‘How?’ is the question left unanswered

The basics of reporting: Who, what, where, when, why and how.

Who: Inmate Scott Dozier.

What: Committed suicide.

Where: In his cell.

When: 4:35 p.m.

Why: Had threatened suicide before.

How: Under investigation.

That’s the “how,” according to the morning newspaper, as reported in the 23rd paragraph of the front page story.

Just about every other news outlet, including The Nevada Independent, reported he was found hanging from a bedsheet tied to an air vent in his cell in Ely State Prison.

Scott Dozier (AP pix)

How much of a bargain are those free electric car recharging stations in rural Nevada?

The state has released information on just how frequently those rural electric car recharging stations are being used, and it’s not exactly like the lines for gasoline back in the 1970s.

The Nevada Office of Energy reports that drivers have charged their electric vehicles 274 times at the three charging stations built by the state in Beatty, Fallon and Panaca along Highways 95 and 93 since the first one opened in early 2016, according to The Nevada Independent. The donation funded news website reports this usage saved a total equivalent to 395 gallons of gasoline and gave away 3,150 kilowatt-hours of electricity. It was dutifully noted that the usage rate is growing.

The costs of three charging stations which give away the power — dubbed the Electric Highway — has been a moving target. When the first opened in Beatty in March 2016 the Office of Energy said each would cost $15,000 and the would be paid for taxpayers and the ratepayers of NV Energy and Valley Electric Association. In the summer of 2015 press accounts said each would cost $30,000. A June 2017 story in the Las Vegas newspaper quoted a spokesman for the governor as saying the cost of each station would range from $85,000 to $250,000, but he assured its readers “none of that comes from taxpayer dollars. The office is funding its portion of costs with federal grant money, and the electric utility covers the rest.” And we thought federal grant money came from taxpayers.

According to the Office of Energy, NV Energy put up $30,000 in an upfront cost abatement payment. It also reports NV Energy is putting out $30,000 for three stations and Valley Electric $15,000 for one.

Another station opened a month ago in Hawthorne. No usage for that outpost was mentioned yet. The press release announcing the opening was bereft of dollar signs.

The first three electric car charging stations have been open an average of about 540 days. Thus, according the Office of Energy, they are used about once every two days.

Taking the low-ball cost per station of $15,000 each that means the 395 gallons saved cost $114 per gallon in capital outlay alone, never mind maintenance and operating costs. The high-end of $250,000 per station translates to $1,900 per gallon.

Using the current retail power cost of about 11 cents per kWh, the stations have given electric car drivers less than $350 worth of power over two years. Now there’s a bargain.

The NVIndy website said Gov. Brian Sandoval sent it an email statement saying he was “encouraged” by the progress of the project.

“When the entire route is complete, range anxiety will be significantly reduced, giving more travelers the comfort required to travel between Reno and Las Vegas,” the statement reportedly said. “Moreover, as the number of electric cars increases, I am confident even more travelers will utilize the electric highway.”

When that Beatty charging station opened, Sandoval was on hand demonstrate by charging up a Ford Focus from the state Department of Transportation fleet in Las Vegas. Since the car had a range of only 76 miles, it had to be hauled to the ceremony from Las Vegas. Most of the Beatty charging stations took four hours to recharge, though a couple could do an 80 percent recharge in half an hour.

According to that 2017 Las Vegas newspaper account, a spokesman for the governor said the office has identified 24 sites along five traffic corridors “where EV charging stations make sense.”

Depends on what one means by make sense?

Governor announces Nevada Electric Highway (Photo from governor’s office)




Another shoe drops on Kihuen

Just hours before the Mesquite Local News published an editorial calling for Rep. Ruben Kihuen to resign due to his inability to continue to serve his constituents because of his wild accusations against Democratic Party leadership, The Nevada Independent posted online a story about a Carson City lobbyist making strikingly similar allegations against Kihuen as those reported earlier by BuzzFeed.

The anonymous woman told the online, contribution-funded news outlet that during the 2015 legislative session then-state Sen. Kihuen touched her thighs or buttocks on three separate occasions without her consent and sent her hundreds of sexually suggestive text messages, including repeated requests to spend the night with her. She said she repeatedly denied his requests.

The news account was accompanied by a lengthy blog from the site’s editor, Jon Ralston, explaining how the story was reported and why the woman was granted anonymity.

“I don’t think Ruben thinks what he did was wrong,” the news story quotes the woman as saying. “Like, I think he just thought he was playing around, which, I don’t think he realized the position he probably put people in.”

The Independent reported that it sent Kihuen’s office a list of questions about the woman’s claims. In reply, Kihuen, 37 and unmarried, did not confirm or deny anything.

“During my ten years in the Legislature, I dated several different women. Out of respect for their privacy, I won’t discuss my communications or any other details of those relationships,” the Independent quoted from Kihuen’s statement, though the woman said she never dated Kihuen.

“I never went over to his house. I never kissed him. I don’t know what his definition of dating is, but usually dating is a mutual decision between two people to do things alone, which I never, ever did with him,” she told the news outlet.

According to BuzzFeed, a female Kihuen campaign staffer quit in April 2016 shortly after the candidate started propositioning her for dates and sex despite her repeated rejections and twice touched her thighs without her consent.

The woman said the propositions became more frequent and more aggressive and Kihuen asked her if she had ever “cheated on her boyfriend.” She said the candidate offered to get them a hotel room together while campaigning and she told BuzzFeed, “I said ‘no’ very firmly and he just laughed at me. It was humiliating.”

According to the Mesquite newspaper editorial, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Ben Ray Lujan, a New Mexico congressman, both called on Kihuen to step down.


But first-term Rep. Kihuen, a former aide to Sen. Harry Reid who has largely held political patronage jobs, threw mud on the leadership, saying, “I do find it interesting that the DCCC, Leader [Nancy] Pelosi and Chairman Ben Ray Lujan — they knew about these allegations last year. They looked into them. They didn’t find anything, and they continued investing millions of dollars in my campaign. They went out there and campaigned for me.”

Spokesmen for Pelosi and Lujan immediately denied the claim.

Fellow Nevada Democratic Reps. Dina Titus and Jacky Rosen have called for Kihuen to leave.

The editorial said Kihuen has turned himself into a pariah in his own party, but now there is another accuser with a remarkably similar tale of callow, vulgar and socially unacceptable misbehavior.


A little difference of opinions over covering the news

On his contribution-financed news website, The Nevada Independent, editor Jon Ralston posted a commentary, under the headline “Cutting off The Indy spites the public we serve,” this week complaining about public officials refusing to talk to his reporters — specifically state Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, Attorney General Adam Laxalt and U.S. Sen. Dean Heller.

The piece quoted a Roberson aide as texting a reporter: “Senator Roberson only provides commentary to reputable news outlets. He does not consider The Nevada Independent as such.”

At one point Ralston suggested that elected officials refusing to talk to certain reporters was tantamount to violating public records laws.

He proclaimed:

“This is not about me or our team of journalists whining about access. This is about public officials, staffers, and agencies depriving the public of important information, context and nuance. They are not hurting me or The Indy. They are sullying the civic fabric by preventing access to information that drives essential public dialogue.

“Finally, a word on a laughable claim. Roberson, Laxalt and Heller have whispered that I am a Democratic partisan. Not only is that not so, but it is low to insinuate and patently false to say that any of our news stories have a partisan slant. Indeed, anyone who knows any of our reporters knows none of them would stand for me trying to inject my bias into their stories, even if I tried, which I never have and never would.”


In the online-no-love-lost-between-rivals there came a couple of rejoinders.

Victor Joecks, a conservative Review-Journal columnist, responded on Twitter with this critique: “Free advice: Conflating a govt official not responding to a reporter’s request for comment with a govt official not answering a public information request is one of the reasons folks think you’re a hack and just out to smear them.”

But conservative blogger Chuck Muth unleashed a 1,200-word diatribe that had to leave a welt.

Muth pointed that two days earlier Ralston had penned a screed in which he outlined the standards The Nevada Independent would use to cover elections. Ralston said that “there is no public benefit in covering candidates who have clearly demonstrated they are unfit for public office or who have zero chance of getting elected no matter what coverage they get.”

To which Muth replied, “In short, Blogger Jon will subjectively decide who is a credible candidate worthy of attention and who isn’t.”

Muth twisted the knife:

It seems a number of candidates and elected officials don’t consider the Ralston Rag to be a credible news organization and have been refusing to give his newsblog the time of day.

Indeed, Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson is quoted as saying he only “provides commentary to reputable news outlets” and “does not consider The Nevada Independent as such.”

In other words, Roberson is treating Ralston the exact same way Ralston, just two days earlier, announced he’ll be treating certain candidates based on credibility.  Shoe on the other foot.  Sauce for the goose.

Ralston went on to spew forth his venom at Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt and U.S. Sen. Dean Heller for also blowing off interview requests from the Ralston Rag, whining that such blacklisting “is not just puerile (Jon loves to use fancy words to appear smarter than everyone else); it’s unethical and unconscionable.”

Judge holds that lawmakers can hold down government jobs at the same time

A Carson City judge has thrown out a lawsuit brought by the Nevada Policy Research Institute in an effort to force compliance with the Separation of Powers Clause of the Nevada Constitution.

In order to establish standing as a party, NPRI sued state Sen. Heidi Gansert on behalf of a client, Doug French, who wanted to seek her job as executive director of external relations at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Article 3 of the Nevada Constitution states: “The powers of the Government of the State of Nevada shall be divided into three separate departments, — the Legislative, — the Executive and the Judicial; and no persons charged with the exercise of powers properly belonging to one of these departments shall exercise any functions, appertaining to either of the others, except in the cases expressly directed or permitted in this constitution.”

Judge James Russell tossed the suit from the bench and has two weeks to issue a written ruling explaining how on earth a person exercising the powers of the Legislature can also exercise any functions of the executive branch.

State Sen. Heidi Gansert (R-J pix)

NPRI attorney told The Nevada Independent the group will wait for the judge’s written ruling before deciding what step to take next.

This is the second time NPRI has sued to try to get lawmakers to follow the plain language of the Constitution. Earlier it sued state Sen. Mo Denis because he also was an employee of the state Public Utilities Commission, and had been for 17 years. Denis immediately resigned from his $56,000-a-year state job in order to maintain his part-time $10,000-every-other-year state senator post, and a judge declared the lawsuit moot, despite strong arguments from NPRI that there is a public-interest exception to mootness.

Gansert’s university job yields $210,000 a year in pay and benefits.

There are nearly a dozen current lawmakers who also hold jobs in state or local government. Since Nevada operates under the Dillon Rule, which limits the power of local governments to those expressly granted by the Legislature, local governments are basically subsidiaries of the state. Arguably employees of local governments are serving in the executive branch of state government, and also would be barred from serving as a lawmaker under the Constitution.

When he filed suit against Gansert, Becker issued a statement saying, “Gansert’s continued employment in the state’s executive branch, as Executive Director of External Relations for the University of Nevada, Reno, puts her in direct violation of Nevada’s Separation of Powers clause, now that she is also serving in the state senate. As a senator, she can simply not continue her employment in the executive branch without violating this clearly worded constitutional provision.”

In a counter statement Gansert called the suit meritless and said, “Nevada has an unambiguous precedent of legislators taking time off from their jobs in higher education to serve the people of the state.”

That unambiguous precedent only dates from 1964, as newspaper columnist Vin Suprynowicz pointed out in a 2011 column. Suprynowicz said even school janitors were not allowed to sit in the Legislature. This was chipped away by a couple of attorney general rulings until in 1971 Attorney General Bob List opened the flood gates. List held that a person could “exercise powers” as a legislator so long as he didn’t “exercise powers” in one of the other branches. Never mind that the constitutional criteria is “any function.”

Suprynowicz also related, “In 2004, Attorney General Brian Sandoval — now our governor — issued an opinion holding that state workers should not be allowed to sit in Carson City. But it has never been tested in the courts and is widely ignored.”

But the lawmakers’ lawyers at the Legislative Counsel Bureau issued a different opinion two years earlier and said “the separation- of-powers provision in the state constitution only prohibits a member of the Legislature, during his term, from holding a constitutional office or a nonconstitutional office in another department of state government, because a person who holds a constitutional or nonconstitutional office exercises sovereign functions appertaining to another department of the state government. However, it is also the opinion of this office that the separation-of-powers provision in the state constitution does not prohibit a member of the Legislature, during his term, from occupying a position of public employment in another department of state government, because a person in a position of public employment does not exercise any sovereign functions appertaining to another department of the state government.”

Nope, no conflict there, other than being able to hold life and death sway over the budget of one’s own boss.

Thomas Jefferson wrote in “Notes on the State of Virginia” in 1784: “All the powers of government, legislative, executive, and judiciary, result to the legislative body. The concentrating these in the same hands is precisely the definition of despotic government. … An elective despotism was not the government we fought for; but one which should not only be founded on free principles, but in which the powers of government should be so divided and balanced among several bodies of magistracy, as that no one could transcend their legal limits, without being effectually checked and restrained by the others.”


How Washington math ‘works’

This is how Washington works: If Congress does not increase funding by as much as someone wants, that’s a cut. If Congress doles out money one year, but fails to continue to do so, that’s a cut. If Congress stops penalizing people for not buying health insurance, and some of those people choose to not buy it, those people have lost insurance coverage.

That’s why you see news reports heralding the “fact” Medicaid cuts in the current Senate ObamaCare repeal-and-replace bill would cost Nevada $16 billion over the next decade, and 200,000 could “lose” health insurance.

That’s why even nuns are calling for ObamaCare to be left alone. Nuns? Didn’t nuns sue because ObamaCare requires them to provide contraceptive coverage?

The local paper quoted one of those nuns as writing: “We have seen early and avoidable deaths because of a lack of insurance, prohibitive costs and lack of quality health care.”

Pay no heed to the fact that studies found “uninsured patients were about 25% less likely than those with Medicaid to have an ‘in-hospital death.’” Or that, “Medicaid patients were also more than twice as likely to have a major, subsequent heart attack after angioplasty as were patients who didn’t have any health insurance at all.”

Insurance coverage does not necessarily equal better health care.

A vote against ending ObamaCare is a vote for keeping it until it collapses and is replaced by single payer. Apparently, four of Nevada’s Washington delegation are already on board.



Rosen said to be planning to run against Heller

Jacky Rosen (AP pix via Politico)

Half the search engine alerts about Nevada this morning seemed to contain a link to some story about first-term Democratic Congresswoman Jacky Rosen of Las Vegas, who has a year and a half to go in her first term, planning to soon announce a bid to unseat Republican Sen. Dean Heller.

Politico first broke the news at 7:44 p.m. Monday, followed a couple of hours later by The Nevada Independent and a half dozen others, except the Las Vegas newspaper. Most cited unnamed sources, though a couple led with the National Republican Congressional Committee reacting to the news.

Politico reported that a poll released Monday showed Heller getting just 39 percent of the vote while a generic Democrat polled 46 percent among Nevada voters.

“Heller is widely considered the most vulnerable Republican up for re-election in 2018 and is the only GOP senator this cycle who represents a state won by Hillary Clinton in 2016,” Politico reported.

NVIndy reported:

The first-term congresswoman has spoken with former Democratic Sen. Harry Reid and his successor, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, about getting into the race and is the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s top choice to run against the senior senator, the source said. Heller is considered the most vulnerable Republican up for reelection in 2018 and is the Democrats’ best pickup opportunity in the midterm.

The website also said she has the backing of the Culinary union, which has a strong voter turnout organization. In the 2016 presidential election Hillary Clinton outpolled Donald Trump by 2 points, largely due to the unions getting members to the polls.

CNN quoted an NRSC spokesman as saying, “With today’s news, Jacky Rosen confirmed to Nevadans the only reason she’s in elected office is to serve her own ambitions. Rosen’s radical liberal stances might please her puppet-master Harry Reid, but they will leave Nevadans worse off.”

Election season is never ending.