Double dealing, doubletalk and double standards


From the 7-18-99 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

The weather's been oppressive and the heat has made the fat cats downright bitchy. They pace their air-conditioned prisons, protecting their precious assets from uncultured Philistines like me.

There's only one thing to do: turn up the temperature.

STRIKE AVOIDED (6-20-99) - Teamsters Local 533 CEO Lou Martino, on a live KOLO TV-8 newscast, announces that there will be no Sparks-Reno RTC/Citifare bus strike. Reporter Beryl Chong interviewed Martino immediately after the vote at the union offices on Vassar Street in Reno. A Teamsters Citifare driver, on his normal route, just happened to pass by during the live telecast. He honked.

30 PIECES OF QUICKSILVER. Ryder/ATE, the corporate conglomerate which mismanages the Citifare bus system, cost Washoe County taxpayers $136,083 for unneeded hired muscle during last month's contentious contract negotiations with the Teamsters Union.

On behalf of Citifare employees, I asked the Regional Transportation Commission to disallow $106,861 of that figure. It went to pay 36 Cincinnati strikebreakers to stand around. That's almost $3,000 each and it was done without permission of the elected officials on the board.

RTC Executive Director Derek Morse and Transit Manager Mike Steele squealed to the commission to save their butts, that it was an emergency situation with a strike looming.

I pointed out that such an emergency should have triggered a special public meeting to approve the funds. A vote could easily have been taken at the RTC's regularly scheduled meeting of June 18, three days before the expiration of strike deadline extension.

The emergency existed only in their three-piece-suited minds. There has never been a bus strike here, let alone violence. That money could have gone to employees who were denied a raise which might have kept them even with the cost of living.

Ryder/ATE held workers to a two percent increase while taking a four percent hike (about $1,000 a month) for itself. As of July 1, you and I pay Ryder a princely $24,020 per month to provide Mr. Steele and two other managers.

The Regional Transportation Commission is chaired by Sparks Councilman John Mayer, who regularly rides Citifare. Washoe County is represented by commissioners Joanne Bond (absent Friday) and newcomer Ted Short. After a moving speech by Citifare worker and union steward Eileen Wiley, the four present held their noses and gave away the money to the Cincinnati scalawags.
[UPDATE 10-8-2006: Eileen Wiley dies.]

Reno councilmen David Aiazzi and David Rigdon (a 1993 client of mine), expressed a desire to make things right by the shortchanged workers.

I'll let you know what they decide. For additional information, see U-News elsewhere at this site.

HELLRAISER HALL OF FAME. At the Friday morning hearing, I was honored to be in the same room with three nominees for the Barbwire Hellraiser Hall of Fame: Former Elderport/Citilift director Patricia Fladager, who opposed the strikebreaker freebie, and airport activists Jackie Decker and Sam Dehne.

Along with former Reno Councilmember Judy Pruett-Herman, Dehne may succeed in reforming the Nevada Ethics Commission which wants him fined $5,000 and criminally prosecuted for bringing charges against bloviated Reno Mayor Jeff Griffin.

The ethics commission can't even follow the law for itself. Despite a legislative mandate to make rules people may depend on, it still flies by the seat of its collectively capricious pants. (See "Shadowboxing Jello and yahoo kangaroos" for my experience tilting at that particular windmill.)

In 1997, Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, expanded its duties as grand inquisitor and censor of political speech. Its power will eventually be diminished by the courts. We First Amendment fundamentalists will owe a great debt to Reno Citizen Dehne and Mrs. Herman when that happens. Mrs. Herman recently asked for a new hearing on a Griffin matter after discovering the ethics commission's lawyer living with a deputy Reno city attorney.

HELLRAISER, PART DEUX. Additional nominations for the hall of fame have arrived from readers: Former Daily Sparks Tribune columnist Ralph Heller for his vigilance against abuses by Reno police. Civil rights lawyer Terri Keyser-Cooper for protecting the rights of the weak. I nominate both Mrs. Herman and former Nevada Press Association director Andrea Engleman. Last week, "Ande" prevailed in court over the ethics commission in her filing to expose contributor secrecy by (one more time) the Reno City Council.

AIR ERR. Jackie Decker and the thousands of other south Reno residents fighting the Airport Authority over those midnight cargo jets to Georgia should consider a simple political power play. Go to the three local governments and ask them to instruct their airport authority appointees to kill the postal service air freight hub and remove commissioners who won't. Circulate recall petitions against elected officials who refuse. Such strategy worked seven years ago during the Plumas Street fiasco.

Reno City Attorney Patricia Lynch told me it's perfectly legal for local governments to remove airport appointees anytime they want.

Now go kick some butt.

SCROOGED AGAIN. Casino Miser Steve Wynn fought with penis and pocketbook against Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas, during the 1999 legislative session. Neal wanted to repeal Wynn's multi-million dollar art collector's tax subsidy. In exchange for expanding the scrooge job, Wynn and his chief lobbyist, Lord Darth Vader, promised half-price admission to beleaguered Nevadans forced to make up the difference in school taxes avoided by Wynn.

A couple of weeks ago, a Barbwire reader from Sparks went to Wynn's Bellagio Resort down in Gomorrah South. She and her husband wanted to see the art collection they're paying for. Alas and alack, they were turned away cold in the Vegas heat. Only registered guests at Wynn's hotel could be accorded the privilege of waiting in eternally long lines to pay to get in.

Be well. Raise hell.

Copyright ©1999, 2006 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a member of Communications Workers of America 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 7/18/99.

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