Lost weekend

Reno 411: Following up on last week’s SN&R story (“Invading Reno,” SN&R News, October 28), Bites decided to check out Sacramento’s adopted electoral battleground firsthand this past weekend. Emerging from the mighty Bitesmobile, we were confronted by a city under siege: Nearly 1,500 volunteer precinct walkers—more than half from Sacramento and the Bay Area—had gathered on Saturday morning alone to knock on doors and harass the locals.

Over at MoveOn.org’s headquarters, scenically located in the basement of Reno’s Silver Legacy Resort Casino, some 200 cyber activists received training in the subtle art of getting out the vote, while retired Gen. Wesley Clark milled around distracting people. Mainstream Democrats gathered in the parking lot of downtown’s Speakeasy Hotel, appearing somewhat more upscale than their cooler, younger MoveOn counterparts. (Hint: MoveOn would not have been so tacky as to have a VIP check-in table.) Still, the Dems sent around 600 walkers out that morning after a pep talk from actor Edward Norton of Fight Club fame. Over at the Reno Convention Center, a coalition of America Coming Together (ACT), the Sierra Club and Planned Parenthood (which provided the crucial “Do It In the Voting Booth” condoms) held court. ACT had 60—count ’em: 60—vans gassed up and ready to drive people to polling places. (Too bad about that problem with the campaign “lit”: The handouts they intended for Reno somehow wound up in Vegas and vice versa.)

Bites also visited Reno’s Republican headquarters—located well outside of downtown in a strip mall behind a Wells Fargo—which managed to mobilize at least 50 GOP volunteers, who no doubt were bumping into outside agitators on every street corner. Decidedly older and grayer, they nonetheless held the distinction of actually being from Reno. After loading up on keepsake “W ’04” buttons and bumper stickers, Bites made it to the Siena Hotel Spa Casino in time for a super rally and talk by actor Sean Penn. The GOPers—with Arnold Schwarzenegger limiting his campaigning to Ohio—held no such rally.

Fast-tracking Arnold: Speaking of Arnold, what do Schwarzenegger, Mikhail Gorbachev, Helmut Kohl and Edward Kennedy all have in common—besides, you know, those funny accents? Why, they’re the four winners of the George Bush Award for Excellence in Public Service. Arnold will fly to Texas next month to claim this year’s award from Dubya’s dad. With an entire year of public service under his belt, it’s great to see our own Bush-family campaigner finally getting recognition for all that hard work.

With friends like these: Embattled Secretary of State Kevin Shelley got more bad press recently when two former employees told state auditors that formal complaints they made against the San Francisco Democrat were never investigated. The new inquest by the state personnel board is one of at least eight inquiries involving Shelley initiated by law-enforcement, legislative or regulatory agencies. But, Bites has learned, at least one influential group with a proven track record of manipulating state investigations has Shelley’s back.

While waiting for the free buffet and bar to open, Bites sat through the annual California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) wreath-laying ceremony last month. The over-the-top ritual held each October at the prison guard union’s headquarters in West Sacramento honors correctional employees who died while on the job. Before the finale, when a wreath of flowers is laid at the foot of a black granite monument, speeches are given by union officers and the politico du jour. With an impassioned recitation of Shelley’s past support for the union, CCPOA President Mike Jimenez introduced the secretary and promised they would stand by their man in these dark days. Shelley took the podium and expressed undying loyalty to the brotherhood, and then he and Jimenez jointly carried the wreath to its final resting place while taps was played (irony noted by Bites) by two buglers.