How green was my valley
Nevada's two largest newspapers have weighed in editorially on Senate Bill 326, Las Vegas Democratic State Sen. Terry Care's admitted attempt to kill the preservation of the pristine Ballardini Ranch in southwest Reno.
Both papers have not only missed the danger to public safety posed by the bill, they have also ignored the U.S. Constitution. Sen. Care's proposal would bar state and local governments from acquiring land for flood control and historic preservation as defined in Nevada Revised Statutes 376A.010.
There is no area of Nevada immune to flood danger. Barring governments from condemning land for flood control is bad public policy and a danger to the public.
Condemnation has historically been rarely used in the Silver State. In the late 1960's, Washoe County exercised its right to acquire a small piece of land which allowed the construction of the Slide Mountain ski area, now a major asset to the region.
Carson City is just now considering what local leaders say would be the first condemnation in the city's history, acquisition of a vacant Wal-Mart location which owner Max Baer, Jr., has failed to develop into his peripatetic Jethro Bodine's Beverly Hillbillies casino.
In recent years, the right of condemnation has been increasingly abused by municipalities across the nation. Las Vegas provides an egregious example. The city council acquired some longtime downtown storefronts then turned the land over to private interests to build a parking garage. Southern Nevada residents are rightly angry over the entire Fremont Street fiasco.
The Ballardini Ranch is no such abuse. The Washoe County Commission has followed the expressed will of the voters who approved a bond issue to begin acquisition of the resource in 2000. Developers take risks when they acquire property. Sometimes, communities don't subscribe to the Yankee mentality as reflected in last Friday's Las Vegas Review-Journal.
On April 8, the Social Darwinists at Nevada's largest newspaper termed the attempt to save the last substantial piece of open space in the Truckee Meadows a move by "green extremists." This twisted Libertarianism better fits the stereotype of Yankee New England: you should be able to do any darn fool thing you want with your own property.
By that standard, there will soon be a Starbucks on every streetcorn…uh…not a good example.
The "green extremist" potshot perfectly typifies the anything-goes-if-there's-a-buck-in-it mentality which has turned the Las Vegas Valley into Fresno with casinos. I grew up in Fresno before it became the most polluted city in the country, when you could still stand in one spot and see the coast range to the west and the Sierra to the east. I lived in Las Vegas when, on a clear day, you could see Howard Hughes. Today, the Clark County metro area usually scores at well below half the national average for parks and open space.
The Reno Gazette-Journal's April 10 editorial called on the legislature to come up with a "fair and balanced" solution to eminent domain issues. Other than the self-satire of appropriating the tipsy Fox News slogan, the Reno paper fell wider of the mark than the establishmentarian rebels of Gomorrah South. Reno readers were left with the impression that some compromise is necessary to balance interests.
SB 326 should be killed outright before it destroys a precious natural resource.
Both the Reno and LV papers place private property rights on a vestal pedestal. Both failed to mention that the right of eminent domain is written into the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Section one of SB 326 is an attempt to kill open space acquisition anywhere in Nevada. Period. Section two is a sop to those still ticked off by the Fremont Street Experience condemnation from several years back. The proper remedy to heal that old wound lies with Assembly Bill 143, sponsored by Sen. Care, Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, and a bi-partisan majority of both houses. It's currently stuck in the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
The Ballardini Ranch can be devoted to a rich range of uses in addition to critical wildlife habitat (given its border with the Toiyabe National Forest). It can accommodate hiking, picnicking, skiing, camping, education, public and private events. Reno's Bartley Ranch and Rancho San Rafael parks provide smaller examples of the potential.
The Nevada State Senate Judiciary Committee should get out the holy water and give SB 326 a decent drowning before the floods come. The Assembly Judiciary Committee should move AB 143 this week to help prevent future abuses such as the downtown Las Vegas parking garage affair.
Let them know. Info below.
Be well. Raise hell.
Andrew Barbano is a 36-year Nevadan. The above special edition has been posted with hot links at the 2005 Barbwire archive at The opinions expressed herein are his own. Responses to the issues raised are welcome and may be posted. Any respondents who wish comments kept confidential need only ask. Please forgive any unintentional uploads or duplications. Please include the entire subject line with any list deletion requests. Thank you.
#Reno Gazette-Journal editorial
Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial
Mark Amodei, Chair, Carson City
(775) 684-1470
Maurice Washington, R-Sparks, Vice-Chair
(775) 684-1480
Mike McGinness, R-Fallon
(775) 684-1442
Dennis Nolan, R-Las Vegas
(775) 684-1421
Terry Care, D-Las Vegas
(775) 684-6503
Steven Horsford, D-North Las Vegas
(775) 684-1429
Valerie Wiener, D-Las Vegas
(775) 684-1422
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