to the ledge with humor, rancor and revulsion
from the 5-16-99 Daily Sparks, Nev., Tribune
"Nobody in there had any
Thus spake Assemblywoman
Sandra Tiffany, R-Henderson, after one of numerous legislative sellouts of
the public trust last week. It's become so brazen that the specifics almost
don't matter. If you are not among the rich and powerful, consider yourself
Here are but a few recent
THE PICTURE OF DORIAN
WYNN. Ms. Tiffany's remark was directed at her colleagues on the assembly
taxation committee who voted to transfer millions from school children to
the pockets of ill-tempered Gomorrah South billionaire Steve Wynn.
She cast the lone vote
against Senate Bill 521 which will lock in Wynn's taxpayer subsidy for his
casino art collection.
Tiffany said the Wynn giveaway
was simply "not good public policy," adding "there's only one property that
can qualify for this tax exemption."
Wynn's lust for Nevada
corporate welfare coincided with congressional repeal of the capital gains
tax treatment for things artsy. If he couldn't nick the taxpayers via Washington,
he'd damn sure hit his plantation serfs in Nevada.
Sen. Joe Neal, D-North
Las Vegas, and the Nevada Tax Commission prevented Wynn from cashing in last
year. He then sued the state and hammered the legislature for freebies.
I printed the names of
the senators who picked your pocket when the Wynn bill passed the upper house.
Here are those who sold you out in the assembly last week. Democrats: Bernie
Anderson, Vivian Freeman, David Goldwater, John Lee, Harry Mortenson, Roy
Neighbors, Bob Price. Republicans: Greg Brower, Dawn Gibbons, John Marvel.
Las Vegas Democrats Morse Arberry and Mark Manendo were absent. Manendo later
had his support of Wynn's loophole entered into the official record.
Some of the above are
consistent chowderheads. Others have been fine public servants. Why would
they vote to assuage such greed?
First, Wynn and vice industry
lobbyist Harvey Whittemore can make good on threats to kill anybody's puny
piece of progressive legislation. Second, there is precious little downside
to paying tribute to the powerful by screwing your own constituents.
The only thing lawmakers
fear is a well-financed TV campaign from an opponent. The gambling industry
is not only a principal source of such cash, but casino influence is so pervasive
that casinos can keep other special interest groups from supporting someone
who's crossed them.
In such an environment,
a few million a year stolen from school kids doesn't mean much. If students
can't pass the high school proficiency test, don't blame Steve Wynn who only
wants to enrich Nevada's cultural heritage. Besides, it doesn't take much
education to work most jobs at his joints.
REVERSAL OF FORTUNE.
Mobile home park tenants live in an uptight world. Someone evicted from an
apartment picks up his stuff and moves. But there's nothing mobile about
mobile homes, a point apparently lost on senate commerce and labor committee
chair Randolph Townsend, R-Reno.
"Rent control would be
the single worst thing we could do for the state of Nevada," Sen. Townsend
was quoted as saying.
Las Vegas has seen a lot
of speculation with mobile home parks frequently changing hands. Rents get
raised to service debt and turn a profit while landlords wait for new buyers
to repeat the upward-spiraling cycle.
Such gouging happens frequently
in boomtowns. Mr. Townsend should know. In 1978, Reno and Sparks residents
with good jobs lived in tents by the river. Housing availability was nil
as people flocked here for work in eight new casinos.
Speculators caused rents
to skyrocket. Some mobile home park owners received criminal convictions
for taking kickbacks from dealers to evict tenants and place new purchasers
in their spaces.
Only one political candidate
that year had the guts to propose temporary rent controls till the crisis
passed, a young Democrat named Randolph Townsend. He lost, but that issue
sparked Barbara Bennett's election as mayor of Reno in 1979.
POWER PLAYS. Mr.
Townsend went on to ride a white horse against electric and gas utilities.
He personally funded an initiative petition to force establishment of the
state's consumer advocate office. That populist crusade has made him politically
invulnerable ever since. He long ago made his peace with the power companies
which helped deal him his only defeat 21 years ago. He now sits in charge
of deregulating the industry.
People like Steve Wynn
have long wanted to build their own private power plants. Deregulation presents
that opportunity. Loss of large users would cause residential rates to explode
as those who remain would be saddled with much higher shares of the old system's
Assembly Joint Resolution 17 got the predictable cold shoulder last
week. Assemblyman Don Gustavson, R-North Valleys, is marshalling his
troops to turn it into Nevada's second attempt to cut property taxes
at the polls. But this neo-Proposition 13 needs a serious rewrite. As
I have personally told Mr. Gustavson, the bill in its current form grants
huge property tax windfalls to big businesses like casinos, a main reason
the idea failed in 1980 as Nevada Question 6.
WHEEL ESTATE. Another
measure wending its way through the ledge might just solve all the state's
mobile home space problems. It would allow mobile homes anywhere. I want
to be there the day someone rolls an orange 1969 Champion 12-wide next door
to Sen. Townsend's upscale Las Vegas dwelling.
Be well. Raise hell.
Barbano is a member of CWA Local 9413. He is a 30-year Nevadan,
editor of U-News and head
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 5/16/99.
Read more about it:
Corporate Welfare in
Guinn Watch '99: All Guinn,
All the Time