Ralston Burp-Tweets More Egg on His Face

On September 19, 2014, in Muth's Truths, by Chuck Muth

On Thursday, Jon Ralston – Nevada’s #2 liberal blogger with a television show watched by DOZENS – tweeted (because he no longer has a column in a real newspaper):

“Oh, man, this is really dumb.”

Ralston was referring to Republican congressional candidate Assemblyman Cresent Hardy holding a fundraiser for his congressional campaign on September 24, 2014.

What “Jonny Boy” thought was “dumb” was Hardy holding a fundraiser during the 15-day “blackout” period in which state legislative candidates are not allowed to raise money after a special session of the Nevada Legislature.

You see, legislators just wrapped up a special session to approve the Tesla giga-giveaway deal, so the 9/24 date falls within that 15 day “no fundraising” period.

“Gotcha, you dummy!” thought Ralston.

Alas, Mr. Know-It-All was wrong again.

You see, Assemblyman Hardy is running for a federal office – Congress – not a state office.  And there’s a 13-year-old official AG opinion, issued by former Democrat Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Pappa’s office, that very clearly states the following…

“Federal election law preempts state election law, therefore certain state officials are not prohibited from soliciting or accepting monetary contributions for a campaign for federal office before, during, or after a regular or special session of the Legislature.”

Who’s the dumb one now, Jon?

 

Reality Biting Nevada Liberals in the Butt

On September 15, 2014, in Muth's Truths, by Chuck Muth

Liberals are getting the snot kicked out of them in the Nevada public policy debate these days; not that the media is pointing it out. Some examples…

Liberals have been telling us that lower taxes aren’t what companies are looking for in deciding where to open operations. Then Tesla comes into Nevada because of…lower taxes.

Liberals have been telling us that companies aren’t moving to Nevada because we’re not dumping enough money into education. Then Tesla comes to Nevada despite our awful schools.

Liberals say to fix those awful schools, we need to spend more money on them. Then we find out this week that not one of the fourteen “zoom” schools that got a whopping $39.4 million in EXTRA funding last year improved their academic performance rating.

In fact, four of them were downgraded!

Liberals say that smaller class sizes and a longer school year will fix education. But “zoom” schools restrict kindergarten class sizes to 21 students and the school year was extended by 17 days.

And despite the Legislature putting more money, not less, into education, 73 Clark County schools were downgraded in their rating for the last school year…and that’s using a rating scale that the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports is considered by some to be “too lenient.”

Indeed, you can earn the highest rating – 5 stars – with a score as low as 77 out of 100. And you can chalk up a “C” – 3 stars – with a score as low as 50 out of 100…which in the real world is considered total failure.

The reality is, the ONLY way to fix public education is to give parents vouchers so they can send their kids somewhere other than a public school.

 

Yahoo Stands Up to Big Brother, Gets Slapped Down

On September 14, 2014, in Muth's Truths, by Chuck Muth

If you’re looking for bipartisanship in Washington, DC, look no further than government measures that trample on what are supposed to be constitutionally-protected privacy rights.

But before we get into this, let me just point out that if you’re one of those people who say, “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear,” you’re (a) not going to like this column, and (b) are part of the problem.

On September 11th, of all days, the Wall Street Journal published a story headlined:

“Yahoo Faced Big U.S. Fines Over User Data: Government Wanted to Charge Internet Firm $250,000 a Day Fine If It Didn’t Comply With NSA Request.”

The demands made of Yahoo by the National Security Agency (NSA) reportedly began in November 2007, well before Barack Obama was elected president. So this is not a partisan issue. At the time, the Journal reports, the government requested “warrantless surveillance” of certain Yahoo customers.

The operative word, of course, is “warrantless.”

Yahoo objected. It challenged the government’s demands at the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). In a legal brief, Marc Zwillinger, an attorney for Yahoo, wrote:

“The issues at stake in this litigation are the most serious issues that this nation faces today – to what extent must the privacy rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution yield to protect our national security.”

The Journal further reported that:

“In one brief, Yahoo states the main issue of the case is whether the Constitution protects the communications of U.S. citizens or legal residents believed to be outside the U.S.”

A very serious and legitimate concern.

Not surprisingly, but disappointingly, FISC Judge Reggie Walton dismissed Yahoo’s challenge and the Justice Department asked that Yahoo be fined $250,000 PER DAY for every day Yahoo didn’t comply with the government’s demands. Yahoo eventually was forced to capitulate in May 2008.

After the government’s threat was revealed this week, Yahoo’s general counsel, Ron Bell, issued a written statement:

“We refused to comply with what we viewed as unconstitutional and overbroad surveillance and challenged the U.S. Government’s authority. Our challenge, and a later appeal in the case, did not succeed.”

It’s important to note this problem and controversy pre-dated the Edward Snowden NSA leaks by more than five years. And it should be further noted, as reported in the Journal story, that both Google and Microsoft have similarly challenged government fishing expeditions without warrants in court. So this is not just about Yahoo.

Now, I understand that it’s a difficult job balancing national security and individual privacy rights. But since 9/11 the scales have tipped WAY too far in favor of the government – which has the power to bring even giant American technology companies to their knees!

So what chance do individuals such as you or me have?

Since the government continues to conduct these very controversial surveillance programs, it’s important for Congress and the public to know more about what Big Brother is and has been up to, and assure that essential constitutional privacy protections secured by our Founders aren’t further eroded.

To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, those who would sacrifice liberty for safety deserve neither, and will soon lose both.

 

I don’t envy the folks over at the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health (DPBH) who are charged with implementing Nevada’s new licensing process for Medical Marijuana Establishments (MMEs) and are presently evaluating over 500 applications.

But first, for opponents, bear in mind that Nevadans overwhelmingly voted, not once but twice, to legalize medical marijuana in the state. And to implement the voters’ wishes, the Nevada Legislature in 2013 authorized the lawful creation of medical marijuana cultivation operations, retail dispensary locations and product manufacturing facilities.

So the debate here is no longer whether or not Nevada should allow lawful use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, but how to license and regulate the new industry; an industry described by one industry veteran as “maturing right before our eyes from ‘teenagers smoking pot’ to a major pharmaceutical industry with tremendous benefits to patients and a huge potential impact on the Nevada economy.”

Part of this debate is a new DPBH proposal to limit the amount of marijuana that can be legally grown in Nevada to 650,000 to one million square feet because, according to the department, “the square footage identified in the cultivation establishment applications received by the Division exceeds the projected square footage needed by 2-3 times.”

The first problem with this limitation proposal is the fact that the square footage of the cultivation facilities submitted in applications does not necessarily equate to actual growing space. In any cultivation facility additional space has to be set aside for processing operations, storage, shipping, office space, etc.

The second problem with limiting the size of cultivation facilities is that it will inevitably result in growers compacting their grow areas in order to produce more plants in the reduced space. This, in turn, will result in the use of more lighting, which will increase the environmental footprint of the facility.  It will also inevitably result in growers implementing other space-saving measures that could result in a less hospitable workplace and potentially increase safety risks.

Thirdly, such measures could also end up reducing not just the quantity of plants cultivated at the facility but the overall quality of the product, as well. That won’t be good for either the seller or the buyer.

And lastly experienced MME operators believe the Division’s estimate is way too low; pointing out ongoing supply shortages in both Colorado and Washington where legal marijuana operations are already in business. Such shortages would inevitably, but avoidably, result in higher prices for patients.

I understand why the Division wants to limit the amount of marijuana grown in the state; however, DPBH officials need to beware of the Law of Unintended Consequences when they hold a public hearing on their proposal later this month.

 

Rushing Legislators to Rob Peter to Pay Tesla

On September 10, 2014, in Muth's Truths, by Chuck Muth

By most accounts, this Tesla deal is almost too good to be true.

Uh-oh.

If all goes as choreographed, the special session of the Legislature to approve the multi-billion dollar Tesla deal that legislators still haven’t even seen yet will be wrapped up by bedtime tonight (more likely, sometime tomorrow or Friday).

And again, I think it’s great that Tesla chose Nevada for its new battery manufacturing plant and won’t have to pay any taxes for at least the next ten years – including the sales taxes that you and I pay every single day.

The same sales taxes that were hiked “temporarily” in 2009 and were supposed to sunset and come back down in 2011, but were instead extended by Gov. Brian Sandoval.

The same sales taxes that were hiked “temporarily” and then were supposed to come back down in 2013, but were again extended by Gov. Sandoval.

Gee, I wonder what he’s going to do with those sunsets in next year’s session?

But back to the Tesla deal…

As Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Steve Sebelius wrote today, “It’s not that the state is doing this for Tesla that’s really the issue. It’s that the state can do this at all that’s the issue.”

Indeed, where does the government derive the power to exempt some businesses but not others?  What about “equal protection” under law?

For example, according to the Nevada Manufacturing Association there are “roughly 3,000 small, medium, and large manufacturing and warehousing businesses around the state.”  Those are manufacturers who are already in Nevada; many of which have been here for a long, long time.  Why tax relief of the new kid on the block but no tax relief for them?

Ditto non-manufacturing businesses in Nevada, many of which have been operating here for decades and helped build this state, which will still be stuck paying all the taxes that Tesla, a new-comer, won’t have to pay for the next ten years.  Why no tax relief for those businesses who invested in Nevada LONG ago?

And what about the estimated $25 million worth of tax breaks being given to Tesla that are being given to Tesla by taking them away from other companies who already have home offices here in Nevada and have been here for a long, long time.  How is “robbing Peter to pay Paul” right?

In addition, in the last legislative session the Legislature set aside some $80 million worth of tax credits to lure movie productions to Nevada, the Entertainment Capital of the World.  While that decision was still questionable, at least those tax breaks were extended to an entire industry, not just one company.

Alas, the remaining $70 million of tax incentives set aside just last year for the film industry will now be shifted over to Tesla instead.  Again, how is “robbing Peter to pay Paul” right?

And since the ink on the Tesla deal isn’t even dry yet, and no one but Tesla and the governor’s office has seen it, why the rush to call the special session today?  Why not release the deal, including all the fine print, and allow elected legislators and the public to review and scrutinize it for at least a few days first before being summoned to Carson City to rubber stamp it?

Is there something in the deal that we don’t know about that Gov. Brian Sandoval wants to rush through before it’s discovered and opposition rises up?

Indeed, I was reliably told yesterday that the Governor was quite irritated when state Controller Kim Wallin told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that “We have to make sure there’s true accountability in this deal.  Oftentimes we give out money, and we don’t get reports back.”

Why would requiring regular performance reports and assuring accountability upset the governor?

Citizens of Nevada…beware.

 

Tesla Deal is a Great Deal…for Tesla

On September 7, 2014, in Muth's Truths, by Chuck Muth

The Sandoval administration is creating enough wind patting themselves on the back to qualify for typhoon status over the decision by electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors to build its battery gigafactory in Nevada.  But not everyone is a happy camper.

Nor should they be.

The decision was not exactly a surprise, even though Nevada was competing with three other states to land the facility.  Tesla was looking for relatively inexpensive land in a state where wages were comparatively lower than those paid in Palo Alto, California where Tesla’s manufacturing operation is located.

Not only did Nevada qualify on both counts, but Reno is a lot closer to the company’s home office than Arizona, New Mexico or Texas.  Location, location, location.

Tesla was also looking for a juicy package of tax breaks – something all four states were willing to cough up.  And the Nevada package reportedly weighs in at some $1.1 billion!

According to Sean Whaley of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the deal “will result in essentially no taxes being collected from the electric car manufacturer for nearly a decade.”  No sales or use taxes.  No real property taxes.  No personal property taxes.  And no modified business taxes (employee head tax).

Sweet!

So much for the claim by “low tax deniers” that a state’s tax climate isn’t a major factor in deciding to move here.

Oh, and since our government-run schools continue to stink on ice, yet Tesla is moving here anyway, so much for the liberal argument that businesses won’t locate here because we supposedly “underfund” education.

But back to the tax breaks…

I’m happy to lower taxes, for sure.  But if lower taxes equals more businesses moving into Nevada, shouldn’t we lower sales, property and employee taxes for EVERYONE?  Why is it right for the government to extend tax breaks to some companies and not others?

And I still can’t get beyond the unfairness of this sort of thing to home-grown Nevada companies.

We have businesses that started in Nevada years and years and years ago.  Those businesses have helped Nevada grow and mature as a state.  They’ve contributed millions and millions of dollars in tax revenue, not including charitable contributions.  And they’ve survived the Bush-Obama recession, which hit Nevada particularly hard.

Where are THEIR tax breaks, huh?

And according to Mr. Whaley’s story, some of the tax breaks going to Tesla will be at the expense of other businesses!

For example, the $80 million worth of film tax credits the Legislature passed last session to entice movie producers to shoot their flicks in Nevada will be cut to $10 million, with the difference going to Tesla.  Oh, and a 40-year-old home office tax credit for Nevada-based companies, worth some $25 million, will be redirected to Tesla, as well.

How is that right?

This is a great deal for Tesla.  Kudos to Elon Musk, the company’s CEO, for playing five states against each other and getting such a great deal for his company.  Well played.

And it’ll be great for the estimated 6,500 people who will be working on the project and the contractors who will build the factory.

For the rest of us though, not so much.

 

Las Vegas Fire Chief “Pulls a Corleone”

On September 1, 2014, in Muth's Truths, by Chuck Muth

aIf someone stuck a gun to my head and instructed me to say, on video, that Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval is the most conservative governor in the country and should be considered the best man for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, I’d really have no choice but to repeat such ridiculous words.

Like in a hostage video…or one of those North Vietnamese POW propaganda films.

Similarly, Las Vegas Fire Chief William “Fast Willie” McDonald has been holding a gun to the head of American Medical Response (AMR) – a private ambulance service that’s been operating successfully in Las Vegas for decades – and two weeks ago reportedly made AMR an offer it couldn’t refuse.

But first, some background…

AMR has been operating its private ambulance service in Las Vegas for over fifty years. For that privilege the company pays the city around $400,000 a year in “franchise fees.” The company earns its money from insurance companies and individuals for transporting people to the hospital. The fire department, by contrast, costs taxpayers a bundle to provide the same service.

Which always reminds me of the old conservative saying that if you can find it in the Yellow Pages, the government probably shouldn’t be doing it.

Which brings us to a caveat: AMR provides medical transport service for things like heart attacks from reading your property tax bill; it does not provide rescue services – such as using the “jaws of life” to extract a victim from their car in an auto accident. Rescue services are not what we’re talking about.

So here’s how things worked, quite well, in the old days…

Life-Saving Race to Your Place

Let’s say you’re having a cup of Maxwell House while reading the morning newspaper and suffer a mild stroke after reading that the City of Las Vegas actually wants to use millions of tax dollars to build a soccer stadium downtown.

After quickly checking online to make sure your life insurance is paid up, your spouse dials 911 and requests an ambulance.

The fire department takes the 911 call and dispatches both AMR and a taxpayer-funded ambulance to your house. That means two ambulances rush to your side, and whichever one gets there first immediately renders aid and stabilizes you.

Now, after you’re stabilized it only makes sense that the AMR ambulance would then transport you to the hospital so that the fire department ambulance crew – which, unlike the AMR folks, is capable of responding to the more serious types of rescue calls – is again available for service.

And this is where the problem lies…

Whichever ambulance actually transports you to the hospital, that’s the service that gets to bill the insurance company. If AMR does the transport, AMR gets the service fee. If the taxpayer-funded fire department ambulance executes the transport, the taxpayer-funded fire department gets the additional dough.

Enter Fast Willie

Over the years, it’s made perfect sense for AMR to handle the bulk of hospital transports. Until last March. After the new fire chief came to town.

Fast Willie McDonald knows the way to San Jose – though it’s not likely he’d be welcomed with open arms if he goes.

Just a little over a year ago Josh Koehn of SanJoseInside.com wrote a column headlined, “San Jose Fire Chief Leaves for Las Vegas Amid Unanswered Questions.” In it Koehn noted that Chief McDonald announced he was leaving San Jose just three days after announcing he was staying.

“The change of heart fits a pattern,” Koehn reported, “as McDonald, leaving a job he started almost exactly three years ago, has rarely stayed put for long. He’s now left fire chief posts in Fremont, Foster City, San Mateo and Scottsdale, Ariz., an unusual number of top-level leaps for someone just 55 years old.”

McDonald is said be a nice enough chap publicly, but one veteran San Jose firefighter quoted in the story said, “What he portrays of himself is absolutely the opposite of who he is behind closed doors and how he manages people. He’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

McDonald’s San Jose tenure was also tainted by an “inability to properly report response times” and included accusations of “gender and religious discrimination, amongst other charges.” Indeed, at the time of his departure a year ago for the greener pastures of Las Vegas, McDonald himself admitted that morale in his department was “very low.”

Ladies and gentlemen, your NEWWWW Las Vegas fire chief!

The Emperor Strikes Back

Under the pre-McDonald emergency medical response system, AMR was handling roughly 70 percent of the hospital transports and the fire department 30 percent. McDonald, intent on swelling the amount of dough going into his taxpayer-funded department’s coffers, radically changed that system last March.

Under the new McDonald system, 911 operators stopped giving AMR automatic notifications of emergency calls. Instead, fire department medics were dispatched to every call and AMR was notified only if the fire department thought they might be needed.

Don’t call us; we’ll call you.

But that’s not even the worst of it.

Last May, Jane Ann Morrison of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported on a study conducted by the well-established/well-respected research firm Applied Analysis. And that study showed that, during the month of March 2013, “in lower income areas, the Fire Department is reducing the number of hospital transport calls.”

Now why, you might ask, would the taxpayer-funded fire department blow off emergency calls to low income areas?

Well, low income people are far less likely to have health insurance policies that cover emergency medical transport, that’s why!

Indeed, it looks like the fire department had started cherry-picking emergency calls in middle- and upper-income areas and sloughing off the low-income, predominantly minority areas because it’s much harder to collect the transport fee from poor people without insurance.

According to an RJ editorial on May 15, 2014, Applied Analysis’ study looked at the demographics in two ZIP codes…

“In 89134, which includes Sun City Summerlin and is 81 percent white, the Fire Department took 63 percent of 182 transports, leaving AMR 37 percent. In 89110 (my ZIP code!), which is 63 percent Hispanic, the Fire Department took 17 percent of 255 hospital transports, leaving AMR 83 percent. In 89134, the payment collection rate was 45 percent. In 89110, it was 21 percent. So the Fire Department, with the support of city management and the City Council, is having AMR pay a $400,000 annual franchise fee to the city for the exclusive right to lose its shirt.”

Holy screw job, Batman!

For his part, in response to the study, Fast Willie declared the claims “completely false” – even though he admitted that, um, he hadn’t actually, you know, read the study.

Spoken like a true butt-covering, turf-protecting government bureaucrat.

Is that a Horse’s Head in Your Bed?

Then on August 20, 2014, the RJ’s Morrison reported that “Las Vegas’ dual response system for emergency ambulances is dying.”

As such, instead of one ambulance from AMR and one ambulance from the city rushing to your aid in an emergency, “One or the other will be dispatched, not both.” This, according to Morrison, “after more than a month’s negotiations between the department and AMR.”

Apparently Scott White, AMR’s general manager, woke up one morning with his prized stallion’s head lying next to him in a pool of blood (Google “The Godfather”). Fast Willie appears to have made Mr. White a Corleonesque offer he couldn’t refuse.

The “agreement” – which clearly was “agreed to” under duress by AMR – is scheduled to be inked this week and presented to the Las Vegas City Council. McDonald predicts the “compromise” will result in the fire department doubling the number of calls it gets to 60 or 65 percent, while simultaneously slicing AMR’s piece of the pie in half.

In other words, the fire department, with this “agreement,” gets the gold mine and AMR gets the shaft.

And make no mistake: This boost in fire department transports will inevitably, down the road, lead to Fast Willie demanding increased funding to increase the personnel and equipment necessary to handle this increased workload. It is as certain as the sun rising in the east tomorrow morning.

So this “agreement” will ultimately not just be bad for AMR, and not just bad for patients requiring emergency assistance, but for Las Vegas taxpayers, as well!

As such, the best thing the Las Vegas City Council could do at their meeting this week is reject this “agreement” and instead vote to get the Las Vegas City Fire Department out of the hospital transport business altogether.

Because if you can find it in the Yellow Pages

 

Hickey Unchained!

On August 30, 2014, in Muth's Truths, by Chuck Muth

As I mentioned yesterday, GOP legislators were outraged on Thursday after Democrat Assemblyman Paul Aizley, Chairman of the Legislative Committee on Public Lands, ruled unilaterally that his committee would not pursue state control of certain federal lands in Nevada during a work session of his committee.

The response from Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey (Reno-RINO) was delivered via Pony Express late yesterday morning, well after the news stories about the matter had already been written, published and broadcast.

And what a shame, because Hickey’s statement really let Aizley have it (not)!

Summoning up all the partisan fire-and-brimstone he could muster, Hickey called down the thunder and unloaded on Aizley in an email press release with the indecipherable headline, “Who’s pulling the strings on Nevada’s public lands?”

“The Chairman’s surprise decision to table recommendations on the issue of Nevada’s public lands, is a slap in the face to all 63 Nevada lawmakers who voted for the study, and all 17 Nevada counties who funded and staffed the legislatively-mandated task force,” declared Hickey in a sentence bearing at least two too many commas and a “who” that should’ve been a “that.”

Gotta wonder which English major in the GOP caucus wrote that sentence for Hickey and how Hickey, a former newsman, ever approved it.  But that’s digressing into Ralstonesque territory, so let’s move on.

“The purpose of an interim committee is to study issues, take input from the public, and report back to the Legislature the conclusions arrived at by its members,” declared the former conscientious objector.  “Whoever it was that influenced the Chairman to reject the Nevada Land Management Task Force’s recommendations, has done a disservice to the Nevada public and their elected representatives.”

Wow!  What a scathing indictment…even with yet another comma that has no place being there.  How will Aizley and the Democrats ever withstand such a virulent public display of Hickey wrath?  Why, I’m sure Aizley will now “pull a Romero” and reverse himself immediately, right?

Yeah, right.

Come on.  Hickey’s statement – issued not only well after the horse left the barn but after every news outlet in the state had already reported on the horse’s escape – was as lamely written and ineffectively delivered as…well, just about every other press release/statement issued by Hickey in the past.

And all kidding aside, exactly what is Hickey going to do about this “outrage” on Aizley’s part?

Well, if history is any guide, absolutely nothing.  Hickey talks a good game – well, no, not really – but when it comes to taking firm, effective action, the man is a bronze statue.  It reminds me of this old comedy bit from Robin Williams

“In England, if you commit a crime, the police don’t have a gun. If you commit a crime, the police will say ‘Stop…or I’ll say stop again.’”

So Aizley will get away with the stunt he pulled because there is no opposition leader who will make him pay a price for what he did.

Hickey’s title should be changed from Minority Leader to Minority Eunuch.

If Republicans in the Assembly re-elect this guy to “lead” their caucus in November they will deserve every bit of humiliation and frustration they will inevitably again suffer in 2015.

You can’t fix stupid.

 

Erin Embarrassed!

On August 30, 2014, in Muth's Truths, by Chuck Muth

On Friday, Erin Bilbray-Kohn, the liberal Democrat candidate for Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District, issued a thoroughly desperate email pitch for money in an effort to take her faltering campaign off life-support and somehow at least survive in a comatose state through Election Day.

“Erin is fired up – it’s time to pull out all the stops and win in November!” wrote, well, um, “The team @ Erin Bilbray for Congress HQ” because, well, Bilbray-Kohn’s finance director either fled the sinking ship or was tossed overboard a few days ago and apparently no one else has yet to step up and fill the job.

“Sunday is our last end-of-month deadline before our big media buy and Erin needs to hit her goal to get on air,” The team @ Erin Bilbray for Congress HQ declared, continuing Bilbray-Kohn’s disingenuous practice of not telling her financial supporters exactly what that “goal” is.

“Erin cannot win without you,” The team @ Erin Bilbray for Congress HQ advised.  “It’s crucial that we get her message out to every voter in Nevada!  It’s go time!”

Actually, for this monumentally embarrassing campaign it was time to go long ago.

 

Uber-support for Uber and Lyft in Vegas

On August 29, 2014, in Muth's Truths, by Chuck Muth

Many of you probably don’t know what “Uber” or “Lyft” are.

In short, they are “ride sharing” programs operated with your smart-phone. You sign up to be a customer – giving Uber and/or Lyft your credit card information – and then when you need/want a ride somewhere, instead of calling a taxi you request a ride from an independent Uber or Lyft driver via your smart-phone.

In other words, free market competition.

Not surprisingly, Nevada’s taxi and limo industries are using elected officials and the Nevada Taxicab Authority to keep Uber and Lyft out of Las Vegas. And former Las Vegan Steve Friess recently wrote a column for Las Vegas Weekly headlined, “Why Vegas Doesn’t Need Uber.”

But that headline totally misses the point. It’s not about “need.” It’s about consumer demand. Maybe Las Vegans don’t “need” independent ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft…I totally disagree, but let’s concede the point for argument’s sake…but do they “want” them?

Well, based on many of the comments posted in response to Mr. Friess’ column the answer to that question isn’t just a simple “yes,” but a Stone Cold Steve Austin-like “Hell, yeah!” A sampling…

“Since moving to Nevada, here is what everyone has told me: ‘Cabs are too expensive for locals.’ And I couldn’t agree more. I live 15 mins from the Strip and for me to travel there it cost me $60 not including tip! That’s crazy! In LA I would take an Uber or Lyft to the other side of town and it would cost me $15.”

“Was in San Francisco recently and my friend uses Lyft, 4 minute wait to be picked up, clean vehicle, unlike cabs, was friendly and it was $9 from home to center of San Fran. I live in Vegas and our leaders are knuckleheads. We want Uber or Lyft and we won’t get one cuz of the cab company owners are paying the politicians instead of their drivers well.”

“Uber would be a welcome addition to Vegas. A cab ride from Stoney’s to the JW Marriott in Summerlin was recently $70, with tip. That same distance in NYC would have been about $30. Way overpriced in Vegas. Bring on Uber!!!”

“Uber is the only way I go in NYC. Too bad Vegas can’t deal and just get over their addiction to the cab industry!”

“I live in Vegas and travel to DC and LA every week; I live off of Über in those cities. I come home and call a taxi from home and wait an hour, sometimes two. Unreal. How much propaganda and crap has to be paid? We get it the local taxi authority does not want it; boo for new commerce. This is why we stay stagnant.”

“It’s idiotic to refer to the calling method for rides rather than the so-broken Vegas taxi system that a percentage of cabs have to be restricted away from the most popular pickup areas because otherwise they would never pick up people at their homes. We need alternatives for normal people who live here, not just the visitors!”

“Taxis suck and they think we must put up with their ineffective policies and overinflated charging. Add that to the hold-up at most taxi lines created by the taxi stand attendant and you got steaming pile of doo-doo. Let the new technologies be introduced and get rid of the attendants and let the rides commence.”

“Vegas needs Uber, I get 2 hour waits at my shop when Western Cab is only 1 mile away.”

“I work for the only decent cab company in Vegas, A-Cab, but it’s not allowed to pick up on the Strip or the airport. What a travesty to drop off at the Encore Hotel and see 40 people standing in line in the hot sun waiting for a cab and watching you as if they could hear a pin drop and the disappointment when we refuse to haul them because the corrupt and defective TA (Taxicab Authority) will issue a fine if we do. It’s supposed to a city built on customer service. So where is it?”

“The rare times I need a taxi living in Vegas, no one is available for at least an hour.”

“As a group everyone must understand taxicab owners in Las Vegas are gods. Uber is not rich enough with only 1.5 billion dollars in their war chest to come to Las Vegas yet. One day Travis, the CEO of Uber, will fight these gods. It is only a matter of time.”

“When Uber and its ilk have attempted to prod city councils into forcing change onto the taxi industry, the industry has responded not with open minds and ‘Yeah, that’s actually a good idea’ comments, but rather veritable battalions of lobbyists and hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations to ensure the status quo remains precisely the same. There is no reason whatsoever to expect otherwise once Uber, Lyft, and other ‘TNCs’ – transportation network companies, as they’re increasingly being called – make it to Vegas.”

“Las Vegas is the LAST place I wish for anyone having to take a taxi, and since these other ride services have popped up I’ve used them exclusively in other cities I visit that offer said services. Saves me time, money, safer drivers and less awkward people.”

“Exactly! It sucks. I drank too much one night and took the responsible choice to take a cab home. He said no, I don’t drive to Henderson and told me to get out! Yeah I just love being told to get out of the taxi because he doesn’t drive to Henderson! Hate the cabs around here.”

“Uber would help out so much in North Las Vegas. Try getting a taxi in North Las Vegas, like Aliante casino. Hotel called one up for me and they never came said it was too far.”

“I was living in LA for a year and all I did was take Uber and Lyft EVERYWHERE! Also you are creating more jobs for residents. I would hop into someone’s Lyft or Uber and have great conversation and learn that they love driving people around to earn extra money and set their own hours. I also had a regular driver who lived in my area so every time she picked me up we would catch up. She was Lyfting to save extra money for her honeymoon!”

A few weeks ago I signed up to be a customer for both Uber and Lyft and have used both services in Los Angeles and Phoenix. I’m a fan.

The argument that Las Vegas doesn’t “need” Uber or Lyft is irrelevant. I “want” ‘em, and so do a lot of other Las Vegans. And other than protecting the established taxi and limo companies that pay out big dough to elected officials and control the Nevada Taxicab Authority, there isn’t one valid reason for keeping Transportation Network Companies out of Nevada.

As one commenter to Mr. Friess’ column put it, “Vegas doesn’t need Uber? How about letting the market decide?”

Hell, yeah! How about it?