“We just come to work here, we don’t come to die.” – Union longshoreman and labor songwriter Harry Stamper
As I noted last week and countless times before, corporations that knowingly kill people deserve the death penalty. My latest nominees for liquidation include disgraced jetliner manufacturer Boeing and Oxycontin drug dealer Purdue Pharma.
Alas and alack, they will just buy their way out cheap.
But what do you do about politicians who just walk away from the human misery of their constituents? Vote them out? At Sparks and Reno city halls, incumbency guarantees re-election. So it was last month with Reno City Councilmember Neoma Jardon whose dereliction of duty qualifies her for a cabinet position in the second Trump administration.
Jardon has gotten divorced – from reality.
At last Wednesday’s council meeting, Jardon, who chairs the Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County, asserted that the local transit system, for which she is responsible, forces passengers and drivers to wear masks.
If that’s not the case, “that’s a problem for me,” responded Councilmember Devon Reese.
“Has Chair Jardon ever boarded a bus? Nothing could be further from the truth,” stated Teamsters Local 533 President Gary Watson.
“Our transit system has created an epidemic of denial during a deadly pandemic,” Watson asserted.
“More than two dozen drivers plus some support workers have contracted COVID-19. Social distancing is a thing of the past. Some buses pack passengers like sardines at peak hours but the foreign-owned management contractor will not dispatch additional vehicles to relieve overcrowding,” Watson said.
The Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County (RTC) consists of five elected officials: Washoe County Commissioners Vaughn Hartung (R) and Bob Lucey (R); Reno City Councilmembers Jardon (R) and Oscar Delgado (D), and Sparks Councilman Kristopher Dahir (R).
Mr. Delgado recently announced that he and his wife have tested positive for COVID-19.
For decades, RTC has subcontracted management of the transit system to for-profit contractors. The current boss is foreign-owned Keolis Transit America.
“Our patience with Keolis evaporated when we learned that a passenger was refused boarding because his pants were down but maskless passengers were allowed on the bus,” Watson said.
“Maybe we should re-name the disease KEOLIS-19,” Watson suggested.
“RTC has two levels of bureaucracy on top of the foreign subcontractor, so whenever there’s a problem, elected officials and system administrators can blame the non-Nevadans and walk away. Giving control to foreign companies provides local elected officials with plausible deniability no matter what happens,” Watson asserted.
Jardon is the poster child for this criminal lack of accountability. Former Sparks Councilman John Mayer, who served on RTC, once told me that he was the lone voice for ending the wasteful and unaccountable subcontracting. RTC staff could manage the operation, cutting out expensive duplication. John actually rode buses to learn about the system but got no support for trimming all that fat.
“Over the years, it’s only cost untold millions in tax dollars. Now, it’s costing lives,” Watson complains.
The bus system has now become a rolling superspreader, a major contributor to Washoe County’s spiraling Coronavirus infection rates.
“We need the strongest enforcement in the state because 20,000 passengers a day are being exposed due to the intransigence of transit managers and indifference of our political leaders,” Watson said.
“Show me a local bar that serves 20,000 people a day,” Watson demanded.
Drivers are under constant threat of discipline or firing for refusing to board maskless passengers.
Why is Keolis so cavalier with people’s lives? One answer may be that they are simply watching their cash flow. Mass transit usage is way down nationally so doing anything to maintain ridership helps at contract renewal time.
With election season now over, perhaps public pressure may finally force the five dilettante and dilatory RTC commissioners to finally start doing their jobs and serving the public that pays them. For a change.
SPEAKING OF CHEATERS. Believe it or else, the Trump Environmental Protection Agency just did something to protect the environment. Gadzooks!
EPA released a study showing that more than half a million diesel trucks are pulling a Volkswagen and cheating on smog checks.
Anyone can go online and buy a device that will instruct an onboard computer to tell a smog check station’s computer that the truck is compliant. The tampering produces the equivalent of nine million extra trucks’ worth of emissions.
The solution is obvious. The 2021 Nevada legislature must pass a law ordering random diesel truck tailpipe checks and establish fines for anyone caught using the cheating devices.
Might Nevada lawmakers be the first in the nation to do something innovative? Based on our history, probably not, but hope springs eternal.
TRUMP IS QUALIFIED. “If you can’t be good at your job, be so thoroughly, defiantly terrible at it that your superiors are fooled into thinking that you simply must be doing something right,” New York Times sports columnist Mike Tanier wrote.
“Adam Gase’s ongoing employment as New York Jets head coach is a testament to the principle of belligerent incompetence,” he added.
Belligerent incompetence, the touchstone of Donald Trump’s career. He should apply to the Jets after he’s fired in January.
THE POWER OF MYTH. The Times recently interviewed a besieged South Dakota nurse who related how dying patients, with their last breaths, would scream for a magical wonder medicine to save them because they remained absolutely certain that COVID-19 is a hoax. Their president told them so.
SAGE ADVICE. Trump’s lazy let-the-states-do-their-own-thing approach to virus containment was best described by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson as “like roping off a pee-ing section in a swimming pool.”
Happy High Holly Days to you and yours.
Take care of each other and be careful out there.
¡Sí se puede!
Be well. Raise hell. Esté bien. Haga infierno.
NevadaLabor.com/CesarChavezNevada.com Editor Andrew Barbano is a 52-year Nevadan whose reputation remains impervious to further augmentation or denigration. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988. E-mail <email@example.com>