Posts Tagged ‘protest’

Record-Breaking Numbers Of Students Rally Against Budget Cuts At Legislature

By Andrew Doughman | 5:08 pm March 21st, 2011

CARSON CITY – The Capitol had a new vibe this morning: less gray hair, more noise.

In what some say was the largest student protest ever held at the Legislature, more than 1,000 students thronged the cold, snow-swept capitol grounds to protest Gov. Brian Sandoval’s $162 million proposed cuts to higher education.

So what motivates record-breaking numbers of students representing all of Nevada’s universities and community colleges to swarm the state house?

Students repeatedly said they are “fed up” with budget cuts.

They are angry enough that 800 of them rode in a 15-bus, overnight convoy from Las Vegas to Carson City to tell legislators and the governor how upset they are. Hundreds of others bused in from across the state.

Hundreds of college and university students swarmed the Legislature in Carson City, Nev., on Monday, March 21, 2011, during a rally protesting proposed budget cuts to higher education. Photo by Cathleen Allison

Here is what is troubling them: Universities could raise tuition 10 – 15 percent, lay off staff and faculty, eliminate programs and reduce course offerings to absorb Sandoval’s cuts.

News like that brought so many people to the people’s house that one student organizer called the scene “controlled chaos.”

At the Legislature, students packed the Assembly and Senate chambers, chanted “hey, hey, ho, ho, budget cuts have got to go” in the foyer, swarmed up and down stairs and crowded the hallways.

They thronged inside the Capitol building to demand an audience with the governor only to discover the governor was in a meeting. Later that afternoon, Sandoval shook hands and met with students.

One journalist Tweeted that a lobbyist grumbled about “disruptive” students. But students wanted to be heard.

“We’re almost being kicked when we’re down,” said Belen Figueroa, a University of Nevada, Reno freshman. “It hurts. When you’re kicked enough, you’re going to fight back, and this is people fighting back.”

Amelia Walsh, a 21-year-old junior at UNR, sat next to her 18-year-old friend Connie Anderson on a charter bus bound for Carson City. The two said they feared their institution was heading down the tubes.

“I was born here and my family is here, but if there’s nothing going for Nevada, why would I stay?” Walsh asked.

Anderson said she has watched Nevada’s leaders chop away at the budget since she was 13-years-old. As she progressed through high school, UNR became more expensive while offering fewer programs and services.

With that history and with Sandoval’s proposed cuts framing the debate, she did not hold out much hope.

“Even though this is the proposed plan, it’s basically the plan,” she said.

Walsh had a similar outlook. She said Nevada’s leaders do “whatever they want.”

“We’ve had rallies before,” she said. “We’ve had buses go down before. It’s important to show that we do care but I don’t know how much good it will do, unfortunately.”

Still, it was important enough for Walsh to board a Carson-bound bus on the first Monday after Spring break. This in an era of supposed youth apathy and ambivalence toward government.

Has something changed?

“This year the fear has been more tangible than I’ve ever seen it,” said Sebring Frehner, president of Nevada State College’s student government. “This year I’ve actually seen school officials trying to control their shaking when they’re being told about these cuts.”

Many more students seem to be realizing the budget cuts affect them personally.

Walsh said that she’s under financial strain. She receives the Millennium Scholarship and her parents chip in, but she also spent Spring break working at Home Depot, where she works between 32 and 40 hours per week.

Students told stories like Walsh’s to legislators during a morning committee hearing. But Figueroa, who was sitting in the audience, was not impressed. She said she was even a little bit offended when two legislators seemed to be swapping jokes during student testimony.

“I don’t think disappointed is the right word, but I feel hesitant of the success of the rally,” she said. “…It really wasn’t getting through to them.”

That does not mean students are down and out.

“This single day will absolutely not bring about change,” Freshner said. “However, this isn’t the end of what we’re doing. This is the beginning.”

 

 

State Employees Protest Lack Of Discussion On Tax Increases To Help Balance Budget

By Andrew Doughman | 5:26 pm February 14th, 2011

CARSON CITY – About 50 state employees gathered in front of the Legislative Building today to call on Gov. Brian Sandoval to participate in a discussion about potential tax increases to help fund the state budget.

With the wind blowing at a steady clip, Vishnu Subramaniam, AFSCME Local 4041, chief of staff, said: “This is a great analogy of what’s going on in the state. They’re trying to blow us away while we’re providing services.

“We need a broad-based corporate tax,” he said. “We need to be having a talk about revenues. The talk of cuts is a red herring.”

Subramaniam said by not having a revenue debate, the state budget under review in the 2011 legislative session is focused on only one side of the equation: budget reductions.

Sandoval has rejected any proposals to increase taxes or fees to help balance the budget. He has submitted a $5.8 billion general fund budget that he says does not include any new tax or fee increases.

John Kinney, a custodial maintenance worker at Western Nevada College, held a sign that said: “Sloppy thinking equals quick fixes! Gov: you can do better!”

“I’d like them to take away the 5 percent cut and give us our furloughs back,” he said. “We’re getting cut more than anyone else. We’ve had furloughs for the last three years.

“I rented out my house because it was almost foreclosed on,” Kinney said. “If I wouldn’t have rented it out, I would’ve lost it.”

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, spoke to the assembled group, saying the cuts proposed in Sandoval’s budget need to be given a human face to show how they affect nurses, social workers and the community as a whole.

Tough cuts are needed but, “we can’t dismantle Nevada,” he said. “We need to put Nevadan’s back to work.”

Asked to comment on the gathering, Dale Erquiaga, senior adviser to Sandoval, said the 5 percent pay cut being proposed for state workers is only slightly larger than the 4.6 percent reduction in place now. While state employees are also getting unpaid days off in exchange for the reductions, a practice that would be eliminated in Sandoval’s proposed budget, state government is a service industry and the needs of the public have to be considered, he said.

Erquiaga also noted that Sandoval is seeking the same 5 percent cut for public school teachers and university faculty as part of his “shared sacrifice,” although it will be up to school district boards and the Board of Regents to decide whether to implement such reductions.

“You can’t ask state employees to carry it all and have university faculty take none,” he said. “I think the state employees would agree with that.”

Erquiaga said there is no reason the Legislature can’t have a discussion of new taxes or revenues, but that lawmakers should do so early on in the session and in a public forum so the public can participate.

Not in the last hour of the session in the dead of night, he added.

Sandoval would not be opposed to a discussion with lawmakers about putting a tax increase before the voters, Erquiaga said. It would depend on the details: what type of tax increase, who would vote, and how long it would last,” he said.

“He has never said he would prohibit the public from voting on taxes,” Erquiaga said.

Capital Bureau Chief Sean Whaley contributed to this report.

Audio clips:

Sandoval Senior Adviser Dale Erquiaga says state government is a customer service industry:

021411Erquiaga1 :09 for them first.”

Erquiaga says Sandoval is seeking the same 5 percent salary cut for teachers and university faculty:

021411Erquiaga2 :07 agree with that.”

Erquiaga says Sandoval will not change his position against new taxes or fees:

021411Erquiaga3 :17 they don’t know.”

Searchlight: The (mini) Sequel? (Updated!)

By Elizabeth Crum | 11:38 am March 29th, 2010

I’m told the Nugget casino in Searchlight is hosting a rally next Monday for Harry Reid’s “coming out” re: running for another Senate term.

A Searchlight source tells me many locals opposed to Reid’s re-election are organizing and plan to picket the event.

Got a kick out of this comment from my source when I asked if there is really a sizable anti-Reid community in Searchlight:

“Well, Searchlight has two factions, much like the Hatfields and the McCoys…”

Will post updates here as I get ‘em.

Update (6:45 AM on 3/30/10): I’ve obtained a few post-rally comments from Diane Kendall, a Searchlight resident and one of the main local organizer-volunteers of Saturday’s big Tea Party event:

With the Tea Party of March 27th coming closer, people from all over the country were contacting me wanting information so they could attend. I knew there would be a large crowd, but I am still amazed at the number of patriotic Americans who chose to attend this event. I have never met such a large group of people who were so well-mannered and proud to be an American. It gave me hope that we CAN make a difference.

I have heard on the mainstream media how the Tea Party Americans cause ruckus and incite violence, but that is not the case at all. I never heard any bad language, nor were there any signs of violence anytime during the event. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department did not have to respond to any calls during our event. I am also extremely proud that everyone left the property extremely clean.

And:

When I returned home after the Tea Party, I learned of a Harry Reid rally held next door to the Searchlight Nugget Casino. I was extremely upset to learn that at least one of the people who attended this rally threw eggs  at the passersby, the Tea Party Express Buses. They stopped traffic, and Metro was called to disperse the crowd. They also defaced a billboard in the center of town. This is what I call RUDE and an insult to my community.

I found two videos re: the egg throwing:  here (eggs being thrown and Andrew Breitbart “interacting” with Reid supporters) and here (two buses and bus drivers talking about what happened after the fact).

And here, per Diane, is the info for Monday’s Reid protest:

I would like to invite you to join me and my friends to a protest against Harry Reid on Monday, April 5th at 8:30 AM. The Searchlight Nugget Casino is having a rally to jump start his bus tour. I would like to see everyone stand tall, walk on the sidewalk, cause no disturbance and carry their signs. I believe it is important that we show the Harry Reid supporters that we are patriotic Americans who are respectful and will stand tall in our beliefs. The Tea Party Americans do not incite violence as the media portrays.

Sounds like both Reid supporters and opposers alike will be at the Nugget that morning, so if you have not had your fill of rallies and protests you can pick your side and show up.

For the record, Harry Reid was extremely gracious in his comments about the Searchlight rally on Saturday, including saying the Tea Party peeps were “welcome” and, “That is what is great about America.”  Of course, his campaign did use the event for fundraising fodder yesterday — but that is to be expected:

This weekend Sarah Palin and the Tea Party came to Searchlight and held a rally. You might have seen it on the news. I wasn’t there, but I’m told there were speeches, some signage featuring questionable assertions, and a lot of calling Democrats “socialists.” I guess it’s better not to let the facts get in the way of a good rally sign.

CLICK HERE AND HELP ME FIGHT FOR THE VALUES WE SHARE TODAY!

I double checked the definition of ‘socialism,’ and it’s defined as a political philosophy that advocates for government ownership of private industry. Absolutely needless to say, not a view I agree with in the least. My first thought was that we could hold a fundraising drive to buy dictionaries for all these folks and mail them out lickity split. But my campaign manager rightly pointed out that with the first quarter coming to an end, we should raise money for the campaign in dictionary-sized increments instead.

Calling me a ‘socialist’ has as much basis in fact as calling health reform a ‘government takeover’ — none at all. I’m making light of this nonsense today, but these attacks reveal a troubling reality. These folks are standing in strong opposition to progress for our economy at a time when Nevadans are struggling to make ends meet. If you agree that passing health insurance reform was a great thing for our country, and that passing two bipartisan jobs bills in the last two months was a good start, then I’m asking you to invest in my campaign today.

I’m dedicated to fighting for the values we share in the U.S. Senate. With your help, I’ll continue doing just that in years to come. President Obama, Speaker Pelosi and I have a lot to do — and we can’t produce the change we know we need without your help. Thanks so much for your support,

-Harry

San Fran Liberals to Protest Outside Harry Reid Fundraiser

By Elizabeth Crum | 3:39 pm February 12th, 2010

So says Joe Garofoli at the San Francisco Chronicle politics blog today:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is facing some serious re-election trouble in Nevada this year, with everybody from the Tea Party to the RNC targeting him for a takedown.

So what do Dems do when they’re in trouble? They come to the warm bosom and 24/7 ATM that is California’s liberal coast. First stop for Harry: A Monday night soiree ($2,400 a pop suggested) at the home of George and Judy Marcus. On Tuesday morning, Reid’s pockets will be stuffed at an 8 a.m. fundraiser at the Fairmont Hotel thrown by Joseph Alioto (son of the former SF mayor). (H/t to the Sunlight Foundation for the par-tay tip.)

The Senator best be careful because that bosom may be colder than a witch’s. Looks like the progressive activists from San Francisco’s CREDO Mobile are doing a Facebook shout-out to see what message Reid should hear from progressives who will be waiting to greet him here.

Garofoli’s post includes examples of some not-very-nice sign suggestions from the CREDO FB page (go read them if you wish) and then adds:

Welcome to San Francisco, Senator.

But don’t feel too bad for the Maj Leader. In this election cycle he has raised almost as much in California as he has in his home state, according to our pals at the Center for Responsive Politics, (h/t California Watch).

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.