John L. Smith On The Passing Of A Legendary Nevada Lawmaker

Last week, Nevada’s governor and attorney general were sworn in to their new posts, as well as a whole slew of other public offices.  


But what didn’t get as much attention was that longtime Nevada politician and labor leader Bob Price died at age 82.  


Price served in the state Legislature from 1974 until his retirement in 2002. He remained active in labor and progressive causes in his later years.  


State of Nevada contributor and longtime Nevada journalist John L. Smith joins us as he does each week to discuss this and other news. 

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“You know the Nevada Legislature is not known for having too many lawmakers who really represent blue-collar people. A lot of folks who get elected they start out that way and then they tend to gravitate toward the lobbyists and the VIP who visit the session. Bob Price was never impressed by that kind of status.” Smith said.

He said Price was a union electrician who spent his life representing union members and the working-class people of his North Las Vegas district, and he was never afraid to pick a fight with the casino industry.

Beyond that, he was also known for getting out his guitar and playing Hank Williams songs to the Assembly, Smith said.

“He was also focused on the tax committee and was really looking out for the working class on a committee that quite often got distracted by a lot of the most important people in our state when they would come in and lobby for tax breaks,” he said.

Despite that focus, Price lost fights on sales taxes, which he believed hit poor people and working-class families more than others. He also lost when he tried to stand up to the casino industry when he felt their political clout was not good for the rest of the state.

But he did have plenty of victories, including creating the Extra-Terrestrial Highway, which is a top attraction for people interested in Area 51 and aliens.


Gov. Sisolak’s First Order of Business

Within hours of Steve Sisolak taking the helm as the state’s new governor, he signed an executive order establishing the governor's sexual harassment and discrimination law and policy.

Smith believes Sisolak is doing more than just fulfilling a campaign promise.

“He understands the power of that constituency. Women voters in Nevada spoke in the campaign. The fact that women now dominate the Legislature. The #metoo movement isn't some fad. It's a reality. I think it was wise of the governor to make good on his campaign promise.”

However, Smith said that a lot of commissions get created, especially at the beginning of a new administration, but what really matters is what comes out of those commissions.

“It's incumbent upon us as journalists to make sure that we follow up, make sure that we keep an eye on those committees to make sure that there are not just window dressing for a new administration that wants to send the right message without necessarily doing the heavy lifting of making change happen in Nevada.”

Smith said it is up to Gov. Sisolak to provide leadership on that issue and a lot of other issues the state is facing.

The #MeToo movement shook a lot of industries around the country. In Nevada, allegations of sexual harassment against casino mogul Steve Wynn put the spotlight on the gaming industry.

“I don't think there's any question that that was a really a watershed moment for our state,” he said, “The casino industry that traditionally had been very chauvinistic has clearly shown an interest in changing its image.”

Smith said we’re starting to see some of those changes happen, but he said it is up to the news media to make sure the promises made by the industry are kept.


The New Clark County Commission

Last week, three new elected county commissioners were sworn in but Gov. Sisolak chose his replacement on the commission. He picked Mike Naft.  

“Mike Naft is an experienced constituent services specialist who worked for several years in the Las Vegas office for Representative Dina Titus,” Smith said, “It's an interesting choice in my opinion. I think it has the potential to be a very good choice because at the heart of their job. County commissioners are essentially there for constituent services.”

Smith said that while lawmakers usually make headlines with how they treat lobbyists and developers how they treat their constituents is a big part of their success.


What the Commission Expected to Tackle:

Smith said one of the items to watch will be how the commission handles some of the more controversial developments.

“I think Justin Jones, the new commissioner, has made a pretty strong reputation for looking after environmental issues and issues of kind of citizen organization. So, we'll see we'll see how that goes.”

Smith is also interested to see how former state lawmaker Tick Segerblom does in his new role. He’s best known for his efforts to legalized marijuana in the state, but Smith believes to be successful on the commission he’ll need to do more than that.


Ward 2 Recall Efforts

Former assemblywoman and outspoken conservative Victoria Seaman announced she's taking on Ward 2 City Councilman Steve Seroka, if an effort to recall him is successful.

“I think this is a race that's clearly very focused on the kind of outpouring of politics and litigation from the Badlands golf course controversy.”

Smith said that Seaman has made it very clear that she is on the side of the developer in this case and Seroka has been a critic of the development. He rose to office on that one issue.

“I think anyone who watches the city council knows that it's really turned rather I think poisonous is not an understatement… It's really threatened the collegiality on the on the council.”

And there may not be an end in sight on the issue, Smith said his sources have told him that both sides have dug in.  

“Once you start litigating an issue it really makes it more difficult to settle an issue. It makes it more difficult to talk about it in a calm and reasonable manner. When you have allegations flying back and forth and everyone's claiming to be a victim and everyone's claiming to have leverage or an unfair advantage,” he said.

Smith said Seaman’s entry into the race is a signal that the developer, Yohan Lowie, who owns the Badlands golf course and wants to put houses on the land is focused on prevailing eventually.

“He has had some lack of success in recent litigations but if Seroka happened to be voted out of office that might change the voting dynamic on the council,” he said.

Smith pointed out that someone can win a seat on the Las Vegas City Council with just a few thousand votes because many people just don’t vote in city elections.


Longtime Taxi Company is Going out of Business:

Frias Transportation is going out of business after decades in the community. They were a taxi and limo service.

“There's no question that the Frias family started very humbly in the community with just a cab and a couple of drivers, including Mr. and Mrs. Frias. They worked the books and drove the cab and grew it into a multimillion-dollar operation that at the height of the cab industry strength in the community was really a big winner.”

However, the rise of Uber and Lyft and the ride-sharing services has really changed the face of the cab industry. Smith said the Frias family put millions into the community and gave millions to charities. 


John L. Smith, contributor

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