On Johnny’s sidekick, pensions and Sen. Ensign

McMahon’s Vegas legacy

From Publisher Sherman Frederick:

The passing of Ed McMahon reminds me of his generosity and concern for St. Jude’s Ranch for Children. He gave much time and money to the Boulder City facility in the early stages. Locals will likely remember his big involvement in the annual Night of Stars fundraiser on the Strip that gave St. Jude’s its initial financial start.

A building on the St. Jude’s campus is still named in honor of McMahon. And a memorial to McMahon’s son can still be found on the campus. Long-time staffers at St. Jude’s remember McMahon visiting the memorial to his son often. Despite his celebrity and position of honor at St. Jude’s, he’d arrive at the ranch unannounced and spend hours at the memorial.

For all that Ed McMahon will be remembered for, St. Jude’s will not get top billing … but nothing will be more important than his work at this facility, which continues today in its good work for abused and neglected children.

For more, visit www.lvrj.com/blogs/sherm/


Our grandchildren pay

From Editor Thomas Mitchell:

We’ve heard the same old story over and over from all over the country.

Public employee retirement benefits are growing exponentially and unfunded liabilities are ticking time bombs for state and local governments. Public employees are retiring in middle age and drawing handsome benefits and health insurance for 40 years, while working in a second or third career. We’ve called them the aristocaste.

So, as I was reading an editorial in the New York Daily News about how that city’s worker pension cost has tripled since 2003 to $6.4 billion this year, I shrugged. Heard that before, over and over again, my friend, but you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.

The editorial explained that in 2006 a retired firefighter averaged $73,000 a year in pension, plus a $12,000 Christmas bonus, plus $10,000 a year in health insurance — all exempt from state and local income taxes. A retiree’s benefits could cost $3.8 million.

The editorial then mentioned a modest proposal called "Tier V," because there have been other tiers, that would raise the minimum age to 50, drop overtime from being used to calculate retirement pay (Nevada has already dropped overtime, but other pay extras are calculated). The savings to taxpayers would total $16 billion over 30 years.

The editorial says the change would affect only those hired after the law is changed. … That’s because there is a near-universal assumption that benefits are a property right and can never be changed for workers hired 30 years ago.

Maybe it is time to test that assumption in court, an assumption that we have the right to saddle our grandchildren with expenses over which they have no control.

For more, visit www.lvrj.com/blogs/mitchell/


Ensign affair

From columnist Geoff Schumacher:

The author Sally Denton, who grew up in Southern Nevada, writes an occasional blog for The Daily Beast, the new-ish Web site run by longtime magazine diva Tina Brown (Vanity Fair, The New Yorker).

In her latest entry, Denton seeks to explain why Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., is in deep trouble in his home state, where popular perception holds that adultery is not only accepted but encouraged.

"Ensign’s sex scandal has broken through the veneer of the born-again puritan to reveal the lounge act beneath," Denton writes.

"Nevadans are famously accepting of clay-footed politicians, and would have doubtless forgiven Ensign a sexual transgression if not for the enormity of the hypocrisy," Denton submits, noting Ensign’s conservative religious beliefs and membership in the Promise Keepers. "The conventional wisdom in Nevada suggests he can survive the sex scandal, but charges of shakedowns and payoffs are risky business."

For more, visit www.lvrj.com/blogs/schumacher/


MGM Mirage sell off?

From columnist John L. Smith:

Speculation over when MGM Mirage might dump some of its properties in order to reduce its daunting, $14 billion debt continues to reverberate through the gaming community.

Kevin Adams at examiner.com weighs in with his update, which focuses on the possibility of eliminating three casinos from its thick portfolio: MGM Grand Detroit, Gold Strike Tunica, and the Beau Rivage in Biloxi.

Given the current economic uncertainty and the size of its debt, you might think the company would want to part with at least one of its Strip resorts. But think again.

For more, visit www.lvrj.com/blogs/smith/

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