aOK, so I was in the shower singing “Candle in the Wind,” Elton John’s award-winning tribute to the late Marilyn Monroe. And although I personally enjoyed the performance, I’m fairly certain – based on the consensus reviews of my family – that not a soul on this planet would ever have even the slightest interest in listening to my rendition on the radio.

Let’s face it, “Candle in the Wind” is Sir Elton’s song. Without Elton singing it, the song just isn’t the same. Sure, the lyrics are great, but Elton made the song a hit. Radio stations played the song because Elton performed it, not because Bernie Taupin wrote it.

So you’d think John would receive royalties for performing the song every time it’s played on the radio, right?

Wrong.

Turns out that thanks to some quirk in the law, performance artists such as Ted Nugent, Pink Floyd and Jimmy Buffett amazingly don’t get doodly-squat, while the songwriter is compensated handsomely.

Something ain’t right about this. I mean, can you imagine how much advertising a radio station would get if I was singing “Piano Man” instead of Billy Joel? I can. Squat. Nada. Zero. Zip.

Seriously. This is unbelievable. Indeed, I didn’t believe it. So I looked it up. And sure ‘nuff…

“All other radio platforms for music – satellite radio, Internet radio and cable radio – pay sound performance royalties to copyright holders for the songs they sing,” Reps. Darrell Issa, John Conyers, Marsha Blackburn and Melvin Watt wrote in a bipartisan letter to their colleagues. “However, AM/FM radio stations are exempted from paying such royalties and can use the property of artists, musicians and music companies without their consent and without providing compensation.”

“AM/FM radio has long been required to pay songwriters,” adds the musicFIRSTcoalition, “but have so far succeeded in stiffing the artists who bring recordings to life – unequal treatment that simply makes no sense.”

“For 80 years,” notes the AFL-CIO, “radio stations in America have played hit songs over the public airwaves and made billions in advertising revenue without paying musicians, artists and performers a penny.”

So why is this issue now hitting public radar screens?

Because next year Republicans will be in charge of Congress and there will be a resolution, misleadingly-named the “Local Radio Freedom Act,” re-introduced. And passage of LFRA essentially means radio broadcasters will be free to continue ripping off the very performers who have made them rich.

In the past, many Republicans have co-sponsored this resolution. Hopefully now that the issue is getting more public attention, many of those Republicans will see the light and withdraw their support.

Because heaven knows, the last thing YOU want to hear is ME singing “Stairway to Heaven” on your car radio!

 

“Bomb Thrower” Chuck Muth on News 3’s “What’s Your Point?” program – taped on November 13, 2014 and aired on November 14, 2014…

 

 

Ah, how fleeting glory.  Seems like only six short years ago that liberals were doing the Snoopy dance and declaring conservatism dead, dead, dead!

Then the tea party movement arose from the ashes of John McCain’s 2008 debacle.  Two years later, Nancy Pelosi’s Democrats were tossed out of their majority in the House.  And two weeks ago the same fate was visited upon Harry Reid’s Senate Democrats.

Conservatism is dead.  Long live conservatism!

But the real shocker is that the so-called “red wave” that crushed Democrats coast-to-coast built into tidal wave strength in Nevada.

Make no mistake.  The GOP’s legislative victories here had nothing to do with any brilliant “strategery” by the GOP establishment’s high-priced consultants.  Some Republican candidates just happened to be at the right place at the right time and enjoyed the benefit of a national outpouring of apathy among Obama’s Democrats.

As such the GOP won the majority in the Nevada State Assembly for the first time since 1985 and the majority in both the Assembly AND the State Senate for the first time since 1929.  More importantly, unlike the GOP takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1994, conservatives here are now in the majority of the majority in the Assembly.

So what’s in store for the 2015 session?

Unfortunately, land mines galore that could blow this year’s GOP electoral success to smithereens.

Yes, conservative Republicans in the Assembly are going to put forward many conservative proposals which have been stymied by the Democrats for years.  However, there are still a half-dozen moderates Republicans in their caucus who will team with Democrats to kill many of those proposals.

The ones that do get out of the Assembly will then head over to the Senate, where Senate Majority Leader Moderate Mike Roberson’s Dirty Half-Dozen Gang will shoot down even more conservative bills, just as Bob Dole did to Newt & Company in 1995.

And whatever survives through the Senate still has to go to Gov. Brian Sandoval, another moderate Republican whose decision-making now has everything to do with positioning himself for greater glory and higher office, not advancing limited-government/fiscal conservatism.

So instead of doing the hard work of cutting spending, look for Sandoval to put forward a massive tax hike just like former Gov. Kenny Guinn did in 2003.  His peeps are already peddling the myth of a “billion dollar hole” in the budget which will require “revenue enhancements.”

If the governor does unwisely go down this road with no electoral mandate to do so, we could see the return of the “Lean 15” (or more) and the inevitable conservative vs. moderate political violence in the Legislature will likely destroy any hope of Republicans retaining their majorities in the next cycle.

Ah, fleeting glory.

 

On Monday, the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health (DPBH) mailed out the results of its three-month review of over 500 applications for Medical Marijuana Establishment (MME) licenses. That same day, it published the results on the Division’s website for those applicants who signed a “consent to release” form.

The problem is the Division only published partial scores.

The ratings/rankings show only the total number of points each applicant for an MME dispensary received without including the number of points awarded in each of the seven categories that were evaluated.

As such, the vast majority of dispensary applicants who did not receive a provisional license from the State of Nevada have absolutely no idea why their application was rejected.

On Tuesday I sent an email to Pam Graber, the Education and Information Officer for the Medical Marijuana Program, asking…

“Are you releasing just the total scores…or will the scores for each category be made available, as well?”

Ms. Graber’s response was…

“Scores for categories will not be released.”

When the Nevada Legislature approved the dispensary bill in the 2013 session, it was clear the intent was to establish a world-class regulatory system for marijuana every bit as exceptional and transparent and above special interest influence as our gaming regulation system.

Unfortunately, the DPBH decision to withhold the complete rating details – not only from the public, but from the applicants themselves – is the exact opposite of an open and transparent system; opening the process up to suspicion of corruption on the part of some applicants.

As such, on Wednesday afternoon I submitted an official “public records request” asking for the release of the full point scores for those applicants who signed a consent to release form. You can read the letter by clicking here.

Disappointingly, I received a response later that afternoon from Pam Graber, the Education and Information Officer for the Medical Marijuana Program, denying our request.

“The information you requested is not available because it is included in NRS 453A.700. Documents created by the Division, if they are created from the confidential applications, are considered confidential regardless of whether they provide identifying information.”

To buttress her denial, Ms. Graber cited the following from NRS 453A.700…

“Except as otherwise provided in this section, NRS 239.0115 and subsection 4 of NRS 453A.210, the Division and any designee of the Division shall maintain the confidentiality of and shall not disclose: (a) The contents of any applications, records or other written documentation that the Division or its designee creates or receives pursuant to the provisions of this chapter…”

But that claim simply doesn’t hold water.

If the DPBH is allowed, by law, to release and publish the total point score for an MME applicant who signed a consent to release form, then there clearly can be no reason whatsoever for not releasing the point scores by category that added up to the total point score.

It’s simply unacceptable that the DPBH can pick and choose, at its own discretion, what scoring information will and will not be released to the public, let alone the individual applicants.

If, for example, the DPBH published a rating score for Applicant X of 150, there’s no reason not to break down that score thusly…

  • Financial resources: 20 points
  • Business experience: 40 points
  • Patient convenience: 10 points
  • Impact on the community: 10 points
  • Size of facility: 10 points
  • Security: 40 points
  • Nevada tax contributions: 20 points
  • TOTAL: 150 points

These are just numbers and scores, not confidential application information.

After receiving Ms. Graber’s denial of our public records request, I made this exact argument in a follow-up email…

“But the ratings and rankings obviously aren’t included in this, at least as far as those applicants who signed the consent to release form. Are the point scores per category available to the individual applicants themselves if they make such a request?”

Thursday morning I received the following curt reply…

“We are developing a process for providing scoring information.”

“Developing a process”?

Come on. This is nothing more than filling out an elementary school report card and sending it home to mom and dad.

MME applicants have spent tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, securing property, hiring experts and completing the official licensing applications.

And those applications weren’t the kind of one-page application you and I fill out to get a new Visa or MasterCard. Some of them were thousands of pages long and weighed as much as a brick.

There are millions of dollars at stake for the applicants, not to mention the reputation of Nevada’s new medical marijuana industry and regulatory apparatus.

We all deserve better than this.

Only by releasing the point scoring by category can the public, not to mention the applicants themselves, know where a potential operator was strong and/or weak.

Only by releasing the point scoring by category can the public, not to mention the applicants themselves, know where a potential operator needs to improve their business plan to be a successful MME operator in Nevada.

Only by releasing the point scoring by category can the public, not to mention the applicants themselves, know that the evaluation process was fair and untainted by special interest influence.

Only by releasing the point scoring by category can the public, not to mention the applicants themselves, judge Nevada’s new medical marijuana regulatory system as world-class, just as our gaming regulatory system is.

Anything short of full transparency in this regard will be embarrassing for the State of Nevada, the Governor, the Legislature and the DPBH.

And expensive litigation – which inevitably will cost Nevada taxpayers a bundle! – is right around the corner.

DPBH should release those total point scores by category today. Not this weekend. Not on Monday. Not next week.

Today.

 

Plenty of Problems with Pot Approval Process

On November 6, 2014, in Muth's Truths, by Chuck Muth

Whether it was the process established by the Legislature, or the implementation established the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health (DPBH), the ratings of applications for some 500-plus Medical Marijuana Establishment (MME) licenses which were just released are about as fouled up as anything we’ve seen recently from the state government.

Consider this…

You go to school. You think you did really great.  At the end of the semester you receive a report card.  But the report card only tells you your Grade Point Average is 2.3 without telling you how that score was arrived at (he writes knowingly ending a sentence with a preposition in defiance of his Grammar teacher).

You don’t know what grade you got in Math. You don’t know what you got in English.  You don’t know what you got in Science.  You don’t know what you got in History.  All you know is that you chalked up a 2.3 GPA when you thought you should have gotten a 3.5 GPA.  As such, you have no idea what you need to work on in the next semester to improve.

Well, that’s exactly the situation MME applicants find themselves in now that the DPBH has reviewed the submitted applications and issued ratings. The applications were graded based on seven different categories where a wide range of points could be earned, up to a perfect score of 250.

Applications were graded in the areas of financial resources (up to 40 points), business experience (up to 50 points), patient convenience (up to 20 points), the impact the MME business might have in the community (up to 20 points), the size of the proposed establishment (up to 20 points), security (up to 75 points) and the amount of Nevada taxes the applicants have paid in recent years (up to 25 points).

 

What that last one has to do with a business operator’s ability to operate a business professionally and profitably, I have no idea. But that’s a different discussion to have on a different day.

Now let me give you just one example of how fouled up this evaluation system turned out to be…

There’s an MME applicant called Tryke Companies. The grade the company received from the state to open a dispensary in Clark County was 212.97.  But the grade the exact same company received to operate a dispensary in North Las Vegas was just 192.97, while the grade the company received for its proposed operation in Sparks was 202.03.

Huh?

But don’t worry. It gets worse.

Even though a number of the MME applicants signed consent waivers allowing their scores to be posted online, the DPBH has informed me that not only wouldn’t the individual grade points for each of the seven different categories be disclosed to the public…they’re not even going to give that information to the applicants!

So you spend $5,000 to submit an application and probably tens of thousands of dollars in man-hours to prepare an application consisting of thousands of pages of documents, and the government isn’t even going to tell you what it was about your application that caused it to be rejected?

Seriously?

And just to make matters worse, the DPBH also won’t release the names of the staffers who evaluated each category of each application, so there’s no way to tell if, say, one reviewer gave extra points if an applicant had experience operating an MME operation in Arizona but another one docked applicants if their experience was operating in Colorado.

How is anyone supposed to know if there was a “Russian judge” involved in the evaluation process?

Indeed, this grading system simply isn’t objective. And one MME applicant – who understandably wishes to remain anonymous – went so far as to call it “corrupt.”

Your score depends, at least in part, on the personal biases and preferences of a faceless, anonymous grader.

It’s like submitting a 5-part term paper to your teacher and then the teacher randomly assigns each term paper to a rotating team of unknown teaching assistants to grade each separate section and then only provide you with your final total point score without telling you which teaching assistant graded which portion of your paper.

Truly, this is ridiculous.

I attended a North Las Vegas city council meeting a couple weeks ago in which the zoning requests for 60-some MME applications were considered. Each application was reviewed by a staffer whose name appeared on a detailed, PUBLIC report assessing the suitability of each individual application.

THAT’S the kind of openness and transparency that’s called for here.

But it still gets worse…

Let’s look at how the DPBH handled Henderson, Nevada. Using the terribly flawed process outlined above, that state issued provisional licenses to five applicants to operate dispensaries in the city.  As a resident of Henderson, you probably would like to know who those five applicants are and where their dispensaries will be opened, right?

Sorry, Charlie.

Amazingly, not one of the five approved operators signed a disclosure consent form agreeing to allow their identities to be revealed to the public. How in the world can the government allow such secrecy to be perpetrated on the taxpayers and citizens of a community?

And then there’s the holy mess we now have in Clark County.

The aforementioned Tryke Companies was ranked #2 among all applicants there (the identity of the #1 applicant is being kept secret). But last summer Clark County, for whatever political reasons, DENIED Tryke Companies local approval to operate.

So the state says Tryke is the second best potential MME dispensary operator in all of Clark County, but Clark County said Tryke wasn’t suitable enough and rejected them (a limit of 18 licenses are allowed).

So what do county commissioners do now? If they bump someone else who already received their advance local approval, lawsuit city.  If they still deny Tryke after scoring so high from the state, lawsuit city.

How did this happen?

It happened because the government decided to play God and regulate the free market, that’s how.

Much like teachers in our worst-in-the-nation public schools, it’s not the fault of the individual staffers at DPBH who have been forced to do the best they can with a lousy system.

In its infinite wisdom, the Nevada Legislature decided that MME operators could open an unlimited number of cultivation or production facilities, but only a limited number of retail sales operations/dispensaries.

Ridiculous.

If Walgreens or CVS wants to open a pharmacy somewhere in Nevada, they need not submit thousands of pages of documents to unidentified government employees who will determine, based solely on submitted paperwork, whether or not you can successfully operate in the marketplace in order to get one of a strictly limited number of government permission slips to open your business to the public.

The drug store gets zoning approval from the local government, builds its store, opens the door and lets the public determine whether or not they make a profit and stay in business.

So here’s what needs to happen now…

First, there is no reason on God’s marijuana-green earth not to at least provide the MME applicants themselves the details of the scores they just received by category.

Even if the law the Legislature wrote says you can’t disclose that information to the public – which is outrageous enough! – those detailed scores MUST be immediately provided to the applicants who paid big money seeking a license to operate a dispensary in Nevada. DPBH needs to immediately stop hiding behind an ambiguous disclosure provision in the law that surely never intended to prohibit releasing detailed scoring assessments to those being scored.

Secondly, the identities of the applicants who did receive a Golden Ticket from the DPBH to operate in each local community must NOT be allowed to remain secret. The citizens of those jurisdictions, and residents of the neighborhoods where the “approved” dispensaries will be located, have a right to immediately know who’s coming to dinner.

And lastly, the Legislature next session needs to give up this notion of regulating the free market and abolish the limits it placed on the number of dispensaries which are allowed to open and operate.

The best operators will provide great customer service and high-quality products at competitive prices. The worst will be driven out of business by lack of customer support.  If Walgreens can open up shop right across the street from CVS, then a Medifarm dispensary should be able to open shop right across the street from NuLeaf.

So let it be written; so let it be done.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Just prior to publication, I received an email from Pam Graber, public information officer for the Medical Marijuana Program at DPBH advising that “We are developing a process for providing scoring information.”

That’s encouraging, but we’ll have to see when and how they actually do so. Keep your fingers crossed.

 

In Part I and Part II of this series, I laid out the case that the Pinecrest Academy Charter School in Henderson has an excellent principal, an excellent teaching corps, an excellent board of directors, an excellent EMO (Educational Management Organization) and an excellent mission to provide an excellent education.

So overall, we’re talking about an excellent school from top to bottom at which parents CHOOSE to send their kids and has a waiting list of parents dying to get their kids into it.

That said, there’s always at least one malcontent who’s not content unless they find something to carp about. At Pinecrest Academy, that role has been filled by a parent named Tiecha Ashcroft.

Unbelievably, Ms. Ashcroft’s beefs primarily have to do with recess and the school’s attendance policies; not, you know, reading, writing and arithmetic. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

The reason we know all of this is because of an October 22, 2014 blog post authored by Karen Gray of the Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI), Nevada’s absolutely terrific conservative think tank which has been on the leading edge of education reform and holding public school bureaucrats accountable.

And Ms. Gray has done a yeoman’s job in that regard for years in Clark County. So when she wrote a negative blog about Pinecrest and its principal, Dr. Carrie Buck, it was significant and people took notice. Especially considering NPRI’s stellar reputation.

Unfortunately, because of this particular blog post, both reputations are now in serious jeopardy.

Why would Ms. Gray, whose focus has been on policies and practices of the Clark County School District (CCSD), suddenly take such significant interest in one solitary charter school’s day-to-day operations, especially since it’s a charter school and not a regular district school and NPRI has historically been a huge backer of school choice?

The headline of the post gives a glimpse of what horrible thing was allegedly going on at Pinecrest that was worthy of Ms. Gray’s attention: “Charter-school parents fear the creeping CCSD mindset: See Pinecrest Academy’s board distancing itself from parent concerns.”

Sounds sorta serious on a PTA-level if true, but still not the sort of thing you’d think NPRI would be devoting time and attention to since this is a “choice” school, not one where kids are forced to attend because it’s where they’re “districted.”

As the saying goes – especially in Nevada, where the regular public schools are ranked dead last in the nation – there are certainly much, MUCH bigger fish to fry.

The justification expressed to me in several conversations about this issue with NPRI management was a comment made last month by board Chairman Candace Friedmann; that in board meetings, during public comment periods, board members were only allowed to listen to parents’ concerns, not respond to them.

That is, in fact, incorrect.

I know this from having worked on this issue myself a few years ago when I was in Carson City and a school board member there tried to hide behind the law to duck tough questions from the public during public comment periods.

But was Ms. Friedmann really trying to hide from the parental concerns of the Pinecrest Academy family the way elected public school board members have sought to do in the past?

In a word…no.

I spoke to Ms. Friedmann after this brouhaha erupted and asked about her comment relating to board members not being allowed to respond to parents during the public comment period. Here’s what I learned…

Ms. Friedman is a volunteer board member. She joined the Pinecrest Board for the sole purpose of helping to provide an excellent education to children.  She’s a school teacher by trade.  She is not a parliamentarian.  She is not a lawyer.  She is not a legislator.  She is not a school bureaucrat.  And she’s never been a board chairman before.

When I asked her why she said board members weren’t allowed to respond to questions during the public comment period, she said she had relied on Robert’s Rules of Order. She then quoted me the passage verbatim that she was relying on.

I then explained that Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) says something different and that NRS trumps Robert’s. The fact is, board members MAY respond to questions during the public comment period, but aren’t required to.

This is something Ms. Friedmann – again, a volunteer board chairman with no previous experience – simply was not aware of because the issue had never come up before. Now that she knows, problem solved.

Indeed, after speaking with Ms. Friedmann – who has an absolutely stellar reputation in the community – it became abundantly clear that there was absolutely nothing nefarious whatsoever in her actions – something Ms. Gray also would have learned if she had made the same phone call to Ms. Friedmann that I made.

Something any good, objective, unbiased journalist would do for such a story.

So why didn’t she?

After all, she talked to Tiecha Ashcroft and another disgruntled parent at length for the story. She also called Patrick Gavin, Executive Director of the Nevada State Public Charter School Board, which has no jurisdiction whatsoever in school matters such as this.

Seriously, folks.

One phone call to Ms. Friedmann would have revealed that there really was no story here. The Pinecrest board absolutely, positively was not – as Ms. Gray’s blog post suggested – intentionally trying to “misinform” parents.  It was not being “evasive.”  It was not trying to “duck confrontations.”

In fact, Tiecha Ashcroft has had PLENTY of opportunities to belly-ache at board meetings and has regularly taken advantage of those opportunities. Indeed she has been heard and responded to; heard and responded to; heard and responded to, over and over again.

But like the old saying about God answering prayers, sometimes the answer is “no.” But Tiecha Ashcroft simply refuses to take no for an answer and would rather fight than switch schools.  Which is fine.  That’s her choice and this is a choice school.

But again, the real mystery is why Karen Gray would take such an interest in such a petty, single-school squabble in which the premise of the entire story was – or could have been – discounted with one simple phone call.

Why the one-sided, clearly biased hit piece making a mountain out of a molehill by a professional journalist working for a highly reputable think tank?

Here’s why…

Although it wasn’t disclosed anywhere in the original blog post, Tiecha Ashcroft’s full name is Tiecha Gray-Ashcroft.

As in…

Karen Gray’s daughter.

Holy ethical breach, Batman!

Not only did Ms. Gray/NPRI fail to disclose the mother-daughter relationship in the blog post, but in Part IV of this series I’m going to tackle head on the allegations leveled by Tiecha and her mom at Dr. Buck and provide the other side of the story that wasn’t presented in the original smear.

Of course, now you know WHY the other side of the story wasn’t presented.

Stay tuned, Batfans…

 

In Part I of this series, I explained that the parent of a child at Pinecrest Academy in Henderson, Tiecha Ashcroft, has been complaining about all manner of things at her kid’s school – in particular a new recess policy – and criticizing the school’s new principal, the highly-regarded Dr. Carrie Buck.

OK, fine. You can’t please everybody, right? And anyone who’s ever been a member of a PTA knows that cranks and malcontents simply go with the territory.

So why am I writing about this situation when I have no connection to the school whatsoever?

Because Ms. Ashcroft found a blogger to unethically air Ms. Ashcroft’s petty grievances on the Internet – and the blog post has caused serious, undeserved harm to the reputations of both the school and Dr. Buck.

And you’re not going to believe who the blogger is!

No, it’s NOT Nevada’s #2 liberal blogger…though I can understand why the “unethical” reference might have led you to believe otherwise.  But I’ll get to that in a minute.  First a little about the school itself.

The most important thing to know is that Pinecrest Academy is a CHARTER school.  As such, people CHOOSE whether or not to send their kids there.

Which means if a parent doesn’t like the way the school is being run or thinks the principal is an ogre, they are free to put their progeny back in a regular public school, pay to send them to a private school, or take the option Gia and I have taken and homeschool.

On the other hand, there is a WAITING LIST of other parents who would LOVE the opportunity to send their kids to Pinecrest Academy but can’t get in because the school is full.

So not only is Ms. Ashcroft making a nuisance of herself and disrupting school operations rather than simply going somewhere else, she’s denying another family of the opportunity to get a great education at a great school loaded with great teachers and administered by a great principal.

And why are so many families dying to get into Pinecrest. Well, take a look at some of the school’s published expectations as outlined in its operating manual…

  • We follow a school-wide vision that puts KIDS FIRST in all we do!
  • All decisions are based on what is best for students
  • We work together to get things done for the benefit of all children
  • We work daily to improve school climate and morale at Pinecrest Academy
  • Come to the table with solutions and be part of the solution and not part of the problem
  • Work hard and play hard
  • Student and staff recognition and celebration will be built in to our daily schedules
  • Mediocrity is not acceptable
  • Open door policy
  • School-wide reading and math groups

If only ALL of our regular public schools followed such a model!

Pinecrest also has the additional benefit of having hired an Educational Management Organization (EMO)…

“ACADEMICA NEVADA provides Charter Schools with comprehensive service and support. We ensure a professionally managed and operated charter school that meets the requirements of the school’s contracts, local ordinances and State and Federal Laws.

“Academica Nevada offers guidance and resources to guide Charter Schools from conception onward. Most importantly, Academica Nevada ensures the vision of a charter school Board of Directors is faithfully and effectively implemented.”

Which brings me to the school’s Board of Directors…

Just like the school’s principal, teachers, administrators, curriculum, mission and EMO, Pinecrest’s governing board is first-class all the way.

BOARD CHAIRMAN:  Candace Friedmann is a retired CCSD teacher who taught first grade for 16 years. She received her BA from North Central College in Naperville, Illinois with a major in elementary education and psychology.  She has a Master of Education degree from Lesley University in Curriculum and Instruction: Integrated Teaching through the Arts. In 2006 she received an award for Distinguished Elementary School Educator in the Southeast Region.

BOARD VICE-CHAIRMAN: Randy Walker is the former director of aviation for Clark County and was responsible for the oversight of McCarran International Airport, one of the busiest airports in the world.  Prior to that, Walker was assistant county manager for Clark County, where he oversaw 12 county departments and provided fiscal oversight for District Court, Justice Court, and all of Clark County’s elected officials.

The remaining members of the board all come from a diverse background and bring something unique in talent and experience that greatly benefits Pinecrest Academy. Indeed, not one of these folks fell off the turnip truck last night.

  • So what we have here is a charter school…
  • To which parents CHOOSE to send their kids…
  • Which has a waiting list a mile long to get in…
  • That has an exceptionally talented and experienced principal…
  • That has an exceptionally talented teaching staff…
  • That has hired an exceptionally talented EMO…
  • And has an exceptionally talented board of directors…

Oh, and Tiecha Ashcroft…

Who’s been bitchin’ about the school’s new recess policy and found a blogger willing to turn that ridiculously petty molehill into an internet mountain.

And seriously, you are NOT going to believe who the blogger is.

Find out in Part III of “The Buck Stops Here: Anatomy of a Smear.”

 

Happy Nevada Day!

On October 31, 2014, in Muth's Truths, by Chuck Muth

Yesterday the family and I drove up to Carson City to be here for the big 150th Anniversary celebration of Nevada’s statehood.  On the way we stopped and walked around the Rhyolite Ghost Town before taking a tour of Scotty’s Castle in Death Valley. Dinner last night, of course, was at Red’s 395 Grill.

Breakfast this morning at The Crackerbox, where I ran into my longtime friend Rick Arnold.  Later today we’ll hit Virginia City for lunch, including a Bloody Mary at the Bucket of Blood Saloon.

Trick-or-treating tonight in the neighborhood surrounding the Governor’s Mansion tonight (I’m going as myself; about the scariest thing imaginable for Gov. Brian Sandoval!).

The annual GOP Pancake Breakfast at the Guv’s Mansion tomorrow morning, then the big Nevada Day Parade, followed by Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki’s Annual Chili Feed at the Nugget and topped off with the Nevada Day Fair at Mills Park.

On Sunday we’ll head down to Lake Tahoe for a hike around Taylor Creek – or as my kids affectionately call it, “Dead Fish Stream.” This is the time of year the Coho Salmon swim upstream out of the lake, spawn and then croak.  The stream is littered with dead fish…and one year we saw a bear on the hike.  Mother Nature at its finest.  Real cool.

And then on Monday…

ORAL ARGUMENTS

Four years ago, my organization, Citizen Outreach, sent out a pair of issue advocacy mailers alerting voters to the voting record of then-Assembly Speaker John Oceguera.  Secretary of State Ross Miller, in typical partisan fashion, sued us in an effort to try to get us to disclose the identities of our donors even though we are not required to do so according to IRS rules.

Miller has been on a jihad against so-called “dark money” – which is really nothing more than protected anonymous free speech – and has been selectively prosecuting only conservative organizations over his liberal (what else?) interpretation of the law.

And just why would some people wish to remain anonymous in donating to a conservative (or liberal) causes? Here are 8 darned good reasons, courtesy of Donor’s Trust…

  • To avoid becoming a chronic target for other causes
  • Religious donors may view anonymous giving as the highest form of charity
  • New donors may give anonymously until they have a better feel for the organization
  • Professional discretion
  • Desire to be seen as a regular community member
  • Allows a donor to be flexible and creative in his or her giving
  • Avoids personal problems, such as relatives seeking inheritance
  • Fear of retribution (personal, political, professional)

That last one, by the way, is deadly serious and the reason why four of our Founding Fathers inked the Federalist Papers anonymously.

In any event, four years later and we finally get to make our case in court. Oral arguments will be presented before the Nevada Supreme Court in Carson City Monday morning.

Keep your fingers crossed that free speech ultimately wins the day!

 

Voting is Your Right, Not an Obligation

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

At the risk of being accused of “voter suppression,” allow me to suggest that if you don’t know the issues and don’t know the candidates that it would be better for your community and our republic if you just stayed home on Election Day.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you “can’t” vote.  Just that maybe you “shouldn’t.”

Indeed, if you haven’t taken the time to research both the candidates and the issues on the ballot this year sufficiently enough to cast an informed and educated vote, then please do the rest of us who are exercising our right responsibly a favor by sitting this one out.

There is simply no excuse for not being an informed and educated voter in this day and age. The Internet is an absolutely fantastic tool for researching candidates and issues.  Local newspapers continue to provide invaluable information and often endorsements.  And plenty of organizations of like-minded individuals also provide voter guides and candidate recommendations.

For example, if gun rights are an important issue to you, then check out the endorsements of groups such as the Nevada Firearms Coalition. If social issues are important to you, check out the voter guide published by Nevada Families.

If being a Republican or a Democrat is important to you, find out which party the candidates running in so-called “non-partisan” races belong to. If you’re libertarian-leaning in your philosophy, the Libertarian Party did a great job researching candidates this year on their website.  Ditto the Independent American Party if you take your politics more on the social side of issues.

The point is there’s just no excuse for casting a ballot in ignorance. And yes, I’m saying that if you go into the voting booth and make your decisions by flipping a coin or going “eeny-meeny-miny-moe” that instead maybe you should spend the day getting your car washed or your nails polished.

An instructive case in point illustrating the danger of casting an ill-informed vote was the campaign of Dave Wilson last year.

Wilson was a white candidate running in a predominantly black district for a board of trustees seat in Houston who didn’t include a single photograph of himself on his website or in mailers but strongly and disingenuously suggested he was black. And to the shock of many black voters who ignorantly voted for him without really knowing who they voted for – he won!

Is there a “Dave Wilson” on your ballot this year? If you don’t know, don’t vote.  Or at least only vote in races in which you clearly know who the candidates are.  You get no extra credit for casting a vote in every single race.

Yes, voting is your right. But if you exercise that right, please do so responsibly.

 

The Buck Stops Here: Anatomy of a Smear – Part I

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

In the movie The Dark Knight, there’s a scene where Alfred Pennyworth is talking about the nature of The Joker with Bruce Wayne/Batman.   Wayne says, “Criminals aren’t complicated, Alfred.   You just have to figure out what he’s after.”

To which Alfred responds that “some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

That scene came to my mind last night as I listened to a woman named Tiecha Ashcroft kvetching about recess at a meeting of the Pinecrest Academy Charter School board in Henderson.

Of all those who spoke before Ms. Ashcroft took the floor – teachers at the school and parents of children who attend the school – every single one voiced support for the school’s new principal, Dr. Carrie Buck.

And by the time Ms. Ashcroft got halfway through her lone diatribe of discouraging words, it became abundantly clear…

She’s one of those people who just wants to complain. You can’t reason with her.  You can’t negotiate with her.  Some people just want to b- – – -.

But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Why would I be sitting in a board meeting for over 90 minutes listening to parents and teachers (and one outstandingly articulate young lady who is a 5th-grader there) talking about a petty school brouhaha over recess when I homeschool my own kids and have no involvement with the school in question whatsoever?

Because like the Caped Crusader I can’t just stand idly by and watch good people doing great things for kids suffer the injustice of being unfairly and unethically attacked. Especially when it comes from a conservative who’s supposed to be a professional and certainly should know better.

But before we get to the molehill incident itself, let me first put this in some proper perspective by telling you a little about the person who was attacked.

Dr. Carrie Buck Principal Pinecrest Academy

Dr. Carrie Buck
Principal
Pinecrest Academy

Principal Carrie Buck is everything you and I would want in a public school administrator. She insists on school discipline, sets high but achievable goals for both students and teachers, has an open-door policy for parents, and doesn’t whine about not having enough money from taxpayers to get the job done.

She got her start 23 years ago in an elementary school classroom. She is an ELL (English Language Learner) specialist, as well as a Teacher Mentor and Instructional Coach.

In 2006, Buck was appointed principal at C.T. Sewall Elementary School in Henderson. Sewall, at the time, was described as being “in transition.”

That’s PC-speak for “in the crapper.”

The building itself is the oldest in southern Nevada still in use. The student body is primarily low-income and minority – many for whom English is their second language.  The staff entrance figuratively consisted of a revolving door.  Morale stunk, as did the students’ test scores.

What Buck’s leadership was able to achieve over the next seven years was nothing short of miraculous.

Test scores soared. Math proficiency shot up from 36% to 89%, while English proficiency increased from 35% to 83%.

Sewall went from one of the worst schools in the state to one of the absolute best.

Indeed, the school’s reputation for academic excellence became so well know in the community that a number of parents unlawfully established false residences with friends and family in the neighborhood just so their kids could be zoned to attend Sewell.

As such, the student body swelled, straining the school’s limited resources

But rather than kvetch about “under-funding” education, Buck went out into the community and, in her time at Sewell, raised “over four million dollars in grants, private funds and donations that provided basic needs for students and their families, as well as instructional supplies, facility improvements, academic enrichment, and technology for the school.”

While not quite qualifying for sainthood (yet), Buck has received considerable recognition for her talents and achievements…

* In 1999, she received the “Most Outstanding Educator” commendation from the City of Henderson.

* In 2008, she won the prestigious Milken Award.

* That same year, she was one of seven chosen for the national ASCD Outstanding Youth Educators Cadre.

* Buck received Faculty of the Month awards from the University of Phoenix in 2002, 2003 and 2006.

* In 2011, she received the Shining Star Award from the Mind Research Institute for tremendous student growth in math.

* In 2013, Buck was inducted into the Clark County School District’s “Excellence in Education Hall of Fame.”

* And earlier this year Dr. Buck was nominated for the Life Changer Award from the National Life Group.

A bona fide expert in her field, Buck is a highly-sought after public speaker on education reform and excellence. She and her success at Sewell were featured in a March 2013 article for the National After-School All-Stars Program.  And in 2013, Sewell was chosen as a Model Highlight School.

In January of this year, C.T. Sewell was designated as a State of Nevada Model School, as well as a National Title I Distinguished School.

One month later The Miracle Worker left Sewell and accepted the Principal position at Pinecrest Academy after the school’s founding principal abruptly and unexpectedly left the position under a cloud of circumstances not relevant to this discussion.

Suffice it to say, Buck took over Pinecrest under less than ideal circumstances eight months ago.

And just to prove the old adage that no good deed goes unpunished, Buck inherited Tiecha Ashcroft.

More on that in Part II of “The Buck Stops Here: Anatomy of a Smear.” Stay tuned Batfans…