Las Vegas CityLife

September 30, 1999

Civic activism can be an expensive enterprise

In "Yet Another Tax Break for the Rich" [July 29], Geoff Schumacher mentions "negligible civic activism" in our community. I find it amazing that that there is any such activism, negligible or otherwise. Mr. Schumacher and others should be aware of the numerous attempts on the part of our elected and appointed officials to silence the voices of the few true activists who refuse to bow down to the hats these petty tyrants have placed upon various posts.

First, Mr. Schumacher, there is the horrendous Citizens Code of Conduct ordinance proposed by, of all people, Clark County Commissioner Yvonne Atkinson Gates and speedily passed into law by the other six malevolent dwarfs on that not-so-august body. This ordinance provides for an activist to be dragged from a meeting, fined and even jailed at the whim of some official.

To the north of us, the Nevada Policy Research Institute's criticism of U.S. Sen. Harry Reid brought swift retaliation by the senator against the media that carried this criticism. Not an encouragement for activism are the above?

Need more? Ask activists Steve Miller and Sam Dehene about the costs of activism. By statute, anyone may "request an opinion" from the state Commission on Ethics regarding the actions of an elected or appointed official. Both Miller and Dehene exercised this statutory right. Results? Miller was fined $2,500 and Dehene was fined $5,000. True, when Commissioner Gates sought to have activist Bob Rose sanctioned for his request for an opinion on her misuse of the Mirage phone room for partisan political purposes the Ethics Commission refused, and when Ethics Commission member Mario Reconzone threatened me with physical violence he did not follow through, at least not yet. I believe that the threat to activism remains real from this statutorily created commission. Is there any wonder that a request for an opinion on the Silver State Disposal contract manipulation has not yet been filed? I don't have an extra $5,000 laying around, do you ?

The official attitude toward activism is succinctly expressed by the actions of the Clark County Commission and the Las Vegas City Council's action in the recent award of the cable television franchise. Both bodies had ordinances requiring citizen input. After brushing aside the activists seeking to exercise this encoded right, both the county and the city revised their ordinances to exclude any future citizen participation.

Mr. Schumacher, there is civic activism in this community. Because it is seldom reported by the major media and suppressed by the powers that be, you and many others do not know about it. Dig a little deeper, look a little closer, and listen a bit more acutely and you'll understand that the level of civic activism is not negligible but only very expensive for those engaging in it.

Also, thanks for your call to stop the widening of U.S. 95, which is admittedly already obsolete before the first home alongside it has been bulldozed. This is the exact position a group of local activists, primarily

the Charleston Neighborhood Preservation Association, has taken before hundreds of assembled bodies for more than two long years.

--Scott Keesler

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