Tuesday, January 5, 2010

NV-Gov: Is Rory Reid Becoming Viable... Or Losing His Own Base? And Is He Even Doing What's Right for Clark County?

So Rory Reid released his "county rescue plan"... Just as the political chatter has been about whether he has any chance of becoming Nevada's next Governor and just as the federal courthouse shooting was rocking all of us in Las Vegas yesterday.

So what exactly did Rory Reid propose? Steve Sebelius explains the policy.

Toward the end of Clark County Commission Chairman Rory Reid’s news conference today — the one where he announced several government reforms — he allowed that the political fallout could cut either way. “I think it’s impossible to measure the political impact [of the reforms],” he said. “It might help me, it might hurt me.” But, he said definitively, “I was elected to do a job.”
Indeed, he was. And, if nothing else, you’ve got to give Reid credit for speaking up when he did, when staying silent might have been the more politically prudent course.
As for the substance of his proposals, it’s a quick list when one boils it down to specifics:
Transform University Medical Center into a non-profit, or a teaching hospital, “…or another financially viable model.” Since the county ran a deficit at UMC of $140 million in the last fiscal year, the number of “financially viable models” appear fairly limited.
Re-open public employee union contract negotiations. This is the most politically perilous of Reid’s suggestions, although it’s not something new. (He asked for concessions last year, too.) Of this year’s move, he said that “our labor agreements are not sustainable in the long term” and that “everything’s on the table.” For unions that have won good contracts during boom times, that’s not so good. And for Reid, running for governor and needing all the help he can get, it’s not exactly the way to win an endorsement.
Put about $300 million in public works infrastructure projects out to bid as soon as possible to create jobs.
Consolidate some IT, finance and human resources employees. (Apparently, many county departments each have their own IT, HR and finance employees.)
Past that, there were some semi-vacuous sound bites, things about “public-private partnerships” to create jobs, or “partner with the private sector to create jobs.” (Hey, that’s a great idea! Why, if only somebody said that a year ago, we’d probably all be rolling in cash right now!) But there was enough of substance to make it worthwhile for Reid to hold the news conference the day before he’ll bring these ideas before his colleagues.

Now of course, this isn't just about policy. It's also about the politics of the Governor's race. Rory Reid obviously thinks this is how to convince those skeptical-yet-still-undecided "fiscal conservatives" that he isn't some "evil lib'rul SOCIALIST union pawn!!111!!!1111!" And who knows, maybe this will work out for him.

But last I checked, labor unions are typically among Democrats' strongest supporters and partners. How will they feel about being dumped upon like this? Sure, it's not like Oscar Goodman, Brian Sandoval, or (especially!) "Luv-Guv" Gibbons is more likely to do anything to help working families. However, Reid, Jr., may be risking turning what should be his political base apathetic and more willing to stay home or vote "None of the Above" than vote for anyone at all.

And turning back to policy, I'm not totally convinced that turning UMC private will be helpful to anyone at all. After all, no matter what happens to UMC, Clark County still has the obligation of providing emergency care to the indigent.

Now regarding the county workforce, there certainly are redundant positions and departments (and especially management!) that can be streamlined and consolidated. However, there's no reason to demonize so many hard-working public servants and strip away their very livelihood. It's easy to bash "the evil, corrupt UNIONS!!!!11111!!!111!", but it takes real courage to be rational and strike a deal that's fair to these public servants while also preserving the services that Clark County residents rely upon.

So politically, I think there are risks. And policy wise, I think there are risks. But if Rory Reid somehow pulls it off while not gutting county government and/or throwing thousands more people into the unemployment lines, maybe this will all work out. And whatever happens next, this most certainly will be a game changer in the race for the state house.

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