Would you rather give up voting or paying taxes?


I need your help to take the broadest poll ever conducted in this country. It will consist of one yes-or-no question: would you give up voting in exchange for not paying taxes?

That was pretty much the decision of Puerto Ricans in last Sunday's non-binding referendum. They opted against statehood and will retain their commonwealth status. They can travel freely but can't vote in federal elections even though they are U.S. citizens. The island has access to U.S. markets and benefits from federal tax breaks given to U.S. businesses which relocate there.

Those loopholes, created in the name of fighting communism and later expanded to help an impoverished economy, have apparently made Puerto Ricans unable to decide their future. Public opinion remains split between the status quo, statehood or nationhood.

Those of us holding full citizenship rights apparently value them as cheap. Most don't bother to register, let alone vote. That's fine by me. I don't like uninformed voters. If I'm among the 20% to 25% minority which registers and participates, I cast ballots not only for myself but also three other citizens.

This would seem to predispose at least three of four people responding "hell yes!" to the above magic question. If you don't vote anyway, what have you got to lose?

We have a lot of moonrocks among us who cannot answer the second question.

The American public has been subjected to eight decades of tax-deductible corporate propaganda focused on making us hate government. The corporately wealthy have very successfully convinced federal, state and local entities to foist most of the tax burden onto the little guy. No wonder we have this vague, unfocused anger. Federal, state and local taxes eat up about 35 percent of Americans' total income.

How many people would give up their right to vote in exchange for a 35 percent raise? Ask them. Once again, the question is "would you give up voting in exchange for not paying taxes?"

Keep a notepad in your car. Next time you've got a few minutes, poll some people at the post office or supermarket. Do it every chance you get. You'll learn from the people you'll meet and they'll learn from you.

Send me the results.

FOLLYTIX '99: I opposed Reno moving its municipal elections to even-numbered years. Balloting for local offices belongs in off-years. That way, local issues get media and voter attention not possible in the din of campaigns featuring "I hate Harry Reid" vs. "I hate John Ensign."

Imagine if the Washoe County Commission and Reno City Council races were up next year instead of this year. We would perhaps not yet have been sold into bondage. As it now stands, for the rest of our lives, we will be forced to pay for the Union Pacific corporate welfare program recently passed by those bodies.

Sparks remains the superior local government and the Rail City alone will have municipal elections next year.

Here's the latest from the rumor mill about who's in and who's out.

MAYOR: Hizzoner Bruce Breslow will probably retire after two terms. Ten-year councilmember Tony Armstrong will run to replace Breslow with fellow councilman John Mayer giving it serious thought.

A new driver in the race will be Brad Yuill of Yuill Brothers Performance and motoracing fame. A 46-year Sparks resident and registered Republican, Yuill could force a May primary.

Sparks historically votes against people who've been in office for two terms, even if they've done an adequate job. Mayer was elected in 1991 and re-elected in 1995.

Armstrong will sit on the council until 2001. He first ran for the remainder of Cecilia Colling's term in 1989 after she accepted a state government position. Joni Kaiser, longtime leader of the Committee to Aid Abused Women, had been appointed to succeed Colling.

Kaiser probably would have won had not this newspaper gotten into the act. Former editor-publisher Randy Frisch was and is one helluva man. He turned the sleepy weekly Tribune into an aggressive daily. He hired a rack of local columnists with bad attitudes and the broadest range of political perspectives in Nevada, a distinction which continues to make us unique in the state.

Randy got promoted and left, never to be replaced. We remain a lesser paper without his ass-kicking leadership.

Like any human being, he had his blind spots. One of them was Joni Kaiser. He somehow got this twisted idea into his head that Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., wanted Kaiser on the Sparks council to preserve the power of the Democrats' political machine.

Fiddlesticks, and I told him so. Whatever Democratic political machine which once existed went into decline with the death of Sen. Pat McCarran in 1954 and disappeared forever when Sen. Alan Bible retired in 1975.

Nonetheless, Randy pounded that bogus issue and Sparks voted Tony over Joni.

Local officials have a hard time lasting more than two terms for an obvious reason: they are the closest to people's daily lives. Every time they cast votes, they've made at least one new person hate their guts forever. Eight years of trying to do their level best results in tons of guns leveled against them. That's why Las Vegas Mayor Jan Jones never stood a chance against Gov.-elect Kenny Guinn. He was a ghost with no record of public service and millions of casino dollars to buy ads. She came into the race pre-wounded.

Strictly on the basis of fewest enemies, I would thus make Yuill a potential early frontrunner, followed by Mayer with Armstrong third.

LEANING TOWARD RUNNING: Councilwoman Cindy Henderson will probably retire after two terms. The only well-known citizen seriously considering a run for her Ward 4 post is longtime Sparks resident Tom Lean. He lost to Councilman Phil Zive in 1993 and now lives in Henderson's district. Councilman Phil Salerno is also up next year and has not announced whether or not he will seek another term in Ward 2. A few people have been approached about running, but nobody's gotten to the "commencing-to-get-serious-about-thinking-about-it" stage.

Happy holidays. Keep hope alive.

Be well. Raise hell.


© Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a member of CWA Local 9413. He is a Reno-based syndicated columnist, a 30-year Nevadan, editor of U-News and was campaign manager for Democratic candidate for Governor, State Senator Joe Neal.
Barbwire by Barbano has appeared in the Sparks Tribune since 1988 and parts of this column were originally published 12/20/98.

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