Somehow, kissing us afterward is no longer enough


Expanded from the 6-10-2001 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

Retired reporter Thomas Wilson recently observed that Nevada government is controlled by a narrow group of rich men with one marginally redeeming trait: "They may be democratic among themselves."

The great unwashed can thus take cold comfort in government by consensus among con men.

This should come as no surprise to oldtimers, as authors Sally Denton and Roger Morris point out in their new book "The Money and the Power: The Making of Las Vegas and Its Hold on America, 1947-2000."

They make a compelling case that the ethics of organized crime, corporatized and legitimized here in the High Desert Outback of the American Dream, have not only infected every aspect of American life, but also become more virulent. One billionaire descendant of old Nevada noted that even the casino mobsters of yesteryear would be appalled at the way their successors are not taking care of business.

"When Las Vegas needed a new park, a church or some other public need, the money was raised. Most of the time it wasn't done through increased tax levies. Rather, the hat was passed amongst the gambling establishments and the money came rolling in," Las Vegas Sun Publisher Brian Greenspun noted in a column last week.

"Those were simpler times, to be sure, and cannot be recaptured in the more modern ways of the 21st century. But they did evidence something very important about what was then a young and growing community. When it came time to buy the schoolbooks, build the libraries and pay the teachers, the good people up and down the Strip knew the value of building a good and solid community. They reached into their pockets to make sure it would happen," Greenspun wrote.

"Today, the opposite appears to be the case. While most people would agree on the needs for significant quality-of-life expenditures, the answer is to reach into someone else's pocket. A stark contrast to the days when building a good life meant taking responsibility for it in the most direct way," Greenspun stated.

Two bills which died in Carson City last week present a cruel indictment of the depraved indifference which now rules.

CANCER IS COOL WITH CARSON CITY. Assemblywoman Marcia deBraga, D-Fallon, pushed for a special grant of $1 million to expedite research and public education regarding the leukemia cluster in the Lahontan Valley. One of 14 small children has already died.

"So you're saying the guys down south would rather have a road in their town than care about sick kids in ours?" asked one Churchill County resident in a Wednesday community meeting.

"It sends a really bizarre message," deBraga replied. "Some less important projects were funded. Even with the governor's assurance funds would be available, they didn't add anything extra for the leukemia investigation," yesterday's Nevada Appeal reported.

In Fallon this evening at 6:00 p.m., a memorial service will be held for Adam Jernee, 10, the first of the Fallon cancer cluster kids to succumb. It will take place at Oats Park at the corner of Richards Way and West Street. For information, call Rebecca Easter at 775-867-3734.

ADDICTS ARE US. For the first time in the history of the Sagebrush Plantation, a bill was introduced to start a program for gambling addicts.

"I think it was the first time the words 'problem gambling' were ever uttered in Carson City," addiction consultant Bo Bernhard told the Las Vegas Sun. The industry did not oppose the bill, but it was nonetheless ignored, cut, left to bleed and die.

The senate judiciary committee, chaired by bill supporter Mark James, R-Las Vegas, passed SB 335 fully funded by a $100 assessment on every gaming licensee. The senate finance committee, headed by Bill Raggio, R-Reno, reduced it to $75,000. Even at that, the bill was ignored as heavyweight lobbyists controlled the agenda on the shameful final night of the regular session.

"This is just part of our record of not giving a damn about a serious issue," said UNLV Prof. Bill Thompson.

"Other casino states spend far more than $250,000 on problem gambling, even though Nevada's casino business is more than twice as big as any other state's," the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Friday.

"For example, Michigan has only three state-regulated casinos, but spent $3.4 million last year on problem-gambling programs," reporter Jeff Simpson wrote.

"Nevada should be embarrassed," James said Thursday. "Other states spend a lot, but we spend nothing."

DETENTION SESSION. Gov. Dudley Do-Right has said he will not allow any such measures to be revived at the legislature's remedial session which begins this Thursday. He will, however, allow re-validation of some brutal bills which passed after the midnight Tuesday deadline, tardiness of which threw their validity into question.

Utility deregulation (AB 661) for casinos and mines is perhaps the worst of the lot. Yesterday, Harrah's announced a major deal with Enron, the biggest of the deregulatory bandidos, the company which wrote Nevada's first deregulation law in 1997.

HARRAH'S HEELS. No stranger to brutality, Harrah's has implemented the cruel and unusual "Personal Best" employee appearance policy in Atlantic City. Among other indignities, it mandates that cocktail servers wear deforming high heels. Harrah's-Reno fired longtime bartender Darlene Jespersen for refusing to wear makeup dictated by the policy. She's taking legal action.

WAL-MART WHINES. Tomorrow, the City of Reno is due to file a response to Wal-Mart's lawsuit. The world's largest retailer wants Judge Steve Kosach to overturn the Reno City Council's 5-2 denial of a superstore in northwest Reno.

At 2:00 a.m. PDT this Tuesday, KNPB TV-5 will air "Store Wars -- When Wal-Mart Comes to Town," a real-life late night horror movie. Set your VCR's and call (775) 784-4555 to lobby the station to re-air it at a more opportune time for northern Nevada and eastern California viewers. Ask for Pat Miller or Barbara Harmon.

The program will be cablecast on Cox Cable 10 in Las Vegas at 2:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. PDT, also on this coming Tuesday, June 12. KLVX does not broadcast over the air from midnight until 6:00 a.m. but the national PBS network feed is picked up by Cox Cable in the wee hours.

At KLVX, contact Lee Winston at (702) 799-1010.

GET DOWN ON THE SIERRA PACIFIC POWER STRUCTURE. The Nevada Utility Reform Alliance meets again on Saturday, June 23 at 2:00 p.m. at the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN), 1101 Riverside Drive in Reno. (For more information, see the Nevada Energy Crisis War Room.)

Be well. Raise hell.

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© Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 32-year Nevadan, 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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