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.”

Advertisements

Stadium naming rights? Or just a ruse to dole out corporate welfare?

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority shelling out $80 million over 20 years — $4 million a year — for naming rights for a Summerlin baseball stadium for a minor league team might not have been such a good idea.

At least that’s the opinion of two Las Vegas newspaper columnist and a letter writer in the Sunday edition.

News columnist Victor Joecks points out that for $4 million a year the LVCVA could’ve purchased the naming rights for almost every one of the 15 other ballparks in the Pacific Coast League in which the Las Vegas’ 51s compete. He also said his review of  more than 250 stadiums, fields and arenas found that no other government agency is paying to name a sports venue.

Business columnist Richard Vellota suggests that the whole deal comes across as corporate welfare for the Howard Hughes Corp., owners of the 51s and builders of the new stadium next to the company’s Downtown Summerlin.

A letter writer questions blowing that much money on a ballpark when education could use the money.

Velotta also points out just how lame the whole naming rights ruse really is. It will be called the Las Vegas Ballpark. Like no one would know what town they are in? Like they are going to call the team the Summerlin 51s?

Joecks calls the whole deal a farce and comments, “This whole fiasco makes more sense if you view the $80 million as a construction subsidy. Even for the LVCVA, it’d be hard to justify giving a private business tens of millions of tax dollars. Calling it a ‘naming rights’ deal, however, gave the proposal a thin initial layer of credibility.”

A thin and transparent veneer, indeed.

Rendering via R-J

 

Time to end those NFL tax subsidies?

Nearly entire Raiders team sits for national anthem.

Before you poke someone in the eye, you should take your hand out of his pocket.

Michelle Malkin’s column posted at Townhall points out that those NFL players kneeling during the national anthem are doing so on turf paid for by taxpayers, not just ticket holders.

“Over the past decade, new tax-supported NFL stadiums rose up for the Indianapolis Colts (the $720 million Lucas Oil Stadium), the Dallas Cowboys (the $1.15 billion AT&T Stadium) the New York Jets and Giants (the $1.6 billion MetLife Stadium, the Minnesota Vikings (the $1.1 billion U.S. Bank Stadium), the Atlanta Falcons (the $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium), and the San Francisco 49ers (the $1.3 billion Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara),” Malkin notes.

She also reports that there soon will be a $2.6 billion stadium for the Los Angeles Chargers and Rams, as well as a $1.9 billion stadium for the Oakland Raiders when they move to Las Vegas. Though she neglects to point out that $750 million of that Raider stadium will be covered by room taxes, she does note that there is an $83 million taxpayer debt on two-decade-old renovations to the Alameda County Coliseum that the Raiders are abandoning.

Malkin also noted that a majority of economists say providing state and local subsidies to build stadiums for professional sports teams usually costs taxpayers more than any economic benefits.

So team players and owners are sticking it to taxpayers figuratively and literally.

If you just can’t wait till Thursday’s newspaper for Wayne Allyn Root’s predictable pro-Trump screed on this topic, it is already posted at Townhall. He argues that the NFL is committing economic suicide.

“It’s time for a nationwide boycott,” Root cheer leads. “It’s time for 63 million Trump fans to stop watching. Turn off NFL games on your TV for the next month. Watch the owners cry. Watch them panic. Watch them beg. Watch them order an end to all kneeling or disrespect for the national anthem. Watch them sing a whole new tune.”

He, too, gets around the taxpayer aspect and suggests that people call their governors and demand an end to all subsidies for the NFL.

Brent Bozell, also posted at Townhall, points out the liberal media jumped all over Trump’s tweets about the anthem kneeling equating them to racism and censorship, spurring “cowardly NFL teams” up the ante on Sunday with bigger displays of disrespect.

“The liberal media are shameless hypocrites when they polarize the country and then complain the country is polarized,” Bozell writes. “They have honored (Colin) Kaepernick as some kind of ‘star-spangled’ patriot and pushed his radical racial agenda. They have pressured the NFL and every other televised sports league to take liberal stands on everything from race to gun control to imposing transgender bathrooms.”

Local newspaper columnist Victor Joecks also weighed in on the NFL tax subsidy boondoggle today.

He noted how Gov. Brian Sandoval boasted that the Raider stadium would be a boon to the state’s economy. There were projections that the stadium would produce almost 6,000 annual jobs, total wages of $230 million and an increase of 1 million visitors annually.

“By putting taxpayers on the hook for a significant portion of the stadium’s cost, Raiders’ owner Mark Davis reduced his risk and directly benefits from a $750 million subsidy.  That makes sense for him. It never made financial sense for you,” Joecks writes. “The NFL protests are just another reminder of why government shouldn’t pick winners and losers in the economy.”

 

 

 

Motto of the Democratic Party: “Ubi est mea?”

Longtime Chicago newspaper columnist Mike Royko used to gibe that the real motto of his hometown was: “Ubi est mea?” Translation: “Where’s mine?”

Perhaps, that is now the motto of the Democratic Party and its surrogates marching in the streets, booing at town hall meetings and breaking windows and setting fires and beating college professors.

Thanks to morning newspaper columnist Victor Joecks, we’ve now learned that in her speech to the state Legislature in Carson City nearly a week ago Congresswoman Dina Titus listed violent protest in her litany of reactions to the Trump administration.

Joecks quotes her as saying:

“Here at home we see people coming together in ways that we haven’t witnessed in a long time. There are rallies. There are protests. There are neighborhood events. We’ve had a women’s march, a tax march, there’s a science march.

“We’ve seen coverage of raucous town hall meetings and demonstrations on college campuses that have turned violent.

“It’s because people want to know what is going on. They want to know what’s going to happen to the programs that help those who are the most vulnerable, like Meals on Wheels for seniors.”

After a couple of phone calls the columnist finally managed to get a Titus spokesman to say, “She does not consider violent demonstrations to be equivalent (to the other forms of expression she listed).”

But as the video shows, there are a lot of things she wants to spend our money on.

Bill is an expensive sop to public employee unions

A bill introduced in Carson City by a Las Vegas assemblyman would wipe out much of the progress made in 2015 in public employee collective bargaining reforms.

Assembly Bill 121, sponsored by Assemblyman Steve Yeager, who also happens to be a Clark County public employee, would wipe out a provision in law that prohibits paying union officials from public coffers for time spent doing union business. It also negates a provision blocking pay increases after a union contract has expired and before a new one is inked. It further makes provisions of any new contract retroactive the time of expiration of the previous one — lessening incentives for union members to accept a lesser offer.

The bill is pure redistributionism. Taking from the taxpayers to line the pockets of public employee unions.

Assemblyman Yeager

Assemblyman Yeager

Yeager is employed by the Clark County Public Defenders Office, whose union contract expires in June.

As Las Vegas newspaper columnist Victor Joecks pointed out in a recent column, Yeager’s wearing of two hats — lawmaker and public employee — is not just a conflict of interest, but a blatant violation of the state Constitution.

Article 3 of that 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.”

Since local governments exist at the behest of the state government, Yeager could be considered an employee of the executive branch, and since he works in the court system he might also by seen as an employee of the judicial branch — a triple play!

The reforms this bill attempts to undo actually don’t go nearly far enough.

Even liberal icon and labor supporter Franklin D. Roosevelt said:

“All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations. The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress.”

 

Can lawmakers raise the minimum wage since it is ensconced in the state Constitution?

miniwage

Democrats in the Nevada Legislature have introduced Senate Bill 106, which proposes to raise the minimum wage by 75 cents a year until it reaches $11 an hour for employers who provide health insurance and $12 an hour for those who do not.

This would affect profitability of employers, tend to push all hourly wage earnings up, possibly result in higher unemployment and increase the cost of goods and services in general — thus affecting nearly everyone in Nevada. The story was relegated to the bottom of the business page in the Las Vegas newspaper, but was the lede story in the Elko paper. AP gave it short shrift.

One minor problem with this proposed law is that the voters approved an initiative petition in 2004 and again in 2006 that amended the state Constitution to require that the minimum wage be tied to the federal minimum wage or inflation, whichever is higher. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. The amendment also said the minimum wage would be a dollar higher for employees who failed to provide health insurance. So far as I can find, the amendment does not give lawmakers the option to alter this without asking the voters to again change the Constitution.

According to Legislative Counsel Bureau fact sheet published in 2015:

“Because provisions governing the minimum wage rate are included in the Constitution, any changes to the minimum wage provisions require a constitutional amendment. There are two ways to amend the Constitution. One way is through the citizen initiative process. Citizen initiatives for constitutional amendments must be approved in identical form in two consecutive general elections. This is the process that enacted the current minimum wage requirements in the Constitution. The second way to amend the Constitution is through the legislative process. The Senate or Assembly may propose a constitutional amendment, which must pass in identical form with a majority of members of both houses in two consecutive biennial sessions. After that, the proposal must pass a popular vote during the next general election.”

Just such a constitutional amendment was proposed in late 2015, but was dropped during the hectic election year, reportedly because the difficulty of getting enough signatures to put it on the ballot.

SB106 proposes to rewrite NRS605.250 to alter the minimum wage. That law currently reads: “Except as otherwise provided in this section, the Labor Commissioner shall, in accordance with federal law, establish by regulation the minimum wage which may be paid to employees in private employment within the State. The Labor Commissioner shall prescribe increases in the minimum wage in accordance with those prescribed by federal law, unless the Labor Commissioner determines that those increases are contrary to the public interest.”

Las Vegas newspaper columnist Victor Joecks quoted Gov. Brian Sandoval’s press secretary as saying:

“Due to the predicted loss of jobs and harm to small businesses, the potential to block young people and individuals with less work experience from open positions, and an increase in consumer prices, the Governor has historically opposed a legislative mandate to increase the minimum wage.”

This implies the governor might veto such a bill even if it passes constitutional muster.

As I’ve pointed out on a number of occasions the impact of such a bill is far ranging and carries unintended consequences.

“Unfortunately, the real minimum wage is always zero,” economist Thomas Sowell points out, “regardless of the laws, and that is the wage that many workers receive in the wake of the creation or escalation of a government-mandated minimum wage, because they either lose their jobs or fail to find jobs when they enter the labor force.”

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that if the federal minimum wage were increased to $10.10 an hour — as proposed by President Obama and others — up to a million workers would lose their jobs.

According to the American Enterprise Institute, when the minimum wage rose 41 percent between 2007 and 2009, the jobless rate for 16- to 19-year-olds increased by 10 percentage points, from about 16 percent in 2007 to more than 26 percent in 2009 — even higher for minorities.

These are entry level jobs without which younger Americans cannot build the skills needed to earn higher pay.

Another Heritage study reported that every dollar increase in minimum wage really only raises take-home pay by 20 cents once welfare benefits are reduced and taxes are increased.

Then there are the affects on everyone. A Cato Institute analysis reports that a “comprehensive review of more than 20 minimum wage studies looking at price effects found that a 10 percent increase in the U.S. minimum wage raises food prices by up to 4 percent and overall prices by up to 0.4 percent.”

Minimage wages also tend to push younger workers with less worthy skills out of the job market, and Nevada already has the 10th highest youth unemployment rate in the nation at 13.5 percent.

Columnist takes aim at target-rich topic

It is good to see NPRI alum-turned-R-J-columnist Victor Joecks take on one of the false shibboleths of the progressives by pointing out that ever expanding pre-K education is little more than a hugely expensive futile gesture.

The gist of the piece:

In the past 50 years, government-funded pre-K programs have grown considerably — and so has our understanding of their impact. The federal government started the Head Start program in 1965 to

Joecks

Joecks

help improve the school readiness of low-income children. We have since spent more than $180 billion on this program.

In 2012, the federal government released the results of a random-assignment study of 5,000 Head Start participants. The Heritage Foundation notes that the scientifically rigorous examination found “no statistically measurable effects on any measure of cognitive ability, including reading, language, and math.”

Futile education programs could be fertile ground for Joecks.

After all, Nevada high school students are dead last in the nation in college preparedness, according to the ACT test scores. That means 90 percent of Nevada students failed to achieve benchmark scores on all four of the test categories — English, math, reading and science. ACT reports that this compares to 34 percent nationally, who failed to pass any of the tests.

Add this to the recent Education Week’s 2014 Quality Counts report that ranked Nevada K-12 education 51st in the nation, behind every other state and the District of Columbia. Nevada has never ranked higher than 48th.

This despite the fact Nevada since 1990 has spent close to $2.5 billion on class-size reduction in the early grades with nothing to show for it. A 2001 report by the Nevada Legislative Counsel Bureau found that, while principals, teachers, and parents were very positive in their attitudes toward class-size reduction, achievement data did not produce results. Students in larger classes outperformed those in the smaller classes.

Over the past four decades, according to a Cato Institute analysis, Nevada has increased K-12 public school funding by 80 percent per pupil, adjusted for inflation. During those four decades student test scores have actually fallen slightly.

This past legislative session the governor pushed through nearly a $1 billion dollars more per biennium spending on feel-good education programs that may or may not improve anything. We’ll just have to wait and see.