blank.gif (51 bytes) Nevada Watch

A Train Bound for No One: While Las Vegas moves ahead on several rail-borne mass transit plans—one public, a few private—Reno appears to have caught the bug as well. The Reno Gazette-Journal recently documented the rail dreams of a number of prominent Renoites, including Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority President Phil Keene, Reno Hilton President Tony Santo and Comstock Bank CEO Robert Barone.

"I think it’s not only feasible—it’s very exciting to contemplate," Keene told the Gazette-Journal. Public transportation booster Tim Elam, who’s bucking for a job with any possible Reno rail project, offered this challenge to naysayers: "Show me it won’t work."

Okay. Rail-borne mass transit is notorious for both construction cost overruns and less-than-stellar ridership figures. [See "Switching Tracks," Nevada Journal, March 1999]. Light rail is the technology currently in vogue across the nation, and it would likely be the technology used in Las Vegas and Reno. Cost overruns for light-rail projects this decade have averaged 86 percent, and one U.S. Department of Transportation study found that the projects attracted 65 percent fewer riders than initially projected.

Light rail does not significantly reduce air pollution, and despite its cheerleaders’ claims, light rail is not, as the editors of the Gazette-Journal called it, "zippy." Average commute times on rail systems nationwide are more than double the 21-minute average commute time for drivers.

Where Your Taxes Are Going: From the March 29 issue of the New Yorker comes this paragraph:

Not content with merely theorizing about pornography, academics from the ranks of English, philosophy and sociology departments around the country are also writing it. Joanna Frueh, an art historian on the faculty of the University of Nevada at Reno, has written a book called Erotic Faculties, in which she includes nude photographs of herself and shares her sexual fantasies.

Now we know that UNR has been pulling out all the stops to pump up its enrollment figures—while last November seeking a 58 percent hike in funding from Nevada taxpayers—but should the next campus of the university system really be at Mustang?

Don't Be Dim, Jim: A free-trade wave continues to sweep across the globe, but legislators on Capitol Hill are trying to keep as dry as possible. In March the House of Representatives approved a measure to impose quotas on foreign steel imports, a move that limits the choices of domestic steel customers, and thus drives up the cost of virtually every consumer good.

"Steel companies and unions have spent big bucks trying to convince Congress and the public that the U. S. steel industry is in dire need of protection from imports," writes Cato Institute trade analyst Aaron Lukas. So protectionists are probably pleased with the vote cast by Nevada Rep. Jim Gibbons. While Rep. Shelley Berkeley’s anti-free trade vote was a lock, Gibbons’ support for quotas is disturbing, given his usual free-market rhetoric.

"Both of Nevada’s representatives voted to make any product made of steel (or hauled in a steel truck or train) more expensive for Nevadans, starting next year," editorialized the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Gibbons and Berkeley both ought to brush up on their economics: The quotas they are supporting will redistribute wealth from their constituents to large politically influential but inefficient steel corporations here and abroad.

The One that Got Away: Sources close to the software giant Microsoft are saying the State of Nevada had a major opportunity to lure huge chunks of the Redmond, Washington-based firm down to the Silver State, until top executives learned the extent of what might be called systemic "ethical disability" in Nevada’s judiciary. Already suffering from the depradations of the U.S. Justice Department, Microsoft decided it was not eager to submit to Nevada lawyers and judges "grinding the case."

The Winners Are: A sixth-grader from Reno outlasted 49 competitors in the state’s March spelling competition held at UNLV, and second-place went to an eighth-grader from rural Nevada.

But what set off nervous coughing by teacher union officials in the audience is the fact that the winner, Mark Albers, attends a Catholic school, Our Lady of the Snows, and the runner-up, Chase Chapin, attends class with students from many grades in a one-room schoolhouse in Jarbidge. Sounds like what’s needed in Nevada schools is more private instruction and larger classes.

Union, No: While the Culinary union holds most casino employees in Las Vegas in its grip, it has little control over Reno casinos. The union organized Circus Circus Hotel-Casino in 1981. But it did not take any new territory until April, when the union announced that enough employees had signed authorization cards at both the Reno Hilton and the Flamingo Hilton-Reno—giving Culinary bosses 1,539 new vassals.

"I think it’s terrific," said June Primmer, a cocktail waitress at Flamingo’s Top of the Hilton, who asked, "Who do I pay my dues to?"

Bruce Esgar has an answer. The president of Nevada Employees for the Right to Work (NERTW) would be happy to tell Primmer about the recent federal investigation which linked the union’s leadership for over a generation to organized crime. Embezzlement and shoddy accounting procedures were also exposed, and NERTW has shown that millions of dollars in dues from Las Vegas workers is regularly funneled to the union’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. Look for the new Culinary members, down the road, to open a Northern Nevada chapter of NERTW.



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