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Render unto Caesar the things which are salad


Garfield the Cat was right after all. If it's not deep-fried, it's not worth eating. Even if you can get a salad, you don't want one. An ounce of Romaine lettuce will soon reach parity with an ounce of gold.

The California legislature, in its infinite wisdom, has outlawed Caesar Salads save those where the dressing gets mixed in front of the customer. The potential eater can thus gnosh assured that a raw egg has been included.

I make a mean Caesar, but I stopped using raw eggs long ago. The employee-exploitive poultry industry has made any uncooked product unsafe. A few years back, those enterprising little salmonella bugs figured a way to weasel their way through egg shells. So much for the sanctity of the womb.

Eggs au naturél were legislated into true Caesar as another government-enforced marketing ploy. This kind of thing has happened many times before. When Diet-Rite Cola came to market, Coke and Pepsi came to congress.

Instead of coming up with a competitive product, they got the law changed. No soft drink could call itself a cola unless besotten with sugar. This lasted until the giants brought out their own saccharine sodas, relegating Diet-Rite to the margins.

This community is fairly riddled with infestations of such corporate welfare. You've heard me talk of them many times over the decades, well before I began working for labor unions and political candidates focusing on the giveaways.

Herewith, an update on the most egregious.

ROOM TAXES: Douglas County just raised theirs, the better with which to promote the tourism industry. When (note the name) fair and recreation boards were first authorized by the legislature in 1955, lawmakers wanted the money to go to parks and recreation. The room tax was sold to Washoe County voters as such in 1960.

The gambling-industrial complex skimmed the money for the next 35 years or so. Now, led by the estimable David Farside and his nudging of Sparks city government, the scam may be cut back. It won't happen without a fight.

The Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority is now selling more government-based solutions to the largely non-existent problems of our fat and sassy gambling overlords. The RSCVA, under the recently-departed maladministration of former Sparks city manager Jay Milligan, placed the lion's share of our room tax money into debt incurred for buildings which, all of a sudden, are branded obsolete. Fine, but we're still going to be paying for them for years to come.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority takes in about $129 million a year and spends about $121 million on advertising the southern Nevada gambling industry. One would think the fat cat casinos could afford their own.

Meanwhile, you don't dare drink the water in Gomorrah South, let alone wash Romaine lettuce in it. More than 100 people died several years ago due to  tap water polluted with deadly bacteria.

Las Vegas leaders came up with a typically Nevadian solution: increase sales taxes on the citizens. That'll teach 'em to drink at home!

DOWNTOWN REDEVELOPMENT AGENCIES: As if it weren't enough that Nevadans get increasingly saddled with humongously high individual taxes and user fees, the big boys are always thinking up new ways to transfer more from our pockets into theirs. Sparks, alas, led the state in one particular area.

I've written of it many times, so let me explain it in a new way. John Ascuaga and his gambling properties pay most of the property tax downtown. Because of the city's establishment of a downtown redevelopment district to restore "blighted areas," most of Mr. Ascuaga's taxes have been earmarked forevermore to prettify the area in front of his store.

The total rapidly approaches $100 million. Meanwhile, city government is looking at cutting back services, maybe even cops, while theater magnate Joe Syufy feeds at Ascuaga's redevelopment trough.

Has anybody noticed that Prater Way between Rock Blvd. and Sparks High sure seems more blighted than downtown?

Reno has been conspicuously profligate in pissing tax money down the river. The city has little to show for all the tens of millions devoted to downtown corporate welfare.

THE FIRING OF JOHN MACINTYRE: Nobody has bothered to dig out the story of why this longtime public official got the ax from the Washoe County Commission. Officialdom would only admit that Mr. MacIntyre was too much of an advocate for county workers.

That's vaguely and basically true. The gambling-industrial complex went ballistic after the Center Street Mission opened its homeless center on Keystone Avenue at the railroad tracks in Reno.

The overlords were feeling good about reinstituting the concentration camp concept unveiled before the Sparks city council by Reno's then-police chief (now sheriff) Richard Kirkland. (See the 28 July 1991 Barbwire entitled "Softshoe fascism stomping the homeless in Sparks.")

Lo and behold, the Center Street folks, with private donations, skated the action. Reno and Washoe County government went nuts under gambling industry pressure. When his subordinates were muscled, MacIntyre defended them.

It cost the man his job.

Fighting the rich, famous and powerful can be a scary assignment. You can't even order a salad and diet soda anymore.

Be well. Raise hell.


© Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a member of CWA Local 9413. He is a Reno-based syndicated columnist, a 29-year Nevadan, editor of U-News and 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 5/10/98.