Why we can’t be friends?

The threat of Indian gambling is a handy rhetorical device. Its applications are many. Indian gambling will be the death of Reno if we don’t build a trench for Union Pacific’s trains. If we don’t build more movie theaters. If we don’t build a downtown convention center that’s going to lose money—lots of money for many, many years.

Because of Indian gambling, we all need to “hang together” or we will surely “hang separately.”

Translation: Accept whatever ideas pop into the successful heads of gifted, competent leaders while rejecting the petty, childish notions of immature, grossly inept failures. (Above adjectives courtesy of a local government analyst and biweekly newspaper columnist.)

How can you tell the competent from the nincompoops? Aye, there’s the rub.

And what if they’re all nincompoops? This is entirely possible.

Much like the Japanese, who’ve perfected a way to grow square watermelons (to fit better in small refrigerators), business and industry leaders in Northern Nevada have cultivated sky-scraping casino-shaped brains. (Or mineshaft-shaped cranial cavities, but let’s not go there today.) It’s not hard to get the old guard to think outside this box—it’s impossible.

Is Indian gambling a threat? Sure. So is online gambling. A quick Google.com search for online casinos yields 791,000 hits in .2 seconds. Within minutes, you can download the slot/keno/craps software developed in Sweden for online casinos like AceKingClub, operated by folks licensed in Kahnawake, Canada. Give ’em $100 to open an account, and they’ll throw in $50 more.

But wait—there’s more. Many threats lurk in the environs of the Truckee Meadows and beyond: global warming, drought, power bills, forest fires, paltry returns in the high-tech sector and sexual dysfunction, to name a few.

A competent leader would recognize this. A competent leader would not only think outside the box, she’d be willing to flatten the box and store it in the garage until it’s needed for moving back to the Midwest. She’d see old-time destination casino gambling as a dinosaur facing extinction and plan accordingly. She would craft a new image for Reno and relentlessly hawk it to the media-saturated American minions.

She’d make a stand against the nincompoops and … she would probably be crucified. That’s Nevada. If we don’t hang together, we’ll probably hang anyway.

There’s a theory of government that suggests the real role of politics is to keep leaders so busy arguing that they don’t have time to mess the world up too badly. If you’ve lived here a few months, you appreciate the concept.

Reno has leaders who think beyond gambling and mining, who’ve envisioned a different future. Promoting the area to high-tech companies seemed a better idea back when technology was a happening growth industry. But placing all your chips on tech is no longer the best way to play this hand.

What is best for Reno?

Ask the inept failures. Maybe they’ve learned something from making all those mistakes. But at the very least, welcome the controversy. It signifies something important—that people still care.