Other newspapers in the state are mostly gentle in their criticism. But the weekly CityLife is the slasher newspapers ought to be. H.L. Mencken, the astute political critic of yesteryear, said: "The only way a reporter should look at politicians is down." CityLife looks down on pols.
The slasher in chief is editor Steve Sebelius. His weekly column is a must read for anyone interested in Nevada politics and public affairs. Sebelius, rightly denouncing "the doldrums of daily journalism," targets the injustices "committed against the voiceless, the powerless and oppressed." To him, telling the truth is not a job but "a calling."
• On Gov. Jim Gibbons: "His philosophy can be neatly and easily summed up on a bumper sticker: no new taxes." He has no insight, no leadership and no honesty because he refuses to admit that "this state has relied on a ridiculously infirm tax system for years." Meanwhile essential state services like higher education suffer an unconscionable $57.6 million budget cut.
• On state Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus. This supposed liberal voted yes last year on the racist bill to name English the official language of Nevada. The bill meant "a hell of a lot" more than the symbolism that she claimed. Titus should have denounced it as an official endorsement of racism.
After the Nevada State Education Association announced last fall an initiative to raise the gross gambling tax from 6.75 percent to 9.75 percent, a gambling honcho predictably called it outrageous and "would drive investment out of Nevada." The next day he announced that his company would build a $5 billion hotel-casino in Atlantic City, N.J. The New Jersey tax rate is 8 percent.
"So much for higher taxes discouraging investment," Sebelius wrote.
CityLife offers more than Sibelius. Columnist George Knapp denounces Nevada's corporate welfare: "Our elected officials have bent over backward to provide gigantic tax exemptions to hugely profitable companies operating in our state," breaks adding up to a "giveaway worth tens of millions of dollars to giant gambling companies."
Then there's columnist Hugh Jackson. He writes that Nevada's Harry Reid, U.S. Senate majority leader, uses "his lofty perch in Congress to deprive his state of tens of millions of dollars each year." Reid favors "the world's largest mining corporations," which is always in "full-squeal" about "onerous financial burdens," yet mining firm Newmont reported profits of $791 million in 2006.
More Jacksonisms: "Nevada is lousy with Republicans" … The national GOP is the "War Party" … On Gibbons: "the nation's worst governor"…"the nation's most offensive governor … steeped in secrecy and paranoia" … Gibbons "suggested that the Wall Street Journal was running stories about him because Democrats had bought off the paper. Which is to say he's flatout batshit crazy." (No major newspaper in America is more right-wing editorially than the Journal. It's editorials reek of the 14th century.)
Another star is CityLife columnist Randall Shelden. On the nation's phony drug war he writes: "End the war on drugs by treating drug abuse as a public health issue rather than a criminal justice issue. We have spent more than a trillion dollars in the past 25 years with negligible results. If this means treating drugs like cocaine, heroin and marijuana as we do tobacco and alcohol (with many restrictions, taxes and regulations), so be it."
Wanted: state income tax
Two things were obvious at the end of the last session of the Nevada Legislature: the need for a state income tax and for annual sessions.
Neither will ever happen for at least 100 years. Why? Nevada is so backward politically, ranking near the bottom of the 50 states in the things that matter.
Nevertheless, the necessity is great on both matters. Everybody wants essential state services but no one wants to pay for them. So we get nickel-and-diming while budget cuts are so often required because of revenue shortfalls.
As for annual sessions, Dennis Myers, news editor of the Reno News & Review, notes that the 120-day limit on biennial sessions means "maintenance legislatures, doing the business needed to keep things operating until the next Legislature meets."
Myers quotes state Sen. Steven Horsford of Clark County buttressing that point: "The pressure of time just doesn't allow lawmakers to undertake major proposals so they end up tinkering with the status quo."
Jake Highton teaches journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno.