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