The ghost of Mary Gojack and the dogs who caught the truck


Expanded from the 9-15-2002 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

Don't blame me. It's not my fault. It's just a big coincidence.

About 4:00 p.m. last Tuesday, the Reno City Council unanimously granted a request from myself and other ratepayers to form a cable TV consumer advisory board. That night, due to longrunning and quite necessary upgrades in the system, cable service started going down all over the area.

A call to Charter Cable, if you can get through, gets an endless recorded recital of all the streets in the region with "possible outages."

Thank God last week's Giants games were on KAME TV-21, which you can get over the air.

The Reno City Council hearing produced great entertainment. The tape of the meeting is scheduled to run on Sierra Nevada Community Access (SNCAT) TV-13 beginning at 10:00 a.m. today. That means the good stuff starts about 1:00 p.m. when Councilman Dave Aiazzi and I get into the best media fight I've been through since my talk radio days.

Mr. Aiazzi, who represents my section of Reno, took umbrage at a flyer and an e-mail I composed to promote support for the watchdog panel. Here's an excerpt —



You're also too much trouble to put up with.

City staff put it in a memo to the Reno City Council for the 9-10-2002 agenda: '...the laws governing franchise renewal are very confusing and complex...interjecting a citizen's committee at this point in time may jeopardize the City's ability to meet its October 21, 2003, franchise renewal deadline and committee members may have unrealistic expectations as to what can be accomplished...a citizens' committee is not particularly adept at assisting the City in evaluating Charter's financial, legal and technical abilities, or determining whether Charter fully complied with the terms and conditions of its franchise agreements...Interjecting a citizens' committee at this point in this process in fact may put the City at risk in meeting its schedule...'"

I pointed out to the council that some very good citizens have volunteered, one of whom is a world class expert on cable TV systems. Councilman Aiazzi strongly objected to my characterization of the staff memo's language.

At one point, I asked if we should pause so that I could be sworn in to continue his cross-examination.

I can handle the heat. Chew on me all you want, as long as you vote right. In the end, the council supported the consumer side 6-0. (Mayor Griffin left before the tally.)

So, now that us dogs have caught the cable guy's truck, what do we do next?

Learn to drive it. The council directed city staff to reach out to Sparks and Washoe County about making it a regional panel, as Charter is the only cable service provider in the Truckee Meadows. The city will need some time to advertise for members and draw up a mandate.

I have been receiving a steady stream of volunteers from all over the valley who want to serve.

I've also received some very interesting letters, including the first nasty flame e-mail to come across in ages.

">WE have satellite dumb ass I'm one of the smart ones remove us from your list. Nicki >:)"

"Don't feel so smug that you have beaten the system," I responded. "You haven't. You are also the victim of oligopolisitic pricing and don't know enough to realize you're being ripped off. Ignorance is bliss."

Nicki proved a very irascible person.

"You told me twice I'll tell you twice dumb ass I have SATELLITE — I'm one of the smart ones>


To which I answered: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. The cartel has fooled you twice."

If Nicki thinks she's beaten the system, then she also probably thinks there's real competition at the gas pump. (To disabuse yourself of that notion, go to the Barbwire oilogopoly archive at

I will soon announce a meeting so that we can start work reviewing Charter's proposed new 15-year franchise before the panel gets official sanction. Time is short. The city's consultant's report is due in November. The council seemed favorably disposed toward calling at least one more public meeting before then. Watch for updates.

All in all, it was a good week for cable subscribers — at least for those not wanting to watch much TV.

THANKS, WE NEEDED THAT. In a week of wall-to-wall 9/11, comic relief came from a wholly unexpected direction (besides city hall).

A former topless dancer, defeated by Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas, and by None of the Above in the Sept. 3 Democratic gubernatorial primary, filed a defamation of character suit against Mr. Neal. Therein, she accuses him of publicly calling her...gasp...a bimbo.


Such a scurrilous allegation —in a major paper like the Gardnerville twice-weekly — cost her the election, according to her court filing.

Trouble is, Neal never said it. In an interview with the Gardnerville Record-Courier, she used the term herself.

"In a review of the story, Neal did not call her such a name," longtime Las Vegas Review-Journal Carson City bureau chief Ed Vogel reported.

"Instead, it appears Scott herself used the term. The story says Scott wanted to campaign hard in the final days before the Sept. 3 election to overcome her reputation as a topless dancer and dispel any illusion she is 'a blond bimbo,'" the veteran Review-Journal reporter noted.

This episode reminds me of the late Mary Gojack's breathlyzer test, the damndest political gimmick I've ever seen.

In 1972, dear Mary was an unknown running against well-entrenched GOP incumbent Corky Lingenfelter in a southwest Reno assembly district gerrymandered to vote very Republican.

She came out with a position advocating breathalyzer tests for all lawmakers before admittance onto the legislative floor. Mary said she had seen some members close to falling down drunk. (Imagine that.)

Somebody might have filed a libel suit right then and there. Except that she was telling the truth.

Mary's breathalyzer test won national press attention and became the turning point in her upset win.

Two years later, I helped Mary get elected to the state senate, where she served four years with Sen. Neal.

Wherever she is, I can see Senator Mary looking down and having a good laugh with her old friend Joe. This time, the opponent has provided the buzz.

Be well. Raise hell. | U-News | C.O.P. | Sen. Joe Neal
Guinn Watch | Deciding Factors


© 2002 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 34-year Nevadan, a member Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of and He hosts Deciding Factors on several Nevada television stations. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.)Tribune since 1988.

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