Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sheldon Gives Newton Another Lifeline (& Mittens Rejoices)

He's back...

The top super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich is going up with nearly $900,000 worth of radio ads in six key states holding contests in the next two weeks.

The Winning Our Future ad buy appears to come on the heels of another significant cash infusion from casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and gives Gingrich the kind of presence on the airwaves that he hasn’t had on Super Tuesday, which could be a make-or-break moment for his struggling campaign.

According to figures provided to The Fix by a media buy, the super PAC bought $238,000 worth of ads in Georgia, $235,000 in Ohio, $172,000 in Tennessee and $98,000 in Oklahoma. It is also buying in two Southern states holding primaries a week later — $92,000 in Alabama and $32,000 in Mississippi.

Are any of us surprised? He spent his way to put Newton on top in South Carolina last month. And it seems that Gingrich (and perhaps Romney soon?) will be more than happy to keep taking Adelson's money despite growing concerns over his company's legal problems involving his Macau casinos.

So much for Willard and Newton trying to call everyone else a "Manchurian Candidate"...

It looks like The Chicago Tribune caught a sneak preview of Newton's Super PAC's upcoming attack ads.

One of the new TV ads features what appears to be man-on-the-street interviews with working-class voters who express suspicion of Romney.

“I looked at Mitt Romney’s record and I can’t figure out what he stands for,” says one woman. “It changes.”

“I just don’t relate to Romney,” says another woman.

“I really don’t know if I can trust him,” adds a man.

One of the women describes Gingrich as “the only one who understands what we’re going through today,” citing the high price of gas. “Romney’s not the type to pump his own gas,” she adds, as the screen shows an image of Romney boarding a private plane. [...]

A series of new radio commercials that are airing nationally, designed to sound like a call-in radio show, takes aim at both Romney and Santorum.

In one, a caller named Joey with a distinct New Jersey accent dismisses the idea that Romney could be the GOP nominee.

“Somethin’ about him,” Joey says. “He’s not one of us. He’s not tough enough. And Rick? He ain’t my guy, either. What’s he ever done?... If you really want to stick it to the bums in D.C., it’s Newt. The guy’s a fighter. And he ain’t afraid to hurt nobody’s feelings.… You imagine what he’d do to Obama in a debate? He’d take him apart.”

Hmmm... So Newton is attacking both Mittens and Ricky? It does make me wonder what his Super PAC chief and Sheldon Adelson are thinking here. However, I'm sure some folks in Chicago are quite happy to see Newton's vanity contribute to the implosion of the G-O-TEA this year.

Wherein Nevada Is Positioned to Remain a Blue State in 2012, Part V

I think this video really explains it all.

However, I won't end it there. Believe it or not, there's actually more. Mitt Romney has attacked gay parents who adopted children, promised another $264,000 tax cut to the wealthiest 0.1%, stood up for Canadian oil company lobbyists over the people in "Middle America" who don't want to worry about the giant, dangerous tar sands oil pipeline in their backyard, and attacked the SUCCESSFUL auto industry rescue plan that saved American jobs. And hey, we're just talking about "Mr. 1%" Mittens here.

There's also "Frothy" Ricky Santorum. Oh, lordy...

Believe it or not, Mittens had to pour millions of campaign dollars into Michigan just to eke out a 3% win over that guy.

So when you consider his built-in advantages, the money he poured into the state, the attacks he leveled against Santorum, and the dreadful debate performance Santorum turned in last week, Romney’s three-point margin seems a lot less impressive. This was not like Florida, where Romney utterly decimated his chief foe (Newt Gingrich) and posted a lopsided victory. This was a must-win state that Romney threw everything he had at… and managed to win by just three points – apparently with a big boost from early voters, many of whom cast their ballots before Santorum surged into contention.

This suggests that Romney may not get much of a bounce out Michigan – and that he could find himself in big trouble again one week from now on Super Tuesday. The biggest state to vote that day is Ohio, a big Midwest state culturally and demographically similar to Michigan. The latest poll in the Buckeye State, released early on Tuesday, gives Santorum an 11-point lead over Romney, 37 to 26 percent. Maybe those numbers will tighten in the wake of Michigan, but Romney is going to have to fight for it.

So as we discussed last night, it's likely the G-O-TEA primary brawl will continue regardless of how Mittens' surrogates spin last night's results on the cable "news" channels. And as the primary fight goes on, Mittens faces more challenges... Including in the general election should he survive primary season, since he's lurched so far to the radical right that his issue positions are virtually identical to Santorum's.

And this brings us back here to Nevada. We've already seen Joe Heck run away from his BFF on housing. I don't think you need me to remind you why this happened... But hey, what the Heck!

Oh yes, and there's the economy that Mittens & Ricky keep blaming on President Obama. Yep, there's that economy that's now adding jobs here in Nevada, making consumers feel increasingly confident, and one that grew 3% in the fourth quarter of last year (better than most economists' expectations). At this point, I'm sure President Obama welcomes their "blame".

This is probably why Romney, Santorum, and their G-O-TEA buddies in Congress have shifted back to "CUL'CHUR WARZZZ!!!" crazy. What's really funny with this is that talk of probing women's private parts, denying civil rights to LGBTQ Americans, dehumanizing Latin@ Americans simply because of their family heritage, and attacking Muslims for just being Muslim is really turning off voters. No, really. No, really.

Yesterday, local Republicans were trying to distract from their many woes plaguing them this month (like their EPIC FAIL of a caucus) by trumpeting a Public Opinion Strategies poll that even Jon Ralston (who likes their Nevada pollster) admitted undersampled Latin@ voters. Yet in Ralston's Sun column this morning, he noted how even this POS poll may spell trouble for the Nevada GOP.

The numbers in the North are fascinating. Berkley and Heller are in a dead heat in Washoe County, and the president’s numbers (56-40) are amazingly strong there. So, is the poll just wrong or is something happening here? Any poll can miss the mark, but folks should not miss what is happening in Washoe, as evidenced by Obama’s ’08 victory there and Reid’s ’10 win. Yes, no analogy is perfect, especially one that might involve Sharron Angle. But Washoe is turning bluer and bluer — Jill Derby and Heller were competitive there twice in congressional races — and even independents there seem more liberal than anywhere else in the state. That could be an ominous harbinger for the GOP.

Strangely enough, that POS poll had Obama and Shelley Berkley underperforming in Clark County while overperforming in Washoe County. Sorry, but I call BS on POS. I honestly do think they had sampling problems this time, so maybe the entire poll has to be thrown out. But even when that's done and we look at recent election results in Washoe County, Ralston is correct that Washoe seems to be trending Democratic. And yes, I also think he's right about independents there being turned off by the radical right G-O-TEA crazy. So when the likes of Romney and Santorum continue to double down on "CUL-CHUR WARZZZ!!!" crazy and economic royalist crap that would make Ebenezer Scrooge blush, Republicans may very well face serious problems in the Reno area this fall. And if that happens, then it's quite likely Nevada will take quite the deep blue hue come this November.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Michigan & Arizona Results Liveblog

5:30 PM-

We're starting to get results from Michigan now, and Rick Santorum has a very early lead. However, note that Oakland County (upper middle class & wealthy northwestern Detroit suburbs) and a few rural counties are just starting to report.

So far, we've seen plenty of spin on how much a win or loss means for Mitt Romney's campaign going forward. However, some seem to forget that Michigan's Republican primary was considered a "gimme" for Romney just a month ago.

A native son of Michigan, where his father served as governor, Romney’s facing high expectations about his ability to beat former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who’s directly challenged him with message focusing on the middle class and a manufacturing revival.

Romney had been expected to easily win here until Santorum upset the former Massachusetts governor in a trio of nominating contests earlier this month. If momentum carries Santorum to victory on Tuesday in Michigan, it would put Romney’s campaign – long considered the favorite among Republicans seeking the nomination – on precarious political footing.

“I think it’s going to be an embarrassment if he does lose. I don’t think it looks good when you win in your home state, but I’m hopeful that he’ll pull it out,” said Julie Wells, a teacher from Birmingham who intends to vote for Romney, at a rally Monday evening in this Detroit suburb.

This really goes to show how volatile the G-O-TEA primary season has become. And it goes to show how hard it's been for Romney to "seal the deal", despite all the media proclamations of Romney being "the presumptive nominee". Perhaps the media pundits really do assume too much?

5:45 PM-

As more results trickle in, we're starting to get a better sense of what's happening in the state. Now this is still early, so everything can change in the next hour. But at least for now, Mitt Romney is leading in Oakland County while Rick Santorum is building a healthy lead in the Grand Rapids area and the Upper Peninsula. Romney is expected to do well in the upscale Detroit suburbs, and Santorum is expected to do well in the Upper Peninsula, but Grand Rapids was expected to be a key swing region. Is this an important tea leaf for tonight?

6:00 PM-

OK, so we get how important Michigan is... So will our next door neighbor finally get some media love tonight? Probably not, since Arizona is about to join us and New Hampshire in "The Foregone Conclusion Club". Still, there may be some analysis on just how high Romney can run up the score. But if Romney somehow gets under 40% in Arizona tonight, there may be even more questions as to if the G-O-TEA base will ever really "be into him".

OK, Romney was just declared the winner in Arizona... But again, we'll have to see how high he runs up the score... And if it's enough to make up for a possible loss in Michigan.

6:15 PM-

So far, NBC News' exit poll suggests Mitt Romney is about to eek out a 3% win in Michigan tonight... So game over? Not quite. Look at the map. Will Romney's strength in the Detroit area be enough to overcome his weakness virtually everywhere else? We'll have to wait and see.

6:30 PM-

Here's TPM with the rundown on what looks to be a possible 2-for-2 night for Romney. Of course his campaign will spin it as good news... But is it?

His win in Arizona was not without its potential costs in the general election. Romney further tacked right on immigration, calling Arizona’s tough law a “model” for the nation in an Arizona debate and accepting an endorsement from the governor who signed it, Jan Brewer. Democrats are hoping that Romney’s continued embrace of a crackdown on undocumented immigrants will help motivate Hispanic voters to turn out in droves for President Obama, potentially putting Arizona in play as a swing state.

It’s for that reason that those delegates might seem little consolation. The main focus of the fight is in Michigan: it’s where both candidates will deliver their speeches tonight. The reason: in many pundits’ eyes this isn’t even a battle he should be having in the first place. This is Romney’s home state; he was born here, his father was governor here, and Romney beat John McCain handily here only four years ago.

Now, though, he’s in a lose-lose situation. Should he lose his birth state to Santorum, then even his close allies admit this could upend his campaign. Romney made something of a preemptive strike on this in an interview with Fox News. He told his hosts that it would be more significant if he “was turned down by Massachusetts” - the state he had lived in for forty years. He also slammed any talk of a brokered convention or of himself slipping out of the fight, framing the race as a drawn-out battle of attrition that was all about the delegates.

It’s the issue of the delegates that make up the next part of the lose-lose scenario for Romney. Because of Michigan’s allocation of delegates by district, he could actually come out of tonight a close second and yet actually have more on hand than Santorum. However, even if he were to win by a slim margin, it’s possible the media will join in the framing that this is still a loss: that the mere fact he’s having such a close contest in his birth state is an intrinsic sign of his weakness as a candidate.

Mittens keeps trying and trying and trying to win over those darned teabaggers with even more radical right rhetoric. Yet with each new flip-flop and "arrogant 1% moment" and "inauthentic moment of blue collar pander", Romney keeps digging himself into a deeper electoral hole. Should he emerge as the Republican nominee, the G-O-TEA may still be in deep doo-doo come November.

6:50 PM-

Dave Weigel posted this and this on Twitter.

daveweigel ‏ @daveweigel Close
This primary will END the RACE. Just like NH did. And SC did. And FL did. And... #MIprimary

6:36 PM - 28 Feb 12 via TweetDeck · Details

daveweigel ‏ @daveweigel
BREAKING: In a couple of days Romney will lose a bunch of primaries to Santorum anyway. #MIprimary

6:36 PM - 28 Feb 12 via TweetDeck · Details

I suspect we'll soon see the Romney campaign declare "VICTORY!" at some point within the next 40 minutes. However, this won't end G-O-TEA primary season. Oh no, I suspect we'll be back here next week to liveblog "SUPER DUPER TUESDAY!!!" It's really about this.

There are 59 delegates up for grabs in Michigan and Arizona Tuesday, but the delegate count is being overshadowed by the nail-biter race in Michigan where Romney could lose the state he grew up in. The outcome in Michigan has taken on an outsized, symbolic importance that will dictate the mood heading into Super Tuesday next week.

In a way, no matter the outcome in Michigan, the damage to Mitt Romney’s campaign is already done. No one knows who will win Michigan tonight, but the fact that it will be incredibly close has weakened Romney’s campaign by underscoring his enduring problems connecting with working class and evangelical voters. This was supposed to be an easy state for Romney, who took it by ten points in 2008’s primary and has outspent Santorum there this time by 2 to 1. Even headlines like Romney barely wins home state will not be doing him any favors. In the same way, as both Republicans and Democrats have commented, Rick Santorum may lose Michigan, but in a sense he’s already won by coming this close.

And now, Santorum has a chance to win outright in Ohio and Tennessee and Oklahoma. As long as Mittens continues to play footsie with teabaggers, and as long as teabaggers continue to play hard to get while flirting with Santorum, this primary fight will go on... And President Obama keeps looking better and better and better. ;-)

We're Taking a Break from "Tax Week"...

Tonight and tomorrow morning to take a look at what happens next door... And in Michigan... As well as what's been happening nationally. It seems like the wheels are falling off "The G-O-TEA Express", especially since it's veered so far to the radical right lately.



Early this month, I thought things looked bad for Republicans after the Nevada Caucus. But as the circus does its final act in Arizona and Michigan before moving to "Super Tuesday Land", the G-O-TEA circus clowns contenders have really lost it... And by "it", I mean the November election. ;-)

The first poll closures happen at 6:00 PM tonight, so I'll be back then to live blog the Arizona & Michigan results, the media spin, and the facts that debunk the spin.

Fears of Californication?

Yesterday, prominent Nevada GOP power player, R&R big wig, (and confirmed Sandoval inner circle member) Pete Ernaut complained about the new push to bring tax initiatives to the ballot so Nevada voters can finally do what our Legislature apparently can not do. You tell me if you notice something familiar here.

“It should be warning to everybody because this is something that could very rapidly turn into the next iteration of the California ballot, where we have 10, 12, 13 ballot measures on a number of issues and you wake up one day and really you’ve taken the power away from the Legislature or the governor to make any decisions,” he said.

“And that’s really what they’re struggling with in California more than anything else is you have this entire apparatus in the California state Legislature that essentially has the ability to make decisions on about 5 percent or 6 percent of the entire California budget,” Ernaut said in an interview on the Nevada NewsMakers television show. “If we’re not careful, that’s the way that it will go.”

Now before I explain why I suspect Ernaut said this, I actually want to give him some props for pointing out what I've been saying here for several months. California, here we are!

As we were discussing on Sunday, California currently has three tax initiatives competing for voters' attention and support this year: one by civil rights attorney Molly Munger that seeks to raise income taxes on nearly everyone, one by Governor Jerry Brown (D) that mostly raises income taxes on the wealthy but also keeps in place a sales tax hike affecting everyone, and one by Courage Campaign and the California Federation of Teachers that only raises taxes on the ultra-wealthy earning more than $1,000,000 a year. All three promise to restore investment in public education that's been slashed to death, but all three also face challenges in the duration of the new revenue stream, as well as how much each of them can really pull in.

And of course, we can't forget how California got into this mess in the first place. Starting with the Prop 13 tax restructuring of 1978, followed by the education spending mandates in Prop 98 in 1988, followed by a whole series of special tax policies and spending formulae approved by the voters all through the 1990s and 2000s, California's budget has become an unmanageable fiscal hot mess. And especially because we as people like to "have it all" without ever paying for any of it, California faces chronic budget woes. (It turns out that passing spending mandates without finding the appropriate revenue to fund them causes huge budgetary problems. Surprise?)

However, not all of California's or Nevada's problems can be blamed on "we the people". The reason why Jerry Brown, Courage Campaign, and Molly Munger want to take their respective tax initiatives to the voters is because an intransigent and obstructive G-O-TEA minority in their Legislature refuses to consider any kind of sensible tax reform. And now that sensible Republicans like the late Bill Raggio and Kenny Guinn are distant memories for Republican leadership in our Legislature today, we're now facing the same problems. While I understand, and even sympathize with, Pete Ernaut's concern about "direct democracy run amok", what else are we the people supposed to do when our Legislature can't do its job and pass a workable budget?

And this brings me to the reason I suspect Pete Ernaut is really worried about the proposed tax initiatives: They're aimed at his clients. Ernaut seems to worry about the Legislature losing its authority on the budget now, but he didn't seem to mind Republican legislators giving a big, fat "Gov Wreck" rubber stamp to Brian Sandoval's original slashing of public education before the Nevada Supreme Court forced him to agree to extend the 2009 tax deal. But now that Monte Miller, the Nevada AFL-CIO, and Kermitt Waters are all aiming at Ernaut's top R&R clients, he all of a sudden wants the Legislature to set tax policy. Is that just because he thinks we the people will do what the Legislature hasn't done?

Republican pollster Glen Bolger, who does polling for the Retail Association of Nevada, revealed in his newest survey that Nevadans want the mining industry to pay its fair share.

Mining tax:

As you may know, there is a proposal to increase the state mining tax. I would like to read you
two statements that people are saying about the proposal. After I read each statement, please tell me which one comes closest to your own opinion.

Some people say increasing the state mining tax is a good idea because with the increase in the price of gold and other minerals, the mining industry is undergoing a boom time and should pay a higher tax rate.

... while...

Other people say an increase in the mining tax is a bad idea because at some point the price of gold and other minerals will drop back down to normal levels and a higher tax rate will hurt the industry and cost jobs.

Which statement comes closest to your own opinion?



Now this explains why the mining industry is suing to block Monte Miller's mining tax initiative. Ernaut has probably seen similar private polls showing similar results. The more Nevadans learn about how multinational mining corporations have abused our tax code to pay virtually nothing for profitting off our natural resources, the angrier we get. And if the decision on how much to tax them moves from the Legislature to "we the people", the mining industry will probably have to kiss its sweetheart deal goodbye.

This probably also explains why "big bid'ness" power brokers (like Monte Miller?) fear the AFL-CIO's margin tax on big business. In addition to the mining industry, other big multinational corporations like to set up "on shore tax shelters" here in Nevada to avoid paying taxes. But really, what do we get out of it? After seeing them profit while Nevada families suffer from decaying schools and inadequate transportation infrastructure, Nevada voters may also be ready to finally make the big guys pay their fair share.

So in the end, Pete Ernaut may have a valid point in stating the problems with "ballot box budgeting" and waging electoral campaigns on tax policy. However when the Legislature won't tackle this, someone has to. And when Nevada is in real need of real reform that finally moves our tax code into the 21st century, we can't blame citizen activists for wanting to take matters into their own hands. And since Ernaut's own BFF in the Governor's Mansion encouraged obstruction on tax reform in Carson City last year, he should have realized that he helped bring "Californication" of Nevada policy making here.

Can You Do This All on Your Own?

Rejoice, Nevada! Taxable sales rose in December!

Taxable sales in Washoe County rose 6.1 percent in December from a year earlier, the state reported Monday, reflecting rising confidence among consumers at the height of the 2011 holiday shopping season.

“That’s reasonably strong given as serious as the recession has been,” said Mark Pingle, economist at the University of Nevada, Reno. “A normal rate is about 3 percent, so that (December figure) is an indicator that we’re coming out of the morass.” [...]

Statewide, taxable sales in December increased by 3.8 percent from December 2010, according to the report.

Happy, happy, joy, joy!

Strong performances in the car and clothing businesses during the Christmas season helped propel taxable sales in Clark County to a 9.5 percent gain in December over the same month a year ago.

The state Department of Taxation reported Monday that taxable sales reached $2.9 billion in Clark County.

For the first six months of the fiscal year, the increase is 7.4 percent, showing a continuing rebound.

The department said statewide taxable sales rose 3.8 percent to $4.2 billion for December. It said the state’s portion of the sales and use tax collected in December was $82.4 million or 2 percent higher than December 2010.

No really, this is great news. When we buy, we win. When consumers get back in the habit of participating in our economy, employers can afford to keep workers. This truly is good news.

Still, I can't help but think of the policy implications here. Remember that because Nevada has no (corporate or personal) income tax whatsoever, we're incredibly dependent upon casinos and consumers to pay our state's bills. Of course it may sound great to exclaim, "Nevada has no taxes!" However, that's not the truth. We have taxes... It's just that the bulk of them are paid by the middle class and working poor.

Nevada is heavily dependent on one of the most regressive forms of taxation ever devised: The Sales Tax. The chart illustrates just how regressive this type of taxation truly is — the lower one’s income the higher percentage of that income is expended on state and local taxation. The State Budget Office estimates that 25.8% of the state government’s tax revenue will be derived from sales and use taxes over the next two years. The next largest amount, 22.3%, is predicted to come from gaming taxes. We know from the State Comptroller’s Office that fully 9% of this State’s total income comes from the sales tax.

Think about it. This year's state budget was mostly riding on our purchases and what tourists did on Las Vegas Boulevard. Seriously, how f**ked up is that?

What we've learned over the years is that this tax system simply isn't sustainable any more. We need real, serious solutions... And solutions that correct the regressive burden on Nevada's working class families.

As we discussed yesterday, we can no longer rely on the casinos alone to save us. However we can't exclusively rely on you to carry this burden, either. Yes, you heard me right. While I'm sure the state really appreciates your contribution to the coffers in Carson City, it's just not fair for Nevada to demand so much from you when the biggest and most profitable corporations in this state pay virtually nothing.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Who's Afraid of Kermitt Waters?

He's brilliant. He's edgy. He's visionary. He's radical. And perhaps he's managed to bring folks together (while simultaneously driving away powerful players on the left and on the right) in a way that hardly anyone else has.

He's Kermitt Waters, and he wants to lower your taxes... Unless, that is, you're a multinational corporation looking for an "onshore tax shelter" here in Nevada. If that's the case, watch out.

But before Waters can even launch a campaign for his tax initiative, he has to sue in court to strike down the state statute that's been holding him back. And he's formed a strange alliance on this law suit, one that actually scares some local progressives. (I'll explain this later.)

On Saturday, I finally had a chance to meet Mr. Waters myself and ask him the questions that I sense many Nevadans have been wanting to ask. I started with what I thought was the most obvious: Why bring forth such a complicated and radical restructuring of Nevada's entire state budget that openly violates the single subject rule that only allows for an initiative to address one policy matter? Waters gave me a simple deadpan of an answer: "You want to give me $500,000?"

Waters complained about how expensive it is to push a ballot initiative. This led me to my next question: Why do this? Isn't this why we have a Legislature? Again, he gave a clear and concise answer: "Gaming and mining own The Legislature." He then went on to express his deep distrust of pretty much anyone and everyone in Carson City, and especially of what he considers the center of "booze, broads, and bribes". It seems that he's felt the same frustration with the way business is done in Carson City that most voters in Nevada (and especially Clark County) feel... But he's taking it to another level in threatening their power over perhaps the biggest decision made there, which is the one made every two years on the state budget.

Waters and I then went back to the matter of his law suit. He sounded especially frustrated over The Legislature intervening in the law suit, as well as Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D) sending this law suit to federal court.

I then asked about the other big elephant in the room: Is Kermitt Waters about to open a "Pandora's Box" of "tea party" crazy by making it easier for the likes of Chuck Muth and Richard Ziser to unleash the full radical right wish list, from TABOR to zygote personhood to domestic partnership repeal and more, on our ballots? After all, it's impossible that Chuck Muth is backing Waters' law suit because he likes Waters' tax plan. (Remember that if Waters wins this law suit, a precedent is set that will allow virtually everyone else to start collecting signatures to put whatever one wants on the ballot.) So what was Waters' answer? Simple: "If you don't like it, beat it at the damned polls. Don't kill the goose. Just beat them at the polls."

It's interesting. Kermitt Waters may be very cynical and pessimistic when it comes to the death of good policy caused by the people running Nevada's government, but he sounds hopeful and downright optimistic about the triumph of good policy among the people voting in Nevada elections. It sounded like he genuinely believes Nevada will be better off with more of the California/Arizona style direct democracy regularly practiced there than with what we have now.

OK, so Kermitt Waters likes direct democracy. But again, why pursue this long, complicated initiative when there are simpler initiatives floating around that are not being challenged in court? When I asked about the AFL-CIO's proposed business margin tax, Waters flatly dismissed it. "It's a waste of time. In three years, they'll take it off." And since the AFL-CIO proposal is just a statute instead of a constitutional amendment, he thinks it may face the same fate in the hands of The Legislature that the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act has experienced. Waters pretty much said the same thing about Monte Miller's proposed gaming and mining tax initiatives when I asked about those.

At this point, Kermitt Waters then dropped a bomb on me. He told me that other progressive organizations did not want to work with him on his initiative, and that they didn't want to touch this because of his association with Chuck Muth, and because they fear Waters' victory in court would lead to the likes of Muth and Ziser throwing the entire "tea party" wish list on Nevada ballots in a matter of no time.

When I asked him if the concerns of other progressives should be noted, Waters stood behind his plan. "We're trying to accomplish something. We'll get nothing done if we don't [change the rules on initiatives]. We'll all starve to death if we don't let someone get two hamburgers. This is just insane."

Now before I wrap this up, I want to give a reminder of what's at stake with Waters' initiative. If Kermitt Waters succeeds, his initiative will:

- Eliminate the property tax for single family homes

- Establish a 20% levy on mining companies

- Set up a gross receipts tax on businesses earning over $1 million a month


- Use the new revenues to set up a fund separate from the state's general fund (so legislators and the Governor can't use any of this new money to cover everything else in the general fund and/or pay for new tax cuts somewhere else) to pay for a new system of Nevada appeals courts, increased investment in public education, more renewable energy investment, expanded health care coverage, and more.

Honestly, this is why I've personally been at conflict with myself on this. And this is why I was willing to meet with Kermitt Waters himself last weekend to hear his side of the story.

I personally believe Kermitt Waters is genuine in his desire to remake Nevada Government, and especially Nevada's broken budget process, for the better. And when glancing at everything in Waters' initiative, from renewable energy investment to public education investment to generating the new revenue our state so desperately needs, it really does read like a progressive's wish list come true.

However, I can also see that Waters' route isn't the only route that progressives have to use to enact needed reforms to our budget and our tax system. That's why later this week, we'll be looking at the other progressive tax proposal making waves: the AFL-CIO's. We'll probably also do more analysis, along with some needed comparison & contrast, on both initiatives later this week.

In talking with Kermitt Waters, I can see why he's become feared in recent years. He may be dismissed at times as a "gadfly", but he truly does have the determination to follow through on his fights. We'll have to see how far he wants to go on this one.

Why Do We Need Tax Reform?

Yesterday, we kicked off "Tax Week" here at Nevada Progressive with a look at the intersection of our past and our future. This morning, we'll take a closer look at why tax reform is so badly needed here in Nevada.

Yesterday, I had to book a room at the Silver Legacy in Downtown Reno for a meeting I have to attend early next month.

Strangely enough, after I booked I found this RGJ article noting Silver Legacy's troubles in paying off the mortgage. This seems so awkward for such a big, flashy casino... And it must be painful for those in Reno who had high hopes for Silver Legacy and what it would do for Downtown Reno.

When it opened in July 1995, the Silver Legacy Resort Casino was going to be Reno’s chance to revamp a gaming market that had not seen a major new property open in 17 years.

The Silver Legacy was the result of a partnership between the family-owned Eldorado Hotel & Casino and Circus Circus Enterprises run by Don Carano and CEO Clyde Turner respectively. [...]

And for awhile, the plan worked. For example, the Reno-Sparks gaming market pulled in $834 million in 1995 and by 2000 that revenue grew to nearly $1 billion, according to UNLV gaming statistics.

The idea behind the Silver Legacy was to create a “downtown synergy,” said Guy Rocha, Nevada’s former state archivist. It featured sky-walks connecting the Eldorado and the Circus Circus as well as dome that would house a 127-foot mining rig as the Silver Legacy’s center piece.

“And it really moved a lot of the casino focus to the north side of the railroad tracks and the north side of Commercial Row,” Rocha said. “It really changed the downtown focus a lot. And I think they did for a period of time, and perhaps still do, but the landscape has changed with gambling.”

And then, everything changed. And yes, we again have California to thank (or blame) for it.

California voters approved Proposition 5 in 1998 and gave the green light to tribal casinos. But after the California Supreme Court overturned Prop 5 as unconstitutional, then Governor Gray Davis (D) and several Native American tribes went back to the ballot in 2000 with a constitutional amendment, Prop 1A. But once Prop 1A passed with 65% of the vote in March 2000, tribal casinos were finally approved for good. And ever since then, California gaming has increasingly become a serious threat to Nevada gaming interests. Northern Nevada especially felt the brunt of competition from Sacramento and San Francisco area tribal casinos as fewer Northern California gamblers were making the drive through the Sierras to Reno.

And it's not just California that's posed a threat to Nevada casinos. Right now, it looks like Las Vegas is faring better. Air traffic at McCarran continues to improve, and key Strip player MGM Resorts has narrowed its losses and found firmer financial footing. However, look at the details and see where MGM is faring best. And look at what's landed both Wynn Resorts and Las Vegas Sands into a giant tub of legal hot water. Macau is now the largest gaming market in the world, and Las Vegas will have to get used to growing competition from abroad... And perhaps from the internet as well.

So why am I bringing up everything from a Downtown Reno casino near foreclosure to Macau to online poker? Simple. These stories should all be a wake-up call to Nevada. We can no longer rely only on casino revenue to survive.

This really shouldn't be news. Two years ago, we were being warned. And late last month, UNLV's Robert Lang was trying to remind us again of what needs to be done to fix Nevada's (and especially Southern Nevada's) failing infrastructure, diversify our economy, and allow for a healthier and more balanced economy to grow.

However, this doesn't come cheap. Our colleges badly need investment. So do K-12 public schools. So do our roads and mass transit operations. And so does our health care system. And we simply can't do this without new revenue.

As it is now, Nevada is dangerously over-reliant upon casinos and the gaming industry. During "the boom years", it may have been easy to dismiss this as silly "negative nelly" talk. But now that we're facing chronic budget woes and inadequate public infrastructure that hasn't kept up with population growth for some time, we can no longer ignore the obvious.

So this is why we're embarking on "Tax Week" here at Nevada Progressive. I'd like to do my part to help foster discussion of what we must do to secure a better future for Nevada, so expect multiple ideas and perspectives on how best to fix Nevada's broken tax system and fill those pesky budget holes for good.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Nevada Past... California Future?

This weekend, we've been seeing plenty of reflection on the life and legacy of Bill Raggio. The RGJ's Ray Hagar perhaps summed it up best.

As Nevada mourns the death of the “Lion of the Legislature,” some also mourn the end of an era, when bipartisanship ruled the day.

Nevada’s legislative process has gone from one of compromise to polarization, experts said. Raggio’s death only enforces the point.

“It’s been bad for a couple of sessions,” said former Assembly Speaker Joe Dini, D-Yerington, who began is legislative career in 1967 and ended it after the 2002 special session on medical malpractice. “I don’t know if will be any worse than it has been. I don’t think it will get any better.” [...]

“Clearly, that had a lot to do with it (resignation), the fact that Bill Raggio was a man who would set aside partisanship for the greater good,” said Billy Vassiliadis, a Nevada political consultant based in Las Vegas.

“He worked with three Democratic governors and three Republican governors and always worked in the spirit of getting something done,” Vassiliadis said. “And today, politics puts a premium on stopping things rather than making things happen. To stand in place rather than move forward was something he could not abide in.”

It's certainly something no one can deny at this point. And this is something we've been talking about here for quite some time. And at times, it seemed like Bill Raggio really came from a different era and represented the kind of politicking and governing that Nevada has been quickly losing. I really think Jon Ralston hit the nail on the head here.

In his later days, Raggio frequently lamented the propensity for Republicans to bow to the Temple of Norquist, pledging fealty to a no-tax pledge when circumstances could always change. In a world of one-note politicians, Raggio was operatic, often giving floor speeches that were the equivalent of arias. Indeed, one lobbyist, marveling at a Raggio performance, looked at me and said, “Like Pavarotti at the Met.”

Raggio also railed against those who only cared about re-election, a common affliction in Carson City, fearing they would never help move the state forward. As ex-Sen. Paul Laxalt said Friday, “Throughout my political career, I adhered to a policy of not allowing political differences to transform into personal differences. That was the essence of Bill Raggio. Sadly, that quality is sorely missing in today’s toxic political environment.”

I believe one of the more painful decisions of Raggio’s career was to endorse Harry Reid for re-election in 2010. Yes, he was furious that Sharron Angle had challenged him in a primary, but it was much more than personal. He thought she would be a disaster for the state, so he endorsed whom he considered the lesser off two evils.

There was nothing in it for him — he knew the blowback would be vicious, although I doubt he knew he would lose his leadership position because of his craven colleagues, some of whom I would bet a fortune voted for Reid but were afraid to say so.

A man of his word? Yes. A man of principle? Indeed. A man for all seasons, especially every other winter and spring in Carson City? Absolutely.

Perhaps none of Carson City's powers that be was surprised by Raggio's final act in 2010, but a whole lot of political junkies outside Nevada were. After all, why would someone of Raggio's stature do that to his own party? It's something that would be unheard of anywhere except Nevada...

But will we ever see something like that here in Nevada again?

Throw the party's base supporters some choice red meat... and risk that persuadable voters who tune into the media coverage recoil. But tamp down the fiery rhetoric in hopes of projecting a "kinder, gentler" image... and risk leaving the party faithful full of accusations that moderates are trying to water down the GOP brand.

'Tis a dilemma to be sure.

That's what's been happening just south of San Francisco, where California Republicans have been holding their convention. Newt Gingrich showed up yesterday to rally the base with cries of, "Drill, Baby, Drill!!!" And yes, reporters and observers there may have caught a glimpse of the Nevada Republican Party's future.

We've definitely seen a rightward shift of GOP legislators in recent sessions... And that really seemed to accelerate once Bill Raggio left Carson City for good. And now because of what's become endless intransigence on implementing long term budget solutions, some are now pushing for voters to take matters into our own hands. However, that isn't without its own risks.

The Field Poll showed the strongest backing for the tax hike on millionaires, with 63% of voters saying they were inclined to vote yes. Next came Brown's proposal, a temporary half-cent sales tax increase combined with higher income taxes on the wealthy, which drew 58% support.

But voters appear to reject a broad-based income tax hike proposed by wealthy Los Angeles civil rights lawyer Molly Munger, which received only 45% support, with 48% opposed. All three initiatives are in the signature-gathering phase before they can be placed on the November ballot.

The results roughly parallel a poll that Brown's political aides released in summary form this week. That showed Brown's proposal and the proposed levy on millionaires both with more than 50% support, while Munger's languished. Brown's aides also tested whether voters would support the taxes if all three appeared on the ballot and found in that scenario none would pass.

That's been the argument the governor and his aides have been pushing for three months now -- that Munger and the unions and activists who back the millionaire's tax need to drop their measures so they don't doom all of them.

But backers of the millionaire's tax seemed emboldened by the newest poll that continued to show theirs as the most popular. Nonetheless, the governor's aides and allies continued to urge others to back down.

Yes, believe it or not, California is also providing us with this glimpse into Nevada's future. There, Governor Jerry Brown (D) is pushing his own tax initiative that raises the income tax on top earners while also keeping in place a hike of the state's sales tax. However, he's now getting competition from both civil rights attorney Molly Munger's broad-based income tax and Courage Campaign's "Millionaires Tax". For so long, California's Legislature couldn't agree to much of any tax reform. But now, they're seeing an increasingly complicated and messy "ballot royale" over the competing tax initiatives.

And guess what? That's where we also seem to be headed... Except that I'm hoping we won't see an ugly food fight that pulls down all the tax reform initiatives. Instead, I want to do my part to inform and enlighten Nevada voters by starting a discussion this week on tax reform, ballot initiatives, and the future of Nevada Government. I'll be starting tomorrow by sharing with you a conversation I recently had with Kermitt Waters... Yes, the Kermitt Waters with the law suit causing so many Nevada politicos' heads to explode. Later this week, I'll also be posting conversations with those backing Nevada AFL-CIO whiz Danny Thompson's business margin tax initiative. Who knows, maybe we'll even dig more into Monte Miller's tax proposal?

As I've been saying here for some time, we in Nevada have to prepare for serious change. Since we first heard the saddening news of Bill Raggio's passing, we've been reflecting plenty on what's already been changing. And while I don't believe we're destined to become a carbon copy of California (or Arizona, or Colorado, or any other state, for that matter), we can no longer deny that both the dynamics of legislating in Carson City and the increasing frustration of Nevada voters outside Carson City are leading us to consider something never before seen here, even if it's something California and Arizona regularly see: ballot box budgeting.

There's obviously a reason why so many are so devastated by the loss of Raggio. In many ways, this does feel like the end of an era. But now if progressives want to embark on a new era and fix what's become regularly broken, then we may really need to rethink how we've advocated tax and budget reform. It may finally be time to face the voters, and face our future.

Friday, February 24, 2012

When Did Bill Raggio Lose His Party?

As Nevadans everywhere react to Former Senator Bill Raggio's death today. Until very recently, Bill Raggio was one of the most powerful and influential voices among Nevada Republicans. In many ways, he was really "The Lion of the Legislature".

And as we mourn the loss of Raggio, I have to ask this: When did Nevada Republican leadership go from this to this?

And this?

This is what I was wondering... Then I found some old columns from Chuck Muth, and I saw the trail of Raggio's downfall and the end of "The Last of the Moderates". Raggio took so much heat from the radical "tea party" right over that 2009 tax deal that it got the wheels in motion for the rise of Elizabeth Halseth and Michael Roberson.

And as we saw last session, everything changed. With Bill Raggio out of the picture and Kenny Guinn an increasingly distant memory, it took an "act of the gods" (really, just The Nevada Supreme Court) just to break the logjam and get a budget passed. As I've been saying for some time now, for all the "tea party" whining about Nevada turning into "Little California", today's crop of Republicans in the Legislature seem to be the ones making our budget process more like California's... Even down to forcing the people to start petitions to enact needed tax reform.

Seriously, this is what has me worried. Yes, Bill Raggio was conservative. Yes, Bill Raggio did use his budget votes as leverage to pass right-wing legislation. And yes, Bill Raggio liked to spend our tax dollars up north when they were really needed in Clark County. However at the end of the day, Bill Raggio was always someone who was interested in making Nevada's government work. And not too long ago, there were other Republicans, like Kenny Guinn, who believed the same and demonstrated the ability to reach across aisles to keep Nevada functioning.

But last session, we were left wondering if a significant chunk of Legislature Republicans even wanted any kind of functioning government. And again, with Raggio gone, we had to wait for that Nevada Supreme Court ruling just to extend the tax deal that Raggio brokered in 2009. And with Raggio gone, what used to be a Nevada tradition of legislators constantly crossing aisles and party lines to get stuff done gave into California style "mortal combat governance".

Today, I've been going back to what we discussed in July 2010 right after Kenny Guinn passed away.

In many ways, Kenny Guinn represented the best of Nevada's not-so-distant political past. Back then it didn't matter so much if one was a Democrat or a Republican, since everyone was a Nevadan first and foremost. This really shone through with Guinn when he made tough decisions, decisions that a number of conservative Republicans did not like. Guinn pushed for the Millennium Scholarships that enabled many thousands of deserving Nevada students to attend college, regardless of family wealth. He pushed for tax increases, what could have been first steps toward a fairer tax structure, when many in his own party were just saying "no". And yes, he even pushed for better schools and a better social safety net to look after all Nevadans, even the working poor. These days, we don't hear very many Republicans speaking like this.

Sure, Kenny Guinn was not perfect. For gawd's sake, he chaired the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign! And sometimes, I wondered if he couldn't see the coming "Tea Party" storm... Or if he did, and just gave up toward the end. And of course, we can't forget how he was elected in the first place... It was that damned "casino-mining-industrial complex" (you know, the same one that usually prevents our state from enacting the progressive tax reforms we so badly need) that hand-picked Guinn for Governor.

But you know what? No one is perfect. And damn it, even as a Republican, Kenny Guinn was quite the damned good Governor our state needed.

To a large extent, we can say the same thing about Bill Raggio. He worked hard to build up our higher education system. And yes, he was actually a big booster for public infrastructure... Especially if it was in Washoe County. And now that Raggio has left us for good as well, I'm left wondering if Chuck Muth and the "tea party" fan club running today's Nevada Republican Party will allow for the next Guinn or Raggio to rise from their ranks.

Farewell, Mr. Raggio.

Wow. Just wow. I wasn't ready for this.

Bill Raggio, a former Washoe County District Attorney who became the longest-serving state senator in Nevada history, as died.

Raggio was 85 and died at 10 p.m. Pacific time of a respiratory illlness. He was in Sydney, Australia at the time.

“With the death of Sen. Bill Raggio, one of the great lights in the world of Nevada politics has gone out,” said Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval.

A Reno native, Raggio served 16 years as Washoe County District Attorney. He was elected to the state senate in 1972 and served there until resigning for health reasons in 2010.

He developed a reputation as a master of the legislative process, a tough negotiator and a champion for education and Norther Nevada interests.

I still can't believe Bill Raggio is gone. It seems like he's been a part of Nevada politics forever. He was a stalwart conservative and unshakable Republican. He ran against legendary US Senator Howard Cannon (D) in 1970, and he tried to succeed Harry Reid as Lieutenant Governor and win that seat for the Republicans in 1974.

Yet when it came to governance, he knew how to bend to prevent the government from breaking. And no one who was familiar with Raggio in the 1970s would have guessed that he'd endorse Harry Reid for US Senate in 2010. While Raggio was a stalwart conservative and unshakable Republican, he nonetheless considered himself a Nevadan, and particularly a Renoite and Northern Nevadan, first. He ultimately wanted to do what was best for the state, so this prominent conservative lawmaker was considered "moderate" in later years simply because he was willing to compromise to get the job done. Sadly, he was even attacked by the "tea party" loons in his own party because he was willing to compromise to get the job done.

I remember what we discussed here early last year, when Raggio decided he couldn't take any more of what he was seeing in Carson City.

So I guess he really couldn't stomach another session in Carson City. He is getting older, he does have health issues, and the tension there clearly has been wearing on him...

But obviously, there's more to this story. While conservative, Raggio was never seen as ideologically "pure" by the teabaggers. He did support tax increases when it meant more money for Northern Nevada. He sparred often with tea-nut icons like Sharron Angle and Jim Gibbons. And of course, he endorsed Harry Reid last year.

Oh, and he committed "heresy" yet again when he stated the obvious on this year's budget.

So what happens next? We'll have to see. Bill Raggio has forgotten more Nevada history and Nevada politics than the teabaggers will ever know.

It really wasn't that long ago when Raggio and then Governor Kenny Guinn (R) were actually discussing serious policy solutions on thorny matters like taxes and public education. Now, all we hear from the G-O-TEA are empty platitudes and Grover Norquist pledges. Even though it shouldn't have shocked us, many were nonetheless shocked when Raggio was ousted as Senate Republican Caucus leader right after the 2010 election (when the GOP gained a seat under his leadership!). But even after that happened, Raggio's shadow still loomed prominently in the halls of the Legislature's building. Without a doubt, Raggio made an impact on Nevada government that can't easily be rivaled.

And Raggio's legacy isn't limited to Carson City.

Yes, he was really Frank Sinatra's attorney. Wow.

Without a doubt, Bill Raggio was one of those colorful characters and storied politicians that one can only find in Nevada. Sure, I didn't always agree with what he did. But when it came to protecting Nevada's best interest, and especially when it came to fighting for Northern Nevada, Bill Raggio could always be counted on. He will be sorely missed.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

El Partido Loco

This morning, The Sun published a story on immigrants who have been duped by "notarios" promising work permits and legal residency for clients... But who later fail to deliver

[I]n 1996, [Cesar Silva] saw an ad from an immigration legal services agency saying it secured work permits and legal residency for immigrants.

At the agency, the person helping Silva called over another client. The client showed Silva a work permit and explained how the agency helped him get it in just a few months. Silva, thinking he was on his way to legal status, was delighted.

The agency, however, never helped Silva. After taking roughly $8,000 from him, it only had made it harder for him to eventually obtain a legal status. [...]

Wherever there are significant immigrant populations, there are people trying to take advantage of them with various scams, authorities say. In some cases, people who have no license to practice law misrepresent their credentials, then file paperwork stating their clients are representing themselves. Other times they may take a client’s money and do not file anything, all the better for not attracting scrutiny from the authorities. In other cases, such as Silva’s, scam artists use their knowledge of the convoluted immigration system to give the appearance they are working on their client’s behalf.

Without Silva’s knowledge, the agency filed paperwork for him under an asylum provision that was in place for Nicaraguans. Once the paperwork was filed, immigration services issued a temporary work permit to Silva. Wheels were in motion, he thought, and he willingly paid more fees.

However, his application was bound to be denied as the company filed it with Silva’s Mexican birth certificate, Flores said.

The agency essentially announced Silva’s presence in the country to immigration enforcement and then on the paperwork indicated he was representing himself. Inevitably, Silva received a deportation notice.

“I brought the notice into them,” he said. “They just told me, ‘Oh, it’s fine. That’s all part of the process. We are working on your behalf.’”

Last September, ICE arrested Cesar Silva and planned to deport him... Until a number of folks in the local community threw protests, pushed local elected officials to denounce the deportation, and ultimately shamed ICE into dropping plans to deport Silva after jailing him for a week. Now, ICE is granting him a one year stay while it reviews his case and gives Silva's current legal team time to make a case for granting him legal status.

And Cesar Silva isn't the only immigrant who was misled into believing a "notario" can make all one's ICE problems go away for a "small fee". Crap like this happens all the time.

Yet G-O-TEA hopefuls like Mitt Romney just don't care.

Mitt Romney has actually said he wants to veto the DREAM Act. And Mitt Romney has actually claimed "self-deportation" as "the solution to illegal immigration". And Mitt Romney has an extreme anti-immigrant activist with ties to known racist hate groups writing his immigration policy. And despite Romney's own run-ins with immigration law...

He doesn't seem to want to give anyone else a break. Even though people like Cesar Silva are trying to fix their situation and pursue legal residency, today's G-O-TEA is so mired in nativist, xenophobic fantasy that it lost touch with reality long ago. No wonder why we saw this in Arizona last night.

And it's not just Mitt Romney with his head in the sand. Dean Heller continues to join him there. He may strut into a Hispanics in Politics meeting and talk about a "mutually agreeable" solution, but his view of a "solution" is way to the right of REPUBLICANS like George Bush and John McCain. Heller's embrace of "tea party" nativist extremism is just as craven as Romney's, and his "solutions" that he proposed in the not-so-distant past are just as unworkable. This is why I can't believe the crocodile tears Heller's campaign team are shedding over Heller being compared to that other G-O-TEA Senate candidate who infamously embraced xenophobia.

In turn, [Shelley] Berkley and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee have their own Spanish radio ad, tying Heller on immigration issues to the ultimate Nevada bugbear: Sharron Angle, the very right-wing GOP Senate nominee in 2010, who lost to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid despite the national Republican wave.

“The party of Sharron Angle, but this time, in Spanish! Can you believe it?” the announcer says mockingly. “The Republicans have ads that attack Democratic Congresswoman Shelley Berkley and President Obama, who support the Dream Act and immigration reform.

“Who is their candidate now? Dean Heller: the Republican who wants to copy the anti-immigrant Arizona law here in Nevada, who voted to cut funds to Head Start and student scholarships, who is against immigration reform and would deport grandparents and separate children from their mothers.”

She also adds: “In the Republican Dean Heller we have another Sharron Angle.”

As we saw this morning, there are real people who are looking for real ways to earn real legal status in this country. And yes, there are real obstacles getting in the way that we need to deal with. But with the likes of Romney, Heller, and Angle wanting to punish people like Cesar Silva for trying to do the right thing, they just show us that today's G-O-TEA doesn't even want to discuss real, rational, comprehensive immigration reform.

Another Day, Another Special Election

I know, I know. It's hard to keep up with all the regularly scheduled elections and special elections happening this year. And now, we have another one coming... This time in Las Vegas Ward 2. Now that former Las Vegas Council Member Steve Wolfson is our new Clark County District Attorney, someone has to fill the Ward 2 vacancy he's leaving behind.

So we'll be seeing yet another special election here in Southern Nevada. Early voting starts March 15, so it's really right around the corner! And now it looks like there will be nine candidates running in this special election. Among them are:

- None other than Former State Senator and "Mean 15" right wing rabble rouser Bob Beers. Seriously, he was "tea party" before "tea party" became the new cool in Republican circles. In private life, he's worked as a CPA.

- Recently retired Las Vegas Metro Police captain Bob Chinn. He's also a Republican, but he's being endorsed by Clark County Sheriff Bill Young (R) and all the local police unions.

- Second grade teacher Sherese Holmes. She's a Democrat, and she's being endorsed by Assembly Member Harvey Munford (D-Las Vegas). For the last five years, she facilitated CCSD's English Language Learners program for immigrant children before returning to the classroom when the program was cut.

- Anthony Ruggiero, special assistant to Las Vegas Mayor Pro-tem and Ward 6 Council Member Stavros Anthony (R). He's a Republican, and he's being endorsed by Anthony. Before working for the city, he was a criminal investigator for the Nevada Attorney General's office and served on the Nevada Board of Education.

- Meadows School co-founder Ric Truesdell. He's a Republican, currently serves on the Las Vegas Planning Commission, and previously served on the Downtown Las Vegas Partnership. He's endorsed by Former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman (I) and current Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman (I).

- And local attorney/public defender Kristine Kuzemka. She's a Democrat, and she previously ran for Las Vegas Justice of the Peace in 2010. She's served as Deputy Public Defender for the Clark County Public Defender's office since 2004, and before that clerked for both former District Judge David Wall and the District Attorney's office (when Stewart Bell was DA).

Well, it certainly looks like we have an interesting crop of candidates here. Chinn already has the police union backing locked up... But considering what's been in the news lately, that may not be much of an asset any more.

I can see Truesdell and Ruggiero duking it out for the "business establishment" support. Truesdell probably starts with a leg up because of his ties to the Goodmans. (And now that local attorney Ross Goodman isn't running, Truesdell is the closest we'll get to another Goodman in Las Vegas City Hall.)

But with Bob Beers wanting a political comeback, it may not be easy for Truesdell and Ruggiero to wrestle out a lot of GOP support. Again, Beers was "tea party" before the "tea party" became cool in GOP circles. He's already been making the media rounds and he's already seen as a local GOP "rock star". And other Clark County GOP favorite (and former local news anchor) Ron Futrell was expected to run himself, he instead endorsed Beers.

However, it may not be that easy for Republicans to reclaim this Las Vegas Council seat. (I know this race is officially nonpartisan, who really cares about that any more?) Kristine Kuzemka now has some campaign experience under her belt, and she has grown a loyal following since 2010.
We'll also have to see what Sherese Holmes does.

So far, it seems like we're in for an exciting election in Las Vegas. I can't wait to see what happens next.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Joe Heck Gets a Reality Check on Women's Health

Monday night, Rep. Joe Heck (R-"Tea Party") kicked off his campaign in perhaps the most appropriate manner befitting a politician with his kind of record... At an exclusive "invitation only" very-high-dollar fundraiser outside his actual district. But unfortunately for him, a candidate actually running for Congress in that area was also there to say a few things about Dr. Heck's real record of attacking the rights of Nevada's women.

And John Oceguera, one of the Democrats running in the new NV-03, was also there to denounce Heck's embrace of the G-O-TEA's anti-woman agenda. Remember, Heck himself uttered these now infamous words when asked about his opposition to insurance coverage of contraception:

"The fact is this has nothing to do with women’s health issues.”

Is he serious? Does he seriously believe this? Is this all he's ever heard on the subject?

No wonder why Heck's G-O-TEA House colleagues were so afraid to let the women speak.

Well, this may also explain it. The more Americans learn about the G-O-TEA's radical anti-woman agenda, the more they reject it. Maybe Heck's BFF Mitt Romney gets excited about attacking women's right to make their own health care decisions, but the vast majority of Nevadans are not. Just take a look at all the health care services that the G-O-TEA faction in Congress wants to deny to American women! Once Americans figure out what they actually mean when they wax poetic about "liberty", they turn off to the G-O-TEA ideal of giving employers "liberty" in denying preventive health care to women for whatever "religious" excuse they want to throw out.

And Joe Heck still wants to claim that "this has nothing to do with women's health issues"?

Is he really that clueless? Or is he so cynical that he thinks he can get away with lying to us? Whatever the case, it's becoming even harder to believe that Joe Heck can properly represent the people (and especially the women!) of Nevada's 3rd Congressional District.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Kelli Ross Jumps Into SD 18. Who's Angered More by This?

Buoyed by improving poll numbers for President Obama and the Democratic Party nationally, as well as a ton of bad news for Michael Roberson and his Senate Republican Caucus closer to home, Nevada Democrats are feeling more upbeat lately about the upcoming election and what it will do to change the balance of power in Carson City. Now it feels like we may be approaching "The Perfect Storm". Senate District 18 hadn't really been on the top of pundits' lists of hot #NVLeg races, mainly because of its recent voting record... But this may cause that to change immediately.

I was educated in Las Vegas public schools, and I met my husband Steve in the 3rd grade. I spent 20 years in the casino industry, working in various management positions in advertising and marketing. Then in 1998, my family took our own shot at the "American Dream," opening a small family owned electrical contracting company that created good-paying jobs with benefits.

But like hundreds of other Las Vegas businesses, our family business, our employees and their dreams were shattered by the worst recession in half a century. But seeing the business closed never stopped me and my family from giving back to the community.

My credentials as a community advocate are extensive. I coached little league baseball, served as a scout leader, and I'm an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and have been a mentor/leader to young women.

As a businesswoman, I'm the Past Nevada Chairwoman of the Women Business Enterprise Council, former member of the Southern Nevada Chapter of National Electrical Contractors Association, and have also been a member of the Better Business Bureau.

I'm running for State Senate District 18 because it is time we had someone who will stand up to the partisan bickering and fight to get things done. I've owned a small business. I understand the challenges of this economy and my family has been hit hard like most Las Vegans. I know first-hand the difficulties that job creators are facing in this difficult economy. And as a mother and grandmother, I know the importance of a first class public education system, to prepare our residents for the jobs of tomorrow, and to grow and diversify our economy. A family woman and a business woman, I've learned the art of balancing priorities and getting things done.

Oh, yes. That's right. Kelli Ross, wife of current Las Vegas Ward 6 Council Member Steve Ross (who just survived his own recall election earlier this month), is now jumping into the political world herself and running as a Democrat in SD 18.

Now one would think Democrats would get quite excited about this development. After all, this forces Republicans to play defense in yet another district that they had been counting on winning. Now that the vacant SD 9 seat in the southwestern Las Vegas suburbs leans Democratic after redistricting, and now that Sheila Leslie and Greg Brower will be duking it out in the new SD 15 seat in western Reno, Republicans will have much more of an uphill battle in their effort to retake the Senate.

So why did "Mr. Gleaner" rip into a tirade against Kelli Ross on his new KSNV (Vegas NBC) show today? Take another look at that R-J article I linked to above. Kelli Ross called herself "very conservative" and "not partisan". And considering her husband's tendency to embrace extreme anti-equality bigots, show a frightening lack of knowledge on the big issues of the day, and not even try to show interest in smart local policy, some progressives are already afraid of how similar Kelli may be to Steve.

So obviously, a lot of folks already have a whole lot of questions about this new development in SD 18. What will Kelli Ross say about our broken tax code? How will she approach matters of investment in public education? Will she be more open to Southern Nevada's LGBTQ community? And can she juggle all of this while still managing to defeat Scott Hammond or Richard MacArthur in the general election?

Honestly, I'm still trying to make sense of all of this myself. On one hand, I actually am excited that Roberson & Co. will be forced to play defense in yet another district that they wrongly assumed would be a "gimme". And come on, would a "Majority Leader Michael Roberson" be beneficial to pro-equality efforts, progressive tax reform, or investment in our public infrastructure in any way, shape, or form?

However, I can't simply dismiss genuine policy concerns about Ross just because of partisan interests. Yes, more Democrats in Carson City may be helpful... But so will better Democrats. And considering the Ross' recent history, there may be plenty of reasons to doubt whether Ross will be able to stand with progressives on any of our major policy priorities. So perhaps we'll just have to see how the SD 18 race develops... And whether progressive voters in Northwest Las Vegas will have to hold their noses to improve the situation in Carson City.

Investing in Our Future Should Be a No-Brainer.

When we hear the G-O-TEA Presidential contenders, we often hear them spewing crap like this.

Climate change denial has become a litmus test for modern Republicans, but Rick Santorum, in his fondness for melding faith and government, has become one of the precious few to cite the Bible as evidence that the science-accepting crowd has it all wrong — and apparently the first to bring that thinking to the presidential stage.

“We were put on this Earth as creatures of God to have dominion over the Earth, to use it wisely and steward it wisely, but for our benefit not for the Earth’s benefit,” Santorum told a Colorado crowd earlier this month.

He went on to call climate change “an absolute travesty of scientific research that was motivated by those who, in my opinion, saw this as an opportunity to create a panic and a crisis for government to be able to step in and even more greatly control your life.”

The surging presidential hopeful fleshed out this argument further this Sunday on CBS Face The Nation, when asked to justify his recent controversial claim that President Obama has a “phony theology” that’s not “based on the Bible.” He said the President sides with “radical environmentalists” who don’t understand what God intended to be the relationship between humans and the planet.

“When you have a worldview that elevates the Earth above man and says that we can’t take those resources because we’re going to harm the Earth; by things that frankly are just not scientifically proven, for example, the politicization of the whole global warming debate — this is all an attempt to, you know, to centralize power and to give more power to the government,” Santorum said.

Wow. So "Frothy" Ricky Santorum is basing all his extremist policies on his extreme theology. Isn't that precious?

Well, at least Willard "Mr. 1%" Romney is basing all his extremist policies on something more commonly seen in politics today: MONEY. That seems to be why Romney is so strongly opposed to the fastest growing industry in America.

The U.S. solar industry grew 102% [in 2010] and [was] on track to grow another 100% [in 2011]. What other industry doubled its growth during one of the worst economic periods in our history?

The GOP has been using the Solyndra debacle to talk about “pet alternative energy.” This nonsense ignores the incredible growth and cost reductions taking place in the solar industry. Since 2008, average PV [photovoltaic] prices have fallen 80%. And with innovative approaches to installation, the total installed cost of installations have fallen substantially as well.

A recent report found that America actually had a $1.9 billion trade surplus of solar products to the rest of the world in 2010. And that same report, put together by GTM Research, found that 73% of the economic value of a solar installation stays in the U.S.

And our next door neighbor is seeing a phenomenal amount of investment in green technology.

When it comes to U.S. venture capital funding for the most promising new green technology firms, there's California and there's everybody else.

California companies raked in $2.8 billion, or 57%, of the $4.9 billion in venture capital offered up in the so-called clean-tech category of funding nationwide last year, according to a recently released analysis from Ernst & Young. [...]

"It's a good indicator of the innovation that can be found here and of the opportunities available in California," said Mark Sogomian, an Ernst & Young partner and leader of its clean-tech group in Los Angeles.

California has that "secret sauce that allows companies to grow and develop and gain capital," Sogomian said. [...]

"Clean-tech is still in the early stages of a long-term journey," Spencer said. "We've reached a point where new products and services are ready to be launched, and as these products come to market, we're seeing renewed interest, innovation and opportunity."

And we've seen for ourselves the potential for green tech to create jobs and restore our economy. Just look at all the potential we have!

It's just too bad that petty politics continues to get in the way of true progress. If Ricky Santorum really doesn't believe in climate change, then he needs to talk to folks in Reno who have experienced its extreme effects firsthand. And he needs to talk to water officials both in Snake Valley and in Las Vegas over the rural Nevada and Utah water they're fighting over (due to the ongoing region-wide Southwestern Drought). We're already seeing the extreme effects of climate change take hold in Nevada.

However, we're also starting to see the effects of action to curb climate change. When we've seen investment in clean energy, we've seen jobs being created. Investment in green technology is truly a "win-win" for Nevada, and for America. And for the likes of Romney and Santorum (and the Nevada politicians who follow them) to oppose something that's such a clear "win-win" for America is downright stupid.