Here are excerpts of recent Nevada newspaper editorials on topics of state interest:
The Reno Gazette-Journal on firefighters’ near disaster:
Bureau of Land Management firefighters were spread thin last summer. There is no question of that, what with the huge number of fires that ravaged Nevada. In one place after another, people were asking for help. By August, with some 4,000 people on the line, the BLM was running out of fire fighters. …
Still, the bureau’s first responsibility is to the firefighters in the field; and a report from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration makes clear that the BLM failed in this responsibility on Aug. 9, when an inexperienced fire crew nearly burned to death. All the rationale does not excuse this failure. …
They survived, but only because the wind shifted at the last moment. Without that fortuitous gift, they probably would have been added to the 14 federal firefighters killed in Colorado in 1994 – for which the BLM was also cited for mismanagement. Even so, three firefighters were treated for smoke inhalation and three were hospitalized, two with severe burns.
To make things worse, OSHA said one high-ranking fire official displayed minimal concern for the injured crew members, which forced them to take care of their own injuries and get themselves to a helicopter landing spot.
Then a BLM review downplayed the seriousness of the incident.
Clearly, the Nevada BLM has a great deal of work to do before the next fire season. The Washington office probably must be involved as well, since critics say the BLM as a whole has not learned the lesson of the disastrous Colorado fire.
The bureau cannot brush off the Nevada incident as an isolated instance. Better training and better procedures must be developed. Better oversight is needed, too. But beyond that, the BLM must develop a policy that firmly places the lives of its firefighters above all else – including pressure from local officials.
Nevada Appeal on Stan Jones departure:
We’ve done our share of bureaucrat-bashing in this space, and we’ve also come down in favor of Gov. Kenny Guinn’s re-evaluation of jobs and duties within state government.
But we never anticipated the kind of cold boot out the door that Stan Jones got lost week, 10 days before Christmas.
Jones, 76, worked in state government for 29 years. He had been administrator of the Employment Security Division since 1982.
Last Thursday, it was reported, Jones was given two hours to clean out his desk.
There was an attempt to make it look like he was ”retiring” voluntarily. And his boss, Carol Jackson, director of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, denied that he was given two hours to clear out.
But that only shows how ineptly his ouster was handled. Reporters who had heard some rumblings had asked Jones just a week earlier if he was planning to retire. He wasn’t.
And when contacted after his firing, Jones admitted he was ”completely taken aback.” A good soldier to the end, though, Jones also noted that he worked at the pleasure of the director.
True enough. But Jones is nothing near the symbol of waste or mismanagement that one might look for in a bureaucratic housecleaning.
By most accounts, he showed up early, worked hard and was dedicated to his job. Sheer longevity, working under both Democratic and Republican administrations, should have counted for something when it came to the treatment of Stan Jones.
While longevity may not be enough to keep a job, it’s certainly enough to warrant a dignified departure. Jones deserved that.
We want a state government that operates efficiently and effectively. We don’t need one that’s heartless and ruthless.
Las Vegas Sun on Stan Jones departure:
Stan Jones, 76, has served in state government under both Democratic and Republican administrations. On Thursday, though, Jones retired without warning as director of the state Employment Security Division. Both Jones and his boss, Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation Chief Carol Jackson, said he wasn’t fired, but the Associated Press’ Brendan Riley reported Friday that in fact he was given just two hours on Thursday to clean out his desk and leave. So much for holiday cheer. …
Riley also noted that Jackson has gotten rid of other upper-echelon employees within the department. Another giveaway that Jones was forced out was when Jackson refused to go into detail about his departure, saying it was a personnel matter.
When Kenny Guinn became governor earlier this year, it was his prerogative to keep or let go state department heads. In turn, these department administrators have the discretion to retain their division chiefs. Jones, however, was treated shabbily. A hallmark of any administration is how it rewards hard-working, loyal employees. Getting rid of someone in this manner not only is heartless, it also sends a message to other state employees about how much the administration regards longevity.
Elko Daily Free Press on proposed roadless declaration:
President Clinton’s plan to close off more public lands with a ”roadless” designation is an absolute sham he announced the plan in October, the forest service finally released maps of the areas under consideration this past Monday and public comment is being cut off this coming Monday.
Permitting only one week of public review of a plan that will have enormous impact on up to 50 million acres scattered throughout eight western states is a sad joke.
The government and environmentalists would never allow a private industry such favored treatment and we should demand the government itself abide by the same standards it sets on business. The radical preservationists have lived by the environmental sword, and now they will have to suffer the consequences of that same sword.
If we insist on separate and complete environmental studies on each and every canyon proposed for ”roadless” designation, we’ll keep the forest service paper-shufflers swamped long enough to give the next president time to ax this ridiculous program.