You can’t win if you don’t fight

2013 could be a watershed year.

Ignoring the national political stalemate, consider the political possibilities closer to home of lots of new energy injected into the Reno City Council and the Nevada Legislature. While term limits have robbed us of experience and knowledge and given far too much power to the executive branch of government, at least we have some new faces who could live up—or down—to our expectations.

Consider a few suggestions to get the year off to a progressive start.

Governor Brian Sandoval: Set aside your national ambitions this year and lead Nevada. Use your State of the State speech to have an honest conversation with Nevadans about our future. Ask us if we want to remain a colony of the multi-national mining industry, or demand these profiteers compensate us fairly for the gold they remove from our public lands. Explain why corporations should no longer get a free ride and avoid the kind of corporate taxes they pay in every surrounding state, while our children go to under-resourced schools and drop out at a higher rate than anywhere else. Stop muzzling state administrators with budget needs. Please quit pretending everything is just fine and tell the truth about our situation.

Secretary of State Ross Miller: By all means, submit a bill requesting the Legislature fund electronic upgrades to our voting records so we can have same-day registration, but drop the solution-without-a-problem of photo ID. As you have noted, there is no voter fraud in Nevada. Don’t buy into the paranoia and misinformation of people who want nothing more than to discourage low-income citizens and minorities from exercising their voice. While you’re at it, how about figuring out a way for people to vote on Election Day at any designated public site? If we can manage that during early voting, why not on Election Day?

Nevada Legislature: It’s refreshing to hear all the talk about bi-partisanship and how this year is going to be different, with new leadership and a renewed sense of action. Key word here: action. Discussion of tax reform from Day 1 is not going to be enough. You don’t need more studies, or even very many hearings, to understand the limited options before you. Fix our flawed revenue streams and set Nevada on a path to predictability and prosperity. Send the right message by passing SJR 15 early in the session and let voters decide if they want to end mining’s sweetheart deal and return tax policy to the Legislature where it belongs.

Reno and Sparks City Councils: Stop violating the Voting Rights Act and start the process to change your city charters to allow for ward voting. Instead of waiting for the inevitable lawsuit that will consume scarce resources needed for basic services, do the right thing and comply. Let the people elect their neighborhood representatives. And please, no more grand corporate welfare schemes disguised as job generators or economic renewal. Our schools and public services have suffered immeasurably. Stop giving our money away.

Finally, a resolution for voters. Let this be the year we insist on accountability from our elected officials. Don’t be a silent, seething citizen. Express your views loudly and often and stand up for yourself. Your responsibility doesn’t end on Election Day.

As our leading Western intellectual, Rebecca Solnit, wrote in her year-end essay last month: “[P]aradises are always partial and, when you look backward, it’s worth trying to see the whole picture. The rights gained over the past 35 years were fought for, hard, while so much of what was neglected—including public education, tuition, wages, banking regulation, corporate power, and working hours—slid into hell. When you fight, you sometimes win; when you don’t, you always lose.”