Slipping on oil and walking on water

Expanded from the 8-24-2003 Daily Sparks, Nev., Tribune
An updated version appeared in the 8-28-2003 Comstock Chronicle

Dear fellow suckers: Have we all gotten so used to abuse that we have become little more than ATM machines for anyone with the political juice to squeeze our wallets?


Witness how we submit to rape and pillage over the price of liquids. Every time gas prices skyrocket, the corporate media dutifully report official industry and government excuses. They leave the impression that nothing can be done, that everything is due to sacred, immutable, untouchable and inscrutable market forces, alleluia.

I'm sick and tired of getting religiously and royally inscrutabled.

Same thing with the recently announced monster rate hikes for the cost of Truckee Meadows water. The cynics who think it's a move to force everyone onto water meters are entirely correct. Those who think that any reduction in demand will merely facilitate additional growth are likewise right on.

Growth stopped paying for itself in Nevada's major metros almost a decade ago. The prime culprit is the creation of low-wage jobs by the likes of casinos and Wal-Mart. (The state study proving it has long been posted at

Companies paying low wages with no benefits privatize profits and socialize risk. Those without health insurance end up in local emergency rooms subsidized by the taxpayers. Local casinos advise their workers on how to apply for welfare and food stamps. Religion-based ministries in downtown Reno have long counted a steady stream of casino workers as well as the homeless in their food lines.

Local officials have been sold the idea of one-size-fits-all impact fees. Developers and speculators pay a fixed amount before they break ground. Such dollars are not earmarked for the area in question, but go into a general fund which pays for current projects. The Wal-Mart northwest Reno superstore will open this winter while expansion of the road system will not follow for perhaps a decade —with no guarantee that enough new money will come in to pay for it even then.

That's a government-sponsored chain letter.

If local governments want to fairly assess for the impacts of growth, let them impose the water meter system: Charge impact fees to all new residents rather than just goosing new home construction.

OIL FIRES. I've written the equivalent of a book on how BigOil uses every news story as an excuse to gouge prices and kill independent retailers, as the oilogopoly is now doing once again. You will find seven years of research on the fixing of gasoline prices linked to the web edition of this column. Read, react and spread the word.

BLAST FROM THE PAST. City managers usually burn themselves out in three to five years. Former Reno City Manager Chris Cherches has surprisingly lasted in Wichita, Kansas, since 1985. Every so often, I get calls from the Land of Oz from people wanting to know if he did here what he's done there. The phone calls have increased of late. My Sparks Tribune colleague in columny Dennis Myers must be getting similar contacts. He forwarded an August 20 article from the Wichita Eagle.

The Wichita City Council is irritated about Mr. Cherches' expensive tastes in travel at the same time the city is laying off workers.

"Cherches held a June news conference to field questions about improvements made to his contract on the day new council members were being elected," the paper reported, "(and) about a no-bid city contract awarded to a Wichita State University management training program run by his wife."

Nice to know they've learned to love him as we did.

CABLE CAPERS. The City of Reno Citizens Cable Compliance Committee, which I chair, meets this Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in the council chambers at Reno City Hall. It will run live on SNCAT Charter Cable Channel 13 in Sparks and Reno. The hearing will be rebroadcast on Friday at 2:00 p.m. and again Monday, Sept. 1, at 6:00 p.m. (Happy Labor Day.)

We have a vacancy on the panel which the city council will probably fill on Sept. 10. I encourage any Reno resident who wants to serve to contact the city clerk's office for an application. Call (775) 334-2030 or e-mail <>

Last week, the council approved two recommendations from the citizens committee. The officials authorized semi-annual town hall meetings on cable issues, complete with live TV call-ins. The first should be scheduled when the city's new Charter Cable franchise agreement is available for public review.

The council also gave city staff standing orders to file the proper paperwork whenever any cable provider submits costs or applies for a rate change. The goofy way the feds allow cable rates to be set lets cable companies file costs without filing for a rate hike. But the local franchising authority only has 30 days after the filing of the costs to challenge any of them.

Last year, Charter filed costs in August. The window of opportunity for challenge thus closed in September. Last spring, Charter filed for a huge rate hike based on those costs. The CCCC asked the city to intervene, but the city's consultants found that any action was barred by the September deadline. (The CCCC did not exist at the time of the 2002 cost filing.)

We have a crowded agenda Thursday, including the complaint process and a discussion for recommendation to the council that any new cable franchise agreement include updated rules and guidelines concerning social and economic discount programs currently provided under the current ordinance.
Watch for updates.

Be well. Raise hell. | 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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