Everybody knows the dice are loaded. Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed. Everybody knows the war is over. Everybody knows the good guys lost. Everybody knows the fight was fixed. The poor stay poor, the rich get rich. That’s how it goes. Everybody knows.Leonard Cohen
Americans have a problem about needing to win-win-win. Sometimes the game drowns the meaning. This is one of those times.
By the time this column hits the streets, the Washoe County School District Board of Trustees will have re-named the former Hug High School. I uploaded a version of this to admonish them that they stand on the threshold of history.
Shall our educators light a beacon of hope for the future or admit that nothing matters but political pressure?
Reno City Councilmember Oscar Delgado and I both independently submitted the same recommendations to the school naming committee: Relocate Hug High to the new facility planned at the Wildcreek Golf Course and re-name Hug for Dolores Feemster.
The existing school in northeast Reno will be repurposed as a vocational center. Three finalists made the cut for Tuesday’s school board meeting and Reno-Sparks NAACP matriarch Dolores Feemster finished second in the semi-finals (24 to 19 to 12).
The two other finalists are worthy of having schools named in their honor. Just not Hug. There are plenty of new schools in the pipeline.
Dolores Feemster (1929-2018) and her family have put in more than 100 years at Hug as students and administrators. Her daughter-in-law, Dr. Debra Feemster, served as principal. Dolores worked as a counselor at Hug for decades and continued past retirement.
When Hug administrators confronted an especially thorny problem or a troubled student, their reaction was very often “call Dolores.”
Dolores Monica Mendocino Feemster was born in an Italian-American enclave on E. 6th Street in Reno. Her father was white, her mother black. I always stood amazed that she grew up in old apartheid Reno and emerged unscathed. There was no bitterness in Mother Dolores. She liked everyone and people reacted that way to her.
She lived most of her life about a mile north of her birthplace in a little house on Sutro. She worked a mile further north at Hug.
Councilman Delgado grew up in the northeast Reno ‘hood (as Dolores sweetly termed it).
“It was the house that never turned anyone away,” Delgado said.
“It was a home that took everyone’s issues in the context that they were real, they were important and that they were important to her and her family. One of the beautiful things about Dolores is she took every issue personally and wanted to find a way to help you, from connecting you with others in the community that could support you, or just putting her arm around you and saying, ‘Things are going to be OK. I’ll stand with you to see you through it.’”
Nevada’s state and local governments run the lowest-taxed havens in the nation. Gambling was first legalized to save mining-busted Nevada from oblivion and pay for needed services like schools. That promise has been broken many times. The gambling-industrial complex and foreign-owned mining, our “extractive” industries, have been emulated by corporate welfare queens of larger appetite.
Sparks and Reno downtown redevelopment districts. The Scheels-Marina-Target district. Cabela’s. The Reno Aceholes ball club. The Oakland Rapists. Tesla, Apple and Switch and so many more. The list of Nevada tax giveaways was about 16 pages long 20 years ago. Now it’s an inch-think book.
As a result of our tax largesse to morally obtuse corporations, schools, parks, roads and first responder protections go begging. The Clark and Washoe County school districts opened this year about $50 million in the red.
The Tesla effect is all around you from angry, crowded streets built for the 1960s to old, overcrowded schools. So what did our betters do? Raise taxes on the poor, many and perhaps most of whom live in Dolores Feemster’s neighborhood.
Washoe County voters passed two sales tax increases in the past few years for roads and schools. They were not allowed to vote on any other tax. Low income people and seniors pay the most because flat sales taxes hit them the hardest. A $90 space heater will cost grandma almost a Benjamin with taxes. That’s three meals or a prescription.
A wealthier person thinks little of the nine bucks.
The recycled Hug High must become the shining symbol of hope on the hill for those who have paid the most for all the new schools. To name it for anyone but Mother Dolores would stand as a constant reminder that no matter how hard you work, you don’t count for as much because you’re from the ‘hood.
The presstime lobbyist count related that it was all over before the vote, three against Dolores and perhaps two more. Why? Heavyweight political pressure and the desire to win-win-win.
If the new school is not Feemster High, the community loses for the next 50 years and we once again prove that Mississippi West still snarls.
A VISION OF THE FUTURE. As I walked into a SaveMart (a union shop) last week, I noticed a shopping cart piled high with plastic bags. As I left, I saw a small SaveMart bag hanging off it. The cart’s driver had made a small purchase. I got out my wallet and looked for five.
I stopped next to a trash receptacle between myself and the cart. A homeless individual, white, dressed literally in rags, came up to me and stopped at the trash can. He bent over and picked up a half-eaten lollypop. Oh, no.
Then he placed it in the trash can. A good citizen doing something for the community that does little for him. I held out ten. He backed away and said “I don’t need it.”
“Take it anyway and good luck to you, brother,” said I. Was he deprived of the tools he needed to thrive, tools like a trade school, perhaps?
I went to my car. And wept.
So, people get ready, there’s a train a-comin’ Picking up passengers from coast to coast Have pity on those whose chances are thinner. There’s room for all amongst the loved the mostCurtis Mayfield
Be well. Raise hell. Esté bien. Haga infierno.
Andrew Barbano is a 51-year Nevadan, editor of NevadaLabor.com and first vice-president of the Reno-Sparks NAACP. As always, his comments are strictly his own. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.