JAN 14-18

Sen. Hillary Clinton won Nevada’s Democratic presidential caucus and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was victorious on the Republican side Saturday.

The caucusing capped a whirlwind week that put an unprecedented political spotlight on Southern Nevada, and saw the three leading Democratic candidates — Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards — and Republicans Romney and Ron Paul making multiple stops in the state.

Clinton, Obama and Edwards were mostly civil in a nationally televised debate in Las Vegas on Tuesday, despite the tensions roiling the race.

"We’re the survivors of what has been a year-long campaign," Clinton said.

But tension surfaced in a court battle over at-large Democratic caucus sites to accommodate Strip shift workers, most of whom are affiliated with the Culinary union.

Because of the union’s endorsement of Obama, the plaintiffs had been concerned the sites favored the Illinois senator over Clinton.

U.S. District Judge James Mahan said political parties have the freedom to set up their own guidelines for caucuses if they do not discriminate against voters based on race, gender or religion.

In the end, a majority of the nine caucus sites on the Strip went to Clinton.



Tree-cutter gets prison sentence

District Judge Donald Mosley sentenced Douglas Hoffman to 18 months to five years in prison and ordered him to pay $246,085 in restitution for cutting down or poisoning more than 500 trees in the upscale Sun City Anthem community.

"This man spent approximately 14 months wreaking havoc on this community," Mosley said, adding that in one night Hoffman killed more than 80 trees in the Henderson neighborhood.

Authorities allege Hoffman, 61, killed 546 trees from October 2004 until his arrest in November 2005 to preserve his view.



Crime declines in Clark County

Annual crime statistics released by the Metropolitan Police Department indicate crime was down in 2007 in four key categories, including the one for which Clark County was labeled the worst in the nation: auto thefts. The number of rapes came down after hitting a high in 2006, and last year’s homicide total was the lowest in years.

Also, fewer people died last year on the roads of Las Vegas and unincorporated Clark County. The 2007 traffic death toll of 132 was the lowest since 2003. But Las Vegas police saw increases in aggravated assaults and burglaries.

Sheriff Doug Gillespie said a primary factor in the improvements has been that more officers are patrolling the streets.



O.J. gets scolded, still goes free

O.J. Simpson got another chance at freedom, but not without first enduring a tongue-lashing for trying to contact a co-defendant in his armed robbery case.

"It concerns me that you made this phone call," District Judge Jackie Glass said during a hearing on whether to revoke the former football star’s bail. "I don’t know, Mr. Simpson, what the heck you were thinking, and maybe that’s the problem. You weren’t."

County prosecutors wanted the judge to revoke Simpson’s bail, based on a message he left on his bail bondsman’s voice mail in November.



Teachers union petition rejected

The state teachers union cannot circulate petitions to let voters increase gaming taxes without cutting out language that directs the revenue to teacher pay, a judge decided.

Senior Justice Miriam Shearing, acting as a district judge, decided language earmarking how the tax money would be spent violates a state law requiring petitions to deal with a single subject.

Nevada State Education Association President Lynn Warne said her union will review its options, including appealing to the Nevada Supreme Court or allowing the petition to go forward as suggested by Shearing.

The teachers association wants to increase the gaming tax rate, now 6.75 percent, to 9.75 percent to raise an additional $250 million to $400 million a year.



State’s jobless rate at five-year high

Nevada’s unemployment rate climbed to 5.8 percent in December, the highest in more than five years, and now is eighth highest among the 50 states, the state announced.

The Nevada unemployment rate is far higher than the national 5 percent average, according to the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation.

In Las Vegas, the December unemployment rate was 5.6 percent, up from 5.3 percent in November, and far more than the 4.2 percent rate in December 2006.




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