An open letter to Governor-elect Jim Gibbons
December 8, 2006
Dear Gov.-elect and Mrs. Gibbons: Welcome to Carson City! This is still a pretty nice town to live in, although it’s bigger than some of us old-timers might prefer. Nevertheless, we know we can’t stand in the way of “progress.”
As you take office next month, I hope you’ll remember that Nevada voters didn’t give you a mandate to govern without consulting with the loyal opposition. It was a close election, and doubts were raised about your policies and your judgment. With luck, you’ll erase those doubts by being a governor for all Nevadans, as outgoing Gov. Guinn has tried to be throughout his eight-year term in office. Kenny and Dema Guinn have been popular occupants of the Governor’s Mansion, and we’ll miss them.
There are a number of political issues we’ll be following closely as the Legislature convenes early next year. Among them is public education, which has been one of your priorities as indicated by your successful “Education First” ballot initiative. In my opinion, however, that’s bad public policy because it ties lawmakers’ hands as they grapple with the state budget for the next two years. While virtually everyone favors adequate funding for our public schools, I think it was a mistake to force lawmakers to consider education before everything else, including police and fire protection and much-needed infrastructure improvements.
The 2005 Legislature did the right thing by raising gaming taxes in a long-overdue move to increase state general fund revenues. Elemental fairness demands that our mega-casinos pay their fair share of state and local taxes. But there’s another gaming-control issue worth considering: out-of-state Indian casinos operated by Nevada gaming licensees. Although Nevada Gaming Commission regulations require those privileged licensees to operate “in the best interests of the people of the state of Nevada,” I question whether some of them are adhering to this fundamental requirement. I refer specifically to the highly profitable Station Casinos organization of Las Vegas, which operates the Thunder Valley tribal casino on I-80 east of Sacramento.
Obviously, the Thunder Valley operation siphons off thousands of gamblers who might otherwise cross the Sierra Nevada to try their luck at Reno and/or Lake Tahoe casinos. As a former gaming-control spokesman, I’m convinced that Thunder Valley costs this state millions of dollars and jeopardizes the survival of several struggling Northern Nevada casinos. This is clearly NOT in the best interests of the people of the state of Nevada.
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So I respectfully ask you, the new attorney general and the ’07 Legislature to look into this apparent violation of state gaming regulations. When it can be proven that a Nevada licensee is costing us money – and that would be easy to prove through testimony by UNR economics professors who study the issue – our licensees should be forced to choose between Nevada and their out-of-state gaming interests. That’s how it was when I worked for the state in the mid-1960s, and I think you should reinstitute such a policy.
As my readers know, I’m not a big fan of the annual Burning Man naked drug festival, which takes place over the Labor Day weekend in the Black Rock desert north of Reno. I mention this because you campaigned as a conservative, family-values candidate, and we believed you. Therefore, it should be difficult for you to sanction an activity on public lands that flies in the face of the very values that you purport to defend.
When I raised this issue with one of your congressional staffers a few years ago, he gave me little more than lip service. As governor, however, you’ll have an opportunity to take a principled stand against a drug-soaked event that gives Nevada a bad name. But drugs aren’t the worst of it because young children are present as naked “free spirits” cavort on the desert playa in what looks like child abuse. Meanwhile, the federal BLM turns a blind eye to the dubious goings-on and happily collects nearly $850,000 in “user fees.” I don’t think this is what Congress had in mind when it designated the Black Rock Desert as a National Conservation Area. How about you?
Wealthy Las Vegas liquor distributor Larry Ruvo is probably a good friend of yours, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he had contributed a few dollars to your gubernatorial campaign. Nevertheless, I think it’s highly inappropriate to name public buildings after big campaign contributors, and that’s why I respectfully ask you to remove Ruvo’s name from the Nevada Room adjacent to the historic Governor’s Mansion. Gov. Guinn allowed that to happen, and I urge you to reverse a bad decision that sets a tacky precedent for the naming of state buildings.
Thanks for listening and good luck.
• Guy W. Farmer, a semi-retired journalist and former U.S. diplomat, is a 54-year resident of Carson City.