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List, lust and political roulette
by Andrew Barbano
May 03, 2008 | 893 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
'Pyramid Highway' by Woodrow
'Pyramid Highway' by Woodrow
Gov. Jim the Dim continues to embarrass himself and the state with gaffes and gouges large and small.

I was irritated a couple of weeks ago when he sent out a press release taking credit for an increase in the minimum wage, which he never supported. It was enacted by the voters after a strong petition campaign from organized labor. Perhaps Gov. Gibbons thought it proper political one-upmanship to take credit for something his enemies had done.

The model for the Gibbons administration is the single term of fellow Republican Robert List (1979-83).

List was installed by the gambling-industrial complex as a weakling likely to keep their taxes low. He did not disappoint.

In 1980, List led the fight against Question 6, Nevada’s version of California’s property-tax busting, school-destroying Jarvis-Gann initiative, which became Proposition 13. List never said how he would “fix” the property tax system if Q-6 failed at the polls.

His answer: The infamous 1981 “tax shift” known to this day as the “tax shaft.”

List replaced the lost property tax revenue by hiking the worst tax of all: the sales tax, which hurts low-income people and is very sensitive to economic tides. List pimped the idea that it would be paid by tourists, but visitors only pay about one in every four sales tax dollars. That number still holds true today. Nevada residents pay the lion’s share.

List crippled state revenues just in time for the Ronald Reagan-Paul Volcker 1981-82 recession. Like other conservative governors, such as Republican Kenny Guinn and Democrat Bob Miller, List balanced the state budget on the backs of the physically and mentally disabled.

At a time of skyrocketing utility rates, List opposed consumer activist Randolph Townsend’s initiative petition to establish Nevada’s first consumer advocate office, pushing for a much weaker idea. A stronger version of Townsend’s initiative was implemented by the 1981 Legislature. I lobbied for it.

Come election time, List had nothing left and Las Vegas State Sen. Richard Bryan easily defeated him. List has since gone to work for the nuclear power lobby hustling the Yucca Mountain dump site.

Like Gibbons, List was engulfed in allegations of philandering. He and his wife divorced a few years after leaving office.

Kathy List and Dawn Gibbons share a common trait: popularity with the public and the respect of those who know them.

Jim Gibbons will be a one-term governor.

Comeback Kid

The Democrat Gibbons defeated two years ago announced her candidacy for Congress last week. State Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Gomorrah South, will oppose three-term Republican Congresscritter Jon Porter for the western Clark County seat.

She is getting out while the getting’s good. Sen. Bob Beers, D-Las Vegas, the most vulnerable GOP upper house incumbent, disgraced himself at the recent state party convention in Reno and is thus looking more beatable all the time. Should he lose his bid for re-election, Democrats will control the senate for the first time in more than a decade. However, the odds-on betting is that Sen. Steven Horsford, D-North Las Vegas, will win the internal fight to become the new majority leader, rather than Titus.

Her run for Congress will be fraught with peril. Although she has money and name identification, she is going against the Barbano four-year rule. The hills are littered with the bones of candidates who ran too soon for a lesser office after enduring a high-profile defeat. Harry Reid’s 1975 run for Las Vegas mayor after losing a narrow 1974 U.S. Senate race to Republican Paul Laxalt is the best of many examples.

It takes four years for the dust to settle. The only exception to the rule who comes to mind is Pete Sferrazza, who won new terms as Reno mayor after losing bids for Congress and State Controller. However, he ran as an incumbent — a luxury Titus won’t enjoy.

Rural roulette

Like Beers, North Valleys Republican Mike Weber didn’t do himself any good at the GOP convention. The husband of Clark County Commissioner Bonnie Weber is reportedly eyeing another run at Assemblyman John Marvel’s seat. The heavily gerrymandered district runs from eastern Sparks well into rural Nevada. Marvel lives in Battle Mountain and may face both Weber and investment counselor Glenn Dawson in the GOP primary. Dawson has reportedly raised a substantial amount of early money. The district’s heavy Republican voter registration edge, gerrymandered to perpetuate Marvel’s tenure, makes it hard for any Democrat to prevail in the general election, so the GOP primary will once again be the ball game.

Term limt roulette

Conflicting legal opinions abound as to who is stuck by the state’s cockamamie term limit law. Passed by a 1996 initiative pushed by my old Republican friend Sig Rogich, the restrictions kick in this year. Some officeholders believe legal advice that the date of swearing in after the 1996 election is key. I dunno.

State lawmakers elected on the night the initiative passed didn’t have their clocks begin ticking until their next time at the polls in 1998 or Y2K, which is why State Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, can run this year. Expect a serious legal challenge that may well leave more than a few retiring incumbents grinding their collective teeth over a misinterpretation of the law.

Richter Scale roulette

Last week, I talked to a former northwest Reno community activist who relocated to Gomorrah South. He fought against rezoning the area now known as Somersett.

“I thought it should remain undeveloped rural land,” he noted. When Reno City Hall did the predictable thing, he sold his house near McQueen High and got out of Dodge well before the area started emulating San Francisco.


A couple of weeks ago, I stated that “beginning under the unlamented Jimmy Carter and continuing under his Democrat and Republican successors, the feds have cooked the books, cutting the official inflation rate by half or more.”

I have re-read Kevin Phillips’ cover story from the current edition of Harper’s magazine, which leaves the actual start a bit cloudy. The closest Phillips comes to a definite date is 1983, during Ronald the Vague’s first term. My apologies to President Carter.

I have purchased a copy of Phillips’ new book, “Bad Money,” which goes into the issue in more depth and will follow up after I’ve read it.

Be well. Raise hell.

Andrew Barbano is a 39-year Nevadan and editor of E-mail Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.
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