I usually write about the environment in this column. But I’m departing from that this week because I want to respond to Guy Farmer’s piece on Adam Laxalt, a column consisting of trivial talking points like “making Nevada look more like California,” and pointing out that Laxalt must be a good guy because he goes to the farmer’s market.
I think Appeal readers deserve more than that. How does Laxalt really compare to his opponent, Steve Sisolak?
Farmer says “Sisolak is a Las Vegas political insider through and through.”
If by saying this he means Sisolak has governing experience, that’s not a bad thing in my book. Sisolak has served Nevada as a member of the Clark County Commission for 10 years, along with 10 years on the University of Nevada Board of Regents.
In contrast, Adam Laxalt moved to Nevada from suburban Virginia only seven years ago and had no governing experience before he became attorney general. So I guess if we get him as governor we get a governor learning on the job.
Sisolak’s two biggest issues are jobs and education. Not just for Las Vegas, but for all Nevadans.
As Clark County Commission Chair, Sisolak helped lift Clark County out of the Great Recession by spearheading projects that helped create 30,000 jobs, including brokering deals bringing NFL and NHL teams to Nevada, creating jobs and increased activity through the construction of, and events at, T-Mobile Arena and the Raiders-UNLV stadium.
Contrast this with Laxalt’s views on jobs. He opposes minimum wage protections, and he sued to keep workers from receiving the overtime pay they deserve.
It’s worth going into this more deeply because it illustrates, I think, how little Laxalt really cares about living wages for regular Nevadans. In 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor ordered restoration of overtime pay protections to middle-class workers earning less than about $48,000 a year. This pay raise was blocked in Nevada and nationwide as the result of a lawsuit brought by Laxalt as Nevada Attorney General.
As a result of Laxalt’s lawsuit, 104,000 Nevadans lost overtime pay protections including 1,900 workers in Carson City.
Yes, an Attorney General who used his office to deny 104,000 Nevadans the overtime pay they’ve earned is now running for governor. What will he do to our jobs and our pay if he wins?
Sisolak is especially passionate on the need for employment among disadvantaged people. A friend reports she was at an event where Sisolak, in response to a question on employing people with disabilities, told about how when he became County Commissioner he proposed all janitorial services for the County Government Center be provided by people with disabilities. And this actually happened through the county working with Opportunity Village, a disability and employment services program in Las Vegas. As the aunt of a severely autistic young man, I like this.
Sisolak’s top priority is improving our education system because, he says, every child, regardless of race, zip code, or income, deserves a high quality education. This support translates to advocating for better salaries for teachers and smaller class sizes.
He recognizes the importance of vocational education and how we can do a better job: “We can take a student, and whether you’re training them in the tech industry or you’re training them in the culinary industry or you’re training them in one of the building trades, let them spend their junior and senior year acquiring some of those skills and move them immediately into an apprenticeship and journeyman, and they can support themselves and they’ll be immediately eligible for those higher-paying jobs.”
Sisolak has a long relationship with public education in Nevada. He got his MBA from UNLV in 1978, and his two daughters now attend UNLV. Sisolak knows the middle-class students in our public universities often struggle with costs, that’s why during his time on the Board of Regents, he won refunds for thousands of Nevada students who had wrongly been changed out-of-state tuition. He also voted twice against student fee hikes.
In contrast, Laxalt’s life hasn’t included much encounter with public education. He attended an exclusive private school in Virginia, then went on to private universities. To be fair, Laxalt has some education proposals, but he doesn’t seem to favor funding our public education sufficiently. He supports school vouchers, indeed making vouchers one of the centerpieces of his campaign — vouchers which will siphon needed dollars from our public schools to private schools.
Most importantly, Laxalt is on record as supporting efforts to repeal the Commerce Tax, which was at the center of a suite of initiatives introduced by Gov. Sandoval to bolster public education in our state. Crafting bipartisan support for these initiatives — including the increased funding that enables them — was a signature achievement of Sandoval’s administration. Maybe that’s why Sandoval says he won’t “support a candidate that is going to undo anything that I put forward,” and isn’t endorsing Laxalt for governor.
Farmer tells us he likes “politicians who know where the state Capitol is.”
Sisolak knows his way around Carson City well enough to show up at the Nevada Day Parade. And after the parade he’ll be at the Carson Democrats Nevada Day Party at the BAC. The party is 1-4 p.m. with free admission. Anyone wanting to meet Steve Sisolak and discuss questions with him is welcome to attend.
Anne Macquarie, a private sector urban planner, is a long-time resident of Carson City.