Expanded from the 4-1-2007 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune
Updated 4-15, 5-10, 5-17, 5-20, 5-28-2007
I don't care if it is April Fool's Day, there is too damned much skulduggery afoot to spend time making stuff up when reality is so soberingly ridiculous.
CONSUMER RIPOFF, PART ONE. If I have anything to say about it, a certain tepid teapot will produce a tempest down at the biennial petting zoo we call our legislature. Last Friday, I delivered to lawmakers the Reno-Sparks NAACP's endorsement of Assembly Bill 530. On its face, it seems benign, the establishment of a consumer ombudsman for minorities.
The principal sponsor is Assemblyman Moises Denis, D-Las Vegas, one of four Latinos in the ledge. (The others are Sen. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, Assembly Majority Leader John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, and Assemblyman Ruben Kihuen, D-Las Vegas.)
Denis told the Assembly government affairs committee that he has been receiving substantial numbers of consumer complaints from people who don't know where to turn.
Assemblyman Kihuen and African-American Assemblyman Harvey Munford, D-Las Vegas, both noted that they also have been getting such calls.
The new ombudsman would also become executive secretary of the Nevada Commission on Minority Affairs, a toothless tiger created by the legislature a few years ago. It was given no funding and thus has not met for over a year.
I told committee members that they have to be prepared to put some serious money behind this entity. As it stands, it's just another exercise in tokenism.
Texas Notary Public v. Mexico Notario Publico
From the Texas Secretary of State
From Las Vegas, representatives of the Latin Chamber of Commerce and Nevada Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals brought forth a series of horror stories.
In Spanish, "notario publico" means something quite close to a lawyer. North of the border, a notary public attests to signatures on legal documents.
When California tightened up on shysters misrepresenting themselves, many moved here. Cases of real estate scams were presented as well as the chronic problem of ripoffs by payday loan sharks.
Nevada Consumer Affairs Division Commissioner James Campos testified that very little is in place to respond to these needs. After the hearing, I asked him if his office has the makings of a consumer advocate's function which the ombudsman could solidify. He said he's researching it.
The bill will have to move to the Ways and Means Committee for funding, where I have been informed that the Gibbons Administration wants to maintain its token status. Gov. Jim the Dim will agree to creation of the ombudsman position, but support zero funding. These abuses demand not only funding the top job, but also a staff to work on these issues.
I reminded the committee that it took 21 years from the first introduction of a utility consumer advocate bill by the late Assemblyman Ray Crosby, D-Reno, in 1960, to the office's creation by the 1981 legislature. (For his efforts, Sierra Pacific Power got Crosby fired from his job.) Write or call your lawmaker to support AB 530. It's important.
Deregulation has not lowered Texas cable rates they've risen
Corporate pillage and
Jim Crow cable
Nevada lawmakers vote to deregulate phone and cable companies
Las Vegas Sun/AP 5-11-2007
Phone company executives ask Nevada lawmakers to drop caps on rates
Carson City Nev. Appeal 5-9-2007
State consumer advocate
calls for rate caps
Report on the hearing
Las Vegas Review-Journal
Will cable law cut cost or convenience?
Consumer groups and local officials warn that the bill, aimed at eliminating locally negotiated franchises in favor of state licensing, would make it harder for disgruntled customers to get problems fixed.
Orlando Sentinel 5-4-2007
Report on the legislative hearing and deflective reflections from the president of AT&T Nevada
Plus a 10-year timeline
CONSUMER RIPOFF, PART DEUX. On Monday, the Assembly Commerce and Labor Committee hears AB 518 which looks like a consumer disaster. It appears to change and substantially loosen the already thin regulation of telecommunications companies.
For the past several legislative sessions, I have unsuccessfully fought the ongoing campaign of telephone and cable TV companies to pull the ladder up behind them.
All over the country, the big boys are cutting deals which will eventually result in oligopoly. (A monopoly means one company, like Sierra Pacific Power, sells a product or service. An oligopoly means a few companies control the market, as in the case of the five major oil companies as documented for the past dozen years in the Barbwire Oilogopoly Archive.)
AB 518 looks like another Christmas tree for the biggies. I've requested an explanation from AT&T, which has not responded. Charter Communications stopped talking to me a long, long time ago. (See ReSurge.tv).
The bill allows for even fuzzier documentation on consumer bills and there's even a Hank Greenspun Memorial section.
About 20 years ago, Greenspun's arch-enemy, Las Vegas taxi company owner Milton Schwartz, started providing satellite service to a housing complex he owned.
Greenspun brought an action before the Public Service Commission stating that Schwartz's action violated the Greenspun dynasty's cable franchise because Schwartz had dropped a line over a street. (Exclusive franchises have always been illegal under federal law.)
The PUC sided with Schwartz.
At the next legislative session, the Greenspuns got Gomorrah South cable regulation removed from the state and placed with that bastion of public integrity known as the Clark County Commission.
Now that you know the history, go read section 15 of the bill.
THE JOE NEAL MEMORIAL. The great North Las Vegas Democrat is gone but by no means forgotten, as attested by the consistently high traffic at his website, which I maintain as a continuing testament to his 32 years of outstanding public service. We both got a good chuckle when I informed him of AB 380 which revises requirements relating to certification of radar guns. (For those who haven't heard the legend, Sen. Neal still holds the record for the cannonball run between Carson City and Las Vegas. Just ask any NHP veteran.)
THE COLD SHOWER. A few weeks ago, I lauded Assemblyman Munford's attempt to bring some rationality to reapportionment. He just got a lesson in legislative hardball. His anti-gerrymandering measure (AJR 12) won't even be given the courtesy of a hearing by his fellow assembly majority Democrats.
WHY PEOPLE HATE LAWYERS, PART INFINITUM. I wonder how long the Laub and Laub law firm will be allowed to advertise on TV and in the Yellow Pages given the recent recommendation from the State Bar of Nevada that attorney Joe M. Laub be suspended from practice for six months and a day. (Download the State Bar of Nevada decision in Adobe Acrobat Reader by clicking here. Additional Laub disciplinary docs at DoctorLawyerWatch.com.) While we're on the subject of lackluster lawyers
WEB EXTRA: THE ALBERTO GONZALES EFFECT. The City of Reno apparently thinks it a pretty good idea to have a compliant, council-appointed city attorney. (Just look at all the good such an arrangement has done for George W. Bush.) The City of Sparks asked the legislature for a charter change (SB 101) which would allow the council to hire outside lawyers without the permission of its elected city attorney, in this case the disgraced Chet Adams.
Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, opined that Reno and Sparks city attorneys should be appointed. Lo and behold, AB 570 calls for both the Reno and Sparks positions to be made appointive.
Reno city government spends upwards of a million a year making its citizens think all is well at city hall Damn the potholes, pay for another full-color insert in the Reno Gannett-Journal! The Reno council long chafed against Patricia Lynch, a good lawyer of high integrity who would not let herself or her staff be pushed around by city manager Charles McNeely's administration. When Lynch moved on to a judgeship, former justice court judge John Kadlic won the job over the anointed candidate of the city hall establishment.
Sparks should get its charter change regardless of Reno's power grab. And both burgs should continue to elect their city attorneys.
UNINTENTIONAL IRONY DEPT. My old friend Dr. Richard Siegel of the ACLU last week decried the increasing number of race-based restrictions on the state Millennium Scholarship program being proposed at the ledge. Siegel noted that undocumented students with high grade point averages should not be denied but should be given a "gold star." Hmmm...I seem to recall another minority group which had to wear gold stars not too many decades ago. An unfortunate choice of words by the good professor, who's fighting a losing battle when even Democratic lawmakers are signing onto immigrant bashing legislation, as I noted several weeks ago.
GOVERNOR AMODEI. A reading of section two of Article I of the Nevada Constitution, which gives great power to the people to change their government, should give our thoroughly corrupt governor and light-guv well-deserved nightmares of early exit from public service. Which could make Sen. Mark Amodei, R-Carson-Washoe, acting governor.
APRIL LOVE. On April Fool's Day 1976, I met Betty Joyce Donlevy at the ladies wear store she managed in Carson City. Thanks for giving me the rest of your life.
Be well. Raise hell.
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Copyright © 2007 Andrew Barbano
Andrew Barbano is a 38-year Nevadan, editor of NevadaLabor.com and JoeNeal.org, and a member of the Reno-Sparks NAACP. As always, his opinions are strictly his own. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.
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