Posts Tagged ‘Las Vegas’

Obama Talks About Commitment To Education, Keeping America Competitive, In Reno Campaign Stop

By Sean Whaley | 7:26 pm August 21st, 2012

RENOPresident Obama talked about his ongoing commitment to education in a visit to this battleground state today, his first official campaign event of the year in Northern Nevada but his third visit to the area in just the past few months.

Obama’s campaign stop, to be followed by another event tomorrow in Las Vegas, comes to the state with the highest unemployment rate in the nation at 12 percent.

President Obama speaks in Reno today. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

“You’re education is not just important to you, it’s important to America’s success,” he told a cheering crowd of 1,000 supporters in the student union at the Truckee Meadows Community College. “When we invest in your future we’re investing in America’s future. The fact is that, countries that out-educate us today they’ll out-compete us tomorrow. We cannot afford to lose that race to make sure we’ve got the most highly educated, most skilled workforce in the world.

“When companies and businesses are looking to locate, that’s what they’re looking for,” Obama said. “And I don’t want them looking any farther than Reno, Nevada, the state of Nevada, the United States of America; we’ve got the best workers in the world and I want to keep it that way.”

A college official estimated total attendance at the rally, including those outside, at 2,100.

Obama also pushed his plan to maintain the Bush tax cuts for most Americans, but not for individuals making $200,000 or more and couples making $250,000 or more, and criticized presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney for seeking tax cuts for the nation’s wealthiest citizens.

Obama said that since he took office, his administration has helped over three million more students afford a college education.

“Now, unfortunately, the economic plan of Gov. Romney could cut our investments in education by about 20 percent,” he said.

The cuts are proposed not to balance the budget but to pay for a tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, Obama said.

“Does that sound like a plan for a better future for you?” he asked. “It’s a plan that says we can’t afford to help the next generation, but we can afford massive new tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.”

In response to Obama’s remarks here and in Ohio, the Republican National Committee said research shows that during his administration, the cost of college “is skyrocketing to an all time high.”

Since Obama took office, the unemployment rate for 20- to 24-year-olds has increased from 12.4 percent to 13.5 percent, the RNC said.

“Despite President Obama’s speech tonight in Reno, it’s more clear than ever that his failed policies have seen college costs soar and job opportunities dwindle for young graduates,” the RNC said.

Obama handily won Nevada in the 2008 presidential race, but saw Democrats lose ground in Nevada and nationally in the 2010 mid-term elections. Polls put the state as a tossup between the two candidates, and Washoe County is viewed by many local political observers as the region where the race will be played out in November.

In his concluding remarks, Obama said he is counting on students like those at Truckee Meadows to not get discouraged and to work to help Democrats win Nevada in November.

“First of all, you’ve got no excuses not to register to vote,” he said.

If volunteers knock on doors and make phone calls just like in 2008, Democrats will win Washoe County, Nevada and another four years, Obama said.


Audio clips:

President Obama says education is not just important to students, but to America’s success as well:

082112Obama1 :26 in the world.”

Obama says America has the best workers in the world and he wants to keep it that way:

082112Obama2 :16 it that way.”

Obama says Mitt Romney wants to cut college spending to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy:

082112Obama3 :12 your tax loophole.”


Las Vegas Ranks Fifth in Nation in Questionable Slip and Fall Claims

By Sean Whaley | 2:18 pm May 8th, 2012

CARSON CITY – According to the latest report by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), Las Vegas ranks fifth in the nation for questionable slip-and-fall claims despite being only the 30th largest city in the United States.

Most businesses carry insurance to financially protect them should someone become injured as a result of a legitimate accident. However, criminals fake slip-and-fall injuries in order to submit fraudulent claims against the business or the business’s insurer.

“The cost of these claims goes into the cost we all pay for retail goods,” said Bryan Wachter, director of Government Affairs for the Retail Association of Nevada.

There are additional costs when courts are tied up with fraudulent or frivolous claims, and when business owners have to take time out to defend against them, he said.

According to Michael Geeser, president of the Nevada Insurance Council, fraudulent slip-and-fall claims raise the cost of insurance for everyone.

“We all pay the price when scammers strike,” he said. “Las Vegas being in the fifth spot given the size of the city certainly raises a red flag.”

The NICB noted that large retailers are not the only ones being hit with slip-and-fall scams. Small retailers have become a target of criminals who use a threat of litigation in order to get the small business to pay a cash amount to avoid being sued. In these cases, a person fakes an injury and then pretends to have paid for medical treatment. The store owner is given the choice of paying the “reimbursement” amount in cash or being sued.

Both Wachter and Geeser agree that such pay-outs only encourage more fraud.

“Small retailers need to be on the alert for these scams and promptly alert law enforcement to these kinds of extortion,” Wachter said.

“Of course, the consumer is the one who ultimately pays since retailers need to incorporate the cost of the insurance into the prices they charge for the products,” Geeser said. “Stopping such fraud is important to keeping a lid on costs.”

To compile this report, the NICB reviewed slip-and-fall questionable claims referred during the period of Jan. 1, 2010 to Dec. 31, 2011. In 2010, there were 1,944 referrals; in 2011, there were 2,168 – an increase of 12 percent.

The five states generating the most slip-and-fall questionable claims from 2010-2011 were:  California (667); New York (280); Texas (245); Illinois (230) and Florida (286). The top five cities were:  New York (134); Los Angeles (127); Philadelphia (99); Chicago (63) and Las Vegas (62).


Audio clips:

Bryan Wachter of the Retail Association of Nevada says it is unfortunate the problem is on the rise in Las Vegas:

050812Wachter1 :15 to be in.”

Wachter says it also takes court resources and time from business people who have to fight fraudulent claims:

050812Wachter2 :24 are huge costs.”

Wachter says it is important to highlight these issues for small business owners because of the costs involved:

050812Wachter3 :21 to pay you.”

Nevada Homeland Security Commission Adopts Drastically Reduced Funding Plan For 2012

By Sean Whaley | 1:11 pm April 26th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Nevada’s Homeland Security Commission today adopted a drastically reduced plan to continue the fight against potential terrorist attacks, leaving six ongoing programs without funding because of declining federal support.

Led by Commission Chairman and Gov. Brian Sandoval, the panel of law enforcement and other emergency services providers unanimously adopted a plan that will see $4.3 million in total federal funding this year, a 60 percent reduction in funding from 2011 when Nevada received $10.8 million.

The commission approved funding for 10 projects and programs, including its three threat analysis, or “fusion” centers, but another 11 received no funding at all. Six of the 11 were to sustain existing programs, from the Washoe County Silver Shield program to the Carson City Regional Citizen Corps. Silver Shield programs are those designed to protect critical infrastructure, from water systems to government operations.

Hoover Dam, part of Nevada's critical infrastructure.

The projects receiving funding were the result of a collaborative effort by the statewide commission.

The federal funding comes via two programs: the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) and the State Homeland Security Program (SHSP) through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Federal support for both programs was reduced significantly this year. The UASI funding totaled $2.66 million, down from $5.7 million last year, and the SHSP funding totaled $1.65 million, down from $5.14 million in 2011.

Even so, Rick Martin, program manager for the state Division of Emergency Management, said the funding priorities developed by commission members and support staff and funded today will keep Nevada safe.

“That’s certainly what we’re concerned with as well, and that was part of the commission’s priorities this year, is to ensure that we virtually get the biggest bang for the buck and that we are safe and that we are sustaining the programs and projects that are most important to this process,” he said.

Martin said efforts will continue to find other sources of money for the projects that received no funding.

“We’re going to work diligently to find additional funding, not only in the homeland security grant program but the other preparedness grant programs as well,” he said. “So we’re going to work really hard to make sure that some of these programs don’t go away.”

The reduction in federal funding for homeland security has been a source of concern for Sandoval and the commission as a whole.

At the March commission meeting, Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie said federal officials need to reassess the “threat matrix” used to allocate funding to states and cities for homeland security efforts, particularly given the reduced level of funding being made available. Gillespie said the formula gives a higher priority for funding to cities like Detroit without taking into consideration how cities like Las Vegas and Seattle have changed since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

At today’s meeting the commission also agreed to seek federal approval to use about $569,000 in “de-obligated” homeland security funding allocated to Nevada in prior years to support some of the 11 programs and projects that received no money.

Even those programs that were funded saw much less money than requested.

The fusion centers, created to coordinate tips and information from around the state to evaluate the potential for terrorism, were funded well below the amounts requested. The northern Nevada center received $283,240 after initially requesting $482,772. The southern Nevada center received just over $1 million after requesting $1.46 million.


Audio clips:

Rick Martin, program manager for the state Division of Emergency Management, says the safety of Nevadans and visitors was a top priority in the funding decisions:

042612Martin1 :18 to this process.”

Martin says efforts will be made to find funding for the other programs and projects:

042612Martin2 :17 don’t go away.”

President Obama Talks Up Natural Gas Development In Remarks Today In Las Vegas

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 11:41 am January 26th, 2012

President Barack Obama visited Las Vegas today on a swing through the West, talking up energy development to create jobs and reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil.

In comments delivered at the United Parcel Service hub on East Arby Lane, President Obama said development of natural gas reserves would serve both these purposes.

The president jogged out to loud, enthused cheers from a clearly friendly crowd.

President Barack Obama.

“We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly a hundred years,” he said in his prepared remarks. “Developing it could power our cars, our homes, and our factories in a cleaner and cheaper way. And experts believe it could support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade.”

The president’s visit, coming after stops in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and Chandler, Arizona, was meant to reinforce comments made Tuesday in his State of the Union address. His next stops are in Colorado and Michigan.

“Part of my blueprint for an economy built to last is American energy” the president said.

In his remarks, Obama touted the fact that oil production in the U.S. is the highest it has been in eight years, and dependence on foreign oil was less last year than at any time in the past 16 years.

He also announced that his administration will soon open up around 38 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for exploration and development, which could result in a lot more production of domestic energy.

“Here’s the thing, though,” he said. “Even with all this oil production, we only have 2 percent of the world’s reserves. So we need an all-out, all-in, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy – a strategy that’s cleaner, cheaper, and full of new jobs.”

Any natural gas development will come only with assurances that the environment and public health will be protected, the president said.

“That’s why I’m requiring – for the first time ever – that all companies drilling for gas on public lands disclose the chemicals they use. America will develop this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk.”

The president used the UPS site because of the company’s use of natural gas to power its vehicles.

The president arrived at the facility at 10 a.m. after an uneventful motorcade. A crowd of a few hundred gathered in a parking lot behind the facility to hear the speech.

“We started out with five companies that accepted the challenge, and UPS was one of the first. Less than a year later, we’ve got fourteen companies on board, and together, they represent one million vehicles on the road.”

To encourage even more use of natural gas, the president proposed new tax incentives to help companies buy more clean trucks.

He also said his administration will continue to work with the private sector to ensure the vehicles have places to refuel, developing five natural gas corridors along the nation’s highways.

“These are highways that have natural gas fueling stations between cities – just like the one the folks at UPS, South Coast Air, and Clean Energy Fuels are opening today between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City,” the president said.

UPS, along with local government and Clean Energy Fuels, a natural gas station deployment company, received a $5.6 million cost-share investment through the Recovery Act to purchase liquefied natural gas (LNG ) vehicles and construct a public LNG refueling station in Las Vegas.

This refueling station has created the first multi-state publicly accessible LNG refueling corridor in the country, enabling LNG vehicles to drive from the Port of Long Beach to Salt Lake City.

The president also said he will ask Energy Secretary Steven Chu to launch a new competition to encourage the country’s scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs to discover new breakthroughs for natural gas vehicles.

“So we’re going to keep moving on American energy,” the president said.

The Nevada Republican Party criticized the visit, calling it an expensive, taxpayer-subsidized campaign stop.

“Barack Obama’s taxpayer-funded trip to Nevada today isn’t to promote new ideas or solutions to improve our state, but instead to promote his fledgling reelection campaign,” said party Chairwoman Amy Tarkanian in a statement.

“When Obama talks about green jobs today, he hopes we forget about the 20,000 new jobs prevented from blocking the Keystone Pipeline and his green job debacle, Solyndra, that cost the taxpayers $500,000 and another 1,100 jobs lost,” she said.


CNN Debate Recap — Contention, Condescension, Dissension

By Elizabeth Crum | 6:42 pm October 19th, 2011

Now that the dust has settled, Dear Readers, thought I’d recall a few memorable moments from last night’s CNN debate at the Sands Expo Convention Center in Las Vegas:

Best Zinger

My pick for the best one-liner of the night:

In his self-introductory remarks, Perry said he was was “an authentic conservative, not a conservative of convenience.”

(Yes, he was talking to you, Mitt.)


For the first 25 minutes of the debate, it was Pick on Herman Cain night, as follows:

Rep. Michele Bachman:  “Anytime you give the Congress a brand-new tax, it doesn’t go away.”

Sen. Rick Santorum: “Herman’s well-meaning, and I love his boldness. I give him credit for — for starting a debate, but it’s not good for families.”

Gov. Rick Perry: “Herman, I love you, brother, but let me tell you something, you don’t need to have a big analysis to figure this thing out. Go to New Hampshire, where they don’t have a sales tax, and you’re fixing to give them one.”

Rep. Ron Paul: “Herman. It’s not going to fly.” And: “It’s very, very dangerous. And it will raise more revenues.”

Gov. Mitt Romney: “The analysis I did, person by person, return by return, is that middle-income people see higher taxes under your plan.”

Cain repeatedly defended his plan, insisting that it was being misrepresented and would not raise taxes on poor people.

“The reason that our plan is being attacked so much is because lobbyists, accountants, politicians — they don’t want to throw out the current tax code and put in something that’s simple and fair,” responded Cain.

Team Cain’s spin room take? The attacks proved he’s considered the frontrunner. They also said he would be releasing more details in the near future.

Health Care

Romney and Santorum got into a shouting match over the Massachusetts health care measure passed when Romney was governor of the Bay State.

Santorum: “You just don’t have credibility. Your consultants helped craft Obamacare.”

Attacks on “RomneyCare” aren’t going away, as much as the former Massachusetts governor might wish they would.

Romney’s best defense is probably the one he’s lately been sticking with and did again last night:  What he did in MA was good for that state given the situation. And states, not the federal government, should be legislating health care solutions tailored to the needs of their residents.

Illegal Immigration

Perry attacked Romney on a story that recently surfaced: “Mitt, you lose all of your standing, from my perspective, because you hired illegals in your home and you knew about it for a year. And the idea that you stand here before us and talk about that you’re strong on immigration is, on its face, the height of hypocrisy.”

A shouting match ensued as the two governors took turns interrupting and talking over one another.

At one point, Romney condescendingly said to Perry, “This has been a tough couple of debates for Rick, and I understand that. And so you’re going to get testy.”

(Romney did acknowledge that a landscaping company he hired employed illegal immigrants, but he said he fired the company when he found out.)

Also notable: During an exchange of barbs, Romney at one point put his hand on Perry’s shoulder. Aggressive.

Looking Forward

There are 12 more Republican debates scheduled in the upcoming months (yes, really).

Most of the campaigns have not started running a full menu of TV ads. Once the field is culled (a factor of campaign dollars), the remaining contenders will have many more chances to rip their opponents on these and other issues.


Ron Paul’s Big Announcement: Big Cuts to Big Government

By Elizabeth Crum | 5:03 pm October 17th, 2011

America’s favorite libertarian Texas congressman is proposing nearly $4 trillion in cuts and a fully balanced budget during his first term as president.

Ron Paul addresses supporters and press at The Venetian

In what was hyped as a “major announcement”, Ron Paul today introduced a plan to slash the national deficit and abolish entire departments of the federal government. The thrust of the proposal is what Paul describes as “constitutionally-limited, smaller-government”.

Some highlights of Paul’s “Plan to Restore America“:

  • Cuts $902 billion in spending during the first year of the Paul presidency (compared to current spending levels)
  • Eliminates five federal departments:  Education, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Commerce, Interior
  • Lowers the corporate tax rate to 15 percent
  • Makes a 10 percent reduction in the federal workforce
  • Eliminates all U.S. foreign aid
  • Allows younger citizens to opt out of Social Security
  • Converts the federal Medicaid program and other social programs into block-grants distributed to states

“A lot of people will say, ‘Cutting a trillion dollars in one year? That sounds radical,’” Paul said to a crowd of approximately 240 (plus staffers) at The Venetian resort in Las Vegas. “I operate on the assumption that the radicals have been in charge way too long.”

Paul emphasized that his plan does not cut from veterans’ programs and defense. As in previous appearances, he drew distinctions between military spending on foreign wars and “true” defense spending to protect the U.S. homeland from attacks.

“The other candidates have not offered this,” Paul said of his plan. “I don’t believe they think it’s very serious. They think they can just tinker around the edges, but the American people are ready for some honest thinking and some honest reforms.”

When asked how he can win the hearts and minds of neo-conservatives and defense hawks who believe America’s present foreign military operations are worthy, Paul quipped, “Being a conservative used to mean not spending money.”

Paul went on to explain that he thinks there has been “a change” in the American outlook on the effort in Afghanistan and elsewhere due to the approximately four billion spent on foreign wars in the past decade.



Official Says Southern Nevada Could Be Economically Strangled Without Additional Water Supplies

By Sean Whaley | 3:25 pm September 26th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Not only could Las Vegas residents someday see water shortages without approval of an ambitious plan to pipe groundwater from rural Nevada, but investment in the region could dry up as well without a dependable supply of H2O, the head of the Southern Nevada Water Authority said today.

Pat Mulroy, general manager of the authority, said the plan to acquire unappropriated groundwater rights in rural Nevada to supplement Southern Nevada’s supply of Colorado River water is absolutely essential to the economic future of the region.

Southern Nevada needs to ensure it has a diverse supply of water for that time in the not-so-distant future when the states sharing the Colorado River basin fully use their allotments, she said. The river is over-appropriated and a prolonged drought could create a shortage in coming years, Mulroy said.

Pat Mulroy, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, testifies today at the agency's water rights hearing. / Photo: Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau.

Investors from around the world, from Asia to Dubai, won’t invest in Las Vegas without assurances that there will be water available in Southern Nevada well into the future, she said.

Mulroy made her comments as the first witness in what will be several weeks of hearings by the Nevada State Engineer on the request for the groundwater from several rural basins in the east-central region of the state. Closing arguments for the applications are scheduled for Nov. 18.

A number of groups are protesting the applications for nearly 186,000-acre-feet of groundwater per year being sought by the agency from the basins. This first set of hearings is to consider the agency’s request for 125,976-acre feet in Delamar, Dry Lake, Cave and Spring Valleys.

Simeon Herskovits, representing the Great Basin Water Network and a number of other groups protesting the applications, said in his opening statement that the methodology used by the water authority to show that the groundwater is available is “slanted” and “skewed” to justify the requests.

There are more cost-effective and reliable alternatives to building this massive pipeline project, he said. Additional water conservation is readily available to extend supplies, Herskovits said.

Simeon Herskovits, representing the Great Basin Water Network, listens to testimony at the water rights hearing today. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

“Granting the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s applications for the groundwater in these four valleys would create impermissible conflicts with other existing water rights both in the subject valleys themselves and in hydrologically connected valleys that will inevitably be impacted if these applications are granted and the pumping is allowed to go forward,” he said.

He was joined in an opening statement in opposition by Paul EchoHawk, an attorney representing affected Native American tribes, including the Goshutes and Shoshone.

In his opening statement, Paul Taggart, representing the water authority, said those opposing the applications do not have the law, facts or science on their side.

Vast amounts of evidence will show there is water in the basins that is not already appropriated, water that is needed in Southern Nevada for the nearly two million residents and 40 million visitors annually, he said.

“Backing up the Colorado River supply with this groundwater does not threaten to prove detrimental to the public interest,” Taggart said. “Without this water, an imminent threat is posed that Nevada’s residents will not have a resource that is essential for survival in the desert.”

While the applications are critical for long-term planning purposes, Mulroy said the water would not be tapped for many years if the applications are approved. Beyond the hearing process, construction of a pipeline to bring the water to Southern Nevada will take 10 to 15 years, she said.

The cost of the pipeline project is estimated at more than $7 billion, which would be paid for by Southern Nevada water customers.

Pat Mulroy, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

Mulroy said conservation is a key part of the agency’s strategy for ensuring adequate water supplies, including an ambitious turf removal program.

“It is a commitment on our part that conservation is the first thing we’re responsible for, and the most important thing for us to do is to reduce per capita consumption,” she said. “And to that extent we will continue to invest in removing turf.”


Audio clips:

Pat Mulroy, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, says conservation is a top priority for the agency:

092611Mulroy1 :18 in removing turf.”

Simeon Herskovits, representing the Great Basin Water Network and a number of other groups protesting the applications, says the water authority data is slanted and skewed:

092611Herskovits1 :12 in fact, available.”

Herskovits says rather than build an expensive pipeline, more could be done in water conservation:

092611Herskovits2 :24 justifying these applications.”

Herskovits says granting the applications will create conflicts with other existing water rights holders:

092611Herskovits3 :21 to go forward.”

Paul Taggart, representing the water authority, says that without approval of the applications, Southern Nevada residents are threatened with inadequate water supplies:

092611Taggart1 :15 in the desert.”



Former Chicago Broker Missing 32 Years Found, Arrested In Las Vegas

By Sean Whaley | 10:53 am July 22nd, 2011

A former Chicago commodities broker, missing for more than three decades and declared legally dead, was discovered working as a sports book writer in Las Vegas and arrested on false identity charges, the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles reported today.

Arthur Gerald Jones, 72, was arrested July 19 and booked into the Clark County Detention Center on four felony charges relating to identity theft and fraud. Bail was set at $20,000 following an initial appearance July 21.

Arthur Gerald Jones was arrested July 19 in Las Vegas after being reported missing for 32 years.

Jones has been living under the name of Joseph Richard Sandelli since about the time of his disappearance, the agency said in a news release. He has been working in a local sports book for the past 10 years, according to investigators from the Nevada DMV and the Social Security Administration.

Jones, who once held a seat on the Chicago Board of Trade, was reported missing from Highland Park, Illinois in 1979. The reasons for his disappearance were unclear at that time but labeled suspicious. Police and other sources believed he may have met with foul play due to gambling debts and possible organized crime affiliations.

An Illinois court declared Jones legally deceased in 1986, listing his date of death as May 11, 1979, the day he disappeared. Jones’ wife and three children collected Social Security benefits as a result.

Investigators say Jones claims he obtained a false Illinois driver license, birth certificate and Social Security card. He claims to have purchased the documents for $800 in Chicago in 1979 before going to Florida. Jones allegedly used those documents to obtain a Nevada driver license in 1988.

Jones’ arrest came about after an initial complaint regarding the fraudulent use of a Social Security number. A joint investigation by the Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General and the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles’ Compliance Enforcement Division turned up the false driver license under the name of Sandelli.

The Social Security Administration is continuing its investigation.

DMV spokesman Kevin Malone said Jones has since posted bail and been released. He was working at the Rampart Casino in Summerlin.

The criminal complaint filed against Jones shows he has at least one other alias and a criminal record.

“The Social Security Administration contacted the Nevada DMV to assist them in investigating the misuse of a social security number,” Malone said. “The Nevada DMV does have a sworn law enforcement division, the Compliance Enforcement Division, so we do have officers that can go out and arrest people, and we found that he did in fact, at least allegedly, have a false identity, so we arrested him on false identity charges.”

Malone said Jones faces serious charges.

“All four of them are felony charges that carry a minimum term in prison,” he said. “Nevada has some pretty tough laws on using other people’s identities or false identities. Just possessing a false birth certificate is a felony offense in this state, so he is facing four felonies and they are pretty serious charges.”

Audio clips:

DMV spokesman Kevin Malone said the agency was asked to investigate Jones by the Social Security Administration:

072211Malone1 :24 false identity charges.”

Malone says Jones faces four serious felony charges:

072211Malone2 :19 pretty serious charges.”


Nevadans Outline Stakes As Legislature Plans New Political Districts

By Andrew Doughman | 4:00 am April 3rd, 2011

CARSON CITY – The budget is not the only thing legislators are cutting this session.

Far from the budget tug-o-war that snags newspaper headlines, legislators this session must kingmaker carve the boundaries of congressional, senate and assembly districts that will remain for the next ten years, or the next five budget cycles.

Along the way, legislators have culled public opinion through several hours of hearings throughout the state. The overarching message from the people of Fallon, Reno, Carson City and Las Vegas is this: align communities with political districts.

In Las Vegas, representatives from several community groups stressed the need to keep the city’s various minority groups together.

The mayor of Mesquite submitted a letter asking legislators to unite Mesquite in one district. The city is currently split into different districts.

Several residents of Fallon asked legislators to preserve the rural flavor of their current districts. They asked legislators not to draw districts that would leave rural counties subsumed beneath larger voter majorities in Clark and Washoe counties.

“Where do we end up as far as the rural counties are concerned? Is most of our representation going to Washoe County?” asked Bob Johnston of Fallon.

One Person, One Vote

Johnston’s concerns arise from a shrinking rural population.

Nevada was the fastest-growing state in the nation during the past 10 years. The population hit 2.7 million, enough to give Nevada another Congressional seat.

Since much of the growth occurred in Clark County – almost three of every four Nevadans now live in Clark County – Northern Nevada stands to lose one state Senate seat to the south, as well as one or two Assembly seats.

Clark County already boasts 14 of the 21 total Senate seats and 29 of 42 total Assembly seats.

These calculations set the size for a district.

Rules For Redistricting

After that, a variety of U.S. Supreme Court decisions and federal laws also govern how the Legislature must draw its districts.

For instance, legislators must make districts as contiguous and compact as possible while also preserving “communities of interest.

These are communities that would benefit from having a reasonable chance to elect a representative who understands their issues.

This could be a rural community whose legislator may know about water rights and ranching.

Or a community of interest could be a Hispanic neighborhood in Las Vegas that would benefit from having a legislator who understands challenges specific to Hispanics.

Generally, legislators want to avoid “cracking” these communities in two, or “packing” them into one small district.

There are, of course, also political factors like protecting incumbents and drawing districts with certain candidates in mind. Testifying in Las Vegas, Ellen Spiegel, a former legislator, asked for the preservation of districts that have elected female legislators. Andrew Murphy, representing the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, noted that no district currently elects an Asian.

This combination of mathematics, geography, law and politics is enough to make anybody’s head spin.

“We hear words like ‘cracking, stacking and packing’ and understand that redistricting is a complicated process,” said Teresa Navarro, chairwoman of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, at a redistricting hearing in Reno.

Legislators have finished gathering public opinion about the districts. Now they will retreat to the Legislature, where they will draw maps at least partially based on the opinions they gathered in the field.

That is the idea, anyway.

Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, said that the Legislature will hold some type of hearing after they release their maps.

In the cynic’s corner, others are unsure.

“Does it really matter?” asked Charlene Bybee at the Reno hearing. “Or is it something that you do because you have to and it is more of a show that you’re not going to consider sincerely when you’re making your decision?”









Thousands Expected Today For Huge Rally For Revenue At Legislature

By Andrew Doughman | 12:01 am March 21st, 2011

CARSON CITY – In what could be the largest rally ever held at the Legislature, more than 1,000 students, parents, teachers and activists are expected today to protest education budget cuts.

Hundreds from Las Vegas have hopped aboard a convoy of buses to join their northern counterparts in making a call for more revenue – read: tax increases – to bridge Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed $160 million cuts to the higher education budget.

Organizers say they hope their rally will spark a shift in the debate at the Legislature, where lawmakers have yet to advance any public plans for new revenue.

“I hope these politicians will change their tone,” said Michael Flores, an organizer for Progress Now Nevada. “In Carson, there’s a different atmosphere. They beat around the bush a lot …people feel that, you know what, we have got to get on the ball with this.”

Casey Stiteler, who coordinates the UNR student body’s governmental affairs said the key message is mitigating both cuts and tuition increases.

“We understand very much that a number of important, vital services are being cut as well, but we want to make sure our concerns are being taken in account as these decisions are being made,” Stiteler said.

University presidents have already drafted tentative plans for tuition increases between 10 and 15 percent. They may use a combination of tuition increases, faculty and staff pay cuts, program cuts and reduced course offerings to balance their budgets.

Students have said before that this plan is unacceptable. If their numbers alone do not send that message, then at the very least the UNR pep band playing outside the Legislature should grab some ears.

And it is not just students from universities who are showing up.

Leo Murrieta of the Nevada Youth Coalition has recruited about 150 high school students. He has talked to hundreds of parents and obtained excused absences from school so that students can get a real-life civics lesson.

“The overall response was this is more important, this is something my kid should partake in,” said Murrieta, who has spent most of his recent evenings organizing the trip.

Rally Has Been Months In The Making

Sara Sinnett, a 19-year-old UNR student, texts students Sunday afternoon to remind them about the March 21 rally at the Legislature, which is expected to draw thousands.

All of these groups – K-12, higher education and progressive organizations – have not exactly had problems recruiting for the rally.

People are fed up.

Previous legislative town hall events have been packed with Nevadans upset about the governor’s proposed cuts.

So how, exactly, does that anger translate into action?

Student and community leaders have been planning the rally since January. They have made phone calls, spoke in classrooms and held events to spread the word. They even allotted student fees to rent buses; UNLV used $15,000 to rent buses for the overnight haul from Las Vegas to Carson City, an expense the UNLV College Republicans have called unnecessary and “wasteful.”

Sara Sinnett, a 19-year-old psychology major at the University of Nevada, Reno, spent hours Sunday afternoon sending reminders to students to get on the Carson City-bound buses come Monday morning.

While she has spent countless hours phone banking and speaking in front of her classes about the March 21 event, she said the old shoe-and-leather approach has not been the most effective.

“The best way we’ve found out to do this is Facebook,” she said. “We’ve also done things like text message campaigns.”

In Las Vegas, Flores has prepped for the rally for weeks. Much of his work has been through text messages and Facebook.

“A lot of people don’t pick up the newspaper anymore, so you put that [news story] on Facebook and that’s how people get fired up about this,” he said.

Whatever the medium, the message got out. But it did not happen overnight.

How much time does it take to coordinate hundreds of people statewide?

“Well, I don’t sleep anymore,” Flores said.








Allegations Of Gerrymandering Fly As Legislators Address Redistricting

By Andrew Doughman | 10:50 am March 16th, 2011
CARSON CITY – When it comes to redistricting this year, the line from the Assembly Republicans goes like this: the “fair” process is unfair.

They say the process resulted in gerrymandering in 2001, when the boundaries of political districts were last redrawn.

“It was gerrymandered to death,” said Assemblyman Mark Sherwood, R-Henderson.

Assembly Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea started a sentence like this: “Clearly, the way it was gerrymandered in 2001…”

The Assembly Republicans have data from the most recent election that they say shows that the current districts are unfair.

More Nevadans voted for Republicans than Democrats in the state’s 42 Assembly races last year.

But Democrats won 26 races to the Republicans’ 16.

Furthermore, Republican candidates earned more total votes than Democratic candidates during the past decade’s Assembly races.

But Republicans won fewer seats.

When electing representatives to the Assembly for the 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011 sessions, Democrats won 130 elections while Republicans won 80. Click to enlarge. (Legislative Counsel Bureau)

The past decade has produced a 3-2 Democratic advantage in the Assembly.

After the 2010 election, Victor Joecks of the Nevada Policy Research Institute wrote that the current Assembly districts are unfair.

Among other things, he noted that the largest Republican-controlled district has more voters than the eight smallest Democratic-controlled districts combined.

But Democratic Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, who is leading the Assembly’s redistricting committee, shrugged off the claims.

“If you don’t have anything else to argue, argue it,” he said. “Districts have to be equal population. You’re not going to have equal votes.”

“Common sense is wrong.”

Legislators drew all 42 Assembly districts with almost equal populations in 2001.

Every 10 years, legislators redraw the political districts based on the most recent Census data. They put equal numbers of people in each district.

It is people, not voters that define “fair.”

Lorne Malkiewich, director of the Legislative Counsel Bureau, employs experts to help legislators edit the boundaries of districts.

He said legislators are mandated to draw districts of equal population. The voter population in each district may differ, sometimes markedly.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has already said he wants the Legislature to draft a plan based on equal district populations or he will veto the plan.

“What is counted and what is important is the number of people, not the number of votes cast,” said professor William Eubank of the UNR political science department.

Two districts might have equal populations, but several factors affect voters numbers in each district. Some people cannot vote: children, teens under the age of 18, prisoners and some immigrants. Other demographic factors also predict whether an eligible voter actually will vote.

So what about that 3-2 split in the Assembly when Republican candidates got more votes?

“It’s one of those things that common sense tells you is wrong,” Eubank said. “But common sense is wrong.”

The Growth Problem

Even so, populations grow or shrink, leaving once-equal districts warped.

Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Minden,  is part of the bi-partisan group “Fair Vote.”

He said the current system is not “fair.”

“I don’t believe the last reapportionment was fair to both parties,” he said. “We did not take into account, which I think we’re obligated to do, growth.”

Take Assembly Districts 13 and 22 for example. Republicans dominate both districts. When they were drawn in 2001, they comprised the outlying areas of Las Vegas.

Assembly Districts 13 and 22, at left and along the bottom of this image, are among the largest in the state because they absorbed population growth in Clark County between 2000 and 2010. (Nevada Legislature)

Now there are more than 220,000 people in each. Another Clark County district, Assembly District 11, contains 42,000 people. Based on the 2010 Census, a district should have 65,000 people.

So it’s a Goldilocks problem. After 10 years of population change, no district is “just right.” Most are either too big or too small.

Republican legislators point to these districts as proof of gerrymandering, suggesting that in 2001, Democrats schemed to lock urban growth in a few Republican-leaning districts. This would restrain Republicans from gaining more seats.

Making the districts equal by population could still help Republicans in urban districts because it would spread out Republican voters currently in those two massive districts.

“If we get districts balanced with people, then the votes will follow,” Goicoechea said. “We’re going to get 65,000 people in each Assembly district and call it good.”

If only it were so simple.

Recession Leading To Exodus Of University Faculty

By Andrew Doughman | 10:14 am February 23rd, 2011

Professor Michael Young began to think last year that he should look for a job outside of Nevada.

It was not the craziest thought; the recession was in full swing and legislators were slashing the higher education budget.

Young was a departmental director at the Desert Research Institute. Now he’s an associate director at the University of Texas, Austin.

During the recession, Nevada has had a difficult time keeping research professors like Young.

The best students already seem to be leaving for out-of-state colleges. The same thing seems to be happening with faculty.

“It turns out, ironically, that the state of Texas has big economic problems as well,” Young said in a phone interview. “But there’s a very fundamentally different level of understanding in terms of what the university does for the economy and for the future of the state [in Texas]. You don’t really hear that a lot in Nevada.”

What you do hear is the president of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas telling faculty that the university may go bankrupt. You hear Gov. Brian Sandoval proposing a $163 million cut to the state’s universities and colleges.

At the same time, Nevada’s public figures have championed economic diversification through hiring innovative faculty, providing start-up funds and building a research engine. These professors will presumably leverage millions in federal grants and build Reno or Las Vegas into high-tech research hubs where start-ups will provide manufacturing jobs.

It sounds great. One day we will talk of Silicon Valley, Seattle and Reno as the tech hubs of the West.

But then reality sets in.

“It’s hard to imagine a young faculty member … why would that person go to a university where 30 percent of its budget is being cut?” Young asked. “It’s not an incentive that a lot of young people would take.”

Young said he left Nevada for various reasons, among them the state’s fiscal woes.

Steven Wells, president of the DRI, said that the institution has lost 21 faculty since 2008.

“We’ve had people who have been here five to ten years suddenly leaving and our investment in them goes with them,” he said. “Michael Young is a prime example. I tried to do whatever I could to keep him.”

Wells said that researchers like Young aren’t tenured. They support themselves through grants they receive largely from the federal government.

But the DRI’s administrative costs do come from the state. The state must also attract graduate students to work under researchers like Young.

“These researchers within these institutes have to believe that there’s a future here and that the state is interested in bolstering the fledgling research infrastructure that we have,” said Jim Croce, director at the Nevada Institute for Renewable Energy Commercialization.

Data provided by the Nevada System of Higher Education showed that Young had brought about $3 million into Nevada via grants during the past two years. He’s just one of many professors at the DRI, UNLV and the University of Nevada, Reno who collectively brought in millions of dollars to the state and have since left.

Where’s the money?

The recession has left the state’s coffers running dry, the federal stimulus is running out and “new spending” are dirty words at the Legislature.

A Senate committee on economic development heard testimony this week from Croce, who talked about expanding his organization’s link between university research and the renewable energy sector.

Senators immediately wanted to know the cost.

“Does that mean investing general funds into the system so that they have the capacity in their budget to go out and recruit their researchers?” asked Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno.

Croce replied that yes, Nevada would be “literally buying” faculty to come to Nevada.

Sen. Ruben Kihuen, D-Las Vegas, followed by asking what the state would need to do.

“At a minimum we have to stop the bleeding and make sure we have a healthy NSHE base,” he said.

Higher ed needs “drastic reform”

Others argue that the higher education system already has enough money.

“You’re really good at coming and asking for money,” said Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, to Dan Klaich, NSHE chancellor, at a higher education hearing this week. “But what we need now is help and places where we can make reform. Drastic reform.”

Her comments echo those of the governor’s senior adviser, Dale Erquiaga.

“You’ve got to have money to spend money,” he said during a January press conference.

Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki said that the universities can help with economic development, even as their budgets shrink.

“It can be done today,” he said. “It’s about directing resources.”

He said that universities can help faculty gear their research toward commercialization.

Nonetheless, those same faculty have been and still are leaving.

“It’s not like you flip a light switch and you get your research back,” Young said. “To me that’s probably one of the saddest parts of the story. …When the economy is doing well, the state is going to continue to suffer through this because the research infrastructure is gone.”

Proposal Could Make It Easier To Carry Concealed Weapon

By Andrew Doughman | 10:58 am February 16th, 2011

CARSON CITY – A bill from Sens. James Settelmeyer and John Lee would ease regulations for carrying a concealed semi-automatic weapon.

Their proposal would allow gun owners to obtain a generic concealed-carrying permit rather than a specific permit for each gun. Advocates for the bill said the current law’s requirements are like having to get separate driver’s licenses for every make and model of car you own.

“You do not have to qualify on your driver’s license for a stick shift and an automatic; it is the vehicle you are driving,” Lee said.

The law currently states that Nevadans must show proficiency with each semi-automatic weapon to obtain a permit for that specific weapon.

The same law, however, allows a person to test with one revolver in order to obtain a permit allowing concealed carrying of all types of revolvers.

Settelmeyer and Lee, a Republican and a Democrat, would change the statute to make semi-automatics equal with revolvers: one permit, all guns.

Frank Adams, executive director for Nevada Sheriffs and Chiefs Association, also endorsed the proposal. He said the bill still keeps testing and training requirements to carry concealed weapons. It does, however, ease requirements for citizens and sheriffs alike.

“This would not only make it easier for our citizens … it would make the administration to that program considerably simpler for us at the sheriff’s office,” he said.

Senators at the Senate Judiciary committee before which the bill was heard questioned whether this would make government less accountable for public safety.

Adams said it would not.

“They [gun owners] go through the training and the qualifications and then they are issued a permit from the county sheriff to carry a weapon concealed,” he said.

Other gun dealers and certified trainers testified in support of the bill. They argued that the bill would not endanger either the gun owner or others by allowing owners to obtain one permit for all semi-automatics.

One gun owner, however, admitted he stood to profit from keeping the law the way it was.

“On the current bill we get to charge people for shooting 17 different automatics,” said Bob Irwin, owner of The Gun Store in Las Vegas.

Nonetheless, Irwin said, if a person qualifies with one semi-automatic, that should be enough to qualify for all of them.

One person testified against the bill, saying the proposal would make Nevada less safe.

Las Vegas City Manager Says Management Not Subject to Same Hours and Pay Reduction, Forced Furloughs as City Workers

By Elizabeth Crum | 7:14 am October 28th, 2010

At least one City of Las Vegas union member is not too happy this week, evidenced by my receipt of a rather pointed email which had attached to it an email sent Tuesday to executive/salaried city employees by city manager Betsy Fretwell.

You may recall that recently the Las Vegas City Employee Association agreed to a 38 hour work week with a two hour reduction in pay. In addition, forced furloughs during Christmas week dictated that city employees cannot take leave in order to make up the loss in pay.

In the email below, the city manager appears to deliver to the executive staff the good news that city management will not be subject to the same two hour reduction in pay as hourly city employees. Fretwell also informs management they may use leave to cover the  holiday furlough days if they so choose.

Here is the first page of the email containing the information above:

LV City email to execs 10 26 10

State Lawmaker Plans To Continue Mission In 2011 To Combat Child Prostitution In Nevada

By Sean Whaley | 6:24 pm September 29th, 2010

CARSON CITY – State Assemblyman John Hambrick has requested four bills for the 2011 session to continue with his mission of eliminating child prostitution in Nevada.

Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, won unanimous support for a bill in 2009 providing for civil penalties of up to $500,000 against those convicted of human trafficking of minor children. Funds collected under the provisions of Assembly Bill 380 can be used to provide care to those minors exploited for sexual purposes.

Hambrick now wants to extend that effort next session by increasing sentences for those involved in such crimes, including those who purchase the sexual services of an underage child, and allowing victims to clear their criminal records under certain conditions so they can go on to productive lives.

“Human trafficking is one of those things our parents would not have discussed in ‘polite’ society,” Hambrick said. “But the time has come to open the windows. We – all of us – must wake up and realize that Las Vegas is the national capital for human trafficking. Men come to our community and ‘buy’ the bodies of girls, some as young as 11 years old. This battle has to be fought and won.”

Las Vegas was identified in 2009 by the FBI as one of 14 cities around the country with high rates of child prostitution. Additionally, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department handled 150 cases of child prostitution in 2008 alone.

Hambrick said he was made aware of the situation after retiring to Las Vegas and getting involved in politics. Hambrick said he was skeptical at first, but soon learned the truth of how severe the problem is in Southern Nevada.

“Las Vegas is leading the country in this horrendous crime,” he said.

Hambrick said he has yet to see results from AB380, which took effect Oct. 1, 2009, because the last major prosecution for this crime was handled by federal officials.

Hambrick said Judge William Voy, a juvenile court judge in Clark County, wants to establish safe houses for the victims of these crimes. The new law could have generated some funding for the project if the federal prosecution had been handled at the state level instead, he said.

The civil penalties may seem large, but those engaged in his human trafficking make vast amounts of money, he said.

In testimony in support of AB380 in 2009, Las Vegas Police Sgt. Victor Vigna said that in a recent case his unit handled, a panderer had $400,000 in cash in his house.

Going after the money is the only way to bring a halt to child prostitution, Hambrick said.

Hambrick saw strong support for his 2009 measure.

Lois Lee, founder and president of Children of the Night, a Los Angeles organization dedicated to helping child prostitution victims, testified in support: “A.B. 380 is an obvious step in the right direction to begin to address the plight of young people – women and girls – who are victimized by prostitution and have nowhere to turn for help.”

Lee said Hambrick’s new proposals have merit as well. The concern is whether they will be applied equally to all offenders by law enforcement. Such laws have frequently been used nationally to target specific groups including women, minorities and homosexuals, she said.

“I think the intent of his legislation is excellent,” Lee said. “My concern is will it be enforced in the spirit that the Assemblyman wrote it.”

Hambrick’s new measures would:

-          Clarify that the crime of involuntary servitude can also include subjecting another person to commercial sex acts (similar to human trafficking under federal law).

-          Increase criminal and civil penalties for pimps and buyers. It would allow for jail time for someone convicted of either crime to increase to seven years minimum and 20 years maximum. It would also increase fines to as high as $50,000.

-          Allow for staggered penalties for buyers. The younger the victim, the more time a buyer would be required to serve. It would allow for the possibility of a life sentence with parole eligibility after 10 years in prison.

-          Allow a victim to start with a clean slate by petitioning a court to vacate convictions if certain conditions are met.

Audio clips:

Assemblyman John Hambrick said he did not realize the magnitude of the problem:

092910Hambrick1 :30 this horrendous crime.”

Hambrick said one of his new proposals would give victims a fresh start:

092910Hambrick2 :11 would be gone.”

Lois Lee, founder and president of Children of the Night, says the intent is excellent but such laws must be enforced fairly:

092910Lee :09 Assemblyman wrote it.”