Permission to work

Like most such enterprises, the Las Vegas "sheriff's card" system may have made some sense when first launched -- on a much smaller scale. Workers arrive here from all over the world and can be quickly put to work handling money in a casino cage, the argument doubtless went. Tourists and other customers might feel safer knowing such employees have been fingerprinted and cleared by police.

But Americans have a right to work. Occasional health inspections for food handlers may make sense, but the bulk of such responsibilities must fall on private employers, both as a practical matter and because this is a free country.

The notion that workers need to pay fees to a whole array of government agencies and then await permission to work at tasks as diverse as waiter or fence installer is both absurd and expensive.

At the Nov. 16 meeting of the Las Vegas City Council, there was some good-spirited joking as Ward 2 Councilman Steve Wolfson invited restaurateur Jon Basso to plug his new Fremont Street enterprise, the Heart Attack Grill, which will offer such belt busters as the "double bypass burger."

"We're here to fight the horrible disease of anorexia," Mr. Basso replied, to laughter from the dais. The council then voted to grant the work card in question.

Another new job. That's great. But why on earth did this matter come before the City Council in the first place?

A city spokesman said Wednesday "Servers at the Heart Attack Grill will be serving alcohol and therefore are required to have an Alcohol Awareness Card and a work card issued by Metro Police." After conducting a criminal background check, Las Vegas police turned down one would-be server, who then appealed to the council.

And so the city's highest elected body had to decide whether one guy or gal can bring a glass of wine to your table. We're surprised they don't get to vote on whether he can wear sneakers and a mustache.

Will Mr. Basso be expected to remember this political beneficence when campaign contribution time comes around?

Some progress has been made in recent years, trimming back a costly work card bureaucracy that sometimes seems to assume any job in this town requires a police background check.

But there's clearly more work to be done.


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