Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Change the Trajectory

$91 million. That's no number to laugh at. Actually, that's how much the US Forest Service has spent so far in fighting the King Fire.

Recent rain in Northern California has helped firefighters contain the massive wildfire in recent days. Yet while damper weather has helped firefighters lately, drier and warmer weather is just around the corner. And that means the region will once again be at risk for more wildfires.

And that's not all. Lake Tahoe and the Truckee River have been drying up throughout the summer.

While Lake Tahoe hasn't reached a record low just yet, it's too close for comfort.

However down south, Lake Mead has fallen to a record low water level. This means Southern Nevada is perilously close to a new round of water cuts. And this may not even be the end of it. In fact, this may only be the start of a prolonged "megadrought" for the entire Southwest region.

Any guesses as to what's making this painful drought into a perilous "megadrought"? If you guessed climate change, you're likely correct. A recent Stanford University study funded by the National Science Foundation just confirmed what we've been fearing.

Earlier this month, Cornell University, the University of Arizona, and the US Geological Survey released a study showing how nearly the entire West, along with the southern Great Plains states, Texas, and Louisiana, are all at great risk of an extended megadrought going forward due to climate change. Scared yet? We should be.

We also need to realize what we must do to both adapt to this new reality and prevent our own extinction. It may be "radical", but it's pretty much our only hope. Global carbon emissions just hit a new record high. We must change this trajectory, or else the $91 million spent fighting the King Fire will soon be a mere drop in the bucket.

Question 3: Something v. Nothing

We're really trying to be nice this week. We swear. Here, we'll show you how nice we're trying to be. Let's consider Jon Ralston's commentary last night on The Education Initiative (TEI).

First off, let's point out what he got right. Yes, this initiative is not perfect. In fact, some progressives were originally concerned about TEI because it's not comprehensive and far-reaching enough. In an ideal world, we could consider something like California's Prop 30... No, scratch that. In an ideal world, our Legislature could pass a comprehensive tax package like California's Prop 30 without having to resort to "ballot box budgeting".

But as we've been saying here for some time, we don't live in an ideal world. Even Mr. Ralston himself seems to understand that now. We've waited forever for the Governor & Legislature to agree to any sort of major tax reform, only to be rewarded with bupkes. And because of that darned single subject rule for ballot initiatives, We the People are expressly forbidden from considering any kind of comprehensive tax reform (like California's Prop 30) as a ballot initiative.

So that leaves us with the choice of TEI... Or nothing. And here's where Ralston's onto something. For all the "We Believe Our Children Are Our Future!" talk TEI's ("TEA" fueled) opponents have been ramping up in recent weeks, they've provided no real alternative. And that's because their true preferred alternative is nothing. That's why they've prevented any real "conversations" on tax reform in Carson City. And that's why the only "alternatives" they can present when asked are dead horses, straw men, and a whole lot of meaningless hot air.

This is why Question 3 may actually be the most important item on our ballot this fall. And without a doubt, it provides a very compelling case to vote this fall. We may very well hold our state's future in our hands.

So what will we do with it? Sure, we can play semantics games. We can parse over imaginary bills and theoretical scenarios. We can discuss the philosophy of tax policy. Or we can actually do something for a change. We can actually do what our elected "leaders" have failed to do. We can say yes to Question 3 and stop failing our children & our communities.

How It All Started

(Today, we're sifting through the Nevada Progressive archives, all the way back to April 2012. Yes, we've been monitoring the Sevcik v. Sandoval law suit since its infancy. And now, we await both a decision from the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals and a possible intervention from the US Supreme Court. So today, let's go all the way back to the beginning of this groundbreaking civil rights law suit.)

Last night, the lead plaintiffs in the case that's destined to shake up Nevada's marriage law went to Ralston to make their case.

(Start at 9:00.)

Yet while we see a new round of media buzz on this issue, let's not forget that there's an actual case to be tried in court. As we touched on yesterday, how the federal courts taking up this case interpret the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment will be key. And while there are similarities to the Prop 8 case in California, there's one key difference that Prop 8 Trial Tracker noted yesterday.

Lamdba Legal’s suit is no doubt in part inspired by the success of the American Foundation for Equal Rights in the Prop 8 case, Perry v. Brown, which led to historic rulings in favor of marriage equality in California both at the district and appellate court levels. Nevada, like California, falls under the jurisdiction of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, so lawyers in the Sevcik case could cite the Prop 8 ruling in the Ninth Circuit as precedent. Additionally, any appeal of the eventual Sevcik ruling would end up at the Ninth Circuit just like Perry did.

Despite these similarities, the legal arguments that Lamdba Legal are pursuing in Sevcik are not quite the same as AFER’s arguments in Perry. The central complaint in the new Nevada case is an equal protection claim that domestic parternships violate the civil rights of gay and lesbian couples. In the Prop 8 case, AFER made the same equal protection claim but also argued for a fundamental right to marriage under the U.S. Constitution. Tara Borelli, a staff attorney with Lamdba, explained to MetroWeekly that the group “certainly believe[s] that the fundamental right to marry includes same-sex couples, but this court doesn’t need to answer that question to rule for the plaintiffs here. We’re convinced that our equal protection claim is so clearly correct that we want to keep the focus on that claim.”

Lambda Legal’s strategy makes the Sevcik case a more conservative one than the Prop 8 case in Perry, and would appear to be a response at least in part to the Ninth Circuit’s ruling in the Prop 8 case, which declined to address the fundamental right question and instead focused more specifically on the circumstances unique to California’s situation.

In explaining Lambda’s complaint, Borelli said, “One of the reasons that we’re suing in the state of Nevada is that this is a particular equal protection problem that this case examines. It’s the kind of problem created where a state excludes same-sex couples from marriage deems them fit for all of the rights and responsibilities of marriage through a lesser, second-class status — in this case, domestic partnership. That shows just how irrational that state’s decision is to shut same-sex couples out of marriage.”

So the Sevcik case here in Nevada will come down to whether domestic partnership actually provides "equal protection under the law", and if we can ever have true equal protection as long as the Question 2 marriage ban remains on the books. Unlike AFER's argument for a broad, nationwide fundamental right to marry that's being made in the Perry case in California, Lambda Legal is making a narrower argument based on the inequality present in Nevada family law and how that can not make federal Constitutional muster. It looks like Lambda Legal is confident that even if some federal judges are hesitant to use one stroke to knock down all the state marriage bans at once, they have to closely examine situations like ours and realize that we're experiencing clear and illegal discrimination.

So where will we go from here? For now, this will be in courtroom of Senior Judge Roger Hunt. And regardless of how Hunt decides, this will likely head next to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Interestingly enough, The Ninth is the same court that issued a narrow ruling in the Perry case back in February, a narrow ruling centered on the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. And funny enough, the Sevcik case will be argued on the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. Coincidence?

And like the California case, don't expect any immediate resolution. This may very well end up on the Supreme Court docket, but perhaps not for another 3-5 years. So buckle up and get ready for a long and bumpy and fascinating and trailblazing ride.

Monday, September 29, 2014

About That AD 30 Race...

Here at Nevada Progressive, we often note what the Nevada Republican Party does wrong. But today, we're feeling quite positive and generous. So we just have to note one thing the Nevada Republican Party is doing right.

So congratulations, Nevada Republicans. Congratulations on allowing Lauren Scott (R) to run for the Assembly in District 30 (Sparks and Spanish Springs in Washoe County). Oh, and congratulations to Washoe County Republicans on allowing Lauren Scott to speak to the media like State Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson (R-Henderson) originally promised he & his hand-picked Southern Nevada running mates would (before they all broke that promise and went into hiding).

Now with this being said, we still need to correct some statements Lauren Scott made to the Reno Gazette Journal's Ray Hagar about the Nevada Republican Party's relationship with Nevada's LGBTQ communities:

1. Yes, all of a sudden some Nevada Republicans have decided it's "politically expedient" to no longer actively campaign in public on a platform of bigotry and hatred. However, that doesn't mean they've actually changed their policies.

2. Lauren Scott can call it whatever she wants, but she can't deny US Senator Harry Reid's (D) rather quick embrace of LGBTQ civil rights in recent years. We just wonder what she wants to call US Senator Dean Heller's (R), Rep. Mark Amodei's (R), and Rep. Joe Heck's (R) continuing refusal to allow full LGBTQ legal equality.

3. No matter how much the Nevada Republican Party touts its latest round of "rebranding", it can't hide Adam Laxalt's (R) "political issues" and Cresent Hardy's (R) "segregation laws". And no, it can't even hide Mark Hutchison's (R) voting record.

4. Governor Brian Sandoval (R), along with Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D), essentially had to be dragged kicking & screaming out of the Sevcik marriage suit that's now awaiting a decision from the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals. Yet while Cortez Masto has remained relatively quiet on the subject since dropping the state's legal defense of marriage discrimination, Sandoval has continued to state his support for marriage discrimination despite admitting he has no legal case left for the Question 2 marriage ban.

5. Just how much support has Lauren Scott received from her fellow Republicans? {crickets}

So yes, it's great to see the Nevada Republican Party allowing for an openly trans* candidate for the Legislature. Really, it's a great achievement for them. It's just too bad the vast majority of them still refuse to adopt a platform that respects all LGBTQ Nevadans. And no, omission is not the same as acceptance.

Oops, maybe we're not feeling as positive and generous as we originally thought we were.

Don't Expect a "Free Lunch".

Earlier this month, Carson City was in ecstasy... Or was Carson City on Ecstasy? We're still trying to figure that one out.

We're also still trying to figure out what we can actually expect of our state government's giant wet kiss to Tesla. Already, Northern Nevada "tourism executives are salivating" over magically full airplanes and wondrous conventions popping up all over Reno. And already, Southern Nevada must endure yet another round of navel gazing over "why we didn't get Tesla" and "what Reno got right that Las Vegas gets wrong".

But what if the navel gazing that's considered "analysis" today is wrong? What if it's not based on actual facts?

Last week, the Los Angeles Times' Chris Kirkham interviewed some actual economists who have done some real analysis on what Governor Brian Sandoval (R) and the Nevada Legislature gave Tesla. Here's some of what they had to say.

"To assume that the economic impact is $100 billion assumes that everybody who was ever going to work at that battery plant was unemployed," said Enrico Moretti, an economics professor at UC Berkeley.

Choosing a 20-year time frame to analyze also makes the projected economic effect look huge compared with any benefits given to Tesla. But that's misleading, said [David] Swenson, the Iowa state economist.

"It doesn't mean anything," he said. "Let's assume I made $50,000 over the last 20 years. Therefore, I'm a millionaire, right?" [...]

"They're treating all this revenue as if it's free profit that's just going to be sent back to everyone as a rebate," said Dan Rickman, an economics professor at Oklahoma State University who specializes in regional economic analysis and reviewed the Nevada studies for The Times.

Further, Tesla will collect benefits upfront, which could starve local governments of vital revenue, said Peter Fisher, an Iowa expert on tax incentive programs.

"They're giving back 99% of Tesla's direct taxes in the first nine years, yet there are going to be all these new workers with families and children," said Fisher, research director of the Iowa Policy Project and a professor emeritus of urban and regional studies at the University of Iowa. "One way or another, I think the locality is going to find themselves with a strain on local government services."

Hmmmm... We wonder where we've heard this before. Oh, yes. That's right. The Atlantic's Richard Florida and the LA Times' Michael Hiltzik were among several actual economic thinkers who were warning us not to buy into #Teslamania. And there's a reason why Good Jobs First has been criticizing the Tesla deal. While Tesla and its technology hold plenty of promise for the future, there's no guarantee that the State of Nevada's $1.2 billion corporate welfare gift card to this company will magically wash away all of Nevada's economic woes.

But hey, what do public policy think tanks and top-grade columnists (who actually know what they're talking about) know about any of this? According to certain local media pundits, they just don't know how to "play long ball" because they refuse to sit back and enjoy the bright & sunny "optics" emanating from The Governor's Mansion.

Even some local officials in Reno & Washoe County are now admitting there are indeed high costs to the Tesla deal. After all, this deal was never truly "free". Roads, schools, mass transit, and water infrastructure will be needed. And last we checked, those are never free.

And we'll eventually discover how much economic benefit the state will gain from this. Hopefully, it will eventually be enough to make this trade-off worthwhile. But now, it's becoming increasingly obvious that the Governor's rosy projections were way too rosy.

Economists often like to joke that there's truly no such thing as a "free lunch". Here in Nevada, it looks like we'll have to learn that lesson the hard way. Again. Even after we took a bite out of that rotten Apple.

Reno Is the New... No, Wait...

(In light of this latest round of navel gazing, we figure now's a good time to revisit this piece from March 2012 analyzing the truth behind the "Reno is the new Silicon Valley!!!" hype. And by the way, we'll have more on Tesla later.)

Yesterday, KRNV News 4 asked.

“The number one choice of why we're in Northern Nevada is quality of life,” says co-founder of Noble Studios, Season Lopiccolo.

For the diverse group of tech-savvy professionals at Noble Studios, Reno has something for everyone.

“Some snowboard, some like to dress up and pretend to be someone else, we have musicians, people with their own bands, all different walks of life,” says Lopiccolo.

Downtown Reno is in the midst of an image makeover, shifting from a place known for its bright lights and casinos to a world-renowned high tech hub.
And the supportive and entrepreneurial friendly environment within the biggest little city is making a big difference.

“One of the main reasons why we moved to Northern Nevada is that a handshake means something here,” says Lopiccolo.

I'll do my best to answer.

Is it possible? Sure. Is it probable? Perhaps when we get serious about investing in public infrastructure.

But then again, at least Reno has public infrastructure. Las Vegas doesn't have much of any left, so it's much more difficult to work on diversifying Southern Nevada's economy. Tony Hsieh is trying to do the same thing in Downtown Las Vegas. But if no one could even step up to save the Nevada Cancer Institute (which was ultimately gobbled up by a CALIFORNIA college), how can we really grow our own tech sector? As long as we fail to properly invest in our future, our economy will continue to suck.

At least Northern Nevada has UNR...

And to their credit, folks at UNR have been doing a great job in partnering with the greater communities around the Reno-Carson metropolitan area to work on economic diversification. This at least partially explains why Northern Nevada's economy hasn't been as devastated by continuing weakness in the gaming & tourism sector as Southern Nevada was when "The Great Recession" first hit.

However, the same set of data also shows that continuing gaming weakness IS harming economic recovery up north. Not even Reno is immune from it. And as we continue to see expansion of tribal casinos in California and online gaming worldwide, Northern Nevada will need to continue working on diversification to build a brighter future that isn't just based on fickle gamblers.

And again, we in Southern Nevada can't depend on fickle gamblers for our future, either. We also have to face the reality staring us down as Macau continues to grow, online gaming goes live, and new casino projects are being proposed everywhere from South Florida to Baja California (Mexico). While gaming will likely always be in our blood, there's no reason why we shouldn't look beyond physical casinos to start attracting new gaming technology companies, online gaming innovators, as well as infrastructure support and consulting services.

But as long as our schools suck and as long as the rest of our public infrastructure continues to lag, Southern Nevada will continue to suffer our addiction to the extreme highs and extreme lows of "the bubble based economy". I'm sure I sound like a broken record sometimes, but I nonetheless feel the need to continue talking about this until we finally see some real action and real solutions. We really do have the potential to bring more high tech jobs into this state, especially in sectors like gaming and renewable energy where we have natural strength, but we'll never realize that potential if we don't invest in our "human capital".

Reno is already seeing some success in bringing in new high tech jobs. They just need to finish the job in diversifying the economy up there. And Las Vegas still has plenty of catching up to do in that department. And ultimately, both ends of the state need more investment in public education to ultimately be successful.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Constructive Criticism

Today, we're trying to be nicer. A little earlier, we gave some helpful advice to NV-04 candidate Cresent Hardy (R) on "segregation laws". And now, we'd like to help another prominent Nevada Republican.

So now, we're turning our attention to Attorney General candidate Adam Laxalt (R)... And his many "political issues".

Last weekend, Adam Laxalt finally did a debate with his general election opponent, Ross Miller (D). OK, so at least he listened to us on that. But then, all of this happened.

No wonder why Laxalt has been so reluctant to agree to further debates. Ever since his "legal issues" have been unearthed, Laxalt has faced questions of his fitness to serve as Attorney General.

Laxalt has since tried to bury the story of the brutal evaluations from his own law firm by leaking "rave reviews" from the military and his law firm. He's even claiming now that he's "closing the gap" with Miller in his internal polling... Even though he refused to provide any actual numbers to anyone.

Adam Laxalt always likes to claim others have "no respect for the rule of law". So where's his? (Start around 3:00.)

No matter what Laxalt likes to claim about the state constitution and his opinions on various state & federal statutes, he needs to remember the ultimate supremacy of the US Constitution. Obamacare is the law of the land because the US Supreme Court declared it passed Constitutional muster. And federal courts continue to strike down bans on marriage equality because they're finding these marriage bans don't pass Constitutional muster.

Because we're feeling nice today, we'll give Adam Laxalt some constructive criticism. Perhaps before he opens his mouth and further embarrasses himself, he should first do his homework and get his facts straight.

Real Life "Segregation Law"

We figured now is as good of a time as ever to explain this to him. Sure, we had some choice words for outgoing Assembly Member and current NV-04 candidate Cresent Hardy (R) after he let slip his (lack of) qualification to serve in Congress. But ultimately, we at Nevada Progressive are here to help. And yes, this means we're even willing to help Cresent Hardy.

But before we can help Cresent Hardy, he really needs to help himself. And that means he needs to be willing to reevaluate his idea of "segregation laws".

While Hardy has been engaged in a philosophical debate (with himself?) on the nature of anti-discrimination laws, real Americans have been enduring real life wrongful discrimination. Matthew Hileman was fired from AT&T after he spoke out on the nasty notes being left on his chair. Hobby Lobby still refuses to allow Meggan Somerville the same treatment afforded to other female employees. And Colin Collette was fired from his church for getting engaged.

And that's not all. Sometimes, wrongful discrimination can turn violent. Earlier this week, Philadelphia police arrested Kathryn Knott (ironically, the daughter of a Bucks County police chief), Philip Williams, and Kevin Harrigan in relation to the brutal beating of a Philadelphia gay couple. While Knott, Williams, and Harrigan face several serious charges, including aggravated assault, this case has revealed the lack of protection Pennsylvania state law provides its LGBTQ residents. This has infuriated Pennsylvania State Rep. Brian Sims (D), especially since this attack occurred in his district.

This isn't just Pennsylvania. This is Texas. This is Utah. This is New York. And this is a shocking number of states across the nation. This is real life "segregation law".

Fortunately, Nevada has improved in recent years in moving closer to equal protection under the law. However, that's no thanks to Cresent Hardy, as he's voted against nearly every single piece of pro-LGBTQ civil rights legislation. He even voted against SB 139 last year, the hate crimes law that Brian Sims is now fighting for in Pennsylvania.

Back in February, Cresent Hardy claimed he couldn't support any advances in LGBTQ civil rights "because of my religious beliefs, the way I was raised [...] For me to vote for it would be to deny the same God that I believe in." Has he ever met Former President Jimmy Carter? He still teaches Sunday School at his local Baptist church. And when asked about this matter at a Michigan college earlier this month, Carter had this to say.

And Cresent Hardy should pay attention to this. This is real life "segregation law". When loving couples are prohibited from marrying because of their respective genders, that's "segregation law". When someone is fired from the job because of who one is, that's "segregation law". When someone is beaten to near death because of how someone looks, that's "segregation law". And when someone can't even count on being treated like a human being because of someone else's definition of gender, that's "segregation law".

There. Now, no one can say we never did Cresent Hardy a favor.

(We Must Return) Back to Basics.

(In light of recent events, we felt it necessary to revisit this. We dug through the cavernous Nevada Progressive archives to find this gem from May 2013. How is it we can afford corporate welfare for Tesla, but not taking care of our own people? And now, we risk losing federal SNAP funds because we can't get our act together.

Maybe we should consider taking care of our own people's needs before we cater to every whim & fancy of any multinational corporation that whispers sweet nothings into our politicians' ears?)

So Former Assembly Member Steven Brooks is back in the news today. Brooks was supposed to be at a court hearing in Las Vegas today. He couldn't make it... Because he was at a court hearing in San Bernardino County, California.

Here's what's happened so far.

The lawyer for a former Nevada lawmaker charged in a car chase and a police confrontation is asking that his client go through a mental health court program.

Ex-Assemblyman Steven Brooks appeared in a San Bernardino County, Calif., court Tuesday after pleading not guilty to charges stemming from his arrest March 28. Prosecutors say there could be a decision Friday on whether he's eligible for mental health court.

Mental health courts divert people into treatment programs and hold them accountable along the way.

Late in March, Steven Brooks was arrested in Victorville following a dispute with a tow truck driver in Barstow and a dramatic car chase with police. His attorney is now requesting for the California case to be transferred to mental health court. This way, he can finally obtain the treatment he needs.

At least there's a chance of Brooks obtaining the treatment he needs in California. Just before his latest arrest, Brooks sounded eerily prophetic in his final interview with Jon Ralston.

In four brief, surreal conversations, alternately heart-wrenching and frightening, shortly after he was expelled from the Assembly, Steven Brooks said he is "the assemblyman of sorrow," wondered why his colleagues "hate me so much" and declared he was going to "break the state" with a lawsuit worth at least $10 million.

Brooks was alternately angry, with expletive-filled rants directed at Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick and Majority Leader William Horne, despondent, weeping and saying he was checking himself into Seven Hills, a Southern Nevada treatment facility, and suicidal, saying he had no other recourse. [...]

"I'm the assemblyman of sorrow," he declared. "Why do they hate me so much? Fill in the blank: I'm so angry I could (blank) myself."

Brooks told me he was "on my way to Seven Hills to check myself into the hospital. He began weeping when I asked why, adding, "I have no other resort. I'm going to kill myself if they keep this up. I have nowhere to go. I'm the assemblyman of sorrow." [...]

"You know why they hate me? You know why want to kill me because I know all of their secrets."

No one expected what was coming next, probably not even Steven Brooks himself. Yet in an incredibly bizarre way, he warned us. Just days after Brooks was sent to jail in San Bernardino County, another former Nevadan emerged in California.

After The Sacramento Bee began investigating the mysterious Greyhound bus trip that landed James Flavy Coy Brown in Sacramento, the Nevada patient dumping scandal steadily grew. Now, there's a strong chance of Nevada facing law suits soon over improper discharge of mental health patients and transport of them out of state.

And now, outrage is spreading to a new state. Last weekend, ABC 15 Phoenix looked into the 100 cases of Rawson-Neal mental health patients bussed into Arizona. And while investigating, they may have uncovered yet another horrifying scandal in the making.

Mark Holleran, CEO of Central Arizona Shelter Services, says it's hard to track those patients down. He says "patient dumping" happens more than you might think. "It just shows you how it's very easy to do this, and it's sort of under the radar. It's hard to detect," he said. Holleran says a few years ago, former prisoners from Nevada got dumped at the shelter. "They had been provided a bus ticket, a small amount of cash, a print out of a Mapquest that showed them how to get to CASS. And written on it was, 'ask for Howie,'" he said. Holleran says these cases often end in chronic homelessness. He says that stretches resources in other states, like Arizona. And it passes along the problem, instead of fixing it. "That might be something we might want to take a look at. Because if we can solve it for one place, I think we solve it for all the places," Holleran said.
So now, Arizona officials are reporting cases of Nevada patient dumping. And not only that, but we may have also dumped former prisoners on them as well! How about that for being a "good neighbor"? One would think this would light a fire under the behinds of the Governor and legislators to fix this glaring crisis. Come on, we're now facing law suits and loss of federal funding! But no, they were too busy kissing the behind of Nicholas Cage. No, I'm not even making this up. And Ralston was downright revolted by today's lurid display of misplaced priorities.
James Flavy Brown can be shipped out of Las Vegas, leaving with barely his wits about him, some meds and peanut butter crackers. But the star of “Leaving Las Vegas” can be treated like royalty, with the mayor of Las Vegas as his sidekick, and an offer pending of enough taxpayer money to buy a peanut butter cracker factory. These are the Legislature’s priorities – cut mental health funding, ignore English Language Learner money but give tax breaks to those who need them least. Brown gets a bus ticket to anywhere while Cage gets a national treasure trove worth of goodies and Apple gets a 90 percent tax break negotiated by the governor. That is tax policy in Nevada. This is the state we are in. I wonder if anyone stops to think: We may get Cage ghost-riding on the Strip, with his production company soaring and a Vegas backdrop for movies. But what does it say if that fake scene is juxtaposed a few miles off-camera in either direction with real tableaus of packed emergency rooms, overcrowded classrooms and jammed thoroughfares. If this is part of a master plan, I’d like to see the drawing because it seems like a blueprint for disaster to me. What exactly is the policy articulated by this approach that allows $80 million to be cut from mental health services in five years but in one bill lawmakers are willing to give half of that amount [$35 million] to prospective Nevada-based filmmakers? Lest you think my heart’s bleeding cuts off circulation to my brain, I get the job-creating argument, the economic diversification argument, the image-changing argument. But why is it a good idea for government to give incentives to anyone – movie producers, renewable energy companies – if offcials don’t provide incentives for people to really want to live here by supporting the quality of life, a culture that values higher and lower education, a political class that leads rather than follows?
He's right about this. It simply doesn't make sense. Honestly, there may be some merit to encouraging more film production here in Nevada. But when we can't even take care of our own, who wants to risk shooting a movie here? Think about it. Why is it that we always hear that "we can't afford" proper mental health care, decent schools, and repaired roads, yet our Governor and Legislature always seem to be able to afford corporate welfare to shower upon multinational corporations like Apple that neither need the help nor deserve it? Think about that as well. How on earth does this lead to a stable economy for our state? And how on earth does neglecting the most vulnerable in our society lead to a healthy economy? It doesn't. That's precisely the problem. Our "leaders" in Carson City keep chasing after mythical economic unicorns while failing to provide the most fundamental building blocks of a sound economy. Sure, luring Hollywood to Las Vegas sounds sexy. But ultimately, that won't mean shit for economic development if our schools keep bursting at the seams, our hospitals keep stuffing patients onto Greyhound buses heading out of state, and our roads are clogged with commuters while paved with just as many potholes. We seriously need to pay attention to the rude awakening we're now receiving. We must get back to basics, and we must do so before it's too late.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

He Is an Idiot.

Just when we thought he couldn't sound any dumber, he just went from dumb to dumber... And even dumberer.

Outgoing Assembly Member and current NV-04 candidate Cresent Hardy (R) has been going out of his way to alienate most NV-04 voters. He blamed them for everything he thinks is wrong with America. He channeled his inner Mitt Romney when he dismissed them as "lazy 47% takers".

And believe it or not, he didn't stop there. Now, we also know Cresent Hardy insulted the judgment of NV-04 constituents by claiming their votes are mainly based on race.

Well, alrighty then. It's now official. Take it away, "Official Bitchy Smiley Faces of Nevada Progressive"!

He truly is an idiot. What was he thinking? Was he even thinking?

Here's a news flash for Cresent Hardy: NV-04 is a very diverse district. There are African-American voters, Latin@ voters, Asian-American voters, Native American voters, LGBTQ voters, and many more types of voters all residing in this district. And the more Cresent Hardy pisses more of these voters off, the fewer voters he will actually have on his side come November 4.

Fully Loaded Danger

Ready to learn? Isn't that how we want our children to feel when they go to school?

Try explaining that to Leonard Embody... Or maybe not. The Tennessee open carry activist says people who are offended by his carrying of an assault weapon just outside a Nashville school should "see a psychologist".

WSMV Channel 4

Actually, he may force some of the kids at that school to seek counseling. After all, wouldn't you be at least a little scared if you saw someone like Leonard Embody pack heat right outside your school?

There have been at least 79 school shootings since Newtown. One of those school shootings was right here in Nevada, at Sparks Middle School. Contrary to what open carry radicals like Leonard Embody say, this is no laughing matter.

Just so far this year, there have been 98 homicides in Las Vegas Metro Police's area of jurisdiction. Our homicide rate is the highest it's been since 2006.

Even Metro itself has been affected by this. In June, Las Vegas Metro Officers Alyn Beck & Igor Soldo were shot dead by extreme right-wing Patriot Movement figures Amanda & Jerad Miller. They also shot dead Joseph Robert Wilcox before they killed themselves.

Jerad Miller may have obtained a gun via Facebook. Even though he was not legally permitted to own any firearms (due to past felony convictions), Miller was able to evade this because of the lack of universal background checks for gun purchases.

All too often, the NRA and its favorite G-O-TEA politicians have been all too willing to play silly games with the serious issue of gun violence. They think it's cute to grandstand with a bunch of "outlaw cowboys" pointing guns at federal agents. They think it's great to see people open carry in front of schools. They think it's more important to discuss the "philosophy of gun rights" and explore theoretical language than to actually make any real policy changes that could save lives.

This is why Leonard Embody is allowed to roam outside a Nashville school packing heat. This is why Las Vegas' homicide rate continues to inch upward. This is why Alyn Beck, Igor Soldo, and Joseph Robert Wilcox are no longer on this earth. This is why Sparks Middle School will never be the same. And this is why we can't afford to ignore the fully loaded danger around us.

Their Silence Says a Lot

"Not your typical Republicans." That's the meme Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson (R-Henderson) has been using in his quest to replace the "Minority" in his title with "Majority". And this meme isn't even true. It's all based on one dead horse he just can't stop beating.

But now, he's running scared. After Senator Michael Roberson pulled an outrageously misleading publicity stunt at local teachers' union headquarters, he's been pulling out of debates with Teresa Lowry, his general election opponent. And not only that, but he's encouraged his hand-picked G-O-TEA-in-disguise running mates, Patricia Farley & Becky Harris, to pull out of debates with their Democratic opponents as well.

So what are they hiding? And why are they hiding? Even Republicans like Former Nevada Republican Party Chair Amy Tarkanian are asking.

We don't often agree with Amy Tarkanian. But in this instance, she may be onto something.

Sure, we're now seeing our TVs light up (or darken down?) with misleading attack ads. And ironically enough, those attack ads are at least partially financed by the same person whose company's wrongdoing they want to tie to State Senator Justin Jones (D-Enterprise). Even Jon Ralston felt compelled to call BS on this.

Is it any coincidence that this ad dropped just as Senator Jones released his own TV ad touting the work he's been doing for his constituents? And is it any coincidence that this ad dropped just as criticism is mounting over Michael Roberson hiding himself, Becky Harris, and Patricia Farley from public view?

We've asked this before, but we must ask this again today: What are they hiding? And why are they hiding? These three Republicans want to represent a large portion Southern Nevada in Carson City. So why are they hiding from their voters?

Ironically, their silence says a whole lot about them.

Hardy, Meet Romney

Today, we must return to the vault. We made another trip to the Nevada Progressive archives to uncover this gem from none other than Mitt Romney. Remember when this now infamous video first dropped in September 2012?

Herein lies Romney's problem, which is the same problem he's had all along. Basically, Mitt Romney continues to reveal himself as an out-of-touch plutocrat who just doesn't care about the middle class and working poor. And no matter how many glossy mailers he sends to me and to other Democratic households, he can't convince us to vote against our best interest. In fact, he keeps making sure of that whenever he opens his mouth and goes "off the cuff"!

And remember when a critical mass of Republicans (even Nevada's own Joe Heck) closed ranks around Mitt Romney and his "47% philosophy"?

As we've discussed before, Paul Ryan's budget is nothing less than a full assault on America's middle class and the working poor aspiring to become middle class. And not only has Mitt Romney fully embraced Paul Ryan's "vision" of a middle class busting budget, but he also wants to undo decades worth of BIPARTISAN economic policy meant to boost the ranks of the middle class. And in pursuing this false dichotomy of "the makers versus the takers", he's actually attacking upwards of 60% (!!!) of Americans along with these bipartisan decades old policies meant to build and sustain America's middle class.

This is the real poison of what Mitt Romney said at that Boca Raton fundraiser. Mitt Romney revealed that he's more than willing to undo the foundation of America's middle class just so he and his fellow 1% plutocrats can pay even less in taxes. Heh, I guess Harry Reid has been right all along.

And this is why the teabaggers are reverting to screaming about what President Obama supposedly did or did not do in Las Vegas last week. Despite all their howls suggesting otherwise, perhaps even they are starting to realize this is a losing issue for Mitt Romney. Perhaps they are finally realizing that Mitt Romney is losing this election. One just can't attack 60% of Americans and expect no blowback.

Believe it or not, The Great 47% "Gaffe" of 2012 is back. And you won't... Actually, you should have no problem believing this Nevada Republican is reviving this incredibly offensive and misleading meme.

Oh, yes. That's right. Cresent Hardy went there. And he did so at the same fundraiser at Falcon Ridge Golf Club where he blamed everyone who voted for President Obama for anything and everything that's gone wrong. Oh, and that was the same Mesquite fundraiser where he refused to take any responsibility for driving his own company into bankruptcy (before someone else had to buy him out).

So now, Cresent Hardy wants to branch out. "Segregation laws" just aren't enough. Not even Highland Hills is stinky enough for Cresent Hardy. No, he must now enter Mitt Romney territory of total douchebaggery.

Who could have ever guessed Danny Tarkanian would one day earn the title of "Best NV-04 Candidate Nevada Republicans Have Ever Recruited"?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Radical Change

It's still dry out here. Sure, we've occasionally had storms drop some rain on us. However, we're still operating on a serious precipitation deficit.

And it's not over yet. Far from it, Nevada will likely endure another year of drought. This drought has caused a world of trouble for Nevada and the entire West. And it now looks like we must prepare for another year of Lake Mead & Lake Tahoe shrinking while wildfires burn across the state.

It's become increasingly undeniable that climate change is taking its toll on Nevada along with the rest of the world. So why aren't more people making noise?

But wait, there actually were about 400,000 people making noise in New York City on Sunday. And that was just one of the People's Climate March events happening in over 150 nations this week. And yet, you may not have even heard about it until now.

So why did the Sunday talk shows only barely mention this? After all, it was happening in their own back yard.

Even though many media pundits continue to ignore the perils of climate change, a number of captains of industry are now speaking up and making change happen. This isn't some "fringe movement". This is a very real statement on a very real threat to all of us.

As they always do, the usual G-O-TEA suspects were trashing last weekend's march while decrying "the radical left" for demanding "radical change". But you know what? If we want to survive, we must embrace radical change and do so soon. Hell, most American voters are now realizing this. So why shouldn't we start implementing the radical changes we need to save ourselves and our children's future on this planet?

This week, the United Nations is holding another climate summit. This time, it's in New York. And this is why we're seeing so much direct action in New York this week.

It's amazing that roughly 400,000 people took to the streets of Manhattan on Sunday demanding climate action. And it's amazing to think a number of those people are staying for further actions. However, this is not enough. They can't be the only ones to act.

Ultimately, we must all act. And yes, we must all begin making radical changes soon. We can't afford to delay any longer. If we need any further reason to act, all we must do is open the door.


Who could have guessed? Who could have guessed he would go there?

Oh, yes. That's right. We did.

Back in February, outgoing State Assembly Member and current NV-04 candidate Cresent Hardy (R) decided to expound on his philosophy of "segreation laws". According to Hardy, ENDA, civil marriage equality, and other policies aimed at ending wrongful discrimination are somehow "segregation laws". And "by continuing to create these laws that are what I call segregation laws, it puts one class of a person over another".

Yep, we also have trouble following his logic (or lack thereof) there. However, we had a feeling that wouldn't be the last time Cresent Hardy would try to explain his philosophy of "segregation laws". Oh, no. He went there again last Thursday at Falcon Ridge Golf Club in Mesquite.

Women, minorities and young voters are the reason the country is in trouble, according to Nevada Assemblyman Cresent Hardy, who is running for 4th District Congressional seat.

Hardy said they were the ones who elected President Barack Obama, which led to the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, among other things.

Oh, really. So now, "women, minorities, and young voters" are the reason why everything has gone wrong? And they're the reason why the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is destroying the country?

Here's a news flash for Cresent Hardy: Obamacare is actually helping the country. As of September 18, 7.3 million Americans have enrolled in health insurance plans through the Obamacare exchanges. The rate of uninsured Americans has dropped precipitously since Obamacare implementation began. And another 8 million Americans have obtained health insurance coverage through the Medicaid/CHIP expansion that Obamacare made possible.

Last Thursday, Hardy tried to blame President Obama and the Members of Congress who voted for the Affordable Care Act for Nevada's exchange problems. Here's another news flash for Cresent Hardy: He was one of the state legislators who voted to approve Governor Brian Sandoval's (R) plan. And now that we've all had to learn the hard way that outsourcing doesn't always work out the way we wanted, Governor Sandoval has agreed to move Nevada onto the very federal Obamacare exchange that Hardy's fellow G-O-TEA Culture Warriors were screaming about last fall.

Ironically, Cresent Hardy chided others over financial woes last Thursday at his Falcon Ridge Golf Club fundraiser... While refusing to take responsibility for his own financial woes. Even though Hardy was the one in charge when Legacy Construction & Development filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, he spoke as if bankruptcy court was somehow a blessing for everyone. Perhaps Hardy hit the jackpot when his partner bought him out, but we doubt others affected by Hardy's mismanagement of Legacy were as happy about that.

Yet while Cresent Hardy spoke about Legacy's little bankruptcy issue, he didn't speak about the other issue that's launched his former company back into the news: Highland Hills. People have become ill as they've discovered their homes lie on top of an unsealed landfill. And many of these Highland Hills houses are actually sinking as their foundations are coming apart.

Last May, Cresent Hardy provided a rare candid moment when he admitted, "The reason that I feel qualified to do this is I don't." (See the video above.) That truly says it all. And perhaps he should have cut himself off right there. After all, his "segregation laws" philosophy, his continued refusal to take any responsibility for the Highland Hills fiasco, his continued refusal to take any responsibility for the Legacy bankruptcy, and his blatant dishonesty over Obamacare really prove his point.

This Too Shall Pass

(Thanks so much for your patience yesterday. The situation has calmed down somewhat, but I still have more issues there to resolve. But for the time being, I'll be picking up where I left off on the blog.

This month hasn't been an easy one for me. I lost a loved one, I'm having to sever a relationship, and it's almost the two year anniversary of my grandmother passing away.

This morning, I reached back into the Nevada Progressive archives for this. In a sense, I feel like my life is in this limbo again. Yet eventually, this too shall pass. I have to keep reminding myself of that.)

So I was helping with voter registration earlier today when I got the call. My dad called to tell me my grandmother had just passed away. And I didn't quite know what to do next.

We've known for some time that my grandmother was getting worse. It was becoming increasingly obvious by the time of her last hospital visit, when the decision was made to place her on hospice. I knew that at some point, she would have to leave us.

I just wasn't expecting this to occur today. I just didn't want to think it could happen so soon. But alas, it happened.

Even when one feels best prepared to deal with tragedy, one is never fully prepared when it finally happens. So it happened. She's gone. And I'm pretty much an emotional mess.

Yet somehow, I'm still here. And somehow, I'm continuing my day. Maybe it's because I know she is in a better place now. And maybe it's because I don't know what I'd be doing now if I had not been helping with voter registration when I got the call.

Sorry for the personal 411, but I just need to release what's been building in me since this morning.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Life Intervenes

Please excuse this latest interruption. I was planning some more stories today...

But life intervenes. Those closest to me know what's going down. It's a saddening and difficult situation. However, it's a situation that I'm working hard to resolve.

It's not often easy to say goodbye. It's often even more difficult to ask someone to exit one's life. And it's even more difficult when one is exposed to the underlying issues causing the strife.

I'm hoping to resume my regular work schedule at some point this week. But for the time being, life intervenes. I'm hoping I won't have to take too long of a break to resolve this issue.

That's Not All.

Yesterday, we witnessed a bunch of people signing a petition. OK. So what? Doesn't this happen all the time?

Actually, no. And that's because this isn't some random online petition. This is actually a legal petition... For The Background Checks Initiative.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

And that wasn't all. At Kim's house in Anthem (southern Henderson), local Everytown volunteers also shared ideas for winning the election this fall.

Last year, the Nevada Legislature passed legislation to expand background checks for gun purchases. It passed despite the best efforts of a certain State Senator to torpedo it. It was only defeated when Governor Brian Sandoval (R-NRA) vetoed it.

Yet that's not all. The story doesn't end there. Voters will have a chance to have their say this fall. They will vote for people to serve in the Nevada Legislature next year. And they will have the choice to sign The Background Checks Initiative that will be presented to the Legislature next year should it earn enough signatures by November.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Nevadans from all walks of life and various neighborhoods across the state have been demanding change. The reality of gun violence has hit way too close to home for way too many. At the Anthem house party yesterday, volunteers were discussing this as they were planning on how to push solutions forward.

And no, that's not all. The push for gun safety reform is far from over. In fact, it's only just beginning. And unlike the NRA, they don't need to go Godwin or launch an online TV channel to make their point.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Break the Cycle (of FAIL This Fall!)

(Today, we felt it necessary to take another trip back into the Nevada Progressive vault. This piece is from July 2013. While other media pundits use their Sunday columns ro speculate on political personalities and misleading "optics", we figured now's a good time to remind everyone of actual reality. Oh, and if you're still looking for a "reason to vote this year", you're officially on notice.)

[In 2012], the typical (corporate lobbyist) powers that be in Carson City were suing their darndest to kill The Education Initiative. Ultimately, they didn't succeed.

[Last] year, they then took Carson City by storm to kill it. Ultimately... They didn't succeed at that, either. Although the Nevada Legislature declined to pass IP 1, this only means We the People will have the last word on The Education Initiative next year.

We've known for some time that Nevada's tax system is broken. And we've known for some time that Nevada's constant underfunding of public education is hurting our economy. And while Governor Brian Sandoval (R) wants us to believe his status quo approach will let us "have it all" (while paying for none), even members of his own administration can no longer deny reality.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment for progressives this year was the Legislature's failure to break the fiscal status quo. Despite many past promises of change, and even a surprise announcement from another top Nevada Republican, we ended up with yet another biennium of the same old status quo. How can we ever break this cycle of FAIL?

We'll uncover the answer [on November 5]. That's the difference this time. And this may be the one chance Nevadans have to break the cycle of FAIL.

Sure, this may not be the ideal way to enact major change to the tax system. But as long as the (corporate lobbyist) powers that be in Carson City continue to refuse to even consider change, this may be the only way to begin saving our state. And no matter how much Governor Brian Sandoval and his inner circle (of corporate lobbyists) protest, they can't hide the fact that their demands for endless status quo led to this.

[This fall], Nevada will finally have the opportunity to break the cycle. Nevada will have the opportunity to better fund our schools and put in place the foundation for a better economic future. This opportunity will present itself on our ballot next year. Will we take it?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

"Rebranding" BS

Earlier this month, we noted the lower House of Congress' failure to ensure equal access to military family benefits. Yes, you read that right. The G-O-TEA led House could not even agree to that.

Rep. Dina Titus (D-Paradise) has been working on this issue for some time. And finally, she succeeded this month at securing a committee vote for her legislation as an amendment to a related veterans' bill. It then lost by one vote.

Obviously, Rep. Titus was upset. However, she's not alone on this.

And she isn't stopping on this one issue. Yesterday, Rep. Titus joined Rep. Steven Horsford (D-North Las Vegas) in signing a discharge petition for ENDA. And as of today, Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colorado) now has 75 signatures for his ENDA discharge petition.

The catch? All 75 of those signatures are from Democrats. And House Republican "leaders" just canceled all remaining work days until after the election. How sweet. So right after Congress returns from summer recess, the House will essentially enjoy a fall recess. We wonder where else one can find so many paid vacation days.

Unfortunately for millions of LGBTQ American workers, it's far from easy to even feel safe at work. Rep. Polis has amended the House version of ENDA to close any & all loopholes opened by the US Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision. Even though President Obama did sign an executive order forbidding federal contractors from engaging in employment discrimination, that still leaves millions of LGBTQ Americans throughout the nation who simply have the misfortune of living in a state without a state level ENDA and working for a company without any federal contracts.

Last November, the US Senate passed ENDA on a broad, bipartisan 64-32 vote of approval. Yet since then, the House has refused to take it up. Just like House Republican "leaders'" blithe dismissal of military equality legislation, they've been awfully swift in shooting down any & all attempts at bringing ENDA to the House floor.

Last November, the Republican Party's internal culture war burst onto national media headlines when Liz Cheney nearly disowned her sister in preparation for a US Senate campaign in Wyoming. Yet while Liz Cheney later abandoned her diastrous attempt at electoral politics to return to the cozy confines of the Northern Virginia DC suburbs, her sister Mary Cheney continues to plead with her party to make peace with the 21st century. Unfortunately for her and other Republican campaign consultants hoping to "revamp the party's image", the 21st Century Know Nothings continue pulling the G-O-TEA in more of a 19th century direction.

They're still struggling to accept marriage equality. They're still attacking transgender Americans with reckless abandon. They won't allow a floor vote on ENDA. And they can't even allow equal access to military spousal benefits. And we're supposed to believe "Republican rebranding" is real?

Sure, it's real... Bull$h!+.

Visions of Stadium Splendor

Uh oh. Maybe no goal?

In recent weeks, Las Vegas City Hall has been heating up as speculation has been ramping up over a proposed soccer stadium Downtown. Findlay Sports & Entertainment and The Cordish Companies have been hyping the cache of a prestigious sports stadium in the heart of "The Entertainment Capital of the World". Yet while they and Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman (I) have been hyping the razzle-dazzle of this stadium, others have been asking the tough questions. How many will actually attend games here? What are the real revenue projections? And how much will Las Vegas taxpayers have to pay for this?

Now, we know Cordish wants $3 million per year from the City of Las Vegas in addition to all the other subsidies Cordish & Findlay are demanding from city government (such as the ~$130 million they want the city to chip into stadium construction). That money would come from hotel tax revenues. Mayor Carolyn Goodman actually admitted it earlier this month on his show, even as she was claiming room tax revenue "isn't tax dollars, it's tourist dollars".

Last night, Las Vegas Council Member Lois Tarkanian (D) told Jon Ralston she would not vote for the Cordish-Findlay Stadium if the vote was today. She mentioned the issue of those hotel room tax revenues, and in particular how those room tax funds are used to maintain Las Vegas city parks. Council Members Bob Beers (R) and Bob Coffin (D) have already been sounding the alarms on this, and Tarkanian added that the city is just about to finish repaying bonds for parks in Northwest Las Vegas.

And the City of Las Vegas just recently raised user fees for youth sports leagues to use city parks. So how much will Las Vegas residents actually have to pay for this stadium?

Las Vegas isn't the only municipal company chasing after a MLS team. And when we look at the history other sports stadium subsidy deals, the outlook turns from merely very concerning to downright frightening.

Look, we're not against soccer. Far from it. And no, Mayor Goodman, we're not all just "naysayers". We're realists. And all we're asking for are the real numbers behind this stadium proposal.

We can see why Cordish won't talk to anyone and Findlay only agrees to "happy talk". However, Las Vegas city officials don't answer to Cordish and Findlay. They answer to Las Vegas residents. So they should not be afraid to drop the spin and start talking about the reality behind these visions of stadium splendor.