Legislative midnight in the garden of good & evil


Everybody knows the dice are loaded.
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed.
Everybody knows the war is over.
Everybody knows the good guys lost.
Everybody knows the fight was fixed.
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich.
That's how it goes. Everybody knows.
— Leonard Cohen

Get on the horn right now or lose your ass. I can't put it plainer than that.

As early as tomorrow, the Nevada State Assembly may vote to pass Senate Bill 255. Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, gaming licensee, ex-DA and the baddest of the badasses in Carson City, has ordered the entire Washoe delegation, Democrats and Republicans, to sign on as sponsors. Badwater Bill and his casino cronies threatened the reluctant with mass execution of all their bills.

That explains how taxophobes like Don Gustavson, R-Sun Valley, and Maurice Washington, R-Sparks, co-sponsored a measure which, if it fails, could kill the tax hikes for the Union Pacific Railroad trench.

In just about their last official act, defrocked Washoe County commissioners Sue Camp and Mike Mouliot, joined by holdovers Jim Shaw of Sparks and Joanne Bond of the north valleys, decided we were too dumb to vote on this issue. They stuck the entire county from now through great-grandchildren with the tab for the 2.1 mile downtown Reno track trench.

The project totals the better part of a billion dollars in new taxes, if not more. Its main purpose is to provide UP with extra insulation from liability when - not if - a toxic or nuclear spill happens. As a safety measure, it's fair on its best day. A trench will supposedly contain some of the expected damage.

The real danger lies in UP's unchallenged decision to triple the number of trains thru Sparks-Reno and run them at twice the speed. Why? Humongously increased profits for an outfit which already counts its net in billions.

The government-announced price tag of $192.8 million is just PR. Expert testimony before the assembly government affairs committee last week said the cost of just the rail project could conservatively fall between $300 and $400 million or higher (not including an additional $100 million-plus for other projects).

The very existence of SB 255 is all the evidence necessary to confirm that the funding package approved last December by local lame-duck officials did not satisfy state law. The Nevada Supreme Court may just notice that in a case currently before it. If the court sends the issue back to the new county commission for a re-vote, it's dead meat.

SB 255 is an old ploy — use brokered juice in the legislature to short-circuit the judicial system.

Casino lobbyist Harvey Whittemore announced just such a strategy in 1995. Harvey and the Wallbangers pushed through a bill to make sure that Nevada hotels are held harmless from future lawsuits such as those brought against the Las Vegas Hilton after the U.S. Navy's Tailhook orgy.

Darth Harvey announced to the assembly judiciary committee that since former Lt. Paula Coughlin's case was on appeal by Hilton and not yet finalized, her win in lower court could be reversed by lawmakers.

He then announced a big-hearted compromise. The gambling-industrial complex would exempt Lt. Coughlin's case from the bill, preserving her victory. This took off all the public pressure blocking passage.

Thus, a notorious case which began with perversion ended the same way with the victim used to benefit her oppressors. Lawmakers gladly accepted the concession. Lt. Coughlin and her supporters went home happy.

Apparently nobody realized that future victims would find it next to impossible to bring a case because of the "compromise" Tailhook Bill which is now Nevada law. Such is the ravaged state of justice here in the High Desert Outback of the American Dream.

The current rail ditch disaster has all the earmarks of becoming another Reno bowling boondoggle, but it gets worse. This column alone last week disclosed a companion catastrophe.

Senate Bill 437, introduced on the Ides of March, will allow public works projects to be done on a design-build basis, which is apparently illegal but was used to build the National Bowling Stadium. The law currently mandates planned, contractor-guaranteed, on-time, on-budget delivery.

Design-as-you-build resulted in the Reno tenpin palace skyrocketing from $27 million to $57 million and counting for an underutilized bowling alley which still isn't finished. Only this column, on Sept. 20, 1992, warned what would happen. Now, I'm again sounding the alarm.

Call, fax or e-mail your local lawmaker before it's too late. If the Washoe delegation wants to impose a tax on its own constituents, the Clark County majority will not stand in the way. So Washoe residents must push their representatives to recruit Clark contras against both bills. Here are their home phones (unless otherwise noted).


Lawrence Jacobsen (R) 1-775-782-2334

Bernice Mathews (D) 673-2086

Bill Raggio (R) law office 786-5000

Randolph Townsend (R) home 825-5111 ; cellular 815-1555, fax 827-8336

Maurice Washington (R) 331-3826 (Center of Hope and Christian Fellowship Church)


Bernie Anderson (D) 358-5825

Sharron Angle (R) bus. 787-6017

Greg Brower (R) bus. 322-1170, fax 322-1865

Jan Evans (D) 356-7122

Vivian Freeman (D) 747-3448, fax 747-9696

Dawn Gibbons (R) 851-4266

Don Gustavson (R) 673-2215, fax 673-0305

David Humke (R) 825-7740, fax 825-1949, pager 328-7116

Sheila Leslie (D) 333-6564, fax 786-8299

Starting Monday morning, you can call any of them at the Carson City legislative building through these hotlines: (775) 687-4848 locally or (800) 978-2878 toll-free. You can fax any assemblymember at (775) 684-8888 and any senator at (775) 687-5898.

Work the assembly first. The senate already passed SB255 by 20 to nothing but will still have to vote on assembly-added amendments if the lower house lets this beast out of the cage.

It's probably too late for U.S. Postal Service mailings on SB255, but surface mail letters can arrive in time to affect SB437. Start with the senate. Write your favorite lawmaker at the Legislative Building, Capitol Complex, Carson City NV 89701-4747.

You will find a special March 17, 1999, Internet edition of the Barbwire at which goes into greater detail. Read it. Use it. Forward it. Make some contacts, save your wallet and help end corporate welfare as we know it.

Upload, print out, fax in, lick stamps and send out the message to ditch the ditch.

CRACKS IN THE GLACIER. Regular readers know of my disgust for the gambling industry's skim of tax money for its own use. For four decades, Las Vegas and Reno-Sparks room taxes, which should pay for parks and recreation, have gone almost exclusively to casino promotion. The Sparks City Council will consider room tax issues tomorrow at 7:00 p.m. Show up at city hall or watch it on SNCAT cable.

Also, keep an eye on Assembly Bill 306 from Assemblywoman Chris Giunchigliani, D-Las Vegas. It breaks off a little piece of downtown property taxes for local use rather than things like subsidizing corporate movie theaters and casino promotion. There will be a subcommittee meeting in Carson City this Thursday at 3:00 p.m. in legislative room 3143.

Las Vegas members are Doug Bache (D); John Lee (D); Merle Berman (R); and Wendell Williams (D).

Dawn Gibbons is the only northern Nevada member. Be well. Raise hell.


© Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a member of CWA Local 9413. He is a 30-year Nevadan, editor of U-News and head of Casinos Out of Politics (COP). As the 1984 Democratic nominee for the House of Representatives in Nevada's statewide second congressional district, he opposed the Laxalt machine's nuclear waste position. In 1998 he served as gubernatorial campaign manager for Democratic candidate for Governor, State Senator Joe Neal.
Since 1988 Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks, Nev., Tribune, where an earlier version of this column appeared on 3/21/99.

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