Enduring Thunderdome of Ideas

“Two man enter, one man leave.”
—from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

Frustration drove the two Republican students with pro-W signs. They worked their way into the crowd of people who’d gathered on UNR’s Quad to hear Sen. John Edwards last week. You know, Democrats, free-thinkers apparently threatened by the free expression of Bush-bashlessness.

A police officer asked the two to leave, but they didn’t comply. They were just holding signs, after all, on the lawn at their school. They pay tuition. And taxes.

Wade Whitaker, 26, a speech communications major, explained this to the cop, who insisted the two retreat to a far-off rectangle of lawn—the Free Speech Zone for non-Edwards supporters.

Charlie Goldner, an electrical-engineering student, rolled up his sign.

They’d been in the Free Speech Zone, they said, contentedly shouting to passersby slogans like, “The event for the second-place candidate is that way.”

“Basically, we came up here to show our support for Bush, then the Kerry people started haggling us,” Goldner said.

“[The police] allowed all the Kerry people to stand in front of us,” Whitaker said. “It got to the point where it was be belligerent or leave.”

So the two left their rectangle of ideas—an area guarded by SWAT teamers with machine guns—for the larger rally.

The police officer explained that the Democrats had rented the Quad, so they could make the rules about signage, etc. Déjà vu. Remember when George Bush came to town and kids who didn’t look like Bush supporters were turned away?

Whitaker complains that freedom of speech for conservatives is squelched by the higher-education atmosphere.

“You see one side in and out of the classroom,” he said. “Do you ever sit and listen to a professor?” Well, you could say that, I explained.

By the time Edwards spoke, the group was shouting, “Four more years!” to a group that yelled back, “No more war!”

This is a fist-to-the-face match. Don’t go thinking it will all be over on Nov. 2.

In other news, the Sparks Planning Commission last week demonstrated its commitment to unmanaged growth under the guise of free enterprise. Appointed commissioners (including Fred Lokken, who’s running for Geno Martini’s spot on the Sparks City Council) unanimously approved a Master Plan amendment that’s a “foot in the door” for Miramonte, another 986 homes and 736 apartments proposed off of Los Altos in Far East Sparks.

Let’s do the math: 1,033 homes and 876 apartments already approved as part of the nearby Copper Canyon project. Another 546 homes potentially in the works for D’Andrea. Add these to Miramonte, and you’ve got another 4,177 families out here, where schools and roads are already jam-packed. Based on estimates I’ve seen for the Copper Canyon, this could mean as many as 800 more kids in elementary schools, 200 in middle school and 400 in high school. And at least 6,000 more cars on Vista Boulevard.

Kudos to developers for keeping a tight lid on the project so citizens won’t know what’s going on until dirt starts flying. The Sparks anti-planners are scheduled to rubber-stamp map applications and special use permits for Miramonte and the D’Andrea addition at an Oct. 7 meeting.

From a recent e-mail: “Reno [and Sparks] residents must really not be worried about being nice to developers. They are in business to make money. Period. If they are not held strictly accountable to some standard of contribution to the residents of your city, you will have very expensive troubles in the near future. Guess who will pay for new roads, schools, water, etc.? The citizens!”

Couldn’t have said it any better.