Nightmare on F Street


Like calls for tax increases on an already-pummeled public, the scariest nightmares never go away.

Trying to get your mortgage above water? Trying to save for your kid’s college tuition and your retirement? Trying to keep your household afloat despite stagnant wages and ever-rising energy and health care costs?

Government doesn’t care. Government never, ever has enough of your money. It always cries poor. It always wants more. It always takes more.

And, just to put you in your place, it flushes vast sums of your money down the toilet — and uses still more money to wipe. Bad dreams, indeed.

I give you Nevada’s five worst taxpayer nightmares of 2013.

5. Family Court Judge Steven Jones. The jurist was suspended from the bench in late 2012 after being hit with federal fraud charges that alleged he was the closer in a multimillion-dollar scam. But it’s good to be a public official charged with a crime: It gets you a paid vacation. Jones collected his entire 2013 compensation — more than $200,000 — despite never working a day. And depending on how a separate investigation by the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline is resolved, and when Jones’ criminal case actually goes to trial, he might collect his full 2014 salary, too.

4. Species protection. When government isn’t wasting money protecting species that don’t need protection, it’s killing off the ones that do. Wildlife officials this summer opened a $4.5 million lab in the desert west of Las Vegas, dedicated to saving the Devil’s Hole pupfish. The tiny creature turns into “Jaws” when it smells your wallet. Under federal stewardship, its population has fallen from more than 500 to just 35. Meanwhile, the valley’s Desert Tortoise Conservation Center is overflowing with shelled creatures. Authorities can’t afford to keep the center open, so they proposed closing it … and euthanizing the surplus reptiles. You know, the ones that are supposedly threatened. Clark County still collects millions of dollars in fees for these efforts. And the rest of the state soon will get the same treatment thanks to the sage grouse.

3. Payraiseapalooza. As mentioned above, government always has it tougher than you. That’s why 2013 was the year of restored social services. Ha! Fooled you! It was actually the year of the pay raise for public employees. Library and convention authority workers were awarded long-term deals with annual raises. Teachers, police and firefighters collected raises, too. And the SEIU Local 1107 rejected a contract that would have given most members a 4 percent pay raise. You probably didn’t get a raise this year — but you paid to make sure government workers don’t go without. These raises squeeze budgets even further, thereby increasing pressure to take more from you.

2. School meals. What do you get when a nanny-state government determined to make sure students aren’t hungry in class meets a nanny-state government determined to prevent obesity? A billion-dollar boondoggle. The Clark County School District was among scores of systems nationally to see literally tons of food — much of it individually wrapped and unopened — thrown in the trash because children don’t want to eat grown-up approved healthy food. For schools, it’s about “participation” and collecting federal reimbursements, not whether kids actually eat anything. One breakfast program hands out food to low-income kids even if they don’t want it. Lesson: Waste is not a problem.

1. F Street tunnel under Interstate 15. The snarled traffic and destruction of what was a gorgeous, new, finished stretch of I-15 comes courtesy of the second most wasteful project in NDOT history. (The Reno-to-Carson City highway will always take first in that contest). About $14 million is being spent reopening F Street under the freeway because area residents said its closure, which redirected them a block north, made them feel cut off from downtown. All that dust, inconvenience and cost over hurt feelings? When complete, I bet 10 cars drive F Street each day — or, double the daily traffic volume between Reno and Carson City.

One, two, NDOT’s coming for you. Three, four, better lock your door. Five, six, grab your crucifix. Seven, eight, gonna stay up late. Nine, ten, never sleep again.

Glenn Cook (gcook@reviewjournal.com) is the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s senior editorial writer. Follow him on Twitter: @Glenn_CookNV. Listen to him Mondays at 4 p.m. on “Live and Local with Kevin Wall” on KXNT News Radio, 100.5 FM, 840 AM.

Review-Journal political columnist Steve Sebelius returns Tuesday.