Friday, August 25, 2006

Fires in the Desert

Red Rock Fires

I completely missed the last Red Rock hiking season (September through April or May), so I was shocked when I drove through the Loop last Friday. Last year’s fires burned over 800 acres, and much of the damage is visible from the road. The land is scorched barren, littered with blackened Yucca stumps. You can see from this picture a clear dividing line between the damaged and intact area.

Wildfires are a growing problem in the desert, and one of the major reasons is the invasion of non-native weeds and grasses. When our triple-digit heat dries out these intruders, they turn into plentiful, highly combustible tinder. One lightening strike or stray cigarette butt can spark a devastating fire that destroys the native plants and animals. Unlike forests, deserts are not designed to rebound from fire – they’ve not been historically prone to fire because in their natural state, they aren’t full of dried grass and weeds. Chris Clarke wrote an excellent article on this danger to all Southwestern states that can be found at his Creek Running North web site.

If you haven’t been keeping up on invasive species, you might want to bone up. It’s now being linked to global warming – although I think everything but JonBonet Ramsey’s murder has been linked to global warming these days – but I predict it will emerge as an ecological threat in its own right.

What Happens in Vegas Must Happen Before Midnight

The County has decided to close the Marriage License Bureau from midnight to 8 a.m., a move sure to cut the number of Vegas-related annulments in half. I have to say that this move is long overdue, as anyone who has been downtown between the hours of midnight to 8 a.m. can attest. I worked the graveyard shift for Metro for over two years in the early 80’s and can assure you that the majority of people out looking to get married at 3 a.m. should be arrested, not encouraged to wed. Years ago Metro’s Records Bureau decided to close to the public on the graveyard shift, although staff still works inside. When I was working there, we had to keep the Marriage License Bureau’s address handy for the lost love birds who wandered into our offices.

Price of a Vegas marriage license:

Estimated amount saved by closing the Las Vegas Marriage License Bureau between midnight and 8 a.m.:

Preventing drunken couples from saying “I do” before Elvis in the middle of the night: Priceless

Sheriff’s Race

Jerry Airola and Doug Gillespie squared off in a debate at the Clark County library (check date). Airola continues to present himself as the “change” candidate, insisting that Metro’s budget and personnel are mismanaged. Local news described Gillespie as the “traditional” candidate. I thought “qualified” was the word they were looking for.

One Big Trash Dump

Why aren’t Las Vegans more concerned about recycling? Republic continually cites opposition from citizens as its main reason to stick to its twice monthly recycles pickup. We’ve heard proposals about pilot programs for once-a-week pickup of both regular trash and recyclables, but supposedly people are concerned about the smell of the trash during the summer heat. What are people disposing of in the trash? Road kill carcasses? I think the real reason is that the average Las Vegan looks out across the miles of desert surrounding us and sees nothing but miles of potential trash dumps. (Obviously our government shares this view, since they’re trying to saddle us with Yucca Mountain.) I’ve always been surprised at the number of people who refuse to recycle because they think it generates money for Republic. Hogwash. I think Republic generates a profit by doing as little as possible for its customers. Have you encountered their Soviet-style customer service? Go ahead and try to find out what your recycling pickup days are. Or what the hours are at the transfer stations. Haven’t these people heard of the Internet?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Season for Politicians and Art

Calling All Registered Voters

Yesterday 27% of us showed up at the polls. Where were the rest of you folks? The democratic process misses you! Click here to read the primary results.

Fall Calls

Clark County students will be returning to class on August 30, 2006, a Wednesday. What’s up with starting school on a Wednesday? Haven’t they confused us enough by starting school before Labor Day?

Now that the summer is almost over we can look forward to cooler temperatures and festivals! Start watching billboards and reading events calendars because before you know it, we’ll be kicking off the season in late September with San Gennaro and the Greek Food Festival. This year the Henderson Car Show is in September also, as is Red Rock's Harvest Festival (September 2, right around the corner). Boulder City’s Art in the Park is the first weekend in October (they don’t advertise, so put a note on the fridge). Also in October, the Age of Chivalry Renaissance Festival invades Sunset Park and Spring Mountain State Park generally holds Pioneer Days, where you can see how the pioneers lived. Note that they also have a Civil War re-enactment scheduled for the end of October.

For more ideas on fun stuff to do when we reach sub-Hades temps, check:

Clark County’s Event List:

Boulder’s City Calendar:

Henderson’s Calendar:

Naturally, this is also a great time of year to check out First Friday or any other outdoor events. If events aren't your style, October's a great time to get in a hike at Mt. Charleston before the first snow fall.

Friday, August 11, 2006

A Few Things to Ponder

So Long Stardust

Last Saturday my son participated in a Karate Tournament held at the Stardust. It’s hard not to feel sad about the Stardust’s impending demise; so few of the hotels I grew up with are still around. The Stardust is a place where you can still figure out where to go without a map or a security guard’s directions. Try that at any other Strip hotel.

Airola is Bad News for Voters

The local news media has been all over Sheriff’s candidate Jerry Airola, but amazingly people are still voting for him. Both the
Review Journal and The Sun carried front page spreads that detailed the way he’s misled voters into thinking he’s a cop. (Big hint, folks – if both the RJ and The Sun concur on something, PAY ATTENTION.) He’s not a cop and hasn’t been in over ten years. (George Knapp is doing a great job uncovering the real Airola – read his column at CityLife.) Airola countered with claims that he’s qualified to be Sheriff on the basis of his business acumen. Both publications responded with stories on Airola’s checkered history owning a water purifier company and his current helicopter company. Airola answered that by saying that at least he didn’t have as many law suits filed against him as Metro. His latest clever retort after current Sheriff Bill Young and union representatives held a joint news conference denouncing his specious claims? They’re just the “good old boy” network. No, Jerry, they’re actual law enforcement officers.

Airola has plastered himself all over town with media buys in every area – he’s got more billboards than a new Strip show and more TV ads than Glen Lerner. Sadly, with an electorate that votes more on name recognition than anything else, he’s likely to be
Doug Gillespie’s opponent.

Clooney in Town

George Clooney and friends were in town this week to film scenes for the upcoming Ocean’s 13. Until earlier this year, Clooney was signed onto Las Ramblas, one of the many failed high-rise condo projects in town. I thought his proposed dress code in the casino was a fabulously retro idea. (Although probably unnecessary, at least for female visitors, most of who would have been dressed to the nines in the event George walked by). I keep hoping that he’ll buy a place in town because, frankly, we need some good press and this man oozes good PR in equal doses with sex appeal. Now that Las Vegas is known as the second city in the nation to make it illegal to feed homeless people, we need all the help we can get. I tried to find a negative story about Rosemary’s nephew and except for a little dust up with Arianna Huffington over some posts on her blog, you can’t find anything bad written about him. He’s traveling to Darfur, winning Academy Awards, or making Anne Coulter mad, but I never see him on the National Inquirer with “Clooney meltdown! Rehab imminent!” splattered across an unflattering photo of him. Doesn’t he have any exes willing to dish? You know no man can be that nice all the time.

Bad Doctors Nothing New

In case you missed it, the doctor shot by a distraught patient is recovered and back at work. I’m sorry to say this, but I’m just surprised that more doctors in this town don’t get shot by angry patients. I could write an entire book about my bad experiences with doctors in Las Vegas – rude, condescending jerks who were also uncaring and incompetent. During the 60’s and 70’s, everyone knew that if you got anything worse that the flu, you’d better hightail it out of town for proper treatment. The 7,000 people who move here each month, however, don’t know your odds of finding a good doctor are about the same as hitting a royal flush on a poker machine by the front door of the casino. If you find a good doctor, count yourself lucky. If he or she also has an office staff that speaks English and knows what they’re doing, follow that doctor wherever she goes.

Friday, August 04, 2006

The Forgotten

This afternoon I’m heading down to visit my mom, who lives easy walking distance from Circle Park, ground zero for the Homeless Wars here in Las Vegas. By now everyone has heard about our new ordinance that bans feeding homeless people in the park. The ordinance is ludicrous, unconstitutional, and mean.

Some important voices are being left out of this debate. The residents around Circle Park – or around any area that the homeless favor – get an occasional letter to the editor published , but for the most part, no one is paying much attention to these folks. Have you ever had a homeless person encamped on the side of your house, using your lawn as a toilet? My mom has. How about had a homeless person relief himself on your living room floor? A friend of mine trying to sell her vacant house on 7th Street did.

We have allowed the debate about the homeless to exclude the people most affected by the action (or inaction) of politicians – and I’m not just talking about the residents who can’t use the park they renovated. When was the last time you read an interview with the homeless? They serve as a backdrop to news stories, but is anyone asking them why waiting for free food in Circle Park is so much more appealing than taking advantage of the services (however few they may be) offered by the city?

Less than a month ago, the city shut down Family Promise, a local agency that helps homeless families. Despite being located in the same neighborhood for a decade, bureaucratic baloney mandated that they get a business license. Suddenly, their work was no longer appropriate for their neighborhood. So, let me see if I have this right…. The homeless aren’t allowed to sleep in a park or be fed in a park, and they don’t want to travel downtown to receive services, but the City doesn’t want neighborhood-based shelters offering assistance to the homeless, either. Over the past few years we’ve seen services to the homeless decrease, but now we want to cite people who feed them. The people most affected by these idiotic strategies – the homeless and the residents of the affected areas – are nothing but cardboard backdrops. Does this make sense to anyone?