Archive for October, 2009

Tarkanian Launches New Online Web Headquarters

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 3:31 pm October 26th, 2009

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Danny Tarkanian has launched a new online headquarters (www.tark2010.org) adding several new features which he says will help him defeat incumbent Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada) next year should he win the GOP nomination in next June’s primary.

“In order to beat Harry Reid, you can’t run a top-down effort,” campaign manager Brian Seitchik said in a press release.

“You need to build and mobilize a grassroots organization.  We already have widespread support, and this website will help us harness the energy of the grassroots for a big victory next November,” he said.

Features of the new website include:

TEAM TARK – An online political networking platform that will link Tarkanian’s supporters so they can work together.

Reid Alert – This feature will alert the grassroots to Senator Reid’s actions and votes so they can take action through their network.

Online HQ – Supporters will be able to call from their homes, invite their contacts list to join and much more.

Events – Supporters can go to a web page and see upcoming events including a built-in map.

“This is the initial version of the online HQ,” Seitchik said.  “The website will continue to add features and functionality to support all our grassroots activity.”

Clark County Republican Party, Grassroots Leaders Organize for 2010 Elections

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 9:23 am October 26th, 2009

Las Vegas — Clark County Republican Party (CCRP) event organizers packed the house for their “Flip the House” kick-off coalition meeting Saturday afternoon.   Approximately two-hundred and twenty attendees filled the auditorium at the Clark County Public Library on East Flamingo Road.

Among those in attendance were U.S. Senate candidates Danny Tarkanian, Sharon Angle, and Bill Parson.  Other candidate attendees included Joe Hardy, Lynn Stewart, Elizabeth Halseth, John Hambrick, Tibbe Ellis, Eric Morelli, Glenn Greener, Richard McArthur, Kathryn Njus, Geraldine Lewis, Matt Passalacona, Scott Neistadt, Joseph Tatner, and Barbara Altman who is running for the School Board.

Clark County Republican Party (CCRP) precinct administrator Duane Libbe opened the event and welcomed the crowd to enthusiastic applause.

“This meeting kicks-off our “Flip the House” action program.  We are going to take back the legislature.  With only eight months to the primary and thirteen months until the general elections, it is time for us to roll up our sleeves, stop talking about last year’s problems and get to work,” said Libbe.

CCRP coalitions director Frank Ricotta echoed Libbe’s comments and welcomed grassroots leaders from around the Las Vegas valley.

“I am encouraged to see so many grassroots organizations in attendance today.  Thank you for coming, and I hope this is a sign of things to come,” said Ricotta.

In attendance were representatives from Nevada Patriots, Citizens Awareness Network, Nevada Active Conservatives, Nevada Innovative Coalition for Education, Nevada Federation of Young Republicans, Nevada Conservatives for Freedom, Nevada Health Care Professionals Coalition, Las Vegas Republican Meetup Group, Sun City Conservatives, the Southeast Las Vegas Glenn Beck Meetup Group and the Las Vegas Sean Hannity Meetup Group.

Republican Assembly Caucus executive director Monica Moradkhan was the first guest speaker.  She warmly greeted the attendees and then addressed divisions within and between the party and grassroots groups by invoking Ronald Reagan’s “big tent” conservatism.

“We have to unite for the common good in order to elect Republicans in the 2010 general elections,” said Moradkhan.

“We cannot let divisions over single issues prevent us from supporting the best candidate available,” she said.

Nevada Senate-Minority Whip, Barbara K. Cegavske, also spoke at the event.  Cegavske is running for her third and final term due to term limits.

“I am saddened by what I see going on in Nevada right now,” she said.

“I am also tired of our ever increasing debt.  Of course, we have to make sure we have the essentials, but – just like Nevada’s families – the state needs to live within its means,” she said.

“We also need to create jobs to Nevada.  We need a strategy to bring businesses here, and we need to stop legislating mandates that drive up costs and fees to small businesses,” she said.

Cegavske then presented a seat-by-seat analysis of the state assembly and senate races in 2010.  She twice referred to the Democratic party’s desire to pick up two more senate seats and reminded attendees that fifteen Assembly seats are needed for veto power.

“There are seventeen term-limited seats up for grabs, in addition to all the others.  There is going to be huge turnover.  We need to strategize and capitalize where we can,” she said.

Cegavske also alluded to disagreements about candidate endorsement within her caucus.

“I did not agree with our caucus in endorsing candidates early  That was not my choice.  I thought we should have waited a little longer, for more good people to come out,” she said.

Cegavske received enthusiastic applause when she talked about the state of Nevada’s public education system, school choice and competition.  At one point she circulated a handout of the K-12 educational governance structure in Nevada.

“This so-called structure borders on the ridiculous,” she said.

“I have tried for two sessions to get a governance bill introduced, to change the educational structure in Nevada.  I will try again as I serve my final term.  This should be something both parties can agree on,” she said.

Frank Ricotta closed the meeting by challenging every attendee to commit to an action item.

“Help us find more candidates.  Volunteer to work for a candidate, or be a precinct captain, or knock on doors.  We need to work the precincts to sign up voters and collect email addresses.  We also need more volunteers to staff the CCRP office,” he said.

After the meeting, Ricotta said he was pleased with the turnout and pointed to the long line of people signing up to be volunteers.

“People are energized.  It’s good to see,” he said.

Sharon Angle talks with a grassroots activist before the meeting

Sharon Angle talks with a grassroots activist before the meeting

Democrat Child Seeks Buckley’s Assembly Seat

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 8:41 am October 26th, 2009

Kevin Child announced today his candidacy Nevada State Assembly District 8 seat being vacated by term-limited Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley (D).  Child has run for office on numerous occasions as a Republican in the past, but has re-registered and is running as a Democrat this time.

“With the way things are right now, we need more than hope,” Child said in a written press release, “we need a proven battle plan.  Believe me, I know what it’s like to have to pull yourself up and come back after losing everything that had meaning to you.”

Child, 48, says he has rebuilt his life after the loss of his wife and then his home in a fire.

Child says he has founded and actively serves several community organizations geared toward helping Nevadan’s keep their homes, discouraging youth gang activity and preventing vandalism and graffiti.  He says he’s the Vice Chair of the Southern Nevada Graffiti Coalition, the Co-Chair of the Southern Nevada Gang Task Force Prevention Sub Committee and the founder of Take 5 Safe Neighbor Program.

For more information or to schedule an interview, contact Kevin directly at 702-768-5412, battlebornCHILD@aol.com or by visiting www.electkevinchild.com

Nevada’s Transparency Website Improved But Still Incomplete

By Sean Whaley | 7:52 am October 24th, 2009
CARSON CITY – Eighteen months after Gov. Jim Gibbons issued an executive order requiring the state’s financial information to be posted on an easily searchable website for the public, his quest for transparency remains a work in progress.

A significant improvement is expected in the next few days, however.

State Budget Director Andrew Clinger said Nevada’s transparency website has been up and accessible since January, but so far it contains budget and spending information only for fiscal years 2006 to 2008. It also now includes the 2009-11 legislatively approved budget.

The current website does have a searchable database, and taxpayers can delve into detail showing actual payments to vendors, he said. Searches can be performed by vendor name or by agency.

But financial data is still being loaded into the system for fiscal year 2009, which ended June 30, and for the current 2010 budget year. By the end of October, the site should have the current budget and spending information which will then be updated nightly as is done on transparency websites in other states to provide a real time look at spending, Clinger said.

With the implementation of daily updates to the database, Clinger said Nevada’s site will be about 70 percent complete. What will still be missing is data on contracts between state agencies and other entities. A section on the state payroll is also a work in progress.

Clinger said he believes Nevada’s transparency website is as detailed as those in other states, including Texas and Missouri, which are cited frequently as sites that are easy to navigate.

But having looked at the Missouri transparency site, Clinger is working with his staff to see if some of the basic elements that make the Missouri site easy to use can be incorporated in Nevada’s site.

“I think ours will be as good as Missouri’s,” he said. “But their layout is a little more user friendly.“

State Controller Kim Wallin, who is providing the financial data to the Department of Administration for posting, proposed the creation of a transparency website through her office, duplicating the site created by the state of Missouri, at a cost of about $250,000. Missouri was chosen because it uses the same financial accounting software as Nevada.

But the Gibbons administration decided to move forward on its own and has spent about $112,000 on the project so far.

Clinger said once the budget and spending information is current and available to the public, the agency will move on to the issue of posting contract information. The contracts portion will be done in this biennium, but the timing depends on the availability of funding, he said. It will cost about $63,000 to implement.

“We’re trying to find a way to use the resources we have in the current biennium to fund that piece,” Clinger said. “It is one of my top priorities.”

Information about the contracts the state enters into with other agencies and private firms is hard to come by for the general public. The Board of Examiners earlier this month approved more than 80 contracts worth millions of dollars, a process that occurs every several weeks for the board as a routine matter.

But even without the contract information, the transparency website has a lot of information, Clinger said.

“The governor’s budget and the legislative budget are there. And on the spending side, you can actually see payments down to vendors. We’ve got the top 500 vendors in terms of payments. You can do a search by agency. There is a lot of information.”

Sandra Fabry, executive director of the Center for Fiscal Accountability in Washington, DC, and an expert on transparency websites, called Nevada’s effort a step in the right direction. But she questioned the length of time it has taken to get the site ready for daily data updates and said it is not as easy to navigate as it should be.

“Given that web users tend to judge websites on their first impressions, the Nevada site lacks the clean and uncluttered design, and taxpayers unfamiliar with fiscal matters will have to figure out that in order to get to the expenditure database, they have to click on “Actuals” at the bottom of the page,” Fabry said.

Fabry said she is encouraged to hear that the Nevada site will soon have real time updates, and that a change in contracting procedures has been implemented in preparation for posting contract data on the website for public review.

“Ultimately, Nevada taxpayers will benefit when all government expenditures are subjected to their scrutiny via a comprehensive, yet user-friendly website, she said. “The potential for Nevada to deliver is certainly there, it just needs to be harnessed and made a priority.”

The Center for Fiscal Accountability is a project of Americans for Tax Reform, a national taxpayer advocacy organization.

Clinger said the website will also be the place to look for information about federal stimulus funds coming into Nevada.

Gibbons issued a proclamation in March of 2008 requiring the creation of a transparency website “as soon as practicable.”

Called the Nevada Open Government Initiative, the proclamation specified the need for an “easily searchable database of financial transactions related to government budgets and expenditures . . .”

When it is fully operational, Nevada will finally join many other states in posting much of its financial data on a website for public review. Inquisitive taxpayers, the media and others interested in how the state spends its tax dollars will be able to review the financial information as it is updated daily.

The length of time it has taken to get the transparency website fully operational has been criticized by some in Nevada, including the Nevada Policy Research Institute and Citizen Outreach. (Disclaimer: Citizen Outreach provides funding to the Nevada News Bureau.)

Steven Miller, vice president for policy at NPRI, said there is no reasonable explanation for why the site is taking so long to complete, other than the fact that it is not a priority for many of Nevada’s elected officials.

“A modest expenditure that potentially could save millions is a no-brainer,” he said.

R.J. DeSilva, a spokesman for Texas Comptroller Susan Combs, said the state’s transparency website, launched in Jan. 2007, has helped the state save money. By posting the data, the agency was not only able to provide public access to state financial information, but the posting provided an opportunity for officials to examine how the state was conducting its business, he said. The website has contributed to the implementation of various efficiencies that are saving Texas taxpayers more than $8 million, he said.

Clinger said the criticism for any delays are not warranted. The Department of Administration is working on the project using existing funds during a time of very tight budgets. No formal request was made to the Legislature to fund it. The target date for the 2009 and 2010 data posting was Oct. 1, which has been missed, but not by much, he said.

The website has been accessible and searchable since it was mentioned by the governor in his state-of-the-state address in January, Clinger said.

Reno Nurse Announces Candidacy as Republican in Assembly District 26

By Sean Whaley | 9:00 am October 23rd, 2009

CARSON CITY – Reno nurse and newspaper columnist Ellie Lopez-Bowlan announced yesterday her candidacy for state Assembly District 26. The seat is being vacated by GOP Assemblyman Ty Cobb, who has announced he is running for an open seat in the state Senate.

Lopez-Bowlan holds a master’s of science degree from the University of Nevada, Reno and she currently serves as a nurse practitioner in Reno. She has provided cancer screening in minority communities and has conducted free physicals in schools for underprivileged children. She also writes a column for the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Lopez-Bowlan has been in a leader in Republican politics, helping to develop coalitions on behalf of various candidates and serving as president of the Mt. Rose Republican Women.

“Public service has always been an important part of my life,” Lopez-Bowlan said. “As of now, the bulk of that service has come from volunteering for various causes. Now, in adding to my ongoing volunteer efforts, I would like to represent the residents of Assembly District 26.”

Lopez-Bowlan said her campaign will develop an effective grassroots organization, raise the money needed to get her message out to voters and work to earn each vote.

“Many Nevadans are frustrated.,” she said. “I am, too. Struggling families fear higher, job-killing taxes. We simply cannot continue growing government at a time when our unemployment numbers keep getting worse. We should not create or grow a single government program in Nevada until our economy rebounds and people get back to work.”

Lopez-Bowlan was appointed earlier this year to the National Museum of the American Latino Commission. She has also served on numerous organizations, including the State Board of Nursing, the Nevada Academy of Health and the Governor’s Maternal and Child Health Advisory Board.

Ballot Measure Sought that Would Ban Abortion, Assisted Suicide in Nevada

By Sean Whaley | 9:25 am October 22nd, 2009

CARSON CITY – A group calling itself Personhood Nevada is seeking to put on the ballot next year a measure defining human life in such a way as to ban abortion and assisted suicide.

The petition to amend the Nevada constitution is being coordinated by Richard Ziser, chairman of Nevada Concerned Citizens. If the group can collect the nearly 100,000 signatures needed by May to qualify the measure for the ballot, voters would have to approve it in 2010 and 2012 before it could take effect.

“A number of states are working on this type of an amendment,” Ziser said. “It reads that in Nevada, the definition of person applies to every human being.”

Up to now, Nevadans have been able to define a person as they saw fit, he said. The new proposed definition defines a person as one possessing the human genome.

“It will protect life at both ends of the spectrum,” Ziser said.

According to Personhood Nevada, “This amendment codifies the inalienable right to life for everyone, young or old, healthy or ill, conscious or unconscious, born or unborn. It assures protection and dignity to our children, our infirmed and our seniors.”

Ziser said the national group that came to Nevada to discuss the idea of a constitutional amendment is called Personhood USA. The group’s website says: “The primary mission of Personhood USA is to serve Jesus by being an Advocate for those who can not speak for themselves, the pre-born child. We serve by starting – coordinating efforts to establish legal ‘personhood’ for pre-born children through peaceful activism, legislative efforts and ballot-access petition initiatives.”

Jan Gilbert, representing the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, said her organization is opposed to the proposed constitutional amendment.

“We don’t think it is needed and we certainly don’t think it should be put in the constitution,” she said. “This is not the type of issue that should be put on the ballot.”

If the group is concerned about the issue, it should bring the discussion to the Legislature, Gilbert said.

Elisa Maser, president & CEO of Nevada Advocates for Planned Parenthood Affiliates, offered a limited response by email: “We are carefully evaluating the petition and the language with our coalition partners.”

Ziser said the process to qualify a measure for the ballot includes an initial 30-day period where the 200-word ballot description can be challenged legally, so signature gathering efforts won’t begin until after that time.

Legal challenges to ballot measures seem to be the new method of fighting them before they get to voters, so this type of an attack is likely, he said. If the ballot language is clear enough, however, there may not be much to challenge, he said.

Personhood Nevada is also engaged in fundraising efforts to hire professionals to assist in the collection of signatures.

As a result of changes to the ballot petition process in the 2009 Legislature, the group must collect signatures from 10 percent of the number of people who voted in the 2008 general election in the state’s three different Congressional Districts.

Nevada voters in 1990 approved Question 7, which maintains the legal right to an abortion regardless of what the U.S. Supreme Court might do in regard to its landmark Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.

Ziser said the new amendment would trump that language, although a legal challenge would be likely. While the pro-life movement is behind the effort, those concerned with the federal health care reform legislation and the potential effect on end-of-life issues will also be drawn to the proposal, he said.

Ziser was instrumental in a measure approved in 2002 in Nevada defining marriage as being between a man and a woman.

Furloughs, Staffing Cuts at State Psychiatric Hospital Prompt Employee Protest

By Sean Whaley | 10:23 am October 21st, 2009

CARSON CITY – Staffing cuts, furloughs and a mandated eight-hour work schedule all contributed to a state employee protest outside a Las Vegas mental health facility on Saturday, a state official said.

Harold Cook, administrator of the Nevada Division of Mental Health and Developmental Services, said in an interview Monday he appreciates the concerns of employees who work at the agency’s psychiatric hospital facilities. But suggestions that patient or employee safety have been jeopardized because of staffing reductions and furloughs are not borne out by the evidence, he said.

The protest was organized by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union Local 4041 and drew more than 100 demonstrators and was directed at staffing issues at facilities where mentally ill adults receive treatment. There are 234 beds in three buildings, including 190 beds at the new Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital at Jones and Oakey boulevards.

“We’ve been working on a reduced staffing level for nine months at least, and I can say at this point I’ve seen no effect on the number or types of incidents regarding injuries to staff or patients,” Cook said.

Dennis Mallory, chief of staff for the union, disagreed with Cook, saying today he believes incidents of patient-on-patient and patient-on-staff violence have increased since staffing levels were reduced last year and that staffing levels are a factor in the incidents.

“We understand the funding shortfall, that we won’t see any pay increases, no step increases, no longevity pay,” he said. “But at what point do we accept a compromise in pubic safety and security.”

The hospital employees believe Health and Human Services Department Director Mike Willden should seek an exemption from the mandatory one-day-a-month furlough for the hospital staff, which would be a first step to dealing with the problem, Mallory said.

Cook said an exemption from the furloughs is not an option the agency is willing to pursue because it would result in cuts to client services. The savings from furloughs are built into the budget and if there are exemptions, the money must be made up elsewhere, he said.

Cook said the hospital, which cares for mentally ill adults who have been found to be a danger to themselves or others, lost 81 in-patient positions due to required spending reductions. Those positions included nurses, administrators and housekeeping employees. The mandatory furloughs have had the effect of reducing staffing by another 4.6 percent.

The 2009 Legislature approved 10 certified nursing assistant contract positions to assist in covering the furlough absences reducing the total eliminated positions to 71 in the current budget.

The staffing ratio now is 2.1 full-time-equivalent positions per bed compared to 2.4 prior to the changes, Cook said. The staffing ratio is still higher than many private facilities, he said.

“We’re not operating this facility at any staffing level considered to be unsafe,” Cook said. “But the nature of this business is there is always risk.”

Mallory said the CNAs are not trained to deal with mentally ill patients. The money for the positions should be freed up to hire trained staff, he said.

“I’d rather have one psychiatric nurse than three CNAs,” Mallory said.

Cook said the reduced staffing has also necessitated a decision to require all employees to work eight-hour shifts. Up to now, some employees have worked 10- or 12-hour shifts instead but there aren’t enough positions to allow for flexible working schedules at this time.

“At this point we’re all kind of stuck with a situation that is to nobody’s liking and we’re trying to maintain the operation as effectively as possible,” Cook said. “That means not cutting client services and maintaining the health and safety of our patients and employees.”

Mallory said the employees would like to be part of the decision-making process. More than 100 have signed a grievance regarding the staffing levels, a demonstration of the depth of the concerns, he said.

Lawmakers Begin Selection Process for Revenue Study Stakeholder Group

By Sean Whaley | 1:20 pm October 20th, 2009
CARSON CITY – State lawmakers made the first step towards creating a “Nevada Vision Stakeholder Group” of residents to participate in a review of the state’s revenue structure today, declaring that the size of the panel will be no more than 19 individuals.

But the hard part is yet to come. A total of 72 names have been submitted to lawmakers so far to serve on the panel, and more are expected before nominations close Oct. 30.

Lawmakers charged with picking the members of the committee will meet again Nov. 16 in an effort to finalize the stakeholder group membership, which will represent areas of expertise from education and public safety to commerce and industry.

A list of nominees was released today, showing interest from a wide variety of individuals, from Frank Adams representing the Nevada Sheriffs’ and Chiefs’ Association to Reno Mayor Bob Cashell to MGM Mirage executive Alan Feldman.

Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, suggested the group not include elected officials for fear the work of the panel would become politicized.

But Assemblyman Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, said many potentially qualified candidates would be excluded if elected officials were not allowed to participate.

The panel decided to let each lawmaker submit a list of preferred names without mandating any exclusions.

Geoffrey Lawrence, a fiscal policy analyst with the Nevada Policy Research Institute, questioned the purpose of the stakeholder panel. A study of the state and local government tax structure with an eye toward reducing volatility and maximizing efficiency has merit, he said.

But the stakeholder group is proposed to be drawn from the five major areas of state spending, meaning any revenue study could be compromised, Lawrence said.

“The group’s recommendations will likely include new government spending proposals,” he said.

The panel should include representatives who support private sector involvement in the provision of public services. Any stakeholder group needs to consider truly innovative solutions and not just seek to burden Nevadans with higher taxes, Lawrence said.

The stakeholder group is expected to work closely with the contractor selected to perform the revenue study, which must be completed by July 1, 2010. Lawmakers have selected four proposals for further consideration but a final decision won‘t come until next month. The budget for the study is $500,000 but some of the proposals have come in well below this amount including the favorite by Moody’s Analytics at a cost of $253,000.

GOP Senate Candidate Sue Lowden Responds to Reid Campaign Advisor

By Sean Whaley | 12:08 pm October 20th, 2009

CARSON CITY – Nevada Republican U.S. Senate candidate Sue Lowden responded today to a comment by an adviser to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that the senator will “vaporize” whoever emerges as his GOP challenger in his 2010 reelection bid.

“Nevadans have tired of Harry Reid’s angry, vindictive threats – but today’s threat is one that must be taken seriously,” Lowden said. “After all, Sen. Reid has shown remarkable skill in vaporizing Nevada jobs, Nevada homeowners, Nevada tax dollars, our seniors’ access to a solvent Medicare program and our residents’ private health care choices.”

The comment by the Reid adviser, made under condition of anonymity, was contained in a front page article published in Politico.

Lowden, a former state senator and Las Vegas businesswoman, is one of several Republicans vying to challenge Reid.

Nevada’s Unemployment Rate Up Slightly in September

By Sean Whaley | 11:56 am October 19th, 2009

CARSON CITY – Nevada’s jobless rate rose one tenth of a percentage point in September from August to 13.3 percent, a state agency reported today.

The month-over-month increase in the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was the smallest since March 2008, while the employment gain was the strongest since February 2007. Nevada employers added 11,000 jobs in September from the previous month.

The federal, state and local government job sector saw one of the biggest jumps in job growth due primarily to the start up of the school year, adding 9,800 jobs. The leisure and hospitality sector saw the loss of 1,000 jobs. Professional and business services added 2,800 jobs. Construction lost 3,600 jobs.

“The deterioration in Nevada’s labor market eased a bit in September, but we will have to wait to see how future months unfold before we can conclude that the recession’s grip on the state’s economy is lessening,” said William Anderson, chief economist for the Nevada Department of Employment, Training & Rehabilitation. “Still, it is best not to get overly optimistic based upon information for just one month. Nationwide, the unemployment rate came in at 9.8 percent in September, considerably below Nevada’s reading.”

The total number of unemployed Nevadans remains worrisomely high at 190,700, up by nearly 85,000 relative to a year ago.

“Similarly, job readings are off by 76,500 over the 12-month period,” Anderson said. “The bottom line is that once the economy does begin to recover, which it will, there is much ground to be made up.”

In the Las Vegas metro area, September’s unemployment rate came in at 13.9 percent, up from 7.7 percent a year ago.

Unemployment rates for the state’s metropolitan areas are not adjusted for seasonality. For comparison purposes, the state’s unadjusted unemployment rate was 13.5 percent in September.

Job levels in Las Vegas stand 56,300 below year-ago readings.

In the Reno-Sparks region, September’s employment count stands nearly 17,000 below a year ago. The unemployment rate, at 13.1 percent, is up markedly from a year ago, when it was 7.3 percent.

Carson City’s unemployment rate was estimated to be 12.8 percent in September, and payrolls were down nearly 2,000 relative to a year ago. In September 2008, the region’s unemployment rate was 7.6 percent.

Anderson said all industries within the state have felt the effects of the economic downturn, but none more so than construction. Construction benefited greatly from a booming economy, as building-related employment in Nevada increased by 48,000 between 1997 and 2007.

However, since then, 50,000 jobs have been lost, he said. Elsewhere, the leisure and hospitality industry added 77,300 jobs during the ten-year period ending in 2007.

However, within the past two years 30,000 jobs have been eliminated.

“The much-anticipated opening of the City Center Project in Las Vegas should help ease job losses in the months ahead, but for the industry as a whole the negatives continue to outweigh the positives,” Anderson said.

Both the professional and business services and trade/transportation/utilities sectors added in excess of 70,000 jobs during the economic boom. Since then, the former has cut nearly 15,000 positions, while the latter has cut payrolls by nearly 8,000.

Perhaps the earliest signs of the approaching recession showed up in residential real estate and construction activity beginning in approximately mid-2006. Arguably, one bright spot of late has to do with increases in resale activity. For instance, sales of existing homes have been on the upswing in southern Nevada since mid-2008. So far this year, resale activity has increased by more than 50 percent. However, on the flipside, a considerable portion of that increase in activity is attributable to distressed properties.

In addition to the City Center opening on the horizon, another event that, historically, has had a positive impact on the Nevada labor market – the holiday shopping season – is also close at hand. During this decade (through 2007), retail trade employment growth in Nevada (from October through December) has averaged nearly 6,000 jobs per year.

However, in 2008, job gains were just about one-half (3,100) of their recent norms.

“Once again, we expect the weak economy to limit the number of new seasonal hires this year,” Anderson said.

(Updated at 3:09 p.m. to reflect correct statewide unemployment rate of 13.3 percent.)

Roberson Announces Candidacy for Senate District 5

By Sean Whaley | 12:15 pm October 17th, 2009
Business attorney and Henderson resident Michael Roberson has announced his candidacy for the state Senate in District 5, a seat currently held by Democrat Joyce Woodhouse.

“Like many Nevadans, I have grown frustrated with the tax-and-spend policies coming out of Carson City, especially during a crippling, job killing recession,” he said. “Too many Nevada businesses have gone under and too many of our residents have lost their jobs, their homes and their retirement savings. I am running to restore the common sense that has escaped incumbent Sen. Joyce Woodhouse.”

Woodhouse is completing her first four-year term in the Senate. She is running for reelection and held her campaign kickoff earlier this month.

Roberson said unemployment has nearly doubled since members of the Legislature, including Woodhouse, voted to raise taxes by $1 billion in the 2009 session.

“That kind of decision-making is dangerous and will only further erode our economy and our quality of life in southern Nevada,” he said.

In his job, Roberson assists clients who are seeking to provide job and business development in Southern Nevada.

Roberson said he would work in the Senate to balance Nevada’s state budget without tax hikes. Money should not be spent on non-essential government programs, only essential programs such as education, public safety and health care for those most in need, he said.

Roberson has been endorsed by the Senate Republican Caucus.

Roberson earned both a political science degree and his law degree at the University of Kansas.

State Senator Sets Sights on Assembly Due to Term Limits

By Sean Whaley | 3:16 pm October 16th, 2009
CARSON CITY – With term limits taking effect for 17 veteran state lawmakers in 2010, those who want to continue to serve are setting their sights on other elective office. A number of state Assembly candidates are looking to move up into a vacant state Senate seat.

But in at least one case, a lawmaker is doing the opposite.

State Sen. Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, is being forced out of her Clark District 2 seat due to term limits. She has decided to run for the Assembly 14 seat held by Ellen Koivisto, another Democrat who must also vacate her seat because of term limits.

Carlton said she has a lot of unfinished work from her time in the Senate, and serving in the Assembly is the best way to keep involved in public policy issues. Carlton is a resident in Assembly District 14 so the choice was an easy one to make. She has been endorsed by the Assembly Democratic Caucus.

“There has been a time or two when a member of the Senate has run for the Assembly,” she said. “But this will be the first time it has been inspired by term limits.”

Carlton, who works for the nonprofit Great Basin Primary Care Association, said she wants to continue working on the foreclosure crisis and health care reform, among other issues. The association promotes access to affordable health care for Nevada’s underserved populations.

“Health care will be huge,” she said.

Carlton just returned from a visit to Washington, D.C., where health care reform was the topic of discussion. State Legislatures will be involved in implementing any health care reform passed by Congress, she said.

Carlton said her experience dealing with the state budget crisis in the 2009 session will be a benefit in 2011. The 2011 session will be like 2009, part two, she said.

“Hopefully we’ll have turned the corner on the economy,” Carlton said.

But even if the economy is on its way to recovery, the state faces a huge challenge with the budget, she said.

Koivisto could not be reached for comment on her future plans, but she does not reside in Carlton’s Senate district.

 

 

Republican Candidate for U.S. Senate Counters Biden-Reid Visit With Coffee, Doughnuts

By Sean Whaley | 2:48 pm October 16th, 2009
RENO – As U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Vice President Joe Biden entertained some deep-pocket supporters here today, one of the Republicans vying to take on the long-time lawmaker was a few yards away, meeting with voters while collecting food for a local food bank.
Sue Lowden, a former state senator and Las Vegas businesswoman, held her event at the Grand Sierra Hotel parking lot. Inside, Reid supporters were paying $2,400 to eat breakfast with Biden.
Outside, a can of donated food got you a cup of coffee and a doughnut.

Stopping by to chat were state Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, and Ben Kieckhefer, a GOP candidate for the Washoe state Senate seat held by Randolph Townsend, who is leaving office next year due to term limits. Kieckhefer, a state employee, was taking his unpaid furlough day to attend the event.

Reno Assemblyman Ty Cobb is also seeking Townsend’s Washoe 4 seat.

Lowden chatted with supporters and answered questions about her decision to enter the crowded Republican primary for a chance to face Reid in November 2010.

“We thought this would be a good demonstration of how regular folks are spending their morning,” she said. “We’ve collected a lot of food for the (Northern Nevada) food bank.”

Lowden said she believes her philosophy is diametrically opposed to Reid’s views.

“I think he has a general policy that government knows best and that government needs to take more control of our lives here in Nevada and I couldn’t be more opposite to that philosophy,” she said. “I believe in the private sector. I believe in personal freedom.”

Rather than having government dole out stimulus funds, elected officials should be giving businesses the tax breaks they need to hire more people, build their businesses and form new businesses, Lowden said.

“If we encourage businesses to come here and grow then they will hire people,” she said. “And if you hire people then that solves everything. They can buy a house, they can buy a car, they will have heath insurance. Everything else falls into place with a job.”

Lowden, who stepped down as the Nevada Republican Party chairwoman to enter the race, is one of several announced candidates, along with state Sen. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City; former Reno Assemblywoman Sharron Angle, Las Vegas real estate developer Danny Tarkanian and Reno attorney Chuck Kozak.

The Nevada Democratic Party responded to Lowden’s event by calling it a publicity stunt.

“We appreciate Sue Lowden’s gesture, however self-serving it might be, of giving food to the needy,” said Phoebe Sweet, communications director for the party. “Unfortunately that gesture doesn’t go nearly far enough to help Nevada’s poor recover from eight years of failed Republican economic policies.”

Reid has worked to provide funding for those in need, including $250,000 for the Northern Nevada Food Bank in 2005, Sweet said.

 

 

 

Rory Reid Announces His Gubernatorial Bid in Reno

By Sean Whaley | 9:13 pm October 15th, 2009

RENO – Democrat Rory Reid, chairman of the Clark County Commission and son of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, told a crowd of cheering supporters here today he wants to be the next governor of Nevada.

“I am here today because, simply put: Nevada can do better, much better,” he said. “To realize our great potential, Nevada needs a fundamentally new direction. Nevada needs a leader with a new economic plan and vision that moves our state into the 21st century.”

The Northern Nevada announcement comes after his formal declaration of candidacy in Las Vegas on Wednesday. Reid has been traveling the state in preparation for a gubernatorial bid for several months but only made it official this week.

Reid, 47, is expected to face off against either incumbent Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons, who has indicated he plans to run for a second term even with low public approval ratings, former U. S. District Judge Brian Sandoval, who stepped down from the bench to challenge Gibbons in the GOP primary, or former North Las Vegas Mayor Mike Montandon.

In comments to about 100 supporters at Idlewild Park, just west of downtown, Reid stressed his northern Nevada roots and commitment to working for all Nevadans if elected governor.

Reid said he has watched Nevada grow and prosper but now looks on as a severe economic downturn has affected Nevada more than any state in the nation.

“And as I look at Nevada today, I believe we are again at a crossroads,” he said. “There’s an urgency in the air. Nevada has more potential than any other state in America.”

But to realize that potential, Reid said Nevada needs to do two things: Take decisive action to create jobs and lay out an economic plan to transform the state’s economy for the long term.

“For too long, Nevada has kicked the can down the road, relying on the same old industries to get us through, content with that boom and bust, and unable to achieve our potential,” he said.

Reid would be the first Democratic governor in Nevada since Bob Miller left office in January 1999. His position as the Democratic front-runner was cemented when an anticipated rival, Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, decided in September against a run for the job.

Reid has already put out a 32-page plan for Nevada called “The Virtual Crossroads.” In it, Reid talks about the need to push for more alternative energy development to create jobs and end reliance on the use of imported coal to power Nevada’s economy.

He also wants to diversify Nevada’s economy to bring in high-paying jobs to reduce the state’s heavy dependence on its tourism economy.

Reid also proposes in his plan to fund education to an “amount objectively required to provide an quality education to every student in the state” and to do so before making any other state budget decisions.

Reid did not elaborate on how he would pay for his version of “Education First,” a concept pushed by Gibbons and put into the state constitution by voters back in 2006.

In an interview before his formal comments, Reid said the key is to first fix the economy for the long term. Economic growth and better paying jobs will do a lot to help create the revenue the state needs to function properly, he said.

“I think we’re never going to solve our fiscal problems until we solve our economic problems,” he said. “That’s why I’m talking about it first.”

Reid said there are three solutions to the budget problems: grow the economy, make government more efficient and raise taxes. Talking about taxes is not an option right now, he said. Speculating on what will happen in the 2011 legislative session is premature, Reid said.

“I want to do right now what I can do to create jobs and diversify our economy, so our discussion in 2011 is much easier,” Reid said.

Reid cited a Western Governors Association report that found if Nevada had developed 2,000 megawatts of solar energy in the last two years it would have created $13 billion in economic activity and generated $1.3 billion in state revenues.

He criticized the Gibbons administration for not moving more quickly in alternative energy development. It wasn’t until this week, more than four moths after the end of the 2009 legislative session, that Gibbons finally appointed an energy commissioner to work in this important area, Reid said.

In his report, Reid also said he would take three immediate steps as governor:

- Boost access to capital for small business and start-ups;

- Focus capital spending on projects that will create immediate jobs;

- Order a comprehensive review to cut unneeded government spending.

The Republican Governors Association welcomed Reid to the race, saying it would help Republicans defeat both him and Harry Reid, who will also be on the ballot in 2010 as he seeks another term in the U.S. Senate. Polls show the senior Reid not doing well against a slew of potential Republican challengers.

“Senator Reid has complete control of the Democratic Party in Nevada, so we’d like to thank him for clearing the field for his son to be the Democratic nominee,” said RGA communications director Mike Schrimpf. “Harry Reid doesn’t do many favors for Republicans, but we could not have asked for a better present than having two Reids on the ballot instead of just one.”

Gibbons said Tuesday he had no comment on Reid’s formal entry into the race.

For his part, Reid said he does not believe his father’s race will have an effect on the governor’s race.

“People want to talk to me about unemployment, education and health care, nobody asks me to show them my family tree,” he said. “People will compare me to my opponent. It is not going to be a determining factor.”

Reid said he has a strong connection to Northern Nevada. He attended one year of grade school in Carson City. All three of his brothers lived in Northern Nevada at some point in time.

“I feel like I have a connection to the north,” he said.

Reid was elected to the Clark County Commission in 2002 to serve in Commission District G. He was re-elected on November 7, 2006, to another four-year term. In January 2005, Reid was appointed by his colleagues as commission chairman. He was re-elected by his colleagues on January 2, 2007, and is again serving as chairman.

Reid was born in Virginia while his father was attending law school. He has lived in Nevada since he was six months old.

Legislative Panel Recommends Four Proposals as Finalists for Revenue Study

By Sean Whaley | 1:37 pm October 15th, 2009
CARSON CITY – A legislative panel today moved four proposals forward as finalists for a study of Nevada’s revenue structure, with a submittal by Moody’s Analytics at a cost of $253,000 receiving the highest rating from lawmakers.
The other three proposals recommended for further consideration are Willdan Financial Services, the second choice of the panel, with a study cost of $153,205; and two tied for third: the Center for Regional Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno, at a cost of $909,861; and Nevada Consultants Inc. of Las Vegas at a cost of $500,000.

Moody’s is based in West Chester, Penn., and Willdan is out of Sacramento, Calif.

Four other proposals were rejected.

The finalists were selected after each lawmaker picked their top three favorites. The top selection received three points, the second, two points and the third, one point. Lawmakers offered a number of reasons for their selections, including knowledge of Nevada and Nevada issues, the quality of the proposal, cost and the ability to meet the required deadlines.

The next step in the selection process will be oral presentations by the four finalists to the full Interim Finance Committee’s Subcommittee to Conduct a Review of Nevada’s Revenue Structure, likely in late October or early November. Ultimately the IFC, made up of the Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means committees, will pick the firm to perform the review. It must be completed by July 1, 2010, well ahead of the 2011 session of the Legislature.

A maximum budget of $500,000 has been set for the study, but the IFC can go higher if it decides it wants to do so.

Lawmakers want a study to provide guidance on how to deal with a two-year budget in 2011 that is expected to be as much as $2.4 billion out of balance.

Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, the chairman of the panel reviewing the tax study bids, said at a meeting Oct. 7 there is no preordained decision to increase taxes.

He also said it is critical that a study be performed without a hint of special interest influence. Because of that and the high cost, Raggio did not select the UNR proposal as one of his favorites.

Raggio said the presentation was outstanding, but that there might be a perception among some people that the end product would be biased, given that UNR is funded with general fund dollars by the Legislature.

Even so, the decision to move the UNR proposal was part of a unanimous vote of the panel.

Knight Allen, a resident of Las Vegas who testified as a Nevada citizen, asked the panel to reconsider including the UNR proposal because of the need for unbiased study results. Whether intentional or not, biases can creep into the best intentioned study when it is being performed by a public entity involving public revenue matters, he said.

The panel did not change its recommendation, however.

Steven Miller, vice president for policy at the Nevada Policy Research Institute, said the purported study will be biased no matter who performs the work.

“It’s the same old story,” he said. “The politicians spend every cent in sight. Then they try to fool the voters with a study that is never designed to get spending under control but to find new revenue.”

Given that the result is predetermined, the least costly proposal is the best of a bad lot for taxpayers, Miller said.

The study will go forward despite objections from Gov. Jim Gibbons that the inevitable result will be a recommendation for higher taxes. Gibbons voted against the funding request Tuesday at a meeting of the Board of Examiners, but the other two members of the board voted in favor.