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Reno Council Race–Issues to watch

reno-city-hallThere’s a primary election on June 12, and if you live in Reno and you vote, there will be a lot of choices on there, depending on what part of town you live in.  Wards 1, 3, and 5 all have a gaggle of candidates running, plus there is an at-large seat.  The City Council is a nonpartisan body, so the top two vote-getters for each seat will advance to the general election, where under current rules, each candidate will have to get a majority of citywide votes to win (which doesn’t make sense, and could change in time for the next election)

There are a lot of candidates running in this race – 27 in total.  Some of the candidates are very serious, with professional websites, big signs all over town, name recognition and all that.  Some of the candidates have put out only their resume.  Some just have their name on the list.  A few have put up their own websites with that 1997 look.  But there is one thing that matters in this race, as much as personality or name recognition or funding, and that is the issues.

The big thing about issues in a race like this is making sure that the issues the candidates are focused on are issues that they can do something about in the office they’re seeking.  A good example is education.  Since the school district is at the county level, and the university is at the state level, and the city isn’t exactly rolling in the dough these days, there’s not much the city council can do to improve the quality of education in the area.

On the other hand, the city isn’t exactly rolling in the dough these days.  What does the candidate plan to do about that?  Where are they on basic things like sidewalks, parks, and neighborhood identity?  The relationship between Reno and Washoe County is notoriously toxic.  How do they feel about that?  The Truckee Meadows has three police departments, multiple fire departments and districts.  How do they feel about consolidation?

Patrick Smith sent questions to all the candidates and posted their answers on his site.  Brian Duggan has put together a handy-dandy list of the candidates’ websites.  We’ll keep watching this race, and report on what we find.

Money in politics: Hussein Hussein Hussein, if we say it enough times…

Today’s NY Times has an article about some proposals that are being worked on by political strategists for a GOP super-PAC called “Ending the Spending (on anyone but the ultra-wealthy) Action Fund,” headed up by Joe Ricketts, described in the article as “the patriarch of the family that owns the Chicago Cubs.”

Negative campaigning is nothing new.  I for one am often glad I don’t have television.  The only “campaign commercials” I see are linked to from blogs.  There are a few little nuggets inside this article that are worth calling attention to, however.  Let’s skip around a little bit.

“Our plan is to do exactly what John McCain would not let us do: Show the world how Barack Obama’s opinions of America and the world were formed,” the proposal says.

John McCain, a leader with a backbone, some honor and decency in his character, refused to allow his political operatives to go too negative on Obama in 2008.  Interesting, since:

In the opening paragraphs of the proposal, the Republican strategists refer to Mr. McCain as “a crusty old politician who often seemed confused, burdened with a campaign just as confused.”

Ah, yes, character assassination.  The last refuge of those without character.

The strategists grappled with the quandary of running against Mr. Obama that other Republicans have cited this year: “How to inflame their questions on his character and competency, while allowing themselves to still somewhat ‘like’ the man becomes the challenge.”

‘Weedpass’ to take effect nationwide in Netherlands in 2013

If you’ve visited the Netherlands, you’re aware of the famous Dutch ‘coffeeshops’ where they do sell coffee, but they also sell marijuana in small amounts for personal use (the max they can sell you at one time is 5 grams.)

Starting in 2013, the privilege of entering the coffeeshops and partaking of the wares offered therein will be the exclusive province of Dutch citizens and legal residents.  So if you visited and enjoyed these coffeeshops and had hoped to one day do it again, the clock is ticking – you might want to go sooner rather than later.  Already, the border provinces of the Netherlands have instituted the system, called the ‘Wietpas,’ or in English, ‘Weedpass.’

You might be wondering why this is all happening, and I’ve done some research and thinking on the subject.  Here’s what seems to be going on.

First, comes the issue of ‘drug tourism.’  If you are an American and reading this, you probably aren’t thinking of the same ‘drug tourism’ as the Dutch, Belgians or Germans are thinking of.  For an American to visit the famous coffeeshops, basically means taking a trip to Amsterdam, and it is not cheap.  An American needs to come up with at least a thousand dollars for an excursion to Amsterdam, and in most cases much more than that.  But the Netherlands borders Belgium and Germany and in a more limited sense, England and France, and for these folks to visit the Netherlands, especially the Germans and Belgians, requires little more than a tank of gas.

There are two groups of victims here – one group of actual victims and another group of imaginary victims.  Let’s start with the first group of victims.

These victims are the Dutch who live in the towns bordering Belgium and Germany.  These Dutch people are more conservative (socially) than the Amsterdammers and they only get more conservative as a few weekends a month, Belgians and Germans come into their towns and ransack them, acquiring and using as much weed as they can while they are there and then carting the rest back home to last until the next trip over the border.  The Dutch are remarkably tolerant people, but at some point, even the most tolerant person will throw up their hands and say, “Enough is enough!”

The second class of ‘victims’ is the imaginary ones.  It’s necessary at this point to take a step back and compare the marijuana situation to prostitution (another area where the remarkably tolerant Dutch have been pulling back a bit lately.)  Outside of legalization, there are two ways legal systems deal with prostitution.  One way is to arrest prostitutes, treating them as criminals, and the other way is to go after pimps and johns, treating them as victimizers.  Trust me, I’m going somewhere with this.  The latter method is generally regarded as the more enlightened one.  Arresting prostitutes, the alleged victims in sex trafficking, only ruins their lives and does nothing to deal with the problem of demand for their services.

Outside of decriminalization of both the cultivation/distribution side and the consumption side of drugs, there are generally two approaches to prosecuting drug crime:  arrest the users, or go after the cultivators and dealers.  The logic is the same as in prostitution, really, only as a mirror image.  The users are the victims, so why arrest them and ruin their lives, when you can go after the victimizers, the cultivators and distributors of the substance?

Which leads to the point.  Belgium and Germany have both to a considerable extent decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use, but the cultivation and distribution of marijuana remains a crime.  If a drug user is a victim, and a drug dealer is a victimizer, and you live right next door to a drug dealer, then who is the victimizer?  That’s right, your neighbor.

Faced with this situation, the remarkably tolerant Dutch, who correctly see that in marijuana-related matters nobody is really a victim, have two choices:  keep their remarkably tolerant attitude for themselves, or bow to international political pressure and give it up entirely.  Belgium and Germany would do well to realize that the primary victimizer in marijuana matters is the state and its legal policy of prohibition and open up their own coffeeshops.

The Dutch are very pragmatic, nonetheless.  It is entirely possible that this move to restrict access to the coffeeshops will lead to an increase in black market drug activity precisely of the sort that the original policy of decriminalization and tolerance was designed to avert.  If that happens, it is not unthinkable that they will declare the weedpass idea a failure, and go back to the way things were.  Time will tell.

Illegal Marijuana Cultivation Straining Fish & Game Resources

Via RGJ:

Officials of the Nevada Department of Wildlife report a "tremendous increase" in illegal marijuana cultivation on public land in recent years, with much of the activity associated with violent Mexican drug cartels.

Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry has said he is open to the idea of sending the US military into Mexico to fight drug cartels:

“It may require our military in Mexico working in concert with them to kill these drug cartels and to keep them off of our border and to destroy their network,” Mr. Perry said during a campaign appearance here.

Meanwhile the activity that does happen north of the border, to supply a relatively innocuous substance to a market with no signs of decreasing demand, is increasingly impacting regular people not accustomed to dealing with armed criminals.  Back to the RGJ:

Such incidents by those recreating or working on public land are dangerous, with many growers likely to turn violent, Buonamici said.

"These people are not even in the mindset of dealing with someone who is armed and dangerous and may use deadly force," Buonamici said. "The stakes are pretty high for the folks involved in these grows."

Prohibition is not working.  Production, distribution and consumption of drugs will continue.  Criminal gangs will grow ever more violent.  They will seek to occupy whatever out of the way locations they can find to cultivate marijuana.  That could be the house next door, it could be the national forest down the highway a ways.  People will still want to smoke the stuff.

Rather than spend all the law enforcement resources trying to stop this kind of thing from happening, we should instead stop it from happening in the most logical way:  legalize the cultivation and distribution of marijuana.

Problem solved.

Today in Taiwanese Animation

The debt ceiling “negotiations” through the eyes of the Taiwanese animators:

Looks like they got it right.  Sweet!

More of the Same (for the Middle East, anyway) in Iraq

iraqHere in the US, we don’t hear much about Iraq anymore.  Not surprisingly.  US combat forces withdrew from Iraq in August of 2010 as promised. So should we care that the Iraqi government is now beating protesters in Iraq who have taken to the streets calling for an end to corruption and improvements in basic quality of life?

Maybe we should care.  47,000 American troops remain in Iraq, training military and security forces there.  The Obama administration got the US involved in a NATO air campaign in Libya to deal with a dictatorship there, called for the resignation of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and has recently admonished Syria for violence against protesters there.

So why is it that a country to which we supply direct material and military aid should be spared our attention?  Any news from Iraq is absent from the homepages of the major US news outlets as of this writing.

As mentioned in the Watertown Daily story linked above, some of our allies, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel, worry that if the US leaves Iraq in 2011, Iraq may be subject to more Iranian influence.  What about today?  What could be more Iranian than brutalizing people taking to the streets?

If the US remains silent on this issue, it would be far more expedient for all involved to bring those advisory forces home now, rather than look for ways to extend their term.  Otherwise, people in the US might have good cause to wonder what kind of values their government really stands for.

An Information Society

Information is so widely available to us, I’m pretty sure we take it for granted.  One could justifiably ask, is there such thing as too much information?  In the interim, yes, but this is due to the fact it’s possible some people, even whole countries aren’t used to having this much…stuff…available to us at such an alarming rate of freshness.  I know my mother often asks me questions in the realm of, “Why do we need to know all of this stuff?”   Well, some of it is because we choose to seek it.  We’ve created a world-wide database expressly for the curious.

So what happens when people suddenly have access to information that they didn’t have before?  Especially if the theocracy or government in power really didn’t realize how “good they had it,” by having a totalitarian grasp?  It’s no wonder China’s strong communist grip is relaxing so much, because they saw what happened to Russia, and while Russia was a timely event, there’s no way they could keep out information.  Stay relevant in the world, adapt, or die.  Or simply become a giant North Korea, and isolate yourself.  They know better.

Enter Egypt, and for that matter, the rest of the Middle East.  While the Saudi states have seen remarkable development and oil riches for decades, their neighbors largely have been under the thumb of one dictator or another, and one vision of their idea of how to rule land, their Allah, and people.  Needless to say, information has been a real catalyst in the protesting and government  upheaval in Egypt and potentially the rest of that area of the world.

It’s an explosive situation.

The rest of us have had cutting-edge technology, to our benefit and doom at times, at our fingertips for years.  In fact, about two whole generations of us haven’t known what it is like NOT to know, or at least have answers (especially those that develop opinions easily) at our fingertips.  Before that we were blessed with huge, public libraries and now have access to the entire world.

Information is dangerous to the powerful and powerful to the otherwise powerless.  What we choose to do with it as it comes is similar to riding a bike.  Some of us do what we can just to simply not fall off, while others can race down a mountainside at 70 MPH with nothing but a grin on our face.  Of course, like anything, information is a tool.  It can be used for purposes of unquestionable good and disturbing bad.

Though we’ve been through some tough times in the last ten years or so, it is pale in comparison to how some other nations have been living for a long time.  Cultural and government shifts in ideas have been hugely sped up by information infrastructure that’s been cheap to install and easy to acquire.  We simply have no idea what may happen in the hands of those not used to it and a world that is becoming more and more connected by the day.

Back at home, we watch with this same technology, relatively safe from their rocks, police, bullets and shouting.  This time, the revolution is not just televised, it’s Tweeted, Facebooked, streamed live and in 720p HD.  Every shard of glass, drop of blood and tear is magnified.  There’s a lot of people capitalizing on this, and that is to no surprise.  We’ve been consumers of televised real-life horror for a long time.

Beyond this macabre, popcorn-watching parade that’s made just for us, we in comparatively silly ways have begun our own unrest, pitting philosophy against philosophy, religion against labor, “them and us,”  right and left, and attempting to find ways to create a meaningful revolution.   People like revolutions, especially in times of stagnant uncertainty.  Even if they are ridiculous in comparison.

As someone who doesn’t rally or protest, I sit among a chin-stroking few that watch what is going on near and far, right and left, here and there, with friend and supposed enemy.  I can’t help but wonder what else information has gotten us, especially in our leagues ahead of what other people in other countries have considered.   We’re so spoiled yet so human, so short-sighted that we have left that age-old human trait, interpretation, to begin the first attempt at sorting of the “too much information,” problem.

Is it any wonder we’ve become at the throat of one another so efficiently, with no regard to sensibility or compromise?  Of course not.  We’re either too busy sifting through our next informational bombshell to lob, or we’re dodging one with more information no matter how minuscule in advantage , and our own revolution ramps up.  Where it will go will be interesting.

One thing is certain, the age of the totalitarian tyrant is over.  This is good.  Sadly, as the universe has its way, so do we.  For every action there is an opposite and equal reaction, vacuum and space is filled, and thus, another is created.  Any Utopian dreams of a human collective has been further complicated by sub-collectives of ideas, ideals and idealists.  Will we have the information to avoid them, or irrefutably join them?  Will it all come violently to an end or make way for a bright future?

It’s useless pondering, asking my logical human side to analyze, from the information that I’ve gathered, about what comes next.   I’m a coward for not throwing the first rock to some and a saint for peacefully thinking about it from afar.

52% of Polled Nevadans Prefer Tax Increases to Spending Cuts

Via Jon Ralston comes this news item:  The Retail Association of Nevada commissioned a poll (PDF) to find out the public’s opinion on tax increases vs. spending cuts and found that by a 52 – 37% margin, voters preferred raising their taxes to cutting spending.

82% of those polled think those tax increases should be temporary.

We’ve heard frequently (and it’s not hard to agree) that the problems Nevada is facing from a revenue standpoint are caused more by the economy being the way it is than they are by a problem with the way the tax system in the state is structured.  There is probably much truth to this.

There is also a commonly accepted notion, which is perhaps validated by experience, that tax increases will always be permanent.  It doesn’t have to be that way, if you subscribe to a theory of budgeting which doesn’t get a lot of play – in fact, I’m not sure if there’s a proper name for it – which could be illustrated by a very crude graph, such as the one shown here.

Force Visualizatoin of Taxation & Economic Performance

In an ideal world, the level of spending of government remains relatively constant, which is why it is represented by the horizontal line in the middle of this graph.

The blue line represents economic performance.  The red line represents taxation levels.  When economic performance is good, the level of production is high enough that tax revenues will be high based on the sheer volume of taxable transactions, with a lower rate of taxation.

In periods of low economic performance, taxation levels would go up.  While this graph is very crude, and it is hard to communicate subtleties in a graph so crude, the reason the center of the graph is the intersection of economic performance, taxation, and spending levels is this:  the more cutting happens at the government funding level, the worse off the overall economy will be.  There are two factors at play here:  1. as government workers, workers with good salaries, are laid off, the unemployment rate rises and the amount of money available to recirculate in the economy decreases and 2. as government services lose their funding, people on the margins who are more dependent on government services are pushed over the brink into ultimate instability.

Tax policy needs to take into account that levels of taxation should not remain perfectly constant because economic conditions do not remain perfectly constant.  It is also worth noting that even with this theory and the survey data I’m using to back up this theory, 56% of respondents believe that it is possible to make spending cuts to trim waste, fraud, and abuse.  It’s just logical that services and programs should use performance data to determine whether they are or are not working or needed. 

Performance measuring should be written in to the legislation that creates and enables programs.  A program which is intended to help those who have fallen on hard times should not necessarily grow or even remain constant during a good economy, when more people should be expected to be doing well.

We are faced with two dueling ideas today:  on one hand, maintain and grow a government that is in many ways inefficient due to entrenched and outmoded means of operation and do it on the backs of specific people and industries.  On the other hand, reduce and/or eliminate most of a government which actually provides infrastructure and services that people rely on and which can not be provided more efficiently by the private sector, by relentlessly insisting on reducing taxes.  These are false choices and the time is right to say so.  Tax increases should be on the table as well as new ideas for operating government services in a more efficient manner.

Mining Taxes: Pro-Nevada or Anti-Industry?

Gold In NevadaMy politics are irrelevant in an opinionated world, this much is true. The chances of me changing the mind of the masses, organizing some mass movement or “making a difference,” is better left to those who have the gumption, megalomania, or true heart and grit required. My only real purpose for bringing any of this up is for thought and discussion. I’d like it to not turn into an “us,” or “them,” discussion, because as I outlined in my article “Quick-Fix Politics: The War Against Politeness,” there’s enough battles occurring out there to suit-up and engage within.

I can tell you that I grew up in a “mining family,” my father a relatively well-known exploration geologist, and so I ended up exploring and falling in love with Nevada. I was being raised by money provided by mining companies, most of them not large producers, but small independent offices (which makes up for a number of start-up business in Nevada, I might add). Recently, because of the upsurge in precious metal prices, a lot of companies, smaller ones mind you, are gearing up to go out and look for gold-up-in-them-thar-hills. I likely will be learning a new trade and aspect of this business, because the time is right for it. The prices for metals are at an all-time high, and I believe many people could benefit from this state’s most important export. That’s right, mining. It produces something that dwindling casinos, warehouses and brothels can’t really sustain: A product.  A product used especially in electronics, every iPhone, Prius, laptop and flat-screen television.  Not always bullion, coins, rich-guy/gal bling and Goldschlager.

The purpose of this, and probably subsequent articles, is going to tackle what I believe is an industrial opportunity for Nevada. Unfortunately, there are those that also find this area profitable, if not via cash, possibly for ego.

I am an admitted capitalist. Even though it isn’t a political process, nor a government, I still like to vote that way every time as if it were. I like money, it’s a great tool to give anyone in the Western world the ability to have more choices. I do not dream of bathing in it, using it to light cigars or dangle it above poor people and watch them dance. In fact, it might surprise you to know I’m quite below the poverty level myself. I have not accepted the defeat suggested by some that I will never succeed. I feel I have made a life of destroying the expectations of negativity that people have placed on me. Much like one of my life-heroes Christopher Gardener, there’s a dream that comes from self-fulfillment that I believe in whole. Money and success isn’t just a lofty dream, it’s a path for something to do. I hate sitting idly by, I detest having nothing to do, and I gain a sense of pride from my work.  Work I’d like to be paid for!

I recently have been watching the initiative Bob Fulkerson, adjunct professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, and an organizer of a group entitled “The Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada,” (PLAN) has put forth, namely the Nevadans for Fair Mining Tax. Now, to me, the word “fair,” creates descriptive notions: there’s carnies and ring-toss games involved, or there’s a guy selling me a car in which the word has come before his name. In other words, I’m skeptical. Just the title makes me focus in a little more, because well, I like mining, and I like Nevada, and from what I understand from the Nevada Mining Association, things aren’t so bad. I’d love to see more revenue being generated for everyone, that includes more productivity, which of course,  equals more taxes paid, even if it’s being suggested 5% isn’t enough.

From what I’ve observed in Nevada’s very recent mining activity, there’s a lot of interest in the area again. Because the economic climate is still dire, there’s still no money.  Sure, gold is in a four-figure position, but you have to get it somehow, and that takes generating revenue.  Revenue that isn’t local, and isn’t being seen nationally.  As I’ve also seen, economically-speaking, America is one of the last ones to the table of recovery, and so a lot of foreign investors are taking an interest in many things here: not just mining. Deals can and will be made.

Fulkerson’s idea seems questionable. We want to put Nevada to work, even generate taxes, but who’s money are we supposed to take? No one wants to be “owned,” by someone other than their own (Americans, Nevadans) but there’s plenty of ways around that, like contracts, and ultimately, getting ourselves financially strong.  Not to mention, there’s been about six decades of foreign influence in so many aspects of life today, being “pure,” in any colloquial American sense is kind of done and over. It’s okay though, no other country is pure either, except maybe North Korea, and I’m not going to use them as an example of utopia any time soon.

Most of these foreign influences that are taking billions of dollars in profits from Nevada paid for much of Nevada, too. $6.1 billion total in 2008, according to the state Division of Minerals, roughly $3.3 billion in 2008 exported Nevada total precious metals according to US Census — gold mining produced $4.97 billion of the state total.  They didn’t just come in here and steal it. If by “foreign,” you mean Canada, sure, Canada is hugely interested in Nevada gold, primarily because the Canadian tax and stock market structure allows their companies to more easily raise high risk capital.  This is required for gold exploration and development, and Nevada gold mines have a strong track record of being large and quite profitable.  This is still money being invested, spent and taxed in our state.

Obstructions of opportunities are the thing I am concerned about, which makes me question the genuineness of Fulkerson’s play for his idea of Nevada and taxes. Fulkerson, from what I can find, has made a huge crusade not for Nevada, the desert or the people therein, but AGAINST mining. It would seem strange that someone so interested in generating revenue for Nevada would but years before, spearhead some of the largest environmental requirements upon Nevada mining, making it all but impossible to do business in Nevada. If you manage to have laws in place making it very difficult to get to the gold, of course 5% tax revenue caps put in place by current laws are going to look minute. Having an effect of reducing output yet raising the taxes seems backwards to me.

After the the new Governor Brian Sandoval gave the recent State of the State address, Fulkerson was quoted asking: “If lower taxes meant more jobs, why are we leading in unemployment?” (RGJ/AP, Chereb 1/23/11) It’s a valid, if not empty, question, given the assumption jobs were possibly prevented from being generated in the first place. Of course lower taxes do not instantly mean jobs. There’s a strict balance of managing incoming and outgoing monies that require sensible people to manage in order for there to be successes, from small to large. I cannot, for example, cut my cable bill (an unnecessary “house tax,”) and then switch to part-time work and expect to get ahead financially. The Las Vegas Review-Journal via Ed Vogel also quotes Fulkerson: “This is not enough to solve the state’s budget problems,” Fulkerson said. “The idea is to stop an unfair tax situation. Mining has had a privileged status in Nevada since statehood.” So I am likely under the idea that the idea really is to be against mining, and not necessarily for Nevada.

This isn’t to speak light of environmental practices. We should do our best to not ruin our world. Aesthetics aside, I’m okay with leaving a hole in the ground provided it isn’t killing everything around it, and reputable mining ventures, be them small or large, are already required by law to do their best. Frequently, regulations seem to get tighter all the time. To what end, either to benefit something we perceive as silly, such as a new weed fungus species, or something important like keeping the water supply in a desert clean, that is for us to decide. Sensibly, there must be a point where we have to think about where a balance of industry and life can coexist.

Ed Vogel in the Las Vegas Review Journal writes much of I see as notable points. Such as there’s a lot of tax re-structuring that would help Nevada. Also, if taxes suddenly become the root of Nevada’s economy rather than a product, gold can and will be found elsewhere, such as Utah, Alaska and even other nations. This wouldn’t help Nevada. Since Nevada’s number-one export (gold) is also its most important export, and one of the top producers of gold in the world, Nevada really needs to get its hands dirty again. I can personally say I’d love one of the countless jobs being generated by such an opportunity.  Speculated is somewhere around 14,000 jobs according to NMA’s Tim Crowley, but I think there could be many more beyond that.

Apparently a few petitions are going to be circulating in the coming months, as they have been for a while, touting the “Nevada’s Fair Mining Tax.” The first step, from what I understand, is to change the Nevada Constitution to reflect wording that will make taxes on mining revenue not only high, but unchanging no matter the price of gold, productivity or output. Which of course, would simply drive investors, producers, workers and the like out of the state if left unchecked. I suppose if you dislike mining in every aspect, would rather people not have jobs in a state with limited opportunities besides low-wage casino sheet-flipping, almost nonexistent construction growth and weak trucking/warehousing, sure, sign it. I’ll be passing that one by knowing there’s nothing “fair,” about this tax besides a moral grudge against an industry led by an obviously smart, well-worded man with a bone to pick.

Telling people “no,” shouldn’t be a business or a mantra unless critically necessary; it’s bad enough being woven into politics and policy almost on a whim. Economies and societies are founded based upon opportunities. We, as smart individuals, know the difference between right and wrong, but we’re also fascinated with technicalities, wording, good sales pitches and the thrill of being on a “political team.” In my vision, restrictions, be they unreasonable laws of the person or forcing a punishable operating cost, as I call “obstructionism,” will lead us into a decay at the worst, or leave us in perpetual non-growth at best. I think mining companies should pay taxes, in addition to the jobs, community donations and financial security of the state. How much is enough will only be legislative at this point, but I really don’t want it to change at all if it means they pick up and leave.

(photo courtesy www.goldinvestingnews.com)

State of the State

Governor Sandoval delivered the 2011 Nevada State of the State address Monday night in the Assembly chamber in Carson City.  The speech was quite something.  The governor proposed a considerable number of things, many of his budget proposals seeming almost magical.  The reorganization of economic development for the state was sweeping and the education proposals bound to be controversial.  Many of the proposed cuts were not quite as draconian as many might have feared, but it was far from rosy.

Governor Morden’s Budget of The Shadows
Note:  Governor Sandoval did not play Mr. Morden on Babylon 5 in the 90s.  But gosh, doesn’t he look like Mr. Morden?  Also, we like the good governor, so don’t get your panties in a bunch.

The governor talked a lot in his budget about restructuring the way Nevada spends money – not the way it raises it.  He quoted Bill Gates at one point while talking about education policy.  The governor tried to avoid associating his policies with any given political ideology – probably not a bad idea.  His suggestions for using government-directed activism developing new industries certainly sounded like new thinking – I would have put those at the beginning of the speech.

In that vein, it was good to hear a speech laden with optimism and ideas.  It was bad to hear about how much less money the state has to spend, and will be spending.  On the university budget, for example, the governor said there were cuts of 7% which were actually, he said, 16.6% unless the regents raise tuition.  There were other cuts to local support for health and human services programs.  Through this, however, the proposed budget preserves the Millennium Scholarship, a program which is controversial among hardline conservatives and few others.

Another notable quote in the speech was from Abraham Lincoln, who said:

The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.

Abraham Lincoln

Sandoval used that quote to frame the hard choices he claimed would be necessary to get through this crisis.  This was a speech vaguely reminiscent of Bob Miller’s speeches from the early 90s, during the recession then.  Miller also made a lot of cuts and some reorganizations.

One wonders how Nevada will fare in the coming biennium.  Will there be a special session in 2012?  There are many who claim the tax structure in the state is not set up right.  In partial response to that is an argument that the economy is primarily to blame for this crisis, and the tax system isn’t in need of much reorganization. 

At the end of the day, though, there is truth to the argument that putting people back to work is the best remedy for the current state of things.  If the unemployment rate doesn’t go down – if the economic development proposals bear no fruit – it’s hard to imagine how any argument can be made for more cuts to government services.  Nevada is in a compromising position.  Here’s hoping the state’s leaders can work together to help kick start an economic recovery.