Drop kick me, Jesus, to Sparks City Hall

Expanded from the 10-5-2003 Daily Sparks, Nev., Tribune
An updated version appeared in the 10-9-2003 Comstock Chronicle

     Drop kick me, Jesus, through the goal posts of life,
End over end, neither left nor to right.
     Straight through the heart of them righteous uprights,
Drop kick me Jesus through the goal posts of life.

Compared to the lemmings of Reno and the larcenites of Las Vegas, Sparks is sleepy. That's not to say the Rail City has been devoid of juicy scandal. In 1975, voters installed a new city council, replacing one influenced by brothel owner Joe Conforte.

The newcomers attempted to provide tranquility and unanimity after several years of corruption, some of which would have made even old Chicago blush. (One city official told me that a councilmember had tried to extort money from the Catholic Church during confession!)

The facade proved costly. The mayor and council were rightly criticized for deliberating and voting behind closed doors, then publicly rubber-stamping their secret decisions with little or no debate. One result: the infamous Berlin Wall down the middle of "B" Street.

The skulduggery ran afoul of Nevada's newly-toughened open meeting law, which had been passed by mistake.

Assemblyman Patrick Murphy, D-Reno, introduced a bill which everyone predicted would go nowhere. Everyone was right until Murphy's bill became a victim of Murphy's Law. In the usual last-minute rush to adjournment, the lawmakers erroneously passed a much tougher version than intended. The statute was touted as one of the toughest in the nation and has had a beneficial effect in opening government to review by its proprietors.

     Make me, oh make me, Lord more than I am.
Make me a piece in your master game plan.
    Free from the earthly tempestion below
I’ve got the will, Lord, if you’ve got the toe

Thanks to its current mayor, Sparks last week stepped back two decades. Welcome to East Reno, complete with a new and expanded Berlin Wall along Interstate 80.

Sunshine is the best disinfectant

—Justice Louis Brandeis

Regents violated open meeting law

Nevada Attorney General's Open Meeting Law Manual and opinions

Excerpts from John L. Smith's
"Of Rats and Men"
      Mob Mouthpiece
      Mr. Mayor


City staff apparently over-reacted to non-advice from City Atty. Chet Adams and cut the word "God" out of some war-related signs.

Adams thus provided the kindling for a firestorm. Enter arsonous Mayor Tony Armstrong. Few, if any, would have objected if hizzoner had simply bought new placards and quietly returned God to the promotion of Mars.

Alas and alack, hizzoner called four of five councilmembers to obtain their consent. As a result, all of them could be removed from office.

Telephone polling has been ruled illegal by the Nevada Supreme Court. Awhile back, James Eardley, who then represented Sparks on the University of Nevada board of regents, conducted a fax poll to measure support among his colleagues for censuring Las Vegas regent Nancy Price (now a Sparks resident). After several years of expensive wrangling, the Supremes ruled that Eardley and his peers had conducted an illegal public meeting. (Attorney General v. Board of Regents, 114 Nev. 388, 1998).

Breaches of the open meeting law usually incur 40 lashes with a wet noodle unless there's a smoking gun. In one of the rare cases where someone was removed from office, a rural county official admitted to intentionally breaking the law — just as Mayor Armstrong did on the front page of local papers last week.

He immolated himself for nothing. With research as simple as searching the Barbwire archive, he would have found support for his sign worship from a gaggle of U.S. Supreme Court liberals.

As I noted last year, "In 1984, several liberal members of the Supreme Court, including Thurgood Marshall, Harry Blackmun, John Paul Stevens and William Brennan said references like 'In God we Trust,' which appears on United States currency and coins, were protected from the Establishment Clause because their religious significance had been lost through rote repetition,' the New York Times reported (6-27-2002)."

If giants of jurisprudence like Brennan and Marshall would not get uptight about "God Bless America" perpetuated in plastic at Sparks City Hall, why should Mr. Adams?

Nonetheless, Mayor Armstrong will enjoy experienced counsel in the upcoming taxpayer-funded fight. For several years, Deputy Sparks City Atty. Greg Salter was the attorney general's go-to guy on open meeting violations. Now, he'll have to use his expertise to try to convince a court that Armstrong really didn't do what he admitted doing. (Damned liberal media!)

Hizzoner of the Holy of Holies picked up more baggage as last week progressed. He was defended by no less than Lush Rambo, who at the same time came out of the closet as an overt racist, a quirk for which I've criticized the radio bully many times.

Armstrong has made Sparks competitive with Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, the ex-mob mouthpiece who has embarrassed his city worldwide. (See John L. Smith's new book "Of Rats and Men.")

In dorking out, Oscar the Extrovert at least provided us with a few chuckles. Nuking the open meeting law is no laughing matter. I've already gotten e-mails to the effect that if ignoring the law is okay for Sparks, why should anyone else worry about doing so?

Because conducting the public's business in public is very good for the public. Rape and pillage of the taxpayers' treasury gets perpetrated in the dark.

Mayor Armstrong went to confession on the front page, admitting to intentionally violating the statute and dragging other officeholders down with him. If he did so for deeply held religious reasons, let him prove his moral rectitude by saving the taxpayers lots of time, money and grief in litigating his transgression.

Armstrong should take himself out of the game by resigning from office before the attorney general drop kicks him out of city hall.

     Take all the brothers who’ve gone on before
And all of the sisters who’ve knocked on your door
    All the departed dear loved ones of mine
Stick’em up front in the offensive line.

FOR CONSPIRACY THEORISTS. At 7:00 p.m. Tuesday, the Washoe County Democratic Party will host a forum on the separation of church and state at 300 South Wells, Suite 5, in Reno. Call (775) 329-3117 for information.

Be well. Raise hell.

Country legend Bobby Bare's "Drop Kick Me, Jesus" music and lyrics were written and copyrighted
© by Paul Craft. | U-News | C.O.P. | Sen. Joe Neal
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Copyright © 1982-2003 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 34-year Nevadan, a member Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of and Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.


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