Nevada’s Most-Overlooked Stories

D. Muska

Last month "Project Censored," an annual public relations stunt by the far left, revealed its list of the top censored stories of 1997. The list is comprised of trendy liberal topics that are largely overlooked by the mainstream press. The list’s name is disingenuous—the stories are not "censored" at all, but regularly see print in ultra-leftist publications such as The Nation and Mother Jones. The Reno News & Review compiled its own list covering subjects within the state, including "overpopulation" in Washoe Valley and Nevada’s "rule by the rich." NPRI has a somewhat different take on the types of stories to which Nevada’s media turns a blind eye. Herewith, NPRI’s list of the most-overlooked stories of the last 12 months.

Nevada’s Real Tax Burden

Long viewed as a "tax heaven," Nevada actually imposes a heavy tax obligation on its citizens. The Tax Foundation reports that in 1997, the overall state and local tax burden for Nevadans was the sixth highest in the nation. In recent years state insurance, gas and cigarette taxes have soared. Since the 1980s, the cost of registering an automobile has risen 310 percent, and the driver’s license fee has increased 250 percent. But despite the overwhelming evidence that Nevada is a high-tax state, many reporters continue to repeat the myth that Nevadans face a light tax burden.

Culinary Union Brutality

In March NPRI’s monthly magazine Nevada Journal documented the brutal tactics used by culinary union operatives to organize workers at the MGM Grand and Four Queens casinos. It was a rare exposure of union abuse—inexplicably, coverage of unions in Nevada seldom details the thuggish ways union bosses attempt to exert their will over Silver State employers and employees.

Yucca: The Privatization Alternative

A consortium of private utilities has contracted with an Indian tribe in Utah for a temporary nuclear waste storage facility. The Goshute Indians have joined forces with Private Fuels Storage, a group of utilities with rapidly dwindling on-site storage capacity for their nuclear waste. If approved by federal regulators, the tribe would host a facility to store waste until a long-term solution is reached. The prospect of such a facility is intriguing—it could open the door to privatization of the entire waste problem, bringing an end to the failed, government-dominated process currently in place (and possibly eliminating Nevada as a location for the nation’s radioactive waste). Yet this possibility never seems to be raised in stories on the Yucca Mountain Project.

Racial Preferences at UNLV/UNR

As evidenced by California’s recent approval of a ban on racial preferences, Americans have grown increasingly hostile to judging individuals by their race. But although it receives little coverage, Nevada’s university system has put in place a possibly unconstitutional racial spoils system. The system’s discriminatory policies were challenged all the way to the Supreme Court recently, by a white former faculty member discriminated against in the name of "diversity." Although the High Court declined to hear Yvette Farmer’s case, it is likely that the justices will someday use another case to overturn the use of diversity as a justification for hiring and firing employees. Farmer has hardly been the only victim of the university system’s discrimination—last December a white University of Nevada, Las Vegas math professor won $85,000 in damages for being improperly fired by his Asian department head. The ongoing commitment of Nevada’s university system to potentially unconstitutional race-conscious hiring and compensation is troublesome, but Nevada’s media has done little to document this discrimination in the name of diversity.

The Perils of Planning

City officials in both Las Vegas and Reno have embraced urban planning as a means to control and manage population growth. The Truckee Meadows Regional Planning Agency has existed since 1989, and last year the Southern Nevada Strategic Planning Authority began to study growth-related problems in Clark County. Nevada’s press has spent little time questioning the value of planning, and has not covered the massive—and costly—failures of planners in other cities. Joel Garreau, a Washington Post reporter, has documented the arrogance of planners, who believe people can be made to embrace public transportation and high-density housing. "Despite planners’ pretensions of ‘expertise,’ they cling to outdated models of how cities work," writes the Thoreau Institute’s Randal O’Toole. The growing influence of these social engineers in Nevada’s two major cities should be of concern to any Nevadan interested in preserving the state’s quality of life. It should be of concern to reporters as well.

Nevada’s Gutted Charter School Bill

In the 1997 session, legislators had an opportunity to pass a charter school bill which could have brought about meaningful education reform in Nevada. An innovative, bipartisan bill passed unanimously in the Senate, but Assembly Education Committee Chairman Wendell Williams (D-Las Vegas) first blocked, then gutted the measure. Nevada’s teacher union played a major role in the dilution of the once-strong bill—now the charter schools that will be allowed in Nevada will operate under severe restrictions. The gutting of Nevada’s charter school law is an excellent example of the massive power of the Nevada State Education Association teacher union. Few reporters used the charter school story to show parents how teacher union lobbyists block real education reform in Nevada’s dismal public education system.

The Ongoing Federal Land Grab

The federal government continues to take possession of more and more of Nevada’s land. "In 1964 the federal government owned about 84 percent of Nevada," writes Elko rancher Demar Dahl. "Now they have almost 90 percent, and at the present rate will own about 97 percent by 2050." The expansion of direct federal control over Nevada’s land is indeed newsworthy, in light of Washington land use bureaucrats’ growing acceptance of racial environmental rhetoric. But it rarely receives air time or detailed coverage by Nevada’s print reporters.

NAGPRA’s Scalping of Science

A federal law has halted detailed testing of Nevada’s most significant anthropological find, the 10,000-year-old Spirit Cave Mummy. The Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act has kept scientists from performing DNA tests on the specimen. Using the law, the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe has claimed ownership of the mummy—even though the body bears no anthropological resemblance to Paiute Indians. If successful, the tribe will rebury the mummy without further study. This would be an immeasurable setback for anthropology, yet Nevada’s media has chosen to largely ignore the fight over the Spirit Cave Mummy.

Reid’s Attempt to Silence Criticism

In February the Las Vegas Review-Journal broke the story of Nevada Senator Harry Reid’s attempt to silence radio stations that aired criticisms of his record. In the article, Reid alleged that "truth had no bearing" on NPRI’s radio commentaries. Several days after the story ran, NPRI challenged the senator to name a single false statement made in any commentary. To date the senator has not done so, and Nevada’s media has not asked him about his failure to respond to NPRI’s challenge. There might be good reasons for that. "Reid has real power," writes Fallon environmental writer Tim Findley, "so much so that his real affect on the media in Nevada is not so much to censor criticism, but to chill any real efforts at serious reporting on the way he handles his office."

Cost of the Lake Tahoe Presidential Forum

In July, the president and vice president came to Lake Tahoe for an environmental summit. Northern Nevada print and television reporters swooned over Clinton and Gore, and offered little scrutiny of the statements each made during the event. They also did not attempt to uncover the cost of the summit—that was left to a private citizen. Ironically, the Reno News & Review has been one of the only media outlets to document Reno resident Ellis Hammitt’s effort to find out how much the event cost taxpayers. In the same issue it offered its list of "censored" stories, the Review reported that federal offices could not—or in the case of the White House, would not—enumerate the cost of the trip.

D. Dowd Muska, a non-smoker, is a contributing editor for Nevada Journal, the Nevada Policy Research Institute’s monthly magazine. He can be contacted at