The great German philosopher also said that we become what we despise. Under Dubya, this country has become the evil empire we once worked mightily to defeat.
Some people seek public office to do something, others to be something. Either way, they always think of themselves as protectors of the public good, often while doing the opposite.
Development interests have long controlled all three local governments and still do. With that as a given, the public every so often entertains the frail and oft-flouted hope that someone will occasionally throw some crumbs to the crowd in the streets.
Alas and alack, the emptiness in our innards will abide and our condition will be betrayed by our lean and hungry look.
The easiest way to address a problem is to ignore it. In our modern society, this means keep it off TV.
Local governments, cooperating fully with Charter Communications, have lately taken mighty steps to do just that.
As I noted last week, when I served on the founding board of Sierra Nevada Community Access Television (SNCAT) in 1990-91, Sacramento Access CEO Ron Cooper ventured over the hill to lecture us.
“The message of television is you are inadequate,” Cooper said. “If your face, your language, your color do not appear on TV, you are irrelevant.”
And so, dear readers, I herewith plead the case of one of the most irrelevant among us. Her name is Anita. She is 26, mildly mentally disabled, and lives about four feet from speeding E. Fourth Street traffic in one of Reno’s most Bladerunner weekly motels.
Anita is a regular viewer of my TV show, one of the few diversions in a very difficult life. I can hear cars and trucks rumble by when she calls.
Motel management supplies basic cable to her room. By calling my show, she was able to get a warm coat for winter and some decent food from another of my viewers, ironically also named Anita.
I gave Anita some leads as to where to apply for the job training she desperately wants to improve her difficult lot in life.
I plan to interview her and put her story on local TV, but after Dec. 15, thanks to the myopic Reno City Council and the morally obtuse Sparks City Council and Washoe County Commission, Anita won’t be able to get my show anymore.
Thanks to an illegal deal made with Charter by Reno Mayor Bob Cashell and three councilcritters last week, the area’s public, educational and governmental (PEG) community television channels will be moved to the higher-priced, lower-audience, hard-to-find digital tier. The reason: Charter wants more profit, up to $36 million a year using the company’s own figures from 2002, unadjusted for inflation.
Voting with Cashell were Vice Mayor Dave Aiazzi, who castigated SNCAT for not pimping his puerile solution to the public, and Dwight Dortch, who does whatever Cashell and Aiazzi do. (If they allowed proxy voting, he could be absent for the remainder of his term and not be missed. Councilman Dan Gustin recused himself because Charter is a long-time media client. This has not stopped my old friend Dan from doing Charter’s bidding before a vote in the past.)
The most shocking sellout was from the one person among all three local governments who usually sides with the Anitas of the world. Councilmember Jessica Sferrazza provided the deciding vote to kill community TV. If you want to view her lame justifications or Mr. Aiazzi’s typical bile, go to the Web edition of this column at Barbwire.US.
Pierre Hascheff, the council’s senior member, and Sharon Zadra voted against the execution to no avail. My thanks and everlasting gratitude to them.
If you sell cheap, you are cheap. So advised an old used car salesman of my acquaintance.
In exchange for giving Charter all that new profit potential, Reno gets control of one combined analog tier channel for 10 weeks. The Black Tower will now control what Sparks and the county get to broadcast to all viewers.
On March 1, about 20 percent of cable ratepayers will not be able to see their government in action. And Anita will have one less place to call for help. She can’t even take advantage of Charter’s phony offer to provide a free digital converter box because that’s the decision of motel management.
Would you allow Charter to provide digital boxes to your motel or apartment complex knowing that it will cost you $5 per unit starting in a year? For one low-income senior complex, that’s an additional $13,000 annually.
Can you say bait and switch? But that’s the deal with the devil Reno made.
The first line of defense is U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who fought and stopped telecommunications deregulation in 2005. Reid is thus hailed as a hero by consumer advocates nationwide.
His local staff recommends sending him letters and postcards via U.S. Mail. (Just like in school, congresscritters grade by weight.)
Ask Sen. Reid to fight for the consumer position:
1. This result was never part of 2007 legislative intent in passing the statewide franchise law.
2. Public, educational and government access TV should remain on the readily available analog tier until all programming is moved to digital in either 2010 or 2013.
3. Go to court with local ratepayers to stop the channel switch until the 2009 Legislature can change the law.
Sen. Harry Reid
400 S. Virginia St, Suite 902
Reno, NV 89501
Please consider joining ReSurge.TV as we gear up for the next round of this fight.
Be well. Raise hell.
Andrew Barbano is a 40-year Nevadan, political action chair of the Reno-Sparks NAACP and editor of NevadaLabor.com. He hosts live news and talk (682-4144) Monday through Friday, 2 to 4 p.m. on Reno-Sparks-Washoe Charter cable channels 16 and 216, streaming at Barbwire.TV. E-mail email@example.com. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.