A ray of hope for aggrieved renters has appeared. It’s paper-thin and almost a prayer, but it’s better than despair, an emotion I’ve often witnessed in more than 40 years of working on this.
Renters in Nevada have few rights and if they try to take advantage of our weak laws, they can be evicted for no reason at all. We play by Old Man Trump’s rules (apologies to Woody Guthrie, who wrote that about Czar Donaldov’s dad decades ago).
I got a query after last week’s column from an old friend at a law firm. She wanted to know whazzup about my inchoate renters rights organization.
I responded that the group is me and a few vols who responded to my original announcement last year. I hoped to institute a two-pronged approach, information sharing about landlords and starting a non-profit to make low-interest loans to put a dent in payday loansharking.
The former did not fly because volunteers either did not have Facebook pages which could be networked or were just too frightened to fight. I set up two senior ladies to talk with the Guardian of London (200,000 daily UK circulation and a whopping 1 billion page views per month). The article ran last July. I started Rentvolution.org and all followups are linked thereat.
A law professor said that the loan idea was basically a credit union startup which is being tried elsewhere, especially St. Louis which has a large minority population. I found that it took them 14 YEARS to get it on — and they’ve been having trouble getting paid back. Gee, I wonder why.
I offered my Sparks Guardian-featured tenant the opportunity to present a letter in person to Gov. Sisolak at César Chávez XVII last month. She was too shy and said she’d mail a copy of her plight to the guv and two local mayors.
I talked to some fine upstanding community bankers and they want no part of trying to save renters from payday loan thugs or themselves. The starch-collared financiers make too much money on overdraft charges.
Right now, our best bets lie with the Democratic legislature. As I noted in last week’s Tribune, Sparks Sen. Julia Ratti’s Senate Bill 398 empowers local governments to implement rent increase justification.
Lt. Gov. Kate Marshall is pushing Assembly Bill 399. It is titularly a state-based savings account/wage withholding program but the proposed penalty-free access to funds can give low-wage workers a readily available stash to pay for emergency expenses where they might otherwise resort to loan sharks. I attended Ms. Marshall’s speech about it last Friday at the Reno-Sparks Chamber offices.
Combine the savings accounts with an amended Ratti plan and we’ve got something. If we can win local option on rent increase justification and lose the shibboleth of “rent control,” this bird might fly. The only problem with Sen. Ratti’s bill is that it empowers county commissions. Fine for Gomorrah South, but the Washoe County Commission is 4-1 Republican.
Sparks City Hall is 100 percent GOP including the mayor and madcap city-attorney-for-life. However, they just started a highly-touted senior citizens advisory committee which might have some sway. (See Kayla Anderson’s front-page story in the Trib last month.) One or two councilcritters might prove reasonable.
Reno remains the best bet if we can get Sen. Julia to amend the bill to allow city councils the power. (And I remain unsure that local officials don’t already have it.)
We can marshal the troops but we need a flag to rally them toward.
CORPORATE CAPITALIST PUNISHMENT DEPT. I sent last week’s proposal about a corporate death penalty to minions of presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont. I had hoped Warren might mention it in her fiery address at Wooster High last Saturday.
Politics does not reward the shy. It’s a simple idea and some structures already exist such as confiscation of drug dealer property and the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act. My idea is much simpler: A company which has knowingly killed people should be put to death with assets sold off, stock value zeroed and proceeds to the injured and/or the public treasury. Tobacco companies used to be number one on that hit parade but Big Pharma, led by the opioid pushers at Purdue Pharma, are my current pick to click.
¡Sí se puede!
Be well. Raise hell. Esté bien. Haga infierno.
Andrew Barbano is a 50-year Nevadan and editor of NevadaLabor.com. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.