Nevada needs to maximize heightened political clout |

Nevada needs to maximize heightened political clout

Nevada had the opportunity to test its newfound political clout when eight Democratic presidential contenders participated in a forum in Carson City.

The Silver State is strategically more important now that the Democratic Party has moved the state’s caucus to Jan. 19, 2008, between the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary, from which the national front-runners will likely emerge.

Now that Nevada has the national spotlight, the question is what will the state’s political leaders do with it? Hopefully, they will take advantage of the opportunity to focus national attention on Western issues.

So what are the issues that presidential candidates need to be talking about?

Certainly immigration is a hot-button issue as the flood of illegal immigrants from Mexico stretches our schools, hospitals and social services to the breaking point. Fundamental to this issue is what the federal government is going to do to secure our borders. Build a fence? Beef up border patrols? Send the illegals back home? Strong leadership, political courage and vision are needed to deal with this issue before it spirals out of control and blood is spilled on our streets.

Another uniquely Western issue that desperately needs attention is unfunded federal mandates. This is particularly challenging in the West because the government owns tremendous amounts of land that do not generate property taxes to help pay for infrastructure and government services needed to support a burgeoning population. Federal payments in lieu of taxes don’t come close to making the region’s budgets whole. Before Westerners go to the polls, they need to know what the candidates for president intend to do to make sure that the feds become a good neighbor by paying their fair share of the cost of owning property in our states.

Speaking of being a good neighbor, Nevadans want and need to know which of the presidential contenders will lead the charge when it comes to making sure that Nevada does not become a national nuclear waste dump. The citizens of this state, who have already suffered unfathomable health consequences as a result of the federal government’s experiments at the Nevada Test Site, are rightfully and overwhelmingly opposed to the Department of Energy’s nuclear storage program at Yucca Mountain.

Catastrophic wildfires are another threat to the health and well-being of people in western states. Westerners are tiring of the misguided federal policies underlying these events, which are blackening hundreds of thousands of acres of public and private property every year, not to mention depleting the national treasury and causing injuries and even loss of human life.

Federal projects that store and deliver The candidates can no longer afford to ignore Nevada just because it is a sparsely populated state, as they have in years past. It’s up to Nevada to make the most of this opportunity by demanding straight answers to direct questions, then voting accordingly.

– Lahontan Valley News