Using local contractors for Nevada projects makes sense

The Nevada Wage War hasn’t gained much attention yet, but I’m betting it will.

The Republican Assembly Caucus upped the election-season ante Thursday when it asked Nevada Labor Commissioner Michael Tanchek to postpone a scheduled issuance of a new prevailing wage for government construction projects.

The issue is volatile and ripe for political spinning as Election Day approaches.

A freeze is sure to play with taxpayers weary of hearing about fat government employee salaries and high wages for government construction jobs.

In a news release, GOP Assembly Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea said, “All of us support a fair wage for those who do public construction, but in these economic times we cannot afford a more than fair wage.”

Makes some sense. But the move is risky because, in the right hands, the prevailing wage issue could be used to motivate frustrated construction workers already suffering from high unemployment. They might take this as a reason to get off the couch and vote.

What I fail to understand is why no one high in authority at the state level has stepped forward to suggest Nevada-based construction companies be given increased preference when bidding government jobs. I like Utah, Arizona and California as well as the next guy, but watching contracts go to companies and workers based in those states defines economic insanity.

COATS, KIDS: Harriet Bernard came to Las Vegas 11 years ago from cold country, but she received a warm reception once she started the Coats for Kids campaign.

A former Maine resident, Bernard smiled when she first saw Las Vegans bundled up in merely chilly weather. But when she saw children shivering at bus stops on surprisingly frosty desert mornings, she was moved to act.

“I realized when the so-called winter came, we were so dry here,” she recalls. “Those children were going to school at 7 in the morning, and the wind blows right through you. It’s cold.”

Bernard brought the national Coats for Kids drive to Southern Nevada. October is Coats for Kids Month.

To date, she estimates the program has collected 27,000 new and gently used coats, sweaters and sweat shirts for children and adults. The clothing is gathered from drop boxes at local Albertson’s stores by Las Vegas Review-Journal drivers and distributed through the Salvation Army’s Family Services center.

CRAZY RACE: Comedian Rita Rudner has narrated a popular YouTube commercial for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that touts GOP challenger Sharron Angle as a marketer of “Crazy Juice” following some of her recent recorded comments from a conversation with Tea Party of Nevada candidate Scott Ashjian. The spot was highlighted on CNN.

It’s nutty stuff and pretty funny. We’ll see whether it catches fire or gets lost in the noise of the race.

Meanwhile, Angle hasn’t needed wacky commercials to remain competitive. She can smile as Reid attempts to campaign against a horrible economy and high unemployment.

BERNIE & NEIL: Longtime local and New York transplant Neil Wolson walked into Bagelmania and ran into a guy he hadn’t seen in person in more than six decades.

When you’re closing in on 80, it’s always wise to rekindle your acquaintances while you can. Wolson didn’t know whether he would ever run into him again, so he walked up to his old friend Bernie Schwartz and said hello.

The world, of course, knew Bernie Schwartz as Tony Curtis, the popular actor whose recent funeral in Las Vegas made news around the world.

“Bernie, I have not seen you since we played basketball up in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx maybe 65 years ago, ” Wolson recalls. “He roared with a laugh and a smile. He was a really great, down-to-Earth human being. We shall all miss him.”

Have an item for the Bard of the Boulevard? E-mail comments and contributions to Smith@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0295. He also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/smith.

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