Thursday, August 27, 2009

Like a book, our lives have multiple chapters

One Man’s View:

By Tim O'Callaghan (contact)
Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2009 5 p.m.

In the book of life, some people open and close chapters in their lives on a regular basis. However, I'm the type who doesn't do extreme change well — which probably explains my 28 years with the Henderson Home News and Boulder City News and a 30-year relationship with the Las Vegas Sun.

It was in July 1979 that I first walked into the Sun mailroom to help insert the paper. That is the process of placing advertising circulars into each newspaper. It was a hot, sweaty job, not to mention dirty. But it supplemented my other part-time job making ice cream for Swenson's, which was, in contrast, a much cleaner environment.

In late 1980, Hank Greenspun and my dad, Mike O'Callaghan, struck a handshake deal to buy the Henderson Home News and Boulder City News from Morry Zenoff. It was an interesting proposition for my mom and dad for many reasons. I think for him, the best reason was that he wrote sports stories for the Home News while he was a teacher at Basic High School.

By July 1981, my career as a Swenson's Kreme Meister ended and my immersion into newspapering began as a runner, carrier, route manager, distributor, graphic artist, photographer, proofreader, copywriter, copy editor, circulation manager, general manager, columnist, publisher and finally owner. My career has been influenced by many who helped me grow in ways they may have not known, such as Lorna Kesterson, John Dailey, Paul Szydelko, Jess Dixon, Burt Buy, Teddy Fenton, Bill Harbour, Sandy Thompson, Goldie Begley, Ruthe Deskin, Don Ploke, Tony Blei, Bob Morgan, Sylvia Field, Ray Brewer, D.J. Allen, Marilyn Pearson, Keith Foutz, John Peterson, Sherm Frederick, Doreen Reynolds, June Andrews, Jack McCloskey, Tony Hughes, Jim Sanford and every associate who trusted in me.

There are the more obvious influences, such as my loving bride, whom I would have never met had I not worked at the paper; my mom and dad; my brothers and sisters, especially Colleen who co-published the newspapers with me; and any number of the Greenspuns. I would be remiss if I failed to mention my column editor, Jean Reid Norman, who helped me become an award-winning columnist, as well as my most staunch critics. By the way, Jean's mother was my English professor at the College of Southern Nevada.

You must be wondering where this is leading, and if you've hung in reading thus far it is very simple. I'm closing a chapter in my life. On July 4, 2009, I sold my remaining shares of the newspapers to the Greenspun family.

This was not an easy decision for me or my family. Our family counted success through the lives of our employees — how many children and grandchildren were born, how many kids graduated, how many entered college — and we celebrated the lives of those who have gone before us. So many have touched our lives coming through our doors and then leaving to become bigger and better people.

However, when our parents passed in 2004, something changed in me. It had been brewing for a couple of years. My parents had planted a seed in me by example and, unbeknownst to me, my dad was watering, fertilizing and nurturing it.

On the night of Wednesday, March 3, 2004, I had gone to my parents' home to discuss the possibility of them watching our children while Donna and I went to Phoenix to explore entering a Diaconate formation program. It would require many weekends over years for me to reach ordination as a deacon.

My dad looked at me in his most serious demeanor, then smiled and said, "Your mom and I would be happy to watch the kids." He paused and then said, "You know, you really need to talk to the Bishop about bringing a deacon program here."

As I got up to leave, he gave me one last, deeply personal instruction that remains in my heart and I shall not share here.

On Friday, March 5, 2004, God called him home while he was attending daily Mass. The seed dad had nurtured so carefully sprouted on that day, too.

Before the Funeral Mass began, I told Bishop Joseph Pepe about my last conversation with Dad and how we needed a formation program in Las Vegas. The bishop looked at me for a moment and then said, "God works in mysterious ways. We are forming a Diaconate formation program with the Jesuits right now."

Five years have passed, and this weekend Donna and I will attend a retreat with several other brother candidates and their wives, marking the beginning of our fourth year of formation studies.

That little seed my father planted has grown into a tree, though a small tree. In the last three years, I have worked part-time for Bishop Pepe coordinating the Social Action Ministry and editing the diocesan newspaper, the Desert Clarion. I have also worked with U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, advocating for social justice on behalf of the poor and disenfranchised in our society and around the world. Last year, I was appointed as a consultant to the U.S. Bishops Committee on Domestic Justice, Peace and Human Development, which made me a member with voting rights along with the bishops.

Two years ago, I traveled to Africa with Catholic Relief Services to observe food security operations, HIV-AIDS programs and how U.S. policies affect them. These experiences have made it clear where I am headed next.

Newspapering has been a wonderful chapter in my life, and many of you have contributed to it. However, the time has come to close this chapter and pick up writing the new chapter in my life.

This week is my final submission to the Henderson Home News and Boulder City News in the form of One Man's View. Next week, I will continue working for the Diocese of Las Vegas and begin working in a local parish, where it is my prayer that the seed (the light of Jesus) planted by mom and dad will bear fruit.

Tim O’Callaghan writes a regular blog at

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Las Vegas doesn’t need an apology — it needs stimulus

One Man’s View:

By Tim O'Callaghan (contact)
Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2009 2:43 p.m.

It appears President Obama’s off-the-cuff remarks have been taken out of context by Nevada’s economically strained hoteliers and Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, who has demanded an apology from the president.

During a town hall meeting Obama held to promote the economic stimulus package, he said, “You can’t get corporate jets, you can’t go take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayer’s dime” — referring to corporate CEOs.

Unfortunately, Las Vegas was probably at the top of his mind for a couple of reasons. The first was Wells Fargo Bank’s plans to hold a corporate event to recognize employees, as reported by the Associated Press last week. To the credit of Wells Fargo, the company quickly reversed its plans canceling the event. This was unfortunate for Las Vegas' economic woes, though.

The second reason is the Wall Street investment bank Goldman Sachs’ run for cover after the fallout from Wells Fargo. Those Wall Street types are a slick bunch, because they still plan on having their conference — only in San Francisco, not Las Vegas. Here’s the kicker: The Four Seasons San Francisco is advertising on rates of $395 a night, while THEHotel at Mandalay Bay is advertising $243 for the same nights and same suite.

With that said, perhaps Goodman and company may have a hair to stand on for their hypersensitivity. However, what if the president instead mentioned Chicago, Atlanta or San Francisco? Well, I am not convinced it would have the same chilling effect on any city. I don’t think there will be a chilling effect at all.

The president was correct to say, “You can’t get corporate jets, you can’t go take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayer’s dime,” using federal bailout money.

This blowup begs the question of how many bailed-out companies are throwing conferences or parties anywhere using federal money. My guess is not many.

The bottom line is the president’s remarks will have very little effect on the convention business in Las Vegas. As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, “The President knows that Las Vegas is America’s premiere destination to do business. The city has more than 140,000 hotel rooms and tens of thousands of feet of meeting space.”

Perhaps, Oscar Goodman should retract his request for a presidential apology. We don’t need an apology — we need some economic stimulus.

Tim O’Callaghan, co-publisher of the Home News, can be reached at 990-2656 or He writes a regular blog at

Current path won’t fix health care

One Man’s View:

By Tim O'Callaghan (contact)
Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2009 4:53 p.m.

Most everyone in the United States knows health-care reform is needed. However, each may have his own idea of what reform should be. To me, it's quite obvious there are at least two points to consider.

The first is the cost of actual medical care and the second is medical coverage, or the mechanism to pay for the rising cost of medical care.

My personal experience from this past week has made this even clearer than ever before.

It started with a weekend at Lake Mohave two weeks ago, where we met up with some of our Orange County clan. While frolicking and jumping off rocks into the lake, our youngest must have picked up some bacteria in her ear. She returned to OC with the clan, where her ear exploded with ooze and became so inflamed it closed up.

Donna and I had gone up to Pioche in Lincoln County for a couple of days when the drama began to unfold, leaving any urgent care decision to our relative, Sharon. After they made a trip to the urgent care facility, then a second one and finally a trip to the ER without any results, we made a quick change of plans and immediately headed to Southern California. When we arrived, we made a call to Dr. Dushman, the family pediatrician, and explained everything that had occurred. To us, it seemed desperate after four doctors and eight different prescriptions with no improvement. He said she needed an ear wick to get the antibiotics into the ear. We had an appointment with a ear specialist, who confirmed what our pediatrician had told us over the phone.

All turned out well, although it leaves me wondering why it took so many doctors and prescriptions. We had to pay the deductibles, and the insurance company must cover the rest.

Even though the first four doctors didn't get it right, we don't recover our deductibles, and the insurance company still has to pay.

We can't return the unused meds to the pharmacy and, again, the insurance company still has to pay.

So what kind of health-care reform are we looking for?

The issue has become quite convoluted. But one thing is for sure: The bill proposed by the House of Representatives is flawed in many ways. It has the backs of the insurance industry, the medical community and average Americans up against the wall.

The Senate needs to listen to the American people and come up with reform that makes sense and is written in concise language that can be understood.

We need reform that is fair and provides coverage for every citizen that doesn't impede upon ability of Americans to have a choice in coverage.

The rhetoric is running deep and fast in the public debate, making it hard to decipher what is true and what is not.

The stakes are high with all sides skewing the truth.

The rhetoric needs to stop, solutions need to be created and reform needs to begin.

In my opinion, it should start with legislation that is less complicated than what is proposed by Congress.

Tim O’Callaghan, co-publisher of the Home News, can be reached at 990-2656 or He writes a regular blog at

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sotomayor proof of evolving melting pot

One Man’s View:

By Tim O'Callaghan (contact)
Tuesday, July 14, 2009 6:29 p.m.

The hot days of summer are finally upon us in the relentless Mojave Desert. Even for a native desert rat like myself the 110 degree temperatures can be tough. It seems just a bit hotter since my return from the Pacific Northwest where temperatures are either pleasantly warm or down right cold.

Things are apparently heating up in Washington DC as well with the opening of the Senate confirmation hearing for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor and her honor in the hot seat.

It never fails to amaze me how the parties line up for or against the president’s nominee, to the point where their political colors are unmistakable no matter how qualified a nominee may be.

Seriously, don’t you think the small number of Americans that actually follow the confirmation hearings don’t see through the veil of political partisanship? Or are they also stuck on their own political agendas?

The most honest statement made during the opening day of the hearing was from Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, saying to Sotomayor, “Unless you have a complete meltdown, you are going to be confirmed.”

Then Graham followed up with a jab at her “Wise Latina” comment she had used in several speeches. She would say, “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would, more often than not, reach a better conclusion.” And in one speech she added, “than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

Not the wisest choice of words, however, it does ring with truth, and I hardly find it to be racist or sexist. I do find it ironic because, until my generation, white males pretty much controlled this country in every sense of the word. And by the way, if you haven’t noticed, the country is still dominated by white men.

However, things are changing in America, the “Melting Pot” of the world. If America is to continue the path set forth in the Declaration of Independence, we must accept it wouldn’t always be “all men are created equal” but it would evolve to be all people are created equal.

Yes, America is evolving in many ways as people pursue their happiness, struggle to keep their unalienable rights and for many to simply grasp those rights.

From the time I type this column to when you read it and to the end of the Senate Confirmation Hearing for Sonia Sotomayor, plenty can happen. However, I’m betting with Sen. Lindsey Graham to say Judge Sotomayor will be confirmed, because a meltdown is not likely to happen with one as strong, confident and qualified as she is.

Judge Sotomayor and I may not share all the same philosophies or the same life experiences, but I’m confident she will be a needed balance in the pursuit of blind justice for all.

Tim O’Callaghan, co-publisher of the News, can be reached at 990-2656 or He writes a regular blog at

Thursday, July 2, 2009

After 25 years, she still leaves me in the dust

One Man’s View:

By Tim O'Callaghan (contact)

Wed, Jul 1, 2009 (5:48 p.m.)

Newport, ORE. — It was 27 years ago I first laid eyes upon Donna, affectionately know to readers as my bride, at the Las Vegas Sun, where she worked in the dispatch department. I was an ad runner while cutting my teeth in circulation at the Henderson Home News and Boulder City News.

I remember as though it were only yesterday when I walked passed the department with its fish-bowl appearance — in the old Sun building, almost all departments had glass upper walls so most everything was transparent, as it should be.

Anyway, there she stood with a stack of ads to be shuffled between production, the art department and sales. She was wearing a yellow T-shirt and overalls. Her long blonde hair framed her face with her blue eyes, and a devilish smirk stopped me dead in my tracks. However, her feelings were not exactly mutual, and it took a little time to sway her my way.

We had some common interests in motorcycles and dirt bikes, which led to our first date, which was to repair the flat tire on her Yamaha IT 175.

I was not the greatest mechanic but capable enough to fix a flat tire. Yep, it took three of us and only two hours get it done.

In contrast, today I can do it in 20 minutes.

With the tire fixed, we pursued our goal of going out to Boulder City to ride. It had been a while since I had last ridden a bike, but it’s like riding a bicycle — you never really forget, right?

Well, not exactly!

She had located a nice sized jump where she effortlessly launched into the air and landed with ease. After several jumps, she pulled up to me and said, “Here, you try.” I said, “No problem!” Boy was that an overstatement.

I launched, I flew and I landed on the ground, shredding my new 501s and my knees.

To this day, I’m still picking pebbles out of them — my knees that is.

Fortunately, I had a job so I could pay for any need repairs, like the handlebars, clutch handle and rear fender.

Oh, she has a wicked sense of humor. The only way she could get more laughs out of the situation was to continue dating me and ribbing me for the next 27 years.

Within two years, we would be walking down the aisle, but not without a few bumps in the road.

The first was our drive down to Brea, Calif., where we would let her grandma know we were getting married.

It went something like this: “Grandma, Tim and I are going to get married.”

She said, “Oh! You are? What church are you going to get married in?”

I said, “St. Anne’s in Las Vegas.”

She said, “Isn’t that a Catholic church?”

The soon-to-be bride chimed in, “Well, he is Catholic,” and Grandma said, “Oh no! You’re Catholic!!!”

I was stunned and I said to myself, “Yeah and your granddaughter is converting, to boot.”

As I mentioned to myself, my soon-to-be bride would begin the process of her conversion to Catholicism, which would take about a year.

No worries, except that her family was moving away from Las Vegas and she would have to move in with my mom and dad until the completion of her formation and our wedding day.

Talk about complicating matters. We worked in close proximity. Donna worked at the Sun with my dad. I worked at the Henderson and Boulder City papers with my mom. Donna now lived with them, and my dad had a curfew in his house, no matter how old you were.

By the way, we continued to work together most of the last 27 years.

During those years, we have laughed, played, struggled and cried together.

We have raised three beautiful children, each unique in their own way. I suspect you never really stop raising them.

We have celebrated the lives of three grandparents. We mourned the loss of my mom and dad, but together we also celebrated the accomplishments of their wonderful lives together.

To this day, we share the same interests we had when we first met, but it has come with some compromises, such as trading in her beloved motocross bike, respectfully named E.R., due to the stitches my bride received from their first encounter on Christmas Day.

The Bride cared for her bike as though it were a child, cleaning and primping it all the time. However, we agreed after we reached 45 years of age we would shift from two wheels to four on the dirt.

So as promised, she put E.R. out to pasture and converted to riding a quad.

So today, June 30, we celebrated by going salmon fishing off the coast of Oregon to spend treasured time together outdoors, where we have made so many memories.

For the record, we each caught one fish. Mine was the larger by a scale.

I can’t wait to see what the next 25 years will bring us.

Tim O’Callaghan, co-publisher of the Home News, can be reached at 990-2656 or He writes a regular blog at

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Summer a good time for teens to volunteer

One Man’s View:

By Tim O'Callaghan

Wed, Jun 10, 2009 (2:52 p.m.)

Graduation week signals the hot days of summer are on the horizon in Southern Nevada. This is the time of year when the excitement and glitter of the Las Vegas Strip lures many local teens with nothing better to do than hang out with friends in the tourist corridor.

The hot topic among local parents is the lack of available jobs for high school teens this year. Kids are finding themselves competing for jobs at most fast food and retail businesses with older job seekers. I've noticed the increase of retired folks now back in the job market to supplement sagging or diminished retirement income.

As a parent, I'm concerned about the amount of free time teens have on their hands this summer, leaving them vulnerable to so many negative influences. Many will infiltrate the adult pool party circuit, keeping resort security teams on their toes. This summer we will see an increase of kids going to the Lake Mead Recreational Area to hang out with friends keeping cool in the lake. A number of young people will head to the cool air of Mount Charleston for hiking, picnics and games of Frisbee on the high meadows.

Except for the resort pool parties, the activities are good clean fun until mixed with drugs or alcohol. This is the time of year we tend to see an increase in alcohol-related accidents involving teens.

There are plenty of things for kids to do in Las Vegas, but most of them are on the Strip. There is the Adventure Dome at Circus Circus, rides at the Stratosphere, the roller coaster at New York New York and other spots on the Strip. All of them require money, which for many is lacking due to the economic crisis and not having a summer job.

Again, all of these places are on the Strip, where there are loads of other temptations and trouble to be found by teens.

Even the price of a movie in the theater is getting out of reach for many. Last week, I took my daughter to a movie and was surprised the price had reached $10.50 per ticket. No surprise the movie industry is booming, but what bugs me is the news reports stating many people are heading to the theaters to escape their troubles for a couple of hours. I may have mentioned that in a previous column.

The rub is with so many folks heading to the theaters, why are the prices so high? Sure, it's good ole American capitalism, but it seems to be leaning toward gouging.

After mentioning this to a few acquaintances, I'm finding many are waiting for major hits to come out on video.

Anyway, what I'm alluding to is the fact that many of our teens will have plenty of time to get into mischief of every degree, magnified by the lack of cash flow.

What I'm suggesting is turning some of that time into something useful, such as volunteering at a local nonprofit, animal shelter, hospice, hospital or church organization.

Volunteering has many benefits, such as building confidence and self-worth. Many young people need to develop interpersonal and communication skills needed in today's world. This can happen by volunteering. Keeping a regular schedule will help your teen establish the practice of discipline.

No, it's not going to put any cash in their pocket today, but it will pay off over time with experience gained.

Interested in getting your teen involved or perhaps yourself? A few places to start looking are:

Opportunity Village
6300 W. Oakey Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89146

The Volunteer Center of Southern Nevada
1660 E. Flamingo Road, Las Vegas, NV 89119
Phone: (702) 892-2321

Las Vegas Catholic Worker
500 W. Van Buren Ave.
Las Vegas, NV 89106
(702) 647-0728

Tim O’Callaghan, co-publisher of the Home News, can be reached at 990-2656 or He writes a regular blog at

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Reid getting ready for next big fight of his life

One Man’s View:

Wed, May 27, 2009 (4:15 p.m.)

Like any seasoned fighter, Harry Reid is in for the fight of his life. That's the way it is in square ring of boxing, and it is no different in the political ring. The next fight is always the biggest fight.

Today, Harry is the champion the crowd loves to hate. Like any good fighter, the Senate Majority Leader has a few scars — I'm sure one or two going back to when he first trained as a boxer under the tutelage of my father, former Nevada Gov. Mike O'Callaghan.

Big Mike, the most popular governor to serve the state of Nevada, saw something in the kid from Searchlight that perhaps others didn't see.

He had plenty of opportunity to get to know Harry well as a youth, both at the Henderson Boys Club, where Mike taught Harry boxing, and in the classroom at Basic High School, where he taught U.S. history and civics.

He saw enough in Harry to ask him to run as his lieutenant governor in 1970. He kept up with the incredible demands of Gov. O'Callaghan, who worked all hours of the day and night, especially during legislative sessions.

Harry Reid is training for the next big fight of his life. He may not be running in front of my dad's car on the dusty road between Henderson and Railroad Pass, as he used to as a boxer, but he is running the tough and demanding campaign trail in Nevada.

This campaign trail will be different from any other he has run before. Today he doesn't have a definitive opponent to speak of; yet, he has more challengers from beyond the state lines of Nevada than any candidate here has ever faced.

A likely challenger will emerge from outside the state of Nevada in the form of a carpetbagger. Don't discount any challengers from within the state of Nevada either, because there are plenty of sacrificial lambs roaming the open ranges of the state who would gladly get slaughtered for a chance at the U.S. Senate or 15 minutes of fame to use as a stepping stone in political gain.

The challengers, carpetbaggers and little lambs are busy building rhetorical land mines to scatter along the trail to VOTE 2010, such as convincing voters Harry is unpatriotic, out of touch or bad for Nevada.

The job of majority leader of the Senate is a thankless job for any member of the Senate no matter what party they are from. The leadership has to pull the entire party agenda no matter how liberal or conservative, leading the electorate at home to believe that is what the leader has become. The national spin begins to weigh heavier than 16-ounce gloves in the 12th round of a prize fight.

The reality is the numbers look bad, and the special interest groups are foaming at the mouth, thinking they have Harry up against the ropes before the first bell has rung. They don't give a hoot about Nevada or the people who live, work, are raising a family or have retired here. Their only concerns are their own agendas and how Harry Reid stands in their way.

Nevada is one of the least influential states in the union without seniority in the Congress of the United States. Without Harry Reid, Sen. John Ensign and Rep. Shelley Berkley, we would have little clout on a federal level. Nevada has a growing influence with Rep. Dean Heller, who would be wise to remain focused on his House seat to continue cultivating his growing leadership in Congress. Rep. Dina Titus is perfectly positioned to accelerate in a Democrat-led house.

Party politics has little influence on me, and it shouldn't on you. Rather, the politics on Nevada should be a main concern.

Although I have known Harry my entire life, I'm no Reid apologist. We have not always agreed on every issue, but when it comes to issues concerning Nevada, Harry is a world-class fighter.

When I said this would be a fight like no other, I meant it. Harry is no longer fighting in the square ring but rather the caged octagon with no rules and multiple challengers in all eight corners.

I can't predict the outcome, but I do know for sure Harry Reid will put up "The Good Fight."

Tim O’Callaghan, co-publisher of the Home News, can be reached at 990-2656 or He writes a regular blog at

Bank bailout does little for those who need help most

Bank bailout does little for those who need help most

Tue, May 19, 2009 (11:13 a.m.)

The big bank bailout does nothing for the ones who need it most.

How does that old saying go? “No good deed goes unpunished.” Perhaps more fitting for today’s mortgage crisis it should say, “No good mortgage payment history will get aid.” The more people I talk to about their mortgages, the more clear it becomes that people were confused about the bank bailout. It was never meant to assist Americans having trouble making their mortgage payments. The idea of saving the big banks was more about keeping them solvent and keeping depositors from making a run on the banks. In the minds of many Americans, it was also intended to stimulate the availability of money for banks to make loans.

It appears many banks that received the money from the government by way of John Q. Public — that would be you and I and heck, who knows how many future generations — won’t even talk to debtors until they fall inescapably behind on their mortgage payments.

I’m not surprised by the number of people telling me their balloon payment hasn’t hit or their adjustable rate hasn’t gone up yet, but will be coming in the next year. Most are unable to refinance because they are too far under water to do so. In other words, the debt on their home is greater than its value. As I mentioned in a previous column, many of these questionable mortgages were still being sold in fourth quarter of 2007 and first quarter of 2008.

One couple I know can’t refinance or get a loan, because one has been laid off and the other is expecting to be laid off soon. They are representative of our state’s double-digit unemployment rate — victims of a bad economy with very little hope in the future. This would be a good time to explore services needed in this time of distress and fill the need with a small business.

More needs to be done to help protect homeowners in bad mortgages who make their payments on time but are struggling to do so. There may be hope on the horizon for some through changes in the federal Making Home Affordable program. The idea is to give lenders incentives to modify loans to homeowners who are upside-down or under water. It’s estimated that 21 percent of homes in the United States were upside-down, loan to value, at the end of March this year.

While on the subject, I suggest reading these helpful tips on avoiding foreclosure rescue scams from Making Home Affordable.

• There is never a fee to get assistance or information about Making Home Affordable from your lender or a HUD-approved housing counselor.

• Beware of any person or organization that asks you to pay a fee in exchange for housing counseling services or modification of a delinquent loan. Do not pay — walk away!

• Beware of anyone who says he can “save” your home if you sign or transfer over the deed to your house. Do not sign over the deed to your property to any organization or individual unless you are working directly with your mortgage company to forgive your debt.

• Never submit your mortgage payments to anyone other than your mortgage company without their approval.

For more information, go to

Gas prices

On another economic front, have you noticed the price of gas is making its annual summer price hike up the charts? According to the Energy Information Administration, the average price per gallon of regular unleaded has jumped from $2.138 on March 31 to $2.34 on May 18. I have no predictions of how high it might go over the summer, but my guess is it may remain stable, because so many families are staying closer to home this year, keeping overall consumption down.

Reflective curb addresses

Last week I received an orange flier on my garage door soliciting $20 to have a reflective address number painted on the curb in front of my house.

This isn’t the first time this has happened, and just as before I threw it in the garbage. However, many years ago I did pay to have numbers painted on the curb and a couple of years after that, another group came along and painted over it, covering up the black numbers when I said it didn’t need repainting. Didn’t really matter, because we have large numbers on the front of our house, which are required by CC&Rs.

What is different this time around is not only have they painted addresses on the curbs, but they have painted the street names on the corner curbs, too. Personally, I think the painted street names are ugly as can be in the daylight, but at night they are much better than the street signs.

Heck, for $20 you can paint your own and those of all your neighbors, too.

Living through a parent’s worst fear

Wed, May 6, 2009 (9:56 a.m.)

Parents: Have you ever considered what steps to take if your child was ever missing?

Young people: Have you ever considered the immeasurable pain and worry your parents experience when they don’t know where you are?

Two weeks ago, my bride and I were preparing for an overnight trip to Arizona to take care of some business when I received a text from Carli, our son Sean’s girlfriend. It read, “Hey Mr. O, have you heard from Sean today?”

It was curious, because that is what I usually text her when I’m unable to reach our adventurous, 21-year-old college student.

I said to my bride, “This is a strange text message from Carli. Maybe you should call her.” As I was driving, Donna was calling to find out what’s up.

When she answered the phone, Carli said she was concerned because Sean and his buddy had not returned from a fishing trip to Squaw Creek near Lake Tahoe early that morning. She had expected him around 3 a.m.

Normally, I would have suggested everyone keep calm and give it some time. However, there was a severe storm with high winds and snow the night before. I have been stuck in the snow on an occasion or two. It was certainly possible he may have gotten stuck in the snow as well, I thought.

Our trip would have to wait so we headed home.

First, we needed to confirm he wasn’t in his Reno apartment sleeping off a late night of fishing. We enlisted Pearl Miller, our longtime family friend and my father’s executive assistant when he was governor.

She gladly offered to rouse him out of bed — as she had done to me a few times when I was much younger.

About 20 minutes had passed when she called confirming he and his car were not there. She left a note for him or one of his roommates to call us when they found the note on the door.

A gnawing fear

Our level of concern was growing and amplified by Pearl’s concern about the high winds and snow the night before.

The normal rule is to wait 24 hours before calling out the troops, but as my bride looked across the kitchen table at me with a look of anguish that only a mother fearing for the safety of her child can give, I began to fear the worst had happened.

Parental fear is a force that can crush the strongest of men. I have witnessed it a few times growing up in the eyes of my own mother and father. I never really understood it until now. It’s primeval in nature.

Hunting for answers

My first instinct was to catch a flight to Reno and begin a search, but my better senses kicked in, allowing me to get a grip on the situation. We pulled out the laptop after putting together a strategy that included checking with law enforcement agencies in the area and checking GoogleEarth to get a good idea of what the area looked like.

I called the California Highway Patrol and was referred to the Truckee-area command, where I spoke to a non-emergency dispatcher. He asked me all the details including Sean’s name, date of birth, hair color, weight, Social Security number, car info and license plate number.

Amazingly, the bride had pulled all the details together from her trusty filing cabinet ready to give to whoever needed it.

Lesson one: Parents, keep an updated list of information on your kids, including car license plates.

The very helpful dispatcher said, “You realize he is 21. This is common with kids his age.”

I answered, “Yes, I do, but, there are circumstances here.”

He said, “The good news is we haven’t had any contact with him in the last 24 hours.”

Then I contacted the Placer County Sheriff’s Department with the same results: no contact in the past 24 hours. The helpful female dispatcher asked me for my number, saying she would call me back if she heard anything new.I kept wondering: Why would he head up to that area in the wind and snow to go fishing? What possessed him to do something so foolish?

The worst-case scenario was setting in my heart when the phone rang. It was Carli’s mom, Suzy Portz, asking if there was anything she could do. I was choked up and told her I didn’t think so. She suggested we call Sean’s cell company to see if it could trace or get a location on his phone. She offered to do it for us.

In the meantime I was googling the heck out of “Squaw Creek” when I read the link “Squaw Creek Reservoir, Washoe County, Nevada.” Not a minute later, Carli called with the same information.

Lesson two: Kids, always tell someone where you’re going. Write it down, be exact and tell them when you will be back.

While we were concentrating on the California side of the high Sierra Nevada Mountains, Sean and his fishing buddy were most likely in a remote area near the Black Rock Desert in Washoe County, Nevada.

Carli’s mom, Suzy, got in touch with a relative in Reno who has contacts in law enforcement in Washoe County to see if they could assist or if they had contact with the boys in the past 24 hours.

About two hours after we contacted the Placer County Sheriff’s office, a deputy called to say he had thoroughly searched the area of Squaw Creek, near Truckee, Calif., with no sign of the vehicle or the boys. He was sure they weren’t in his jurisdiction. I confirmed with him that we were now searching Washoe County.

Good news

After about four hours of worry, a Washoe County deputy sheriff from Gerlach called to tell us he had found the boys at Squaw Creek Reservoir in Washoe County.

“I thought you should know I located Sean,” he said. “He is a bit of a hero up here today. He pulled a man out of the cold water, probably saving his life.”

He also told me Sean was confused why anyone would be looking for him this early in the day, because he wasn’t due back until 3 p.m.

Remember lesson two?

We went back through our list of people and agencies we had contacted to let them know we had located him.

Even though we were relieved, we were left drained and numb by this experience. Sean called us to get details of all the fuss before he called Carli — I think he was gauging just how much trouble he was in with her.

He gave us the details how he assisted a 72-year-old man who fell into the frigid water after the man capsized his boat reaching for a dropped oar.

Our advice to Sean was to be specific with time of day, because there is a big difference between 3 a.m. and 3 p.m. when someone is expecting your return. Then as far as gauging Carli, he would have to make that call on his own.

Tim O’Callaghan, co-publisher of the Home News, can be reached at 990-2656 or He writes a regular blog at

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Finding where Nevada gets revenue is a taxing experience

This first published April 21, 2009 in the Henderson Home News website, a Community Newspapers of Nevada publication. Here

Have you ever sat down for a moment to examine where the state of Nevada gets its revenue? I have, and it's slim pickings to say the least.

I downloaded a copy of the Nevada Department of Taxation Combined Sales & Use Statistical Report to explore the budget woes.

I've always looked at income to determine how much I can spend in any given budget year. That's what I set out to do with the state budget, but I got sidetracked by the staggering changes in revenue flow.

There are just over 100 taxable sales and use categories that contribute to the states revenue stream, which doesn't seem like a lot. Some are small contributors and other are enormous. However, I'm sure other categories could be added.

The first two categories on the taxable list may surprise those of you who have not ventured far enough north of North Las Vegas to discover that ranching and farming do exist in Nevada. Those of you living within a breeze of R.C. Farms, the pig farm, are very familiar with the fact we have categories, 111 Crop Production, and especially 112 Animal Production.

What is interesting is crop production was up 15 percent for the first half of fiscal year 2008-09, producing $7.3 million in revenue. According to the state of Nevada Department of Taxation 2008-2009 Personal Property Manual, taxable property "Includes machinery and equipment such as tractors, combines, hay balers, forage harvesters, unlicensed farm vehicles including utility trailers, wagons and utensils used to grow crops mainly for food and fiber. The subsection comprises establishments, such as farms, orchards, groves, greenhouses, and nurseries, primarily engaged in growing crops, plants, vines, or trees (including Christmas trees) and their seeds."

Peri & Sons Farms in Yerington is one of the best producers of onions in the U.S. It produces over 3,000 acres of sweet, yellow, red and white onions every year. Last year while we were visiting family there, I noticed the Peri's were also growing baby greens, too.

In the same period, tax revenue from Animal Production fell 2 percent but is still producing $1.2 million in revenue.

With that said, I'm not surprised revenue from crop production is up and animal production is still relatively stable. It is an indication of how hard Nevada ranchers and farmers must work to earn a living for their families. Farms, ranches and equipment, which are all part of the tax equation, are expensive to buy, operate and maintain.

Then there's Category 722, Food Service and Drinking Places. What I find interesting about this is not the 10 percent decline in revenue statewide, rather, the changes in various counties. For instance, there is loud clamoring from Clark County bars and grills that the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act has, well, cleaned them out. People are not coming in anymore because they can't smoke, drink, eat and gamble at the same time.

I actually bought in to this idea until I started looking at the county-by-county numbers. While Clark and Washoe have bar-breaking declines of 10 and 12.5 percent respectively, many of Nevada's smaller counties had upswings in sales tax revenue. For example, Carson City had a 7 percent gain, on the low end, while Eureka had an amazing 30 percent gain in revenues on the high end.

Although, I can't say for sure, it's likely that the rural county increases can be attributed to the continued boom in mining.

Food Service and Drinking Places provided the highest sales and use tax revenue stream for state coffers at $3.6 billion in the first half of 2007-08 and are down to $3.2 billion for the first half of this fiscal year. If this trend continues, it will lead to more than half a billion of the $2.8 billion budget shortfall facing Nevada. With that said, I'm not convinced this shortfall can be laid only on the back of the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act. However, I must admit it didn't help either.

From my own observations, I've noticed the folks who dined at high-end establishment have been eating at Chili's and Applebee's and the folks eating at those establishment are now eating more often at fast food places. In other words Nevadans are notching down a bit and eating at home more often than not.

Even though families may be eating out less, it appears they have been going to the movies more often. The movie industry is booming and ticket sales are way up. That doesn't mean theater operators are doing better, because concession sales are way down. News reports have attributed the gain in ticket sales to the people needing to escape the realities of a bad economy, even if it's for a couple of hours.

In my family's experience, we have gone to the movies more often recently, making sure we catch a movie right after dinner. My bride prefers I get the bag of popcorn as opposed to the bucket and bottled water so she can pour in one of those nifty soft drinks in a packet.

More recently we have been hitting the video store and staying home. Last weekend we had a what we call a date night, when all of the kids are out with friends and we have no one to answer to. We went out, had a margarita, a burrito then stopped at the local theater bought a bucket of popcorn and headed home to watch one of the many unopened DVDs we own.

By the way, the bucket of popcorn was $7.50 — and theater owners are wondering why sales are down.

What does this have to do with the state budget crisis? A lot if you consider the drop in tax revenue, the drop in household incomes, the need to raise revenues to pay for, let's say, higher education and the ability of households to pay for that higher education?

The Nevada Legislature needs to raise taxes in order to get out of this mess. The tough question is whose ox is going to get gored?

There is room in the revenue stream to expand some sales and use taxes in small increments without increasing bureaucracy. I wouldn't suggest a tax on services such as hair stylist, barbers and pool sweeper per se, because that would require an entire agency for collection and enforcement.

Nevada's budget crisis is a vicious cycle, which leaves me to ask: How much of your ox are willing to have gored?

Tim O’Callaghan, co-publisher of the Home News, can be reached at 990-2656 or He writes a regular column for the Home News.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A world without newspapers will be dumber

This first published March 26, 2009 in the Henderson Home News website, a Community Newspapers of Nevada publication.

While newspapers across the country shutter their newsrooms and empty the ink from their presses, there is a good deal of sadness surrounding the historic change in how Americans get their news.

There appears to be a hero in the U.S. Senate who has proposed legislation to bail out newspapers, sort of.

Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., has introduced a bill that would allow newspapers to choose tax-exempt status. The bill would allow newspapers to request 501(c)3 status. However, this status would prevent newspapers from endorsing political candidates.

That, my friends, is risky business, the first swing of the axe at the foundation of the First Amendment, in my view. That makes the Newspaper Revitalization Act a dangerous compromise to the First Amendment.

But the alternative concerns me. The newspaper industry as it exists is in grave danger, and there are deeper concerns to think about when considering the elimination of the printed word.

The closing of newspapers may lead to the dumbing down of America even further than has occurred.

As I contemplate a nation without newspapers, I can’t help but think about the most ridiculous movie I have ever watched. The 2006 film “Idiocracy,” directed by Mike Judge, is surely one of the dumbest movies ever made, yet it has some serious undertones.

The story is about Private Joe Bauer, an average, underachieving Army librarian who is selected to participate in a secret military experiment “Human Hibernation Project.” He and a prostitute named Rita are placed in a state of hibernation for what is supposed to be one year. The man in charge of the project is arrested, however, leaving the pair suspended in time for 500 years.

When they are accidentally awakened in 2505, they discover the nation is in shambles, run by illiterate couch potatoes. The average Joe finds himself to be the smartest man in the world.

Surely this is far-fetched and unlikely, right? But it’s where my mind takes me when I think of a nation without newspapers.

Perhaps, it will only lead to a world that is more “back to the future,” where an educated elite is granted all of the rights.

Obviously, I’m not a prophet and I don’t have a clue to the future. However, the movie provides me a vision of an exaggerated concern I have with people relying on the Internet as an accurate news source.

Day in and day out, friends and family have sent me e-mails they received about whatever you can imagine. Most of what they were reading was untrue, yet it looked authentic, with dozens of attributions.

It got to the point where I was sending them back the e-mails, telling them what a disservice it was to forward the inaccuracies.

Today, they send me inquiries of whether something is true or not so I can check the facts for them, then reply.

The case I make for newspapers is that most good newspapers have fact checkers and editors to keep information accurate. However, no one is perfect and mistakes are made. Therefore, in reliable papers, there is a corrections box on page 2 or 3. This is to correct the record for history, whereas in cyberspace, once it’s out, it is almost impossible to retrieve or correct.

Here is a reality check for those of you who are giving up your newspaper for news from the Internet for free! There are no free lunches, at least in the long term.

The Internet news model doesn’t work like the dinosaur newspaper model. In other words, the price point that Internet companies receive for advertising is less than what newspapers charge, creating a revenue problem or lack of revenue to pay for expenses, such as fact checkers, editors and reporters.

My point is that while the Internet provides a buffet of news sources for the small price of Internet access today, it won’t be so tomorrow. Quality news organizations will become coveted, pushing the market to an all-paid model.

You will have to pay for your news in one form or another. Perhaps, your Internet provider will charge you a news surcharge, which it will pay to subscribe to a quality news source.

Sadly, the truth isn’t free, leaving the question of who is willing to pay for accurate news and how much are they willing to pay?

Large newspaper Web sites will be forced to charge subscription fees in order to become profitable. That’s no different from your daily newspaper, except the subscription fee will be used for direct operations rather than to offset delivery cost.

As I struggle to hold onto my parents’ dream of providing quality community news on paper, the rest of the world is looking at the day when all of your news will be free on the Internet.

That’s what keeps the ember glowing in my heart, because I know newspapers will stick around in one form or another without compromising our First Amendment rights.

If left unbridled, the Internet could lead to illiteracy or, worse, a grossly misinformed public. As the gates of the Fourth Estate become blurred, information seekers will have a difficult time determining news from fiction. This would open the door wider for fiction to become history, if left unchecked.

There is some irony here in that this column will probably not be printed in the paper. This column will forever float in cyberspace on dozens of servers around the world, where my grandchildren will be able to find it with ease and read it for a few bucks.

Tim O’Callaghan, co-publisher of the Home News, can be reached at 990-2656 or He writes a regular column for the Home News.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Where’s the money? It’s spent

This first published March 24, 2009 in the Henderson Home News website, a Community Newspapers of Nevada publication.

It can be found in Las Vegas’ foreclosed homes

Have a little cash? Buy a home in foreclosure, for goodness’ sake.

First-time home buyers may be keeping Las Vegas alive as they swoop in on the distressed housing market. There are deals to be had in Las Vegas.

The question of the day is, will they have a job tomorrow to keep up with the mortgage payments?

Last week, I met with a community organizer from Tucson, Ariz., and our conversation quickly turned to the economy — specifically the Las Vegas economy.

He asked when I thought things would turn around for Las Vegas. Whenever I’m asked that or a similar question, I give my stock answer, “Not very soon.” As I have written before, the mortgage dilemma will continue for another four years if the government doesn’t step in to assist. I’m not suggesting the government get involved, but rather stating my opinion on the situation.

The reason I say Las Vegas won’t recover very soon is the same reason the Big Three auto companies won’t recover anytime soon — or at all for that matter.

As I told my visitor, there is little money left for Americans to spend. If you happen to be wondering where all the money is, I’ll tell you what I told him. As I pointed my finger out my office window in a wide sweep across the Strip I said, “The money is out there in all those hotels — and not just those hotels, but also hotels in New York, Atlanta, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles and many more cities across this country. The money is in millions of cars and SUVs that are being repossessed by banks and finance companies. The money is in exotic vacation spots around the world.

The money is in colleges and universities, spent by hopeful parents so that their children might have a greater opportunity than themselves. Many of those hopes have been dashed by deflating investments and 401(k)s.

Get it? The money is spent! Those buildings and dreams were built on the backs of many American mortgages, and when the equities dried up, the building stopped. Jobs were lost, homes sales tanked, and the economic tsunami was put into a full roll.

In Las Vegas, gaming companies gambled in a big way or never really thought about where the prosperity was coming from. How many gaming companies leveraged themselves? The answer is all of them.

It’s hard to believe the decision-makers couldn’t see this coming. Didn’t CEOs see what was happening in their personal finances? Did they think the boom would never go bust?

As long as tourists were doing their own kind of leveraging with credit cards and home equity lines, the facade — or house of cards, as I’ve been calling it — would hold up. Everyone just had to keep playing.

Now, it is what it is.

I, like many people, made good personal financial decisions by not leveraging everything we own into oblivion. Who is going to bail us out as we are affected economically by the carelessness of others? The answer is no one.

More than 140,000 people are jobless today in Southern Nevada alone. Millions are across this nation. Is there any hope for them? Not immediately.

The reality is no one will get through this recession unscathed. But I’m willing to bet there will be more new small businesses spawned in the coming years than ever before in our history.

That’s a bet worth taking. The final question is, will you be willing to bet on America? If you have a secure job, have never owned a home and plan on sticking around, you should invest in a home.

This is probably a good time for first-time buyers to snatch up a deal, according to the National Association of Realtors. Lawrence Yun, the group’s chief economist, said first-time buyers accounted for half of all home sales last month, with activity concentrated in lower price ranges.

“Because entry-level buyers are shopping for bargains, distressed sales accounted for 40 to 45 percent of transactions in February,” he said. “Our analysis shows that distressed homes typically are selling for 20 percent less than the normal market price, and this naturally is drawing down the overall median price.”

It may be drawing down median prices, but it’s the only action out there right now.

What are you waiting for?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Nevada can’t afford another ‘Empty Suit’ in 2010

This first published March 18, 2009 in the Henderson Home News website, a Community Newspapers of Nevada publication.

When Nevadans look in the executive leadership closet, they keep finding the same old empty suit. Gov. Jim Gibbons continues the same habits he possessed while in Congress — that is absence.

Jim Gibbons should have never been elected governor and would not have been if the Democrats had been more strategic or the Republicans had convinced Bob Beers to get off his single issue of the "Tax and Spend Initiative."

Hindsight is definitely 20/20. But it sure makes me feel like a pundit to look back at a column I published July 6, 2006.

During Campaign '06, every time Jim Gibbons faced controversy, he would go underground and become as quiet as a church mouse while his handlers would clean up and spin the mess.

At the time, I wrote, "While every other candidate seems to be voicing his or her positions, I don't recall the good congressman (Jim Gibbons) saying a heck of a lot since he supposedly plagiarized a speech in rural Nevada."

Another observation was, "I've heard plenty of people talk about his unwillingness to debate the issues. I tend to ask them, 'What else can we expect from an empty suit?'"

I'm sure you've heard the phrase, "a leopard can't change its spots." In this case, the governor can't change his ways. When things get tough in the capital, he seems to take refuge in Elko, where he is more accepted and less likely to be challenged. However, I'm sure he has worn out a bit of his welcome there, too.

Obviously this tactic worked to get him elected, and I even suggested in my column in 2006 that staying low would be helpful in getting elected.

"Although he is doing well in the polls, he may be better off to just continue to keep a low profile. He has done very little as the congressman from Northern Nevada and continued to be re-elected. This may be a very good strategy. As you know, it worked for President Bush, too."

But I didn't say that would be an effective way to govern the state of Nevada.

Back in July 2006, I was fairly kind to the congressman who never seemed to be in Washington, D.C., whenever I was. I pointed out, "Jim Gibbons is a very likable fellow, so don't count him out too quickly. He could have the Republican primary sewed up, for the most part, and may be completely unscathed and energized to pick apart whatever remains are left on the table from the Democrats, Henderson Mayor Jim Gibson and State Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas."

Beers, the governor's primary opponent, could have been a strong choice, except for his one-track mind and single campaign objective.

I wrote, "Not so fast — let's not forget the ever tenacious and single-issued Bob Beers. If he could spread his wings a bit and show voters he is more than a no-tax, ultra-conservative, then his campaign may take off. Beers needs to show voters he cares about more than TASC, the 'Tax and Spend Control' initiative."

Because of Beers' one-track mind, Gibbons emerged unscathed. But like the leopard, the spots would eventually reappear in the form of trouble, and that trouble was Chrissy Mazzeo. That bit of political scat would have sunk best of political candidates, except that the Democrats had left each other in shreds after the primary.

So what does this column I wrote in July 2006 have to do with today? Simply, folks are throwing their hats in the ring for the election in 2010. Both parties should be planning a strategy to bring their best candidates to the dance. History often repeats itself. 2010 could have a few similarities to the election in 2006, but certainly not the consequences of the past two years of the Gibbons administration — unless the state is unfortunate enough to re-elect him.

Jim Gibbons has indicated he plans on running for re-election. Fellow Republicans North Las Vegas Mayor Michael Montandon, who terms out as mayor, and former state Sen. Joe Heck, who was tossed from Senate District 5 last fall, have thrown their hats in the ring.

The Democrats have no confirmations, but a couple of strong candidates have expressed an interest in the Governor's Mansion, including Clark County Commission Chairman Rory Reid and Speaker of the Assembly Barbara Buckley.

Of course, this is America and anyone with the filing fee is free to run for office — even an empty suit.

Tim O’Callaghan, co-publisher of the Home News, can be reached at 990-2656 or He writes a regular column for the Home News .

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Hey Pa.: Keep your waste in your own backyard

This first published March 9 2009 in the Henderson Home News website, a Community Newspapers of Nevada publication.

Today I was trolling the blogs and newspaper web pages when I happened to read this amusing editorial by Denny Bonavita, editor and publisher of McLean Publishing Co. in west-central Pennsylvania, which includes the Courier-Express in DuBois, Pa.

The “Our Opinion” penned by Mr. Bonavita is titled “If Not Yucca, Where?” and starts out by accusing the president of “pandering to Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate.” It then goes on to throw a little mud in Senator Reid’s face by continuing it “further muddies Obama’s credentials as an effective, bipartisan president. But that’s fine.”

OK Denny, so that’s fine. But the president usually doesn’t pander to the Senate leadership, no matter what side of the aisle they lead. It’s usually the other way.

This is where I begin to find his editorial amusing, if not hypocritical, when he makes a few interesting statements such as this beauty:

“We have just one nagging question.

“The federal government is obligated by law to accept the used reactor fuel from 104 commercial power reactors, but as yet it has no place to put it. The spent fuel, growing at the rate of 2,000 tons a year, is being held in pools and above-ground concrete containers at reactor sites.

“What happens to it?”

That’s easy for me to answer with a rhetorical question, such as, “What have you been doing with your garbage for the past 20 years?”

He follows up with, “What happens to us if terrorists steal it? If earthquakes or tornadoes spread it?”

This editorial reminds me of a neighbor I once had who would pick up his dog’s used dog fuel and toss it over his back wall instead of putting it in his own garbage can.

Anyway, I suggest they start shipping those super-duper, train crash-resistant canisters that were proposed for Yucca Mountain to the nuclear power plants around the country. Perhaps they might start with Pennsylvania.

The editorial goes on: “But no state wants to host the long-term storage site. The Nevada site had been vetted by previous administrations, both Republican and Democratic. Yes, Nevada loses.”

Well Denny I’m afraid that’s where you’re wrong. The political game called congressional seniority is how Nevada got screwed in the first place. We elected a dressmaker over Nevada’s second most powerful senator in history, Howard Cannon.

Today, Harry Reid is the most powerful senator ever to represent the people Nevada.

It has taken people such as Harry Reid, John Ensign, Shelley Berkley, Jon Porter and Dean Heller our congressional delegation of the past several years, to get the nuke screw out of our backside. The odds have always been stacked against Nevada, with only three members of the House of Representatives compared to Pennsylvania’s 22 members of the house.

By the way Denny, how many dogs — oops, I meant nuke plants — do you have in your back yard? Nevada has zero!

One last bit of irony. He wrote, “But we have no way to deal with the waste, which can kill us by the millions.”

OK, let me understand this. Nevada has to give a little bit. Therefore, it’s OK if terrorists try to steal 5-ton casks of your garbage from our backyard, and it’s OK if the garbage can kill millions of Nevadans.

For some reason, I fail to see your logic.

Or perhaps I’m just as big a NIMBY as you.

Tim O’Callaghan, co-publisher of the News, can be reached at 990-2656 or He writes a regular column for the Home News.

Bill could prohibit offenders from taking DUI classes online

This first published March 3 2009 in the Henderson Home News website, a Community Newspapers of Nevada publication.

I received a call from Sandy Heverly of Stop DUI asking if I had a copy of a column I had written in 2004 about a DUI Victim Impact Panel I had attended with my then-16-year-old son, Sean.

She is preparing to testify next week on AB 209 before the Committee on Judiciary at the Nevada Legislature.

Apparently NRS 484.3797 allows DUI schools or Victim Impact Panels via the Internet. This bill would reverse that.

The law as it stands is a travesty to me, because it removes the human tragedy and strips the human face off the victim by allowing offenders to escape facing victims in person and sober.

During a telephone conversation, Assemblyman Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas, described a scenario to me of the offender sitting home on a Saturday afternoon watching a ball game, sucking down a few brews then losing interest in the game. What to do now? Uh, maybe I'll get DUI School out of the way. So he sits down with a six-pack in his belly to complete his court-ordered class.

Manendo is spot on. DUI offenders should never, never have the opportunity to self-medicate before experiencing a life-changing event such as the Stop DUI Victim Impact Panel. If offenders have an ounce of humanity in their flesh, they will be changed by the panel, even if it is only temporary.

I foresee a bit of challenge to the simple changes in this law, because there is money to be made by Internet companies. Follow the money on this bill or the lobbyist for that matter. A quick visit to the Nevada DMV Web site,, reveals a boatload of companies that may have something at stake, including the City of Las Vegas Municipal Court, operates it own online classes at and advertises it is the "Exclusive Provider of DUI School for the Las Vegas Municipal Court!"

The Web site also reads, "Following your registration, you study the course materials online and then answer the quiz questions. There is no need to attend a boring class, listen to long lectures or watch repetitive videos. Study at your leisure, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week."

Can you imagine this? "Honey, would you stop and grab me a 12-pack for when I sit down to attend my DUI School on the computer?"

The in-person Victim Impact Panel just cannot be given justice that way. To see why, I want to share with you the column Heverly was asking about, originally published June 24, 2004.

Stop DUI rarely leaves a dry eye

"Do you know what this is?" the speaker asked.

"A body bag," someone answered from the audience of 276 driving under the influence offenders.

"That's right, but not for me, Bobby Kintzel," the speaker added. It wasn't for him even after being hit by a sports utility vehicle speeding at 95 mph.

Former Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Robert "Bobby" Kintzel was laying down spike strips on the U.S. 95 to stop a fleeing suspect when he became the target of the suspect he was trying to stop.

Holding up a lesser-sized bag, Kintzel continued his lesson.

"This is a smaller bag for smaller (body) parts and if there is anything left that is unidentifiable, it goes in this," he said. "This is a biohazard bag, but not for me. I am still here."

The ex-trooper doesn't remember anything about the day he died, except what he reads in police reports and what people tell him.

Yes, he did die. Kintzel's life ended that day as far as he is concerned.

He was reborn after lying unresponsive in the intensive care unit for weeks. After nearly three years of rehabilitation, he returned to work in a civilian capacity last February.

In this capacity, the former Marine has declared war against drunken drivers.

"I am in a war, and if you drink and get behind the wheel, you are the enemy," he said.

Kintzel is not against drinking. In fact he candidly talks about popping a beer while sitting down to watch a baseball game on television that was rained out. He had just taken a sip, just a sip.

The game was off and so he thought a movie would be nice. Asking his wife to take him to the video store, she was too busy.

Did he get behind the wheel? Absolutely not.

This man is hero material.

Kintzel was one of three speakers at the monthly STOP DUI Victims Impact Panel at the Flamingo Library in Las Vegas. The panelists each discussed their gut-wrenching experiences. However, as an observer to the court-ordered panel, I was struck by other observations.

I was invited by Sandy Heverly, executive director of Stop DUI, to attend the Victims Impact Panel. She greeted my son and me, giving us a quick outline of how the panel operated and the procedures for entering the panel.

Because of the high volume of Hispanic offenders, the organization has a separate Spanish-speaking panel. This night there were 71 offenders attending the Spanish session.

She said the panel had used interpreters and headphones for Spanish-speaking offenders, however, the emotion of the victims got lost in the translation. The Spanish panel has been a much better success for the courts and STOP DUI, she said.

The first rule of the panel is attendants must be fully sober, which includes absolutely no consumption of alcohol on the day of the panel. If offenders show up with alcohol on their breath, they are asked to leave and come back the following month.

This night was no different for one fellow. He said he only had a sip off his girlfriend's beer earlier in the day.

Too bad, so sad.

He was asked to leave and invited to return next month.

Hopefully, his court date is not before the next panel. If so, he could possibly suffer some sanctions by the court for not meeting its requirements.

We had asked to sit in the front center row to have a full view of the audience and hear comments before the presentation.

I was disappointed in the lack of humanity shown by members of the audience. They were rude, insensitive, loud and obnoxious.

More profanity was spoken here than anywhere I have ever been. Among the lowest of human trash, one could spot the more cultured of society. A doctor dressed in scrubs was the most obvious, although there were several people in business suits.

The audience was representative of every socioeconomic level. It was sickening to listen to the complaining by offenders for having to attend the panel.

Heverly sat fully composed, responding to a barrage of idiotic questions and comments before the panel started.

"Are we going to see a movie?" one young lady asked sarcastically. "And have popcorn."

Heverly never lost her composure, although I was squirming in my seat, biting my tongue.

What she knew that I didn't was there would be a transformation over the next 90 minutes. Laughing and smirking would turn to tears and remorse during this time.

Victims' faces and their stories were riveting. The pain they suffer now and forever is real. It doesn't go away.

Images of dismembered Southern Nevadans forever etched in offenders' memories hopefully will serve as a reminder not to drink and drive.

Emotions high, senses tingling, mind and body on overload, my son and I sat among the silent offenders.

It was deafening.

It was numb and the transformation was complete. No more rude, bragging, insensitive, loud and obnoxious comments. My wish is they never return.

My faith in humanity restored, and I have a new hero to cheer. We should think twice before drinking and driving.

Tim O’Callaghan, co-publisher of the News, can be reached at 990-2656 or He writes a regular column for the Home News.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Congresswoman Berkley is "Mad as Hell"

Rep. Shelley Berkley responded to a barrage of political attacks on Las Vegas, however, let's keep it real, these attacks are against Sen. Harry Reid.
Then there is the old disdain for Las Vegas from the extreme conservative right.

Here is what Rep. Berkley released yesterday....

(March 4, 2009 -- Washington, D.C.) Congresswoman Shelley Berkley today responded to Congressional critics of Las Vegas and to lawmakers who have attacked funding for Nevada projects, including the proposed Mag-lev high speed train. Berkley delivered her comments in a speech from the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. Her remarks are as follows:
Statement of Congresswoman Shelley Berkley
Mr. Speaker, I'm mad and I'm not going to take it anymore.

I've had enough of my colleagues bashing my district, my hometown, and the community I love, Las Vegas.

I've sat back as Las Vegas has been maligned, insulted, and lied about for the sole purpose of making political points.

I've been waiting for common sense to prevail. But I'm here to say that this nonsense, the bashing and lies about Las Vegas have got to end and they have got to end now.

It started with Senator McConnell's misguided attack on the stimulus bill by singling out a mob museum in Las Vegas as an earmark in the stimulus package.

There's only a couple of things wrong with that, there never was an earmark in the stimulus bill -- there are none -- and there certainly wasn’t one for a mob museum, there was never a mention of it in the stimulus package. The lies continue.

Then we found out about the Mag-lev train, countless republicans have misrepresented the $8 billion included in the stimulus bill as being an earmark for the Las Vegas-Anaheim Mag-lev route.

The only problem is even after it was pointed out that there is no earmark, that Las Vegas and California are going to have to compete with other projects, that this has been a project that's been in the works for 20 years and that it will bring thousands of visitors to the Las Vegas area and to the Southern California area, the lies continue.

The latest one was Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. He repeated the lie in his televised response to the President's remarks to Congress, claiming the bill included funding for a magnetic levitation line from Las Vegas to Disneyland.

And then it goes one worse. Trent Franks just mentioned there's a Mag-lev going from Disneyland to the Moonlight Bunny brothel. Now I grew up in Las Vegas and I've never heard of the Moonlight Bunny brothel, but I guarantee the Mag-lev train is not going there.

The latest whipping boy is in the omnibus bill -- Sustainable Las Vegas.

Just yesterday, Senator McCain took to the floor of the Senate to attack sustainable Las Vegas. What does sustainable Las Vegas mean? He yelled. Let me enlighten the senator, it's a University of Nevada education and research program on energy supply, water supply and air quality issues that are very important for the desert southwest for cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix and Tucson. But he knows that.

So why is it different than the hundreds of other programs given out to other universities in the United States? Including universities in Arizona? Because it has Las Vegas in its name.

And let me tell you about my hometown of Las Vegas -- it's a community of families looking for a better life; it's a community of schools and churches and mosques, a community of small businesses, working people and beautiful hotels.

That brings me to the most egregious affront to Las Vegas. Stop bad mouthing Las Vegas and stop telling businesses and major companies to stay away from Vegas.

You are hurting our economy, you're forcing major layoffs of employees in the hotel industry. Hundreds-of-thousands of Nevadans depend on the tourism and convention business for their livelihood.

Las Vegas has long been a city where serious business is conducted, where small and large conventions can be accommodated. When it comes to business meetings, Las Vegas is the best city on the planet. You still get the best bang for your buck. Great hotels, great convention facilities, great restaurants, great transportation and a great price.

When you bad mouth Las Vegas, you are hurting our major industry, you're hurting your fellow citizens by taking away their livelihood. You are taking food out of their children's mouths.

Las Vegas is having a very tough time right now. High mortgage foreclosure rate, high unemployment, high bankruptcy rate. We are hurting. Every attack on Las Vegas by my colleagues is a knife in the heart of my city.

So I implore my colleagues, stop bashing Las Vegas. Find some other whipping boy. We've had enough, we're not going to take it anymore. I yield back the balance of my time.

Congressman lies about Las Vegas railroad

Arizona Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., has either lost his moral compass, spent too much time in the Arizona sun or is a baldfaced liar.

Franks flatly deceived viewers on Fox's "America's Newsroom" earlier this week by implying that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had earmarked funds for a railroad from Disneyland to the Moonlight Bunny Ranch, one of many legal brothel outside Carson City.

How could Franks come up with such bucket of hogwash? It's obvious he has already spent too much time in Washington, D.C., because he has clearly forgotten his western geography. There is no direct rail right-of-way from Las Vegas to Carson City, 400 miles away.

First, the proposed $12 billion magnetic levitation train is planned connect Las Vegas to Anaheim, Calif., not to Lyon County, Nev.

Maybe he just got confused. There are two separate projects being proposed with a single thread in common — tourism.

The two rail projects are probably a century apart in design, the maglev is a super speed aerodynamic passenger train yet to be completely designed. The other is the McCloud No. 18, built by Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia in 1914. This steam engine burns oil to make steam.

The reconstruction of the Virginia Truckee Railroad project began in 1974 from Virginia City to Gold Hill, with plans that now extend all the way to Carson City — well past the brothels at Mound House. By the way, the funds proposed for the VTRR are less than $500,000.

This is no more than another Republican arrow whizzing at the target on Reid's back. It also demonstrates the desperation of the GOP to cast aspersions on Nevada's senior senator and Senate Majority Leader.

The mere fact that a member of the United States Congress would go on a national cable news program to tell a lie is sickening. To fabricate such a ridiculous lie by combining two projects 400 miles apart, then spinning up a little diversion to include businesses that are in the vicinity of each project, is desperation.

Fox host Megyn Kelly laid the track for Franks' line of deceit by saying, "It's a super railroad of sorts, a line that will deliver customers straight from Disney — we kid you not — to the doorstep of the Moonlight Bunny Ranch Brothel in Nevada."

Franks clearly misled viewers by affirming the train would run from Disneyland to the Moonlight Bunny Ranch in Mound House, Nev.

Kelly later piped in with, "The bunnies are very happy about this development," adding fuel to Franks' outrageous lie.

Fox obviously has an inside line with the Bunny Ranch by means of Fox talk show host Sean Hannity, who spent some time interviewing the bunnies at the ranch in 2007.

Even though Kelly half-heartedly challenged the validity of Franks' claim, she was doing her best to take advantage of the interview.

The irony of Franks' charade is that 80 percent of his district, which includes the Colorado River system and the Grand Canyon, benefits from Nevada tourism, which sends thousands of Las Vegas and Laughlin tourist to those sites every day.

The second irony is that Franks alluded to Americans losing trust in government, but how can Americans trust congressmen like Franks when he is capable of totally twisting the truth with a straight face?

Wow, I need to remove my rose-colored glasses.

Tim O’Callaghan, co-publisher of the Home News, can be reached at 990-2656 or He writes a regular column for the Home News.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Las Vegas is still a good investment

This first published March 3 2009 in the Henderson Home News website, a Community Newspapers of Nevada publication.

For many of us calling Las Vegas home, it is no surprise that Forbes magazine named it America's "emptiest" city. A part of Las Vegas' unprecedented growth was built on speculation — that is speculation the building boom would last many more years.

Many people speculated by buying multiple homes in hopes of flipping them for a nice profit. How could they resist, drunk on the Kool-Aid whipped up in the sink of the media-spun hyperbole? The house- and land-flipping overinflated the values of real estate, whether commercial, residential or otherwise.

The economic train was certainly chugging away with a full head of steam generated by coal that was no more real than the houses built of cards by overzealous and profit-drunk builders. It wasn't just the builders that were driving the economy under the influence of false prosperity, either. Local governments were also fairly tanked up, too, creating huge parks and infrastructure with future dollars in the form of development fees, while older parks and infrastructure lost priority.

Yes, the Las Vegas Valley has the best of the best anywhere, but it's now waking up from its unbelievable binge at the bowl of tainted punch. The skeletons are visible in the forms of empty building pads, lifeless steel structures and the barren wood frames of unfinished homes.

What about all those empty houses in Las Vegas pointed out by Forbes?

I say, so what? No big deal, unless you own one or two of them. I still believe Las Vegas is a great buy, especially now that some sense of truth in home values is returning to the market.

Some say Las Vegas will never be the same again. To that, I wonder, compared to when? Three years ago? Perhaps not, but it's feeling a lot like 1989 again, and to a native Nevadan, that's not all bad. Life seemed a little simpler then, didn't it?

The construction boom has ended, forcing the skilled and unskilled labor forces to leave to seek greener pastures in other job-barren states. This is not urban flight, either, because Las Vegas is more suburbia than metropolis.

Las Vegas will recover at some point. Folks tired of bitter winters will continue to look at Las Vegas for retirement, because there will be great deals on homes to be found and the weather is marvelous.

If you look close enough, you will find many positive aspects to this mess we're in. We will have more time to address the issue of water and where to get it. It will give us more time to come up with better energy solutions, too. These are important issues in light of the effects of the drought plaguing the West.

It is disturbing enough to think about Lake Mead drying up, but before that happens, Hoover Dam would lose is capacity to produce energy. That is an entirely different crisis brewing.

Still, unlike the naysayers, I know the Las Vegas economy has not totally derailed in a smoking heap. Sure, we are going to suffer for awhile, and many Nevadans will be out of work. But there will be many more who will rise in the new economy.

Now is the time not only for Las Vegas but all of Nevada to start sketching and molding what it wants to be after this economic meltdown.

Las Vegas doesn't have to be the emptiest place in America. What started out as a dusty watering hole on the Union Pacific Railroad was actually a desert paradise with flowing artesian wells that sustained many settlers passing through by the wagon full. Just as it sustained ancient native Americans with the gift of life in a hostile environment, Las Vegas will continue to provide for those who are willing to brush the dust from themselves and pick up a shovel, hammer, trowel or perhaps dig into the ol' cookie jar, if it isn't already empty, to help in this remodeling of our economy.

Perhaps once we get our train moving again, we should slow down enough to pull up a neighbor. Then, in time, we may be the fullest city in America again.

What's that saying? The community that rebuilds together, prospers together, or something like that.

Tim O’Callaghan, co-publisher of the Home News, can be reached at 990-2656 or He writes a regular column for the Home News.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Economic scars will be ever present

This first published February 12, 2009 in the Henderson Home News, a Community Newspapers of Nevada publication.

A few Sundays ago, my bride asked if there was anything I wanted to do that day for my birthday. I told her a bicycle ride on the River Mountain Loop trail at Lake Mead might be fun.

We packed up the bikes and lunch to eat on the way to the trailhead. As we drove past Lake Las Vegas, she noticed the grass was turning brown on the golf course and asked if the course was closing.

I told her I didn’t think the judge had ruled on it yet.

However, according to a story by reporter Jeremy Twitchell, federal Bankruptcy Judge Linda B. Riegle ruled Jan. 15 that Lake Las Vegas can close The Falls golf course at the main entrance of the project.

It sounds as though Lake Las Vegas will let the course dry up and brown out, which would match the rest of the landscape along Lake Mead Parkway. For the record, I don’t think Lake Las Vegas will allow the entrance to lose its luster entirely. I would expect the front of the course, closest to the road, to be kept green.

To my disbelief, however, I noticed how development has encroached upon the desert area heading to the lake, and now that building has stopped, it’s left an unsightly mark.

Developers have scarred the desert mountain landscape east of the entrance toward Lake Mead to an irreparable state.

During the boom of speculation and colossal financial leveraging, developers hacked out giant steps in the hillsides leading down to the entrance of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, before the economic collapse of 2008.

Now the land stands scarred and undeveloped, ruining the view of the hillsides. The result of unbridled growth and speculation will be around for a while, I’m afraid.

If my memory serves me correctly, our real estate crisis started back in 2002, when the nation was recovering from the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

The spawning of economic recovery through high-leverage financing and interest-only sub-prime loans turned what was just a crisis into economic disaster. Those balloon payments came home to roost, starting the unstoppable domino effect, in 2007.

The housing boom across America created a Pandora’s box for Las Vegas, either unbeknownst or perhaps flatly ignored by most. People were flocking to Vegas either to be entertained or buy real estate.

But how were they able to afford the weekends in Sin City or the purchase of a second or third home in the city where the streets are mythically paved with gold? My guess is they took advantage of those hot mortgage deals and raided the equity in their homes.

The Ponzi schemes people played on themselves in hopes of making a comfortable future for themselves have quickly collapsed — leaving families and businesses financially scarred much like those hills gutted until the next cycle of prosperity hits America.

The real question is, when will that occur? By my account, if we only look at the mortgage crisis, it could be another three to four years if homeowners and leveraged business can’t get refinancing. Sub-prime loans and other risky leveraging were still being transacted in the fourth quarter of 2007. My guess is that we have seen the height of the tsunami but have yet to imagine the carnage when it completely recedes.

Tim O’Callaghan, co-publisher of the Home News, can be reached at 990-2656 or He writes a regular column for the Home News

Friday, January 23, 2009

Some reflection on Inauguration Day

Now that Nevadans are returning from four days of Inauguration festivities in Washington, D.C., I have put together some Inauguration thoughts...

First let's correct the record all over the blogosphere. President Obama didn't mess up the oath. It was Chief Justice Roberts' mistake by first pausing then misquoting the oath, causing Obama confusion. Just in case, they did a do-over in the Oval Office. I'm sure folks will spin and debate this faux pas for years to come, depending on their particular polarization.

There also seems to be a great deal of spin on the cost of Obama's inaugural festivities by comparing the expense to President George W. Bush's second inaugural. Yes, my friends his second, not his first.

Keep in mind this is a very extraordinary inauguration and, more importantly, a historic event with the election of the first African American president. Therefore, I think the pundits should compare apples to apples, not otherwise.

I recall as a young boy in 1974, my dad had been re-elected to his second term as Nevada's 23rd Governor, and he decided, in light of the economic crisis at that time, that it wouldn't be prudent to have another Inaugural Ball. His comment at the time was a breezy, "We already had one." This inauguration, on the other hand, was Obama's first, and he deserved a ball.

The most captivating moment for me was the invocation by Pastor Rick Warren, of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., and the author of one of my favorites books "The Purpose Driven Life."

One of the most striking lines in his prayer was, "We celebrate a hingepoint of history with the inauguration of our first African American president of the United States. We are so grateful to live in this land, a land of unequaled possibility, where the son of an African immigrant can rise to the highest level of our leadership."

Warren followed those lines with this reference to the Bible that still echoes in my head: "And we know today that Dr. King and a great cloud of witnesses are shouting in heaven," to which in my mind the voice of Dr. King answered, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

At that point, I was at the proverbial mountaintop. But I did not stay there long. Soon I began asking myself, are we really free? Sure we're free in this country to move about as we please, yet I can't help think about how so many people and families are chained to this economic crisis in one form or another.

Are we really free when religious zealots want to impose their beliefs on us, against our will in some cases and with the threat of harm or death? These zealots come from every imaginable faith, not just one or two. There are extremes in every faith.

A disappointment came in the benediction by the Rev. Joseph Lowery, a personal hero of mine from the civil rights movement. Although, he may have intended to poke fun at racial stereotypes, he offended many with this line from his closing prayer: "And in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead man, and when white will embrace what is right."

This was really an unfortunate statement implying that whites haven't embraced other races and cultures. His statement reminded me of the old saying, "the pot calling the kettle black." As offensive as that might sound, Lowery clearly displayed the chip on his shoulder by implying things haven't changed or perhaps not enough. I would disagree with that line of thinking, because things have changed a lot — not perfectly, but you must admit things are getting better in this not-so-perfect multicultural country.

Rev. Lowery may have slightly bruised this historic day, which is the fruit from trees grown from the seeds planted not only by Dr. King and Rosa Parks, but also the very seeds Lowery planted himself in Mobile, Montgomery and Atlanta.

Now let's give our new president a chance to work on this country's difficult challenges.

Tim O’Callaghan, co-publisher of the News, can be reached at 990-2656 or He writes a regular for the Henderson Home News.