Sunday, Feb. 22, 2009 | 2 a.m.
President Barack Obama says the Yucca Mountain project is dead.
Nevada’s senior U.S. senator, Majority Leader Harry Reid, says the high-level nuclear waste dump is dead.
The nation’s nuclear power players — the folks who want to bury their problems in our back yard — aren’t saying it is dead, but they are acting as if it is in a coma and on its last legs.
And the majority of voters in Nevada — the people who put their trust in the president’s promise to kill their worst nightmare and helped elect him in November — believe the nation’s proposed high-level waste dump won’t happen.
So, given all that, why are Gov. Jim Gibbons and his champion, Nevada GOP Chairman Sue Lowden, doing all they can to breathe life into the moribund dump, thereby threatening countless thousands of Nevadans, their kids and those not yet born?
For the life of me, I have no idea!
I cannot understand Gibbons’ effort to gut the one force in the state designed to save lives and property of Nevadans by fighting federal efforts to shove the country’s radioactive poison down our throats. But, then again, anyone who thinks it is good leadership, good citizenship and just plain good sense to destroy higher and lower education in Nevada with the stroke of a budget pen, clearly has no qualms about saving another few dollars by decimating the state’s efforts to fight the nuclear dump.
I long ago gave up hope that Gibbons gave a damn about this state or, if he did, that he had a clue about how to advance that feeling. Sometimes ideologues can’t get out of their own way and have no problem taking their friends, family and fellow citizens down the tubes with them — all in the name of ideology.
But Sue Lowden is a different story. She always seemed to me to be a person of reasonable common sense who cared about her adopted state. She came here a long time ago with little or no money and some dreams. It is fair to say that most of her dreams, and some she never thought about, have come true. Lowden is among very few people who have been blessed with riches of all kind.
Just why Lowden has decided Republicans in this state should be on the side of the rich and powerful power companies and against Nevada’s hardworking men and women who need a tourist-friendly state in which to prosper is beyond me. The thought of trading our futures for a few dollars — real or imagined — is offensive, especially when fostered by a person and a party that have always decried federal assistance of any kind.
The bottom line seems to go something like this: The president said he will kill Yucca Mountain. His energy secretary says he may do what Obama wants but not until the stars align. Harry Reid continues to do his best to starve the project by cutting its budget every year. And the people of Nevada say they oppose the dump but remain oblivious to the subterfuge and incompetence that surround them.
What does all that mean? It means Yucca is not dead. Not even close. As long as we tolerate our own politicians sending mixed signals at best and clear signals of capitulation at worst, we will get that dump.
We are in the second generation of Nevadans fighting against the Goliath of the federal government and its multibillion-dollar friends in the power companies who care not about us but only about the almighty dollars they can make by turning us into a glowing, radiating, deadly dump. We are closer to winning than we have ever been. Now is not the time to let the little minds among us prevail.
Now is the time to do something. What we should not do, though, is tolerate for one moment longer those among us who would sell us out.
Speaking of doing something. I couldn’t help but notice the fact that our neighbor, California, did the impossible last week by closing its huge budget deficit on the backs and brains of its own people. The world’s sixth- or seventh-largest economy — that would be California — was in a heck of a fix and, unlike Nevada, managed to solve its problems all by itself.
It took Democrats voting to cut services to people who have always needed government assistance. And it took Republicans voting for tax increases, which was some kind of violation of a holy grail. And it took a governor with leadership skills, an ideology that had room for reality, and a doggedness that was bolstered by knowing he was doing the right thing for Californians, to make it all happen. But it did happen.
Nevada has the same challenges. Instead, though, we continue to want someone else to pay for our problems and fund our solutions. We haven’t yet understood that we live in a brand new world in which tourism and the dollars it used to bring into our state are no longer our salvation. Laying all of our responsibilities on those who visit our state is no longer a possibility. And delaying the payments on bills long overdue can no longer be done.
There is great opportunity in the Silver State if we want to take responsibility for our own futures. To do that, though, we have to break from a past that allowed us to live off the fat of another’s land.
The Legislature is in session. There are incredibly great needs to fulfill and very few resources available to fill them. But we can succeed.
The first thing we do is kill the one show-stopper that can bring Las Vegas to its knees — Yucca Mountain. The next thing we do is anything and everything we can — witness California — to be standing tall when this financial crisis finally ends.
If that means ignoring the governor — ignore him. If that means dismissing the Lowdens of the world who would signal retreat when they should be standing tall with the rest of the state — dismiss them. We no longer have the privilege of doing nothing and hoping all will be OK.
Nothing will be OK unless we make it so.
Brian Greenspun is editor of the Las Vegas Sun.