The Tribune struck an international blow against racism five years ago today.
The readers of this newspaper helped depose Nevada Assembly Speaker-designate Ira Hansen, R-Sparks. Ira’s overt bigotry became well known for 17 years on this page.
I got to know Ira as a bright but misguided person. With time and maturity, many and perhaps most people can come to terms with and wash away the prejudices imbued by their upbringing. I did. Alas and alack, Ira did not.
When word came down in late 2014 that the new Republican majority in Nevada’s lower house had elected Ira as speaker, two Tribune elephants starting digging. Neither the late, great Dennis Myers nor I were Republicans, just critters who never forget.
I broke the story of Ira’s racism on this page on Nov. 18, 2014. Later that morning, I announced the issue on Sam Shad’s Nevada Newsmakers TV show.
Then, I waited. I had prepared a press release for the Reno-Sparks NAACP but let the 19th go by. When I received news in late morning of Nov. 20 that a federal government shutdown had been averted, I uploaded. By then, I knew that Dennis Myers’ detailed summary of Ira’s writings would appear in that day’s Reno News & Review, so I included a reference.
Exactly 51 minutes after I sent the story, it went national courtesy of the Las Vegas Review-Journal news service. In less than an hour, I got my own press release back at me almost verbatim. The story went viral from the Maui News to the Guardian of London/UK and all points of the compass. No less than civil rights legend Julian Bond endorsed the Nevada outcry.
On Nov. 23, 2014, Ira announced that he would step down as incoming speaker. To this day, he hasn’t thanked me for scoring him a quarter-page with a photo in The New York Times. Shouldn’t that be worth at least a six pack if not flowers?
Ira placed the speaker’s gavel with a shill but kept his chairmanship of the powerful judiciary committee, then went on to the state senate in 2018, replaced by his wife in the lower house.
Ira is a very bright man and we even agree in our revulsion at the depredations of corporate welfare. I pray for his enlightenment.
TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE. The Reno Gazette-Journal put one of its all-time best reporters on the corporate welfare beat last week. Anjeannette Damon wrote a killer front page story: “Tesla’s alluring tech jobs come at a cost: Worker injuries, 911 calls and a housing crisis.”
I helped Guardian reporter Rory Carroll last year when he was assigned to come here to cover the same angle. (See NevadaLabor.com/)
One of the Sparks senior citizens Carroll interviewed just informed me that she could not afford a recent rent increase and was forced “into the Village on Sage Street which is close to the railroad tracks and Waste Management…I can’t seem to save any money so far. It is a very hard adjustment to go from an apartment to just a dorm room. Most of the men here are from the men’s homeless shelter. I will get out of here as soon as…”
Hope springs eternal. She wished me happy holidays.
Everybody shoots around the shibboleth of the only solution available until the encroaching recession depopulates the area. You read about it exclusively here: “Reno City Council passes rent control” (Barbwire July 17, 2019). Actually happened. In 1978. Then the bad guys assassinated it.
SCHOOL NAMING REPORT. The easy part was transporting the name of Procter Hug, Sr., from the current Hug High to the new secondary school at Wildcreek. What to call the repurposed Hug trade school proved much more complicated.
On Nov. 12, Washoe School Board President Katy Singlaub Simon Holland polled the trustees and FOUR OF 7 said they’d vote for Reno-Sparks NAACP matriarch and longtime Hug High counselor Dolores Feemster (1929-2018).
Katy gave the floor to Rev. Dr. Angie Taylor to make a motion to have the school naming committee come up with a suitable alternative for the late, great State Sen. Debbie Smith, D-Sparks.
Angie instead put together a convoluted, rambling motion that even the experienced board secretary could not decipher. (In addition to the Rev. Dr. Taylor, the other proFeemsters were Jacqueline Calvert, Melayna Raymond and Ellen Minetto. Mme. President, Andrew Caudill and Scott Kelley went on record to re-name Hug for both women.)
It was maddening that Rev. Dr. Taylor chose not to move for a vote with four firm for Dolores Feemster.
After perhaps 20 minutes of nebulous digression, the trustees bounced the whole thing back to the naming committee, delaying matters by at least two months and probably more. .
Indecision means never having to say you’re sorry.
“Business as usual,” stated a former local elected official who attended. “Even the union guys said ‘what a mess’ as we were walking out. The Alphas did it to themselves. They have been working on this for two years,” the longtime observer said.
Now, we go back to rolling the rock up the hill all over again.
WILLIAM C. THORNTON, 1934-2019. Bill Thornton was a distinguished lawyer and a great Nevadan. The former Cal-Neva HotelCasino President died Nov. 5. He was married to the former Barbara Cavanaugh, a longtime UNR professor.
Bill allowed me to go back to the future a few years ago. Turned out his corner president’s office on the 13th floor of Reno City Hall had been my first digs when I got transferred to these parts from Gomorrah South in 1971. It was a memorable afternoon.
Bill’s accomplishments for Nevada and the nation would fill several pages of this paper. You may pay your respects from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. this Sunday, Nov. 24, at the National Auto Museum next door to downtown Reno’s Siena Hotel.
Be well. Raise hell. Esté bien. Haga infierno.
Andrew Barbano is a 51-year Nevadan, editor of NevadaLabor.com 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.