D. Dowd Muska
Last month President Clinton signed a bill which authorized the sale of 6,500 acres of federally controlled land in Ivanpah Valley to Clark County. The county plans to use the land to build a new airport. With a target opening date of 2009, the facility will serve cargo carriers and charter flights, and reduce demand at McCarran Airport, which is scheduled to reach its passenger capacity in 2010. Yet the most promising tool to improve air travel in Nevada remains largely overlooked by transportation planners: privatization. Herewith, and examination of airport-privatization successes elsewhere, and a look at how market-oriented reforms can ensure that Nevada’s airports meet the needs of customers, not politicians.
The belief that development is destroying Americans’ quality of life runs rampant in our culture. And given the population booms in Nevada's two metropolitan regions, it is easy to see why citizens in the Silver State are concerned about the negative effects of growth, from traffic congestion to air pollution. In Nevada and elsewhere, left-wing environmentalists and anti-business activists have seized on the downsides of sprawl to push an agenda they call “smart growth.”
Dozens of states have implemented or are seriously considering voucher programs, and courts continue to affirm that school choice is constitutional. But in the ongoing debate over improving education in Nevada, the word “voucher” is conspicuously absent.
Nevada's politicians, like their counterparts across the nation, seek to draw information-technology (IT) firms to their state, as well as foster the creation of native IT enterprises. It's little wonder why such businesses are attractive to legislative careerists -- "dot coms" and other New Economy firms pay their employees well. The American Electronics Association reports that high-tech workers earn an average salary of $53,000, a figure which is 80 percent higher than salaries in other industries. Yet few of these quality jobs exist in Nevada. A recent survey which examined the percentage of technology-related employment for each state ranked Nevada a dismal 45th. Unfortunately, the state's elected officials and bureaucrats are doing very little to fix this problem -- in fact, they're making things worse.
Governor Kenny Guinn’s recent attempt to privatize health services in Nevada’s prisons terrified medical workers at the Silver State’s government-run correctional facilities. The State of Nevada Employees Association declared all-out war on the proposal, a largely sympathetic media toed the union’s line, and legislators of both parties either ignored or demonized the notion of privatized health care in Nevada’s prisons. In what came as no surprise to close observers of Nevada’s political scene, when the legislative session concluded the governor’s privatization proposal was dead. But when compared with the nation’s undeniable privatized-corrections trend, Guinn’s plan to allow companies to take over medical services at Nevada’s prisons was quite modest. Privatized prison construction and operation have been adopted by the federal government and a growing number of states—and studies clearly show that corporations can both build and manage correctional facilities more cheaply than the public sector.
Since 1996, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has worked to acquire the Torrance Ranch, a parcel of land north of Beatty. Earlier this month the Las Vegas Business Press reported that buying the property will enable TNC’s Nevada chapter to protect "a complex of springs, wetlands and a riparian corridor that included habitat for numerous species, particularly the Amargosa toad." Many people see TNC and other land trusts as welcome alternatives to government land management. That’s certainly the case for locally owned and operated land trusts. National land trusts, however, have strayed from their original mission. Increasingly, TNC and similar organizations act as stalking horses for the federal government. Rather than purchase and maintain land in private hands, the groups buy properties and turn them over to government agencies. Herewith, an examination of the state of America’s land trusts.
In 1997, Nevada’s legislators approved regulations for organic farming in the state. While pesticide-free produce still represents a small portion of agriculture in Nevada and the nation, consumer demand for organically grown fruits and vegetables is rising. Last month the Nevada Division of Agriculture certified organic farms for 1999, and later this year it will be enforcing organic standards for produce sold at farmer’s markets throughout the state. "Going organic" can be good business for some farmers, but unfortunately the growth of this niche market helps spread longstanding myths about pesticides. While the alleged dangers of agricultural chemicals are circulated by environmental groups and their allies in the media, the risks posed by organic produce rarely see print. Herewith, an overview of the hazards associated with organic fruits and vegetables—and an examination of the fictitious perils of pesticides.
Later this month Project Censored, a left-wing media group, will reveal the ten stories it believes were "censored" by the nation’s mainstream press in 1998. The Nevada Policy Research Institute offered its first list of the stories the Silver State’s media ignore last year. Herewith, NPRI’s Second Annual Overlooked Awards. The following are not censored stories but rather topics which got little (or flawed) press coverage in 1998, due to reporters’ laziness and/or lack of understanding—not to mention the well-funded snow jobs often orchestrated by special interests in Nevada.
Several weeks ago the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released its report on union membership in 1998. The news wasn't good for Big Labor. Last year unions represented an even smaller share of the nation's workforce than they did in 1997. This news has implications for Nevada, a state which has been the target of an aggressive union organizing campaign for several years. But while labor bosses can crow about high-profile victories, particularly in Southern Nevada, their organizing efforts are unlikely to halt workers’ growing disdain for unions. The consequences of Big Labor’s excesses, as well as long-term economic trends, do not bode well for unions in Nevada or the nation.
Over the next few months, Nevada’s legislators will consider a school voucher program for the Silver State. The taxpayer-funded voucher movement continues to make headway across America, particularly since the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision not to examine the constitutionality of the state of Wisconsin’s program.