Use Haitian Voodoo to save us from Wynn on Thursday


From the 4-25-99 Sunday Daily Sparks, Nev. Tribune

Gomorrah South casino billionaire Steve Wynn gets his hands in your pants this Thursday. You still have a little time to catch him on the fly.

For anyone new to these parts, Wynn wants lawmakers to liberalize the snooty art collectors tax loophole he scored for himself two years ago.

Senate Bill 521 will force school children to subsidize Wynn's $300 million Bellagio casino collection. The tax break passed in 1997 lets Wynn keep millions which would otherwise go to schools if he merely allows limited free student viewing.

Wynn has insisted on charging everyone, telling reporters last year that he did not want to "cheapen the experience" by admitting anybody gratis.

"It won't bust anyone if I make it ten bucks," Wynn told the Reno Gazette-Journal last October. He has since upped the ante to $12. Wynn personally earned $3.75 million in salary and bonuses in 1998.

"People want to be near it. If I have fine art, I'll be flattering the people," he told the Reno paper.

These are the ethics of Baby Doc Duvalier, the brutal former Haitian dictator who nationally televised a lavish presidential palace banquet. He was sure that his starving people loved him so much that they would find relief just by viewing him pigging out on food they could only dream of.

I guess he was flattering them. They immediately rioted and overthrew the government. Baby Doc barely escaped with his life.

He should have let them eat cake.

Last November, Mr. Wynn sued the Nevada Tax Commission which had refused to let him have his cake and eat it, too. SB 521 will allow him to do just that.

The Nevada Assembly Committee on Taxation will hear the Wynn bill in Carson City this Thursday, April 29, at 1:30 p.m. in hearing room 3142. Show up or contact your representative.

From Reno: Greg Brower (R), Vivian Freeman (D), Dawn Gibbons (R). Sparks: Bernie Anderson (D). So. Nevada: Committee Chair David Goldwater, Morse Arberry, John Lee, Mark Manendo, Harry Mortenson, Bob Price, all Democrats; Sandra Tiffany, (R).

From rural Nevada: Committee Vice-Chair Roy Neighbors, D-Tonopah; John Marvel, R-Battle Mountain.

Assembly e-mail addresses consist of a lawmaker's first-name initial and full last name followed by Here's an example for Bob Price:

To leave a phone message, call (775) 687-4848 in northwestern Nevada, (702) 384-2225 in Las Vegas, or (800) 978-2878 toll-free. You can fax any assemblymember at (775) 684-8888 and any senator at (775) 687-5898. Include the bill number, SB 521, on everything.

Many lawmakers still give greater weight to paper. Write them at Legislative Building, Capitol Complex, Carson City NV 89701-4747.

DON'T SAY LIE, JUST SAY CLARIFY. Steve Wynn's lobbyists have long repeated the shuck that SB 521 changes nothing and merely clarifies legislative intent. As I noted last week, there are so many extra loopholes in the bill that it now represents a major step toward making Nevada casinos tax-free.

A more egregious bit of corporate propaganda has even been repeated by some lawmakers defending themselves by saying Nevada would have never become host to Wynn's collection without the tax break.

Bull. Wynn began collecting the pieces well before his last-minute legislative push to grant himself a loophole. He got the tax break because most lawmakers fear his in-house campaign machine, his money and his ego.

IF YOU CAN'T FIGHT CITY HALL, BURY IT. "The idea of a new city hall, as suggested by our visionary mayor, could be an excellent idea for downtown Reno," writes local resident Pat Puchert.

"Because of extensive research and planning for the proposed (railroad) trench, I suggest that the new city hall be incorporated into an underground campus built into the trench facility. There will be plenty of public money available for the project thanks to (county commission and legislative votes) that ensured we Washoe County taxpayers be required to pay additional taxes," Mrs. Puchert noted.

FROM THE OZONE COMES THE NO-ZONE. My old friend David Rigdon, one of the newest Reno councilmembers, last week proposed the removal of all zoning restrictions on an area across the street from Reno City Hall.

"Zoning has failed here, so let's do something radical...we can't do any worse," he told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

"The only example I can give you is Houston, where they don't have any zoning," he added.

Houston makes Las Vegas look organized. Longtime Mayor Kathy Whitmire was ousted a few years ago because citizens wanted to end the "anything goes" approach.

Just be patient. I guarantee as soon as city hall is moved underground, the neighborhood will undergo a Renaissance.

DAVE RIGDON, CALL YOUR OFFICE. Northwest Reno Assemblywoman Vivian Freeman needs a show of public support to get her regional planning bill, AB 424, heard in the senate.

Sen. Ann O'Connell, R-Las Vegas, chairs the government affairs committee. The only northerner thereon is Vice-Chair Bill Raggio, R-Reno. The bill makes changes to the regional governing body Raggio established several years ago.

Mrs. Freeman doesn't think proper attention has been given to neighborhoods inside the McCarran loop. She's right. Witness Mr. Rigdon's proposal.

Please contact Sens. O'Connell (775-687-5702) and Raggio (775-687-3557) and ask that Mrs. Freeman's bill be given due consideration.

Tell them zoning's an art.

Read more about it: The history of the Steve Wynn "Show Me the Monet" art loophole

For the latest: Sen. Joe Neal's Legislative Bulletin Board.

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). In 1998 he served as gubernatorial campaign manager for State Senator Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas.
Since 1988 Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks, Nev., Tribune, where an earlier version of this column appeared on 4/25/99.

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