good folks at the Kazoo-Journal were too busy working on Wal-Mart to notice.

DUBYA DODGES LABOR PAINS. Dubya ducked for cover when the cannonades came hot and heavy against his now-defrocked nominee for labor secretary, Linda Chavez. Eloise Anderson was the first one Bush the Lesser interviewed to replace Chavez.

Anderson served as state welfare director under Govs. Tommy Thompson, R-Wisc., and Pete Wilson, R-Calif. Thompson has thrown 90 percent of recipients off the rolls and into usually worse poverty. His reward: appointment as secretary of health and human services in the Bush Deux cabinet so that he screw over poor children across the nation.

I think I know why Anderson didn't make it. Like Chavez, Anderson is a minority token amenable to harming the weak in order to place a pretty face on compassionate conservative cruelty. As this column reported on Aug. 18, 1996, Anderson, then California welfare director, said the reason for eliminating aid to the poor is that times have changed.

"Modern appliances and indoor plumbing make welfare unnecessary," she told an MSNBC interviewer. Bush's staff very probably found a dossier of such dumb statements and dismissed Anderson as something of a black Robert Bork.

TOUGH GUY GOES HOME. A 10-story fall left him a bleeding bag of broken bones barely expected to live. Amazing his doctors, Sparks resident Robert Farnworth, 23, went home a few days ago. When he gets better, perhaps we can forward his name to Dubya as an experienced nominee for secretary of labor.

Be well. Raise hell.


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© Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of NevadaLabor.com Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.

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