David rocks Goliath in Gomorrah's Biggest Little City


From the 10-3-99 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

Six years ago, David Rigdon was a 22 year-old, idealistic, card-carrying Libertarian.

I befriended many of that small band of L-word stalwarts in my political travels and agreed to do what I could to help Rigdon's run for Reno City Council.

Like so many others, his maiden voyage was not successful.

Time went by and he won appointment to the Reno Planning Commission. This kid loves to suffer. There are few experiences more stultifying than a long planning commission meeting.

Dave quickly developed the reputation of being the most pro-business guy on RPC. Short of paving over Virginia Lake, he was for it.

He eventually re-registered as a Republican, got cozy with the Griffin & Son election organization and woke up a councilman last November.

Councilmembers Sherrie Doyle and Pierre Hascheff recently switched to the GOP, giving Republicans a 7-0 monopoly at the council table.

Party switches are usually accompanied by lame excuses, the worst of which was Sen. Randolph Townsend's in 1985. Interviewed by KOLO TV-8's Tad Dunbar, the onetime consumer crusader mumbled something about the need to maintain the fat financial health of the state's utilities for the good of the ratepayers. He concluded by coming perilously close to the Calvin Coolidge cliche that the chief business of the American people is business.

Something else was at work. I've never seen Nevada Democrats discriminate against people in business or social circles based on party registration. Republicans do.

The profile of the up and coming social climber in northwestern Nevada includes the keywords "Republican," "conservative" and "Catholic." Being of Italian heritage doesn't hurt. Membership in Ducks Unlimited and playing golf are highly recommended, as is joining the National Rifle Association.

Dave does not yet appear beyond redemption. He joined Councilwoman Doyle in openly complaining about being kept out of the loop as Hizzoner the Mayor and Major Domo McNeely clandestinely put together a deal to make the Cordish outfit of Baltimore the lead developer of downtown Reno.

While others may have been shocked at Rigdon's more recent statements, I was not. He said he would not have voted to demolish the venerable Mapes Hotel had he known that the city still owes more than $2 million to the Karadanis family which still holds title. (Hizzoner said he forgot about the debt and thus did not bring it up at the council table.)

On Sept. 27, Rigdon emerged as the most populist voice at city hall when he questioned the sea of red ink spent on downtown redevelopment to the detriment of the city's neighborhoods. Doyle backed Rigdon's play.

The establishment fired back in predictable fashion. The Reno Gazette-Journal devoted most of a day's editorial space to lecturing Rigdon on the error of his ways. A similar column by the paper's retired corporate corporal cannot be far behind.

Perhaps young Master Rigdon has not had enough time to become fully co-opted by the demands of the closed club which shuns you if you do not wear the right labels. Perhaps he has not yet learned the nuances of getting along by going along.

He will bear watching. From a darkness as black as a wrecking ball, perhaps a new people's champion is emerging. It's been awhile since Reno's had one.

BEEN THERE, DONE THAT. I got my kicks reading that Gazette-Journal special section extolling the wondrous potential of the latest fat cat attempt at the vision thing. A group ironically called "One Region. One Vision." has been formed, apparently not noticing that its name contains two commands to stop.

It seems to be the clone of the Kazoo-Journal's own incestuous closed clan, the Forum for a Common Agenda. As Daily Sparks Tribune columnist Dennis Myers so aptly put it awhile back, the Forum proceeds on the assumption that the people who cause the community's problems can be depended upon to solve them.

The Kazoo-Journal published a special promotional section, allowing its design to emulate the editorial style of the paper - complete with a byline column by the kiss-up corporate corporal.

For an outfit spawned by the region's major source of news dissemination, the least they could have done was get their research right. The special section included a "history of successful community efforts," praising the 1973 Blue Ribbon Task Force Report and the 1988-89 Biggest Little City Committee.

The former has been the butt of "dust gathering" jokes for a quarter-century. I volunteered for the latter. It was folded by the downtown power structure when people like myself and my Tribune colleague in columny, Orland Outland, started bringing up issues the big boys did not want addressed.

UNR Professor Bourne Morris also served on BLCC. During one meeting, I asked her about a comment she had naively made to the paper right after arriving in town in the early 1980s. She had expressed shock at opposition to economic diversification among high casino executives who wanted no competition for the low-wage labor pool.

My question embarrassed her. She is today a member of the Forum for a Common Agenda and wrote a piece entitled "Why a regional vision?" in the Kazoo-Journal special section. She didn't mention work or wages.

Be well. Raise hell.


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© Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of U-News, where the past three years of columns may be accessed. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks Tribune since 1988 where an earlier version of this column appeared on 10/3/99.

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