Las Vegas Sun

October 14, 2019

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J. Patrick Coolican

Story Archive

I'm taking leave; don't screw things up in my town while I'm gone
Friday, Aug. 9, 2013
For my last couple of columns, I had the genius idea to investigate a suicide at the jail and spend some time at the Regional Justice Center, soaking in the sadness of ruined lives. Fun way to close it out.
Behind the courthouse veneer, a well-oiled if rickety machine tries to dispense justice
Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013
The traditional metaphor for the justice system is a scale, signifying the strength of each side’s argument or the imperative to balance justice with mercy. The more accurate metaphor is a machine, a grinding, sometimes rickety machine, lubricated by plea deals, that ostensibly applies justice to people — dumping some into the local jail, others to the High Desert State Prison and releasing a few back on the street or into a supervision program such as probation. Very few of the presumed innocent are found innocent.
A mother's despair: her son's suicide in jail could have been prevented
Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013
Dillon Hill was 25, caught shoplifting for the third time in just a few months. Once a bright and promising UNLV student, he was selling the stolen goods to buy heroin.
State officials: Las Vegas hospitals sloughing off patients on UMC
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
St. Rose is not the only local hospital improperly moving patients to the taxpayer-supported UMC, which is running a deficit this year of about $30 million. Several others were found to have “inappropriately transferred” patients there.

Metro's blindness at soccer melee is a green light for more violence
Thursday, July 11, 2013
Sun photographer Sam Morris showed great courage when he captured graphic images of the melee that broke out at the Chivas vs. Club America soccer match last week at Sam Boyd Stadium.
For Tom Cunningham and most other stabbing victims, much pain, no justice
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
A few months ago, Tom Cunningham got into a brief argument with a man in a parked truck in one of the most run-down areas of Las Vegas, near the corner of Main Street and Washington Avenue. Cunningham says he regrets it more than anything he’s ever done.
Here's why hundreds of wannabe murderers are roaming our streets
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Since 2010, the worst types of violent crimes, including homicides and assaults with weapons, have been on the decline here. Buried within the data, however, is a troubling fact.
If Dems can't beat Gov. Brian Sandoval in '14, at least have fun and pick Tick
Friday, June 14, 2013
State Sen. Richard "Tick" Segerblom looks like a rumpled philosophy professor, his sun-bleached hair suggesting a sailboat summer sabbatical, icy cocktail in hand, one-liner holstered. Democrats should run him for governor against Brian Sandoval in 2014.
Why even a little progress in addressing mental health is worth applauding
Thursday, June 13, 2013
On Sunday, I expressed disappointment that the Legislature didn't make more progress on mental health issues. In fairness, I want to lay out what the Sandoval administration feels it accomplished during the recently completed legislative session.
Sandoval shouldn't let last-minute snafu snuff medical marijuana bill
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
In what seemed like a rare stroke of legislative competence, Nevada lawmakers passed a bill this year allowing the establishment of licensed medical marijuana dispensaries. Now, however, the measure's future is in doubt.
Legislators’ few hits offset by embarrassing misses
Sunday, June 9, 2013
I’ve been accused of being a Kenyan-born, Muslim socialist. The truth is, however, my aims are far more moderate — for Nevada to be a little more like Massachusetts, though of course retaining our cherished ideal of ready access to guns, booze and the craps table. Insofar as Nevada’s Democratic majority shares this modest goal of mine, how did they perform during the recently ended legislative session?
St. Rose hospital wrongly sending patients to UMC, state finds
Friday, May 31, 2013
State investigators have found a pattern of improper patient transfers by St. Rose Dominican Hospitals — Siena Campus to the region’s only public hospital, according to documents obtained by the Las Vegas Sun. UMC CEO Brian Brannman said the practice could be contributing to financial shortfalls at UMC and is worsening the overcrowding of its emergency room.
Mother finds a way to build hope for mentally ill out of son's tragic death
Thursday, May 30, 2013
Marilyn Rogan-Smith's son Adam was born with a birth defect in 1985 and had skull surgery when he was 4 months old. Unbeknown to the family until years later, the surgery left Adam with brain damage that seems to have manifested itself as mental illness, including schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder and attention deficit disorder. In April 2012, Adam died of cardiac arrest, though his untreated mental illness was the real cause.
Let's remember: Warren Buffett's power play is to make money
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Shouts of joy rang out among Nevada’s political elite on the news that an entity owned by famed investor Warren Buffett is buying the state’s electric monopoly, NV Energy.
Search for long lost brother among homeless is 'like a needle in a haystack'
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Virginia “Jenny” Fisher Murdoch had a dream a few months ago that her brother is alive. Murdoch knows dreams aren’t prophetic, and though she seems almost embarrassed talking about it, she says this one feels different.
Nevada Medical Board, just whom do you serve?
Monday, May 20, 2013
Earlier this year I wrote about Dr. Sean Steele, an internist who was accused of a brutal sexual assault after a night of drinking in Las Vegas. Here's the latest from California, which revoked his license, and what's happening (nothing) in Nevada.
Why Nevada Democrats' Fun Tax is the New Coke of politics
Friday, May 10, 2013
The Mini-Golf Tax. The “Iron Man” Tax. The Burning Man Tax. I’m pretty sure most Nevadans enjoy one or more of those activities, which means if Democrats in the Legislature pass their new Nevada Entertainment and Admissions Tax, every Nevadan will curse them when they try to enjoy themselves on the weekend after a long workweek.
Why Nevada needs to look at Dotty's one way, sports book kiosks another
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
With the Nevada Legislature seriously discussing gaming policy, I've got some thoughts about Dotty's, and about sports betting kiosks in neighborhood taverns.
To citizen legislator Mo Denis: Don't forget about the rest of us citizens
Friday, May 3, 2013
Catching up on the news after a little vacation, and, oh, look, it’s like I never left -- a state senator has offered up some cheesy legislation that would help his old boss.
Ever get the feeling the Las Vegas cab industry is long-hauling regulators?
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Welcome to Las Vegas. Now I’m going to steal $10 from you. That’s the message we’re sending to thousands of tourists every year who get in a cab at McCarran International Airport and are taken to their hotel the long way. At least when the hotels take the tourists’ money, it’s based on a bet whose odds are well known. But the cabbies are just flat-out stealing, and our political system is so inept that it refuses or is unable to act.
St. Rose hospitals drop ER doctors group as state probes patient shuffling
Thursday, April 18, 2013
The medical group that staffs emergency departments at St. Rose Dominican Hospitals and has been criticized for shuttling patients among facilities for purely financial reasons is being dropped by the hospitals.
Why legal pot is coming to Nevada, and why we need to prepare
Friday, April 12, 2013
It was no great feat, but as I predicted last October, Colorado and Washington have legalized pot, and Nevada is now in danger of losing our rightful place as the capital of forbidden fun. Thursday, a Nevada legislative committee approved the creation of medical marijuana dispensaries. And last week, the Nevada Legislature took up a bill to legalize recreational marijuana. It’s not going anywhere, but I applaud the Assembly Judiciary Committee for giving it a hearing.
The Nevada way: A lawyer leads the transportation board
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
The next time you need heart surgery, we’ll send over a lawyer to open you up. How would that strike you? Ridiculous, right? So why is the attorney general on the board of the Nevada Department of Transportation?
After stadium boondoggle, what's next for Henderson after Andy Hafen's re-election?
Friday, April 5, 2013
With Henderson voters -- or the 12 percent of them who bothered to turn out -- giving Mayor Andy Hafen a second term, can a marching band of 76 trombones be far behind?
The Steven Brooks saga points to much bigger problems
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
The unfortunate truth is that story of expelled Assemblyman Steven Brooks, sad as it is, could have been even more tragic.
Doctors allege shuttling patients among hospitals put profit ahead of safety
Two former St. Rose emergency room doctors say their boss co-owned ambulances that moved patients to sister hospitals
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Two former St. Rose Dominican Hospital emergency room doctors say they were forced to transfer patients from one St. Rose hospital to another so its owners and their boss could profit — at the expense of patient safety.
Photographer documenting homeless families finds no place like Las Vegas
Monday, April 1, 2013
Craig Blankenhorn has spent most of his professional life on film and TV sets — “Sex in the City” and “The Sopranos” among them — shooting photos for the big advertising displays you see in newspapers and magazines. But now he’s also traveling the country, documenting the lives of homeless families. In Las Vegas he met Tom, Angela and little Kaleb, who is one of 1.6 million homeless kids in the United States, and he won't soon forget them.
Why the construction defect fight is likely to get nasty this session
Thursday, March 21, 2013
As my colleague Anjeanette Damon reports this week, the Groundhog Day legislative battle over construction defect litigation has broken into the open, with state Sen. Michael Roberson using some legislative legerdemain to move his bill from a hostile committee to a friendly one.
Why lobbyists are confused by what one Nevada lawmaker is up to
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Here’s the question everyone here at the Legislature is asking: What’s Michael Roberson’s game? The question arises because twice in just the past two weeks the Republican Senate leader has taken on powerful interests.
Why I'm bothered that the chancellor has silenced college bosses
Friday, March 15, 2013
Dan Klaich, chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education, has told college and university presidents to be publicly silent about their misgivings with the proposed funding formula to divide up state money for schools.
In search of mysterious Downtown sign artist King Richard
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
King Richard’s realm is not a conventional one. It is the weathered sides of Downtown cinder block.
Where are the Democrats in extracting more taxes from the mining industry?
Friday, March 8, 2013
The surprise move this week by Nevada Senate Republicans to offer up a mining tax increase as an alternative to the business margins tax offered up some fascinating political theater and intriguing questions.
The tragedy of Stanley Gibson's death began days before he was shot by police
Thursday, March 7, 2013
Reading accounts and watching the video of last week’s public fact-finding panel on the Metro shooting of Stanley Gibson was like watching a brutal car accident while being helpless to do anything about it.
Hey governor, please allow us 15 miles of toll-free interstate down here
Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013
A free road for the north, a toll road for the south. Someone with a sharper wit than I came up with it, but the metaphor neatly encapsulates Southern Nevada’s raw deal compared with the rest of the state.
California, Nevada take opposite stances when disciplining the same doctor
Nevada doesn't disclose its response to a doctor who admitted to battery on a woman, California pulled his license
Friday, Feb. 22, 2013
Dr. Sean S. Steele was able to practice medicine in both California and Nevada until last year. That’s when the California Medical Board publicly revoked his license, based on evidence and testimony from a woman who said he sexually assaulted her in the back of a Mercedes during an evening of drinking. In Nevada, however, Steele, an internist, is still licensed and maintains privileges at several Las Vegas Valley hospitals, including UMC.
Harry Reid to get in NV Energy's face during remarks to Legislature
Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013
Sen. Harry Reid, who has a long history of taking on the the state’s electric monopoly NV Energy, will do so again today in his biannual speech to the Legislature in Carson City. According to sources familiar with the speech, Reid will talk broadly about diversifying Nevada’s economy and specifically press legislators to strengthen the state’s renewable energy mandate. A law known as the renewable energy portfolio sets out the percentage of energy delivered to Nevadans that must come from renewable sources such as solar, wind, geothermal and hydroelectric.
Of course we need more cops, and yes we have to pay for them
Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013
I’m sure I’m not the only one concerned by the news that crime was up 9 percent last year in the area patrolled by Las Vegas Metro Police. Crime is still down 20 percent from five years ago, so we needn’t panic, but this should get our attention.
Las Vegas' political outsiders learn to play the inside game up in Carson City
Friday, Feb. 15, 2013
Before the Paulsens embark on their journey to influence the Nevada Legislature, David Paulsen says he needs to pick up a couple of quarts of oil for the 1994 Ford Econoline van.
If goal is recovery, why stop drug testing at welfare recipients?
Friday, Feb. 8, 2013
When Florida started drug testing its welfare applicants, a study found welfare applicants were far less likely to use drugs than the rest of the population. But ideas can be zombies, especially in Nevada.
Why is a Henderson councilman sidling up to an attorney being sued by the city?
Monday, Feb. 4, 2013
Does it seem appropriate that a Henderson City Council member is seeking the help of an attorney in raising money for his election campaign, even as the attorney is being sued by the city for his role in an alleged fraudulent proposal to build a sports complex in the city?

When it comes to special interests, beat them at their own game
Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013
Nevada legislators are inundated with information and limited time and staff to sort through it all. With term limits, the ability to develop expertise about complicated issues such as electric utility law, which can take years of close study, is gone. This is where special interests come in.
Brooks case can be impetus for improving mental health services in Nevada
Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013
For thousands of Southern Nevadans who have dealt with a family member in crisis, watching the Steven Brooks story unfold must feel surreal and all too familiar. Brooks, a Democratic assemblyman, was hospitalized Friday after his family called Metro police because of his increasingly erratic behavior, which indicates he is unwell and needs help.
In a sobering effort to count our homeless, this man knows where to look
Friday, Jan. 25, 2013
It’s 3 a.m. Thursday, we’re searching for and counting the homeless, and Neil Jurgensen is our guide. Jurgensen, 49, spent 20 years living as an alcoholic on the ragged edge of the community, alternating among overfilled shelters, weekly motels, and the sidewalks of Owens and Sahara. Now sober two years and living at Salvation Army Safe Haven, Jurgensen volunteered as a guide on the valley’s every-other-year homeless census, in which nonprofit groups and government agencies, including police, come together to count the homeless.
The cost and benefits of growing old if Caesars' Gary Loveman ran the world
Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013
I suppose it’s fitting that a guy who is the chief executive of a company with nearly $20 billion in long term debt would be lecturing us on fiscal probity and what entitlements should be protected for the elderly.
What happens when a decision by regents to save money undermines Nevada's quality of life
Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013
People like Rachelle Reynolds, who has two autistic boys, are the victims in a decision by the Board of Regents to kill the occupational therapy program at CSN.
Learning to be more understanding toward people getting cut, pricked and needled for beauty
Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013
It would be easy, far too easy, to go all high dudgeon on the cosmetic surgery convention. So let’s go with an open mind and try to see the world through the eyes of the patients.
Back to normal is good, but maybe it shouldn't be good enough
Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013
Whew! Back to normal. That’s the best thing we can say about Gov. Brian Sandoval’s State of the State address Wednesday.
Why the gun control debate is a boon to the firearms industry
Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013
President Barack Obama laid out his agenda today to reduce gun violence, but here’s the reality: Obama’s re-election and the Sandy Hook massacre have been a gift to the gun industry and the gun rights lobby.
How we can get in concert to enrich our children
Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013
When you go to the Las Vegas Philharmonic’s Youth Concert Series and the music starts, you don’t want to watch the stage. The real action is in the audience, where many of the 1,600 fourth- and fifth-graders fancy themselves amateur conductors, waving their imaginary batons and urging on the musicians. This year, about 13,000 students will enjoy one of eight concerts at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts.
Let's reform the state's tax policy that sticks it to the poor
Friday, Jan. 11, 2013
We often hear critiques of Nevada’s tax system — that it is unstable and at the mercy of boom-and-bust cycles. But we rarely hear about the system’s biggest problem: It’s regressive.