With its tall pines and cool breezes, Mount Charleston doesn’t look much like a crossroads of political intrigue.
It’s nearly an hour’s drive from the Clark County Government Center and more than 400 miles from Carson City. But, lately, it has provided an idyllic setting for Gov. Brian Sandoval to not only show his concern for beleaguered mountain residents and their flood-damaged cabins, but also to remind Southern Nevadans that the Republican incumbent is attuned to their needs.
And if that just happens to bend the noses of a few Clark County officials out of joint, well, that’s the way it goes. Sandoval’s expressed concern and vow to take action to create a flood diversion berm for Rainbow Canyon residents not only won him some new friends in that community, but his two visits to the mountain captured the attention of the press through several news cycles.
Sandoval’s well-timed stagecraft also resulted in action from the state to assist Rainbow residents in real time. If snippets from the governor’s appearances aren’t used in future campaign commercials, surely it’s only because he has no real competition.
Each time Sandoval met with residents and the press, he was accompanied by officials from other governmental agencies. Elected officials from Clark County, however, were nowhere in sight — and that was no accident.
Whatever his motivation for arriving on the scene, Sandoval unquestionably upstaged county officials. He made them look bad — twice.
County Commissioner Larry Brown, normally greeted warmly at town board meetings in Kyle Canyon, scrambled to defend his position during a post-flood briefing. His argument that the county couldn’t justify accepting liability for the building of an earthen flood-diversion berm didn’t fly with Rainbow residents.
The liability issue was a nonstarter with taxpayers who know countless millions have been spent on flood control channels and retention basins throughout areas of Clark County developed decades after those mountain neighborhoods.
The county failed to move quickly enough to protect those residents, and Brown represents the area. Sandoval can be chided for playing politics, and Brown has made his feelings on the matter clear, but if so, the governor played well and won the day.
Longtime town board member and Rainbow Canyon Road resident Becky Grismanauskas reflected the sentiments of many of her neighbors in an effusive letter to Sandoval.
“I am so happy and fortunate to take this opportunity to extend my (our) deep gratitude and appreciation to you and your staff for what you have done for the residents of Mt. Charleston, its wildlife, trees, vegetation and the 2.2 million visitors that come to the mountain every year,” she began. “Our neighbors and us know we have several weeks to go before we are out of monsoon season and a few weeks after that to finish up the berm/channel.
But we all agree that with the light you created at the end of our tunnel, we can and will make it.
“Some individuals and their respective agencies did not see fit to look beyond the ‘money’ in regards to liability and other issues. We have homes, lives and dreams, just like most people. Your statement that our lives held a greater liability than that of a financial one was more than any of us, Mt. Charleston residents or not, could ask of anyone to express and feel.”
Who needs a campaign manager when you have testimonials like that?
If they choose to, county officials can regain a little political high ground by displaying an understanding of the flooding potential that still exists in Rainbow. The earthen berm is meant to divert floodwater from the east side of the neighborhood, but the west side of Rainbow remains at risk. Residents understand this, and they made their concerns clear in a public meeting.
If county officials fail to take that strong hint, there’s another guy who appears more than willing to return to Kyle Canyon, where at times the politics is as plentiful as the pines.
John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Email him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295. Follow him on Twitter @jlnevadasmith.