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What's in a mountain's name? Politics, baby!


So, we’ll just keep calling it Frenchman Mountain, then?

I’ve watched with bemused detachment as my friend conservative activist Chuck Muth has worked hard to rename the peak of Frenchman Mountain near his home in East Las Vegas for Ronald Reagan. It’s part of anti-tax activist Grover Norquist’s Ronald Reagan Legacy Project, naming as many things as possible for the last really popular Republican to hold the White House.

As my friend attorney Dayvid Figler once said, if you wanted to name a mountain for Reagan in Nevada, it should be Yucca Mountain. It was Reagan who signed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act in 1982, and the so-called Screw Nevada bill in 1987. That’s about as lasting an impact as Reagan has had on the Silver State.

But since re-naming the top of a mountain for Reagan seemed fairly harmless to me, I figured, who really cares? Apparently, somebody.

Rep. Dina Titus — who ran against and defeated Muth in a lopsided state Senate race way back in 1996 — threw a wrench into the Mount Reagan plans in late October, when she introduced a simple, one-page bill aiming to name the peak in question for Maude Frazier, a former school superintendent turned assemblywoman who was appointed the first female lieutenant governor in Nevada’s history. It was Frazier who got the funding for the Southern Nevada campus that grew into what we now call UNLV.

And under obscure rules for the tedious, multi-step process of officially naming things for people, a bill in Congress trumps citizen activists.

Muth was not happy. He wrote in his daily newsletter that he still had steam coming out of his ears three days after he discovered the Titus bill, which got no publicity when it was introduced. He told the Review-Journal’s Henry Brean that it was a “petty, political partisan stunt” to steal the naming rights. (Not at all like the noble, nonpartisan effort to name everything in sight for Reagan.)

Titus’ spokeswoman insisted to Brean that her idea has nothing to do with scuttling Muth’s plans, but I suspect the longtime UNLV political science professor is enjoying this process more than usual. And she’s right to suggest that Frazier — a longtime Southern Nevada resident — is more deserving of local naming honors than Reagan, who had little connection to the Silver State and Las Vegas in particular. (As far as that goes, it would make more sense to name the peak Mt. Muth than Mt. Reagan!)

On Twitter, some followers weighed in with alternative ideas, naming the peak for Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, Liberace, or even former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman. (All have had more of an impact on Las Vegas than Reagan.) Laura Martin, communications director of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, suggested an actual nonpartisan name: Glitter Peak, which I confess I kind of love. My friend and 8NewsNow colleague George Knapp lives nearby; he’s worthy of a naming honor, although I think he might prefer a peak around Area 51 instead.

Besides, Reagan has tons of stuff named for him already. His most badass legacy is CVN-76, a Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Once your name is painted on a capital ship of the U.S. Navy, everything else seems kind of pointless. Naming a federal office building in Washington, D.C., after Reagan always seemed to me to be more of an insult, since Reagan crusaded against big government. And it still must gall plenty of Democrats who have to fly into an airport named for Reagan when they come to Washington to do their jobs.

Until this whole thing gets ironed out, however, it looks like the sun will keep rising over Frenchman Mountain. Or as I like to call it, Glitter Peak.

Steve Sebelius is a Review-Journal political columnist and author of the blog SlashPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter (@SteveSebelius) or reach him at 387-5276 or SSebelius@reviewjournal.com.