The ghostly return of none of the above
From the 11-9-1997 Daily Sparks Tribune
Updated 6-17-2012

A couple of us are dead, but most are still around. For the past 15 years, we have lain low in every corner of Nevada. Like weed seeds standing dormant until the weather is just right, we have watched and waited for the call.

An El Niņo-worthy wind now wafts across the barren landscape of the High Desert Outback of the American Dream. She whispers to all of us: fly, disseminate, re-sow the soil with seething apathy. The None of the Above for Governor Political Action Committee (NAGPAC) once again stands poised for action.

In 1982, political junkies far and wide shook their heads at the sameness of the choices for governor. Incumbent first-term Republican Robert List was opposed by Democratic Attorney General Richard Bryan. Voters expected a banquet and found two pieces of dry white toast on the menu.

So we dreamed up NAGPAC, the organization spawned by seething apathy and committed to electing the whole horse for a change. Our slogan: Apathy is never having to say you're sorry. We held a "What? Me Worry?" press conference at the Depression Deli on W. Fourth Street in Reno. Free food was served via soupline: white bread, water and anemic cream of nothing broth.

The turnout was surprising, the media coverage overwhelming. We made NBC News and ESPN (which suggested None of the Above for baseball commissioner). Alas and alack, a decade and a half down the road, not much has changed in either baseball or follytix.

Fast-forward 15 years. Millionaire business mogul Kenny Guinn has been anointed by the gambling-industrial complex to replace Gov. Bob Miller, the retiring anointee. The top three Democrats have all chickened out of an eminently winnable race. It looks like time for NAGPACkers to engage in another act of political futility and try to knock some horse sense into this horse race.

If I ever doubted that the ghosts of NAGPAC are calling, those questions evaporated when I saw Reno Mayor Jeff Griffin tell Reno KOLO TV-8's Sam Shad how he was planning to solve the city's homeless problem. On the Oct. 4 edition of "Nevada Newsmakers," Griffin practically licked his chops at the prospect of rousting homeless people from the riverfront as soon as the city's land is given away to private corporations. He also raised anew the specter of a homeless concentration camp where arrestees have a choice of either going to the homeless shelter or to jail. Former Reno police chief Richard Kirkland and ex-D.A. Dorothy Nash Holmes presented the same idea to the Sparks City Council a few years ago.

The mayor, who once referred to the homeless as "human debris," said "one of the interesting reasons I don't want open space on the river is that I consider that an attractive nuisance for single men to hang around downtown. When this (riverfront redevelopment and handover to corporations) is done, that will be private property," Griffin said. "We have a big issue constitutionally with public parks, but when it's private, there is no issue. You can't be here, you can't hang around here, you can't loiter."

Griffin noted that as soon as three goals are accomplished with now-Sheriff Kirkland's help, "and also talking to judges that when we put this together, we want you to sentence these people to jail and they will have the option of doing community service on Fourth St. or spending 23 hours a day in a jail cell on Parr Blvd." This takes us right back to the Holmes/Kirkland concentration camp proposal.

It is also the last sign I need to bring NAGPAC back. Griffin's three goals for starting his concentration camp include establishment of a homeless resource center, expanding the Nevada Mental Health Institute and purchasing Flanigan's Warehouse on E. Fourth St. as a work projects center.

Flanigan's is about two blocks from the site of the now defunct Depression Deli down in the low rent district. The Nevada Mental Health Institute became the site of NAGPAC's biggest battle and greatest success.

Amid laughter and friendship at the Deli on that delicious September day so long ago, I also raised some serious issues which NAGPACkers thought needed addressing by candidates for the state's highest office. The long list included nuclear waste dumping, lack of a clear public records law and continuing patient care problems at the Sparks mental health institute. All of the above plague us today.

Always-deficient mental health care got badly cut when Gov. Miller needed easy ways to slice the budget earlier this decade. Sen. Randolph Townsend (R-Reno), facilitated a substantial budget increase this year, but the catalyst was not humanitarian compassion. The gambling-industrial complex needed a flesh warehouse as noted by Griffin to Shad.

In 1982, I was informed that the imposingly-named but toothless (and industry-funded) Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals was coming to town to review the mental hospital. I had to threaten a lawsuit to even get an appointment with a guy named Frank Mims. I warned him of patient dangers, especially in bathing areas where several deaths had occurred over the years.

Mims ignored me but was forced to come back to town three days later when a patient drowned under circumstances I had described.

So, welcome to 1982 deja vu. El Niņo's coming back and so is NAGPAC. The candidates for governor number only two thus far, Republicans Guinn and a recent Hollywood transplant named Aaron Russo. Running on his looks and bank account, Mr. Guinn seems comfortable giving only name, rank and serial number. I guess Russo's in because Nevada candidacy looks cheap for rich guys compared to California.

NAGPAC served an important function in 1982 getting candidates to respond to serious issues. Gov. List and Libertarian Dan Becan took it all in good humor and responded with serious answers. The eventual winner, now-U..S. Sen. Richard Bryan (D-Nev.), ignored us. I don't think he's forgiven me to this very day.

Ridicule can produce response when all else fails. And maybe another candidate or two for good measure.

NAGPACkers, this is a message from your chairman: time to nag the horses into the race again. Let's ride.

Be well. Raise hell.

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Copyright © 1982, 1997, 2004, 2012 Andrew Barbano
Andrew Barbano, a Reno-based syndicated columnist and 29-year Nevadan, is editor of U-News. Send an E-mail if you want to join the inaction with NAGPAC '98.
Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks Tribune since 1988.

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