Nevada owned and operated by business

It's an oldie but a goodie. “Desperately Seeking Susan”

Nevada is not ready for prime time. And we won’t be relinquishing last place in virtually everything anytime soon.

Our newspapers and universities bend and sway to the whims of Nevada Inc. (mining, gaming, big business) at every turn. The disconnect between what we can afford with no corporate taxes and our aspirations is a gulf so wide, you’d have to be a delusional gambler to believe we’ll ever hit triple 7s.

Consider the Las Vegas Sun, whose publisher Brian Greenspun recently joined the board of directors of Barrick Gold, the world’s largest gold producer. Despite what they teach in journalism school about avoiding conflicts of interest, Greenspun has no qualms about his newest venture, which should net him at least $200,000 a year. He says his newspaper will continue to independently cover Question 2 on November’s ballot, removing mining’s sweetheart tax protections from the state’s constitution.

Then consider the Reno Gazette-Journal publisher, John Maher, who sees no conflict in his membership on the board of directors of the Chamber of Commerce, a group that spends most of its energy making sure the Legislature doesn’t approve any tax their big business members might have to pay. They much prefer raising the regressive sales tax so the rest of us shoulder their burden.

The Gazette-Journal has a history of its publishers ignoring obvious conflicts to the consternation of its more ethical reporters. Remember Sue Clark-Johnson who joined the board of directors of Harrah’s in 1994? She saw no potential for a conflict between the newspaper and the state’s largest industry, though most journalism professionals certainly did.

And then there’s the most recent disgraceful example of a public institution succumbing to the corporate will: the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. After a study was released that found a margins tax would produce $862 million that could infuse Nevada’s education budget and create 13,000 jobs in 2016, you could almost hear the thundering call Acting UNLV president Don Snyder received from a casino moguls threatening to withhold support for a dream stadium if the study by UNLV’s Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) wasn’t immediately renounced.

That bombastic phone call was likely followed by a call from a casino lobbyist with a friendly idea to “fix” the problem. “Here’s what you do,” the lobbyist might have said. “Distance yourself from the study and say there’s so many questions about the methodology, you’ve decided to ask for a third-party review. That’ll be the end of it.”

In an astounding news release, Snyder states the obvious, that the CBER study doesn’t represent the university’s views, as if the university should have an official position on a ballot question. Provost John White practically begs faculty with opposing views on the margins tax to denounce the CBER study.

Then Snyder further embarrasses the university by proclaiming that based on the “questionable methodology of the study” and the concerns of two faculty members, he’s sending the report to the Brookings Institute for “feedback” on its merit and quality. Guess who sits on the board of directors of Brookings? Nevada Inc.’s own Brian Greenspun.

Paradoxically, Snyder and other political and business leaders insist UNLV is to become a Tier 1 university with big plans afoot for a medical school in Las Vegas and that brand-new stadium. But who’s going to pay the bill? Not Nevada Inc. They propose an even higher sales tax, paid by you and me.

Meanwhile the miners and gamers and Chamber members smugly sit back in their comfy chairs and wait for the next opportunity to squash anyone or anything that might produce a corporate tax in Nevada, an approach that’s always worked well for them.

That is, unless you send them a message through your vote for The Education Initiative, (Question 3), in November.