Las Vegas folks treated poorly by government

Las Vegas folks treated poorlyIt happened again. A lengthy article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal tells how the state government of Nevada has long failed to enforce its own law requiring review of emergency response plans filed by big places like casino hotels. This is no small matter especially given the October 1 massacre by a gunman firing from the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino across the Strip to an outdoor performance venue that killed 58 and wounded more than 500 (just voted the year’s biggest crime story by CNN).

Earlier this year, I wrote a long piece for The Nevada Independent about how the state Secretary of State’s Office doesn’t comply with a 2013 state law requiring that full financial statements or IRS Form 990s be posted on its website of charities soliciting for contributions in the state. This makes it a lot easier for sketchy charities that spend as much as 90% of the money raised on fundraising and overhead to hide their scandalous financial efficiencies from my now-fellow Nevadans.

Several state officials, including Republicans Gov. Brian Sandoval and Attorney General Adam Laxalt (who is campaigning to replace Sandoval when his term ends next year), have refused to enforce a law calling for background checks on private-party gun sales that was actually passed statewide by voters in 2016. They say the law is flawed.

As someone still New To Las Vegas, I find only one conclusion to draw from this and other governmental actions–or inactions. Nevada is a state whose governmental entities and agencies do not take very good care of its citizens. Continue reading

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Pitch from dodgy cancer charity graces holiday time in Las Vegas

dodgy cancer charity Holiday season. The time of giving. The phone rang at the New To Las Vegas world headquarters. Molly–or rather, an interactive computer programmed to say it was Molly–was on the line. After telling a lame joke, she/it cut to the chase. Sh/it said she/it was soliciting donations to the Women’s Cancer Fund, and hoped I could be counted to make a financial pledge.

I had not heard of the Women’s Cancer Fund (not all that surprising since there are thousands of charities in the country with the word “cancer” in their names). Where is Women’s Cancer Fund located, I asked. “Harrisburg, Pa,” she/it replied cheerily.

I asked for the organization’s federal tax ID number. “You know, I don’t have that,” she/it said, adding that her/its supervisor could help. Indeed, a real live human–who likely was monitoring the back and forth between “Molly” and me–quickly came on the line and gave me a nine-digit number.

Except that after looking it up online, I discovered the number wasn’t in the name of Women’s Center Fund. It was in the name of something called Cancer Recovery Foundation International. Women’s Cancer Fund is one of several cancer-themed trade names that CRFI uses as it asks an unsuspecting public for funds. Other d/b/a’s include Nevada Cancer Research Fund and Pink Diamond Women’s Cancer Fund.

And do I mean unsuspecting. In its latest fiscal period, according to my reckoning, only a sliver of the cash donations CRFI received went directly for anything that I would call good works. The rest was spent on fundraising, marketing and overhead. CRFI does business with several sketchy outfits–several of which I have written about–while using an accounting ploy to make its financial efficiencies and largess seem better than they really are. Continue reading

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Around Las Vegas, Veterans of America is elusive

Veterans of AmericaIn the past week or so I’ve received several calls at the New To Las Vegas world headquarters asking if I would like to donate my car–or real estate or even time share–to an outfit called Veterans of America and take a tax deduction. The calls consisted of a tape-recorded message inviting me to either call an 800 number or hit a button on my phone to speak with someone.

Since I never had heard of that organization, I did call or hit the button, several times. But when I asked whoever came on the line for the specific office address or the tax ID number–which would be needed for a valid tax deduction–that person abruptly hung up.

A legitimate nonprofit concerned about its reputation likely would not do that. Continue reading

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Far from Las Vegas, an amusing Trump hack of Google Maps

The federal indictment released today in Washington, D.C., against against ex-Trump campaign manager Paul J. Manafort Jr. alleges among other things he used laundered untaxed money presumably generated by his pro-Russian activities to buy a nice brownstone house in the trendy Carroll Gardens section of Brooklyn, N.Y.

Now, decades before becoming New To Las Vegas, I lived in Park Slope, the very next neighborhood to the east of Carroll Gardens. I know the area well but wanted to see exactly how far away that was from my former abode. So I went to Google Maps and punched in the address listed in the indictment, 377 Union Street. Here’s the screenshot I got:

Trump hack of Google MapsThat’s right, folks. Someone today hacked Google Maps to insert a picture of President Donald J. Trump in the Oval Office in the spot where an image of Manafort’s house normally would appear.

If you take a very close look at the map. you’ll see there’s marker for “Persons of Interest” on the same block as the property. I think that is the name of a barber shop. But what a coincidence.

While I don’t especially approve of computer hacking, this is tooooooooo funny. Continue reading

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Wealth of Las Vegas richest folks rises less than stock market

See update at end of post

I don’t know how your last 12 months have gone. But the nine richest people around Las Vegas collectively are more than $5 billion richer than they were a year ago.
The 36th edition of the Forbes 400 list came out today, and the estimated net worth of the nine entrants from the Las Vegas area totals $55.6 billion. That’s up from $50.1 billion.

Normally, a 11% jump in one year would be nothing to laugh at. But this year it actually is. That’s because the S&P 500 index rose 16.2% in that same period. As a group, the Vegas Nine would have done better by throwing it all in a big Vanguard mutual fund and spending the year on a beach. Hell, you might have done better than they did in your own IRA or 401(k).

Sheldon Adelson, the 84-year-old casino tycoon whose family also owns the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the state’s largest newspaper, retains by far the title of richest man in Las Vegas (and Nevada). He remains No. 14 on the Forbes list, with a net worth of $35.4 billion, up $3.6 billion from last year.

Here are the others:

Continue reading

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Las Vegas massacre brings out worst of blogosphere

Las Vegas massacre

Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino (via Wikipedia)

Within a few hours of last night’s horrendous Las Vegas Strip massacre, various outlets on the blogosphere had identified the killer. In my New To Las Vegas home just a few miles from the crime scene, I watched on the Internet overnight as they displayed his name, his picture, his hometown–Reno–his age. There was no confirmation of any of this from Las Vegas authorities.

The blogosphere outlets, generally of a conservative persuasion, especially had this–the murderer was a supporter of the liberal MSNBC pundit Rachel Maddow and other progressive causes. I presume this connection was intended to diffuse the certain-to-come allegations that right-wing objections to gun control laws had fostered the carnage.

Small problem here: The outlets identified the wrong person. Completely and totally.

Later in the early hours of today, Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo identified the sole shooter firing across the Strip from the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino at the Route 91 Harvest Festival as Stephen Paddock, 64, of Mesquite, Nev. That’s a growing retirement community on the Arizona state line 85 miles northeast of Las Vegas.

Since then, some of the posts have come down, and others have been updated. But I haven’t seen many apologies. That’s something purveyors of fake news aren’t very good at, even when they’re so conclusively exposed. Continue reading

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Far from Las Vegas, the racism of the National Anthem

racism of the National Anthem

Francis Scott Key (portrait attributed to Joseph Wood)

All of America is talking today about NFL player conduct yesterday during the playing of the National Anthem. President Donald J. Trump called the sit-down protests a lack a patriotism rather than, say, a reaction to police brutality like what Seattle Seahawks player Michael Bennett recently alleged against Las Vegas police.

I would like to suggest folks focus on some of the words in “The Star-Spangled Banner” and the character of its lyricist, Francis Scott Key. In my judgment both are racist beyond belief.

Don’t believe me?

Let’s first take a look at the National Anthem’s rarely sung third stanza. The passage explicitly envisions and welcome the killing of fleeing slaves even as it extols “the land of the free and the home of the brave:”

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!  

The reference to refuge of the slave refers to the fact that British ships in Baltimore Harbor during the War of 1812 were offering to take away runaway slaves, something that Key fought during his professional life. Oddly, that is somewhat the conceit behind Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation a half-century later. Indeed, the slaves who fled to the Brits represented the largest emancipation of blacks until Lincoln. Continue reading

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One Las Vegas official should watch what she wishes for

See update at end of post

In today’s Sunday edition of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Clark County Treasurer Laura B. Fitzpatrick ran a big ad saying that quarterly property taxes were due in a week, on October 2. Folks were advised that they could see what they owed by going to the Treasurer’s web site.

Oops! Here’s what taxpayers saw for hours all day long when they tried to access the tax info:

Las Vegas official

I assume the part of the Treasurer’s site with this information crashed under the weight of inquiries from many of Clark County’s 2 million residents. (I tried using different computers and browsers, all with the same result.)

To me, there are several noteworthy points here:

  • An IT tech should be put on overtime any non-business day a government agency runs an ad with the headline, “Reminder of Property Taxes Due.”
  • Government officials should be prepared for the possibility their efforts will succeed.
  • The Clark County Treasurer is an elected position, next facing the voters in 2018.

Meanwhile, still New To Las Vegas, I’ll try again on Monday after the IT staff gets in.

  Follow William P. Barrett’s work on Twitter by clicking here.

———-

Updated on Monday, September 25, 2017, at 9:00 am

A full 24 hours after I first started looking online for my quarterly property tax bill at the written invitation of Clark County Treasurer Laura B. Fitzpatrick, things aren’t any better:

Las Vegas official

Notwithstanding the language here, I should point out that the Clark County Website is fine. It’s just the property tax bill inquiry page that isn’t working.

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Charity solicitation regulation in Nevada and Las Vegas is elusive

Charity regulation in NevadaIn 2013 Nevada passed a law bolstering its regulation of most charities soliciting for donations, especially over the telephone. Among other things, the law required such charities to file with the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office a financial report such as an IRS Form 990, which the agency “shall … post” on its website. A would-be donor contacted by a cold-calling telemarketer could determine if this was one of the many that spend only 10% or less of donations on its professed charitable cause.

But four years later, the secretary of state’s office still doesn’t post the required financial reports or 990s on its website. Nor does that agency or the Nevada Attorney General’s Office do much to make sure that charities asking Nevadans for their hard-earned dollars are on the up and up or to provided all the needed information. It doesn’t appear, for example, that either of the agencies, which by law share jurisdiction over charities, has even a single staffer devoted exclusively to charitable regulation. The secretary of state’s office is so sloppy that, until I pointed it out, the website listed citations to state law repealed several years ago.

Civil penalties? Cease and desist orders? Revocation of solicitation permissions? Not in Nevada.

I’ve only been New To Las Vegas for barely a year. But as as many of you know, I’ve been writing about charities for decades. To me it’s clear that as it’s being implemented, the Nevada system for overseeing charities is exceedingly weak and an open invitation for sharpies. I put that very observation in writing to flaks for both the SOS and AG–they are elected officials–asking for a response, and got none.

To gain a wider local audience, I’ve written a long essay about the shortcomings I see for The Nevada Independent. This is an donor-funded online news site recently founded by the well-known Nevada journalist Jon Ralston focusing on policy and politics in the Silver State.

Some of the material will be familiar to visitors to this blog, but there’s lots of new stuff. I invite you to read the article by clicking here.

And if you live in Nevada, weep.

Follow William P. Barrett’s work on Twitter by clicking here.

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It Didn’t Stay Here: Las Vegas trip by alleged Michigan embezzler

It Didn't Stay Here

Michelle Schneider (courtesy Grand Traverse County, Mich.)

The bug light known as Las Vegas glows far and wide. To remote corners of the country. Places like, say, Traverse City, Mich. That’s a remote, cultured scenic burg of 15,000 on an inlet off the eastern shore of Lake Michigan near the northern tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. (Just before becoming New To Las Vegas, I put Traverse City on a Forbes retirement list.) The town is 2,000 miles from Las Vegas.

If the Traverse City authorities are to be believed, Michelle Schneider saw the glow. They say she embezzled funds from the Traverse City community college where she had worked as a technology specialist for four years to fund a number of personal expenses, including at least one trip to Las Vegas.

Schneider, 46, of suburban Grawn (yep, that’s the name of a place), faces one count of embezzlement for using a credit card issued by Northwestern Michigan College to charge up more than $9,000 in unauthorized expenses. She pleaded not guilty earlier this month in Michigan’s state court system and awaits further proceedings.

That’s enough to earn a nomination to my list It Didn’t Stay Here. The roster highlights folks in difficulties elsewhere for something that happened in Vegas. It’s a mildly satirical refutation of the incredibly well-known marketing pitch of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, “What Happens Here, Stays Here.” The full list sits elsewhere on this page. Continue reading

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