Tag Archives: Harry Reid

Sara “Rogue” Palin Plans Tea Party U.S. Tour Launch in Nevada on March 27

Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor and vice president running mate of Sen. John McCain, now morphing into a conservative Republican rock star and Fox News contributor, is saddling up her horse to ride smackdab into Democrat Sen. Harry Reid’s hometown in Nevada. 

Palin will be galloping into Searchlight, Nevada on March 27 to launch a Tea Party Express cross-country bus tour that ends in Washington, D.C. on April 15.  She is helping step up the Tea Party activists’ campaign to unseat Democrats and GOP incumbents who reportedly don’t espouse less spending, less taxes and less government. 

The GOP primary candidates seeking Reid’s seat who have confirmed they are coming to the March 27 shindig include Sue Lowden, Danny Tarkanian and Sharron Angle. 

Senate Majority Leader Reid, 70, who is seeking his FIFTH term, responded to Palin with a bring-it-on statement:  “Make sure you stop by the Nugget for a 10-cent cup of coffee with free refills- and make sure to say ‘Hi’ to Verlie.”

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Go to Las Vegas- and Go Broke?

A careless remark by President Barack Obama about Las Vegas has triggered a furious backlash from Nevada’s cash-strapped gambling mecca and a key Democratic ally fighting a tough re-election battle in the state. 

Speaking about the economy yesterday at an event in Nashua, New Hampshire, Mr. Obama told Americans: “When times are tough, you tighten your belts. You don’t go buying a boat when you can barely pay your mortgage. You don’t blow a bunch of cash on Vegas when you’re trying to save for college. You prioritize. You make tough choices.” 

The economy of Las Vegas, the world’s most famous gambling and entertainment destination, is heavily dependent on tourism and Las Vegans were already incensed by a crack from Mr. Obama a year ago that companies should not use federal bail out money for trips to the city.   The city is still reeling from that comment, trying to keep bookings and revenues up on conventions and other events. 

Mr. Obama’s latest remark about Las Vegas prompted a swift and angry retort from Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, who is fighting an extremely uphill battle to win re-election in Nevada, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in the U.S. – a whopping 13 per cent.

Mr. Obama hurriedly dispatched a letter to Mr. Reid. “I hope you know that during my Town Hall today, I wasn’t saying anything negative about Las Vegas,” he wrote. 

Oscar Goodman, the Mayor of Las Vegas and an independent, also got into the fray, raising his voice and describing President Obama as “a real slow learner” who has a “psychological hang-up” about Las Vegas. 

Mr. Goodman added that this time an apology from Mr. Obama wouldn’t be enough. “I’ll do everything I can to give him the boot.” 

Last year, Mr. Obama apologized for his prior gaffe and during a visit to Nellis Air Force Base outside Las Vegas said that it was good to get out of Washington and “there’s nothing like a quick trip to Vegas in the middle of the week.” 

Repercussions surrounding the current incident are not nearly over.  In a couple of weeks, Mr. Obama is planning another visit to Las Vegas, which surely will cause sparks to fly anew.

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Political Bigwigs in Las Vegas Tomorrow for National Clean Energy Summit

Lots of high-energy political figures will be in Las Vegas on Aug. 10 at the National Clean Energy Summit 2.0, flapping their jaws in discussions on how to build a clean energy economy. 

In addition to former President Bill Clinton (also rumored to be having a stag birthday in Las Vegas tomorrow- not on the taxpayers’ dime), former Vice President Al Gore and California ‘Terminator’ Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the event will also be a cornucopia of public officials, including Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.   

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the forum will focus on creating jobs through investments in green power. 

Recent surveys, however, show Americans are turning a cold, if not freezing shoulder to global warming, and are especially irate when it comes to considering or enacting legislation that might result in higher power bills or contribute to the continuing erosion of jobs.

The event begins at 10 a.m. inside the Cox Pavilion on the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.  Tickets for the event cost $150.  For more information, visit www.CleanEnergySummit.org.

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Nevada Bill Proposed to Stem Anti-Resort Travel Policies by U.S. Government

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., recently introduced a bill that would make it against the law for government bureaucrats to implement travel policies that prohibit official travel to destinations “perceived to be a resort or vacation destination.” 

Reid’s bill, called the “Protecting Resort Cities from Discrimination Act of 2009,” is the result of months of bureaucrat wrangling and issued in response to reports of myriad federal offices banning travel to resort destinations (especially Las Vegas) in favor of more staid locations.

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Government Agencies Shun Las Vegas

With agencies like the FBI moving conferences out of destinations like Las Vegas, the U.S. Travel Association recent release of a comprehensive study of the ROI of business travel couldn’t come at a better time.

It’s not just corporate meeting planners that are afraid to hold events in beach, resort or entertainment destinations. Now government agencies are saying that both formal and informal policies have them avoiding destinations like Las Vegas and Orlando, FL., to avoid any criticism that their business meetings are really junkets.

“What’s going on is a lot of fear in the marketplace,” says Geoff Freeman, senior vice president of public affairs of the U.S. Travel Association (USTA). “That started in the corporate world and has shifted to government agencies. Folks from different agencies are admitting this is going on.”

It has gotten so bad, Freeman adds, that planners arranging meeting for government agencies “are willing to spend more money—taxpayer money—to avoid the perception of wastefulness.” Among those who agree is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), whose state relies upon Las Vegas as a major economic engine.

Noting that the director of the FBI recently ordered an agency conference relocated away from Las Vegas because it is a “vacation and leisure destination” as well as “an unmatched location for conducting business in terms of cost and availability of convention and related space,” Sen. Reid recently wrote to Rahm Emanuel, President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, asking for his “assistance to reverse the current informal federal policy which prohibits and/or discourages government meetings and conferences in Las Vegas and other cities on the basis that they are too leisure oriented to be awarded such business.”

Last week came the reply from White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel: Viva Las Vegas! 

The federal government has no business forbidding government meetings and conferences from taking place in communities “known for attracting vacationers,” Emanuel wrote. “For me, the test of government travel is what will be accomplished by that travel and whether the cost to the government is reasonable as opposed to other options.”

No word on how the “what happens/stays” formulation might be affected by the federal Freedom of Information Act.

“What’s really going on here is most people don’t think other people’s meetings are necessary,” says Freeman. “We must fight that as an industry.”

So far, he adds, the meetings, incentive, conventions and events (MICE) industry has failed to present the business case or defend the value of meetings and conventions. To that end, on July 28, the USTA will unveil a comprehensive study on the ROI of business travel—the quantifiable impact of business travel on business bottom lines.

But that’s only one step, Freeman warns. The MICE industry must continue along that path by continually making this point to the government, to the media, to business executives and to the general public if the message is to get through.

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Speeding Tourists into Las Vegas at 150 or 300 mph – or not at all?

Sooner of later, most predict, the stagnant Las Vegas economy will recover.  The only question is what the crowning stimulus will be and when will it happen.  To have over 42 million visitors annually to come to Las Vegas and stay in the projected 157,000 hotel rooms projected by 2011, bringing about a true economic recovery, what better of an enticing solution than to provide a high-speed train to supplant current driving and flying modes, whisking riders between Las Vegas and Southern California, the route usually taken by visiting tourists.maglev

It sounds like a good idea to goose Nevada and Southern California tourism numbers, but is it really a viable solution?  Political jaw flapping has been ballyhooed for years and especially now with the $8 billion in federal money available for competing fast trains that offer the best solution.

Two alternative proposals are currently on the table.  One is a publicly-funded maglev train, smoothly propelling tourists at speeds up to 300 mph by magnetic levitation into Ontario, California, close to the airport and hub for Southern California.  It uses a technology untried in this country because it is so expensive to build. The price tag- $12 billion.

The other is the DesertXpress, which would use traditional steel wheels on steel tracks, driven at speeds up to 150 mph with electric or diesel-electric power. It would end in the desert town of Victorville, requiring more than an hour’s drive to get to the terminus  proposed by the the maglev. Although the $4 billion project was pitched as a privately funded venture, its backers say now they may seek government loans.

Both of the proposed lines would transport passengers between Las Vegas and Southern California in about 80 minutes for about $50 — with one going at half the speed and covering two-thirds the distance of the other.

The choices raise pivotal questions as the nation weighs its appetite for risk and considers whether such a system should be in public versus private hands.   Would people in these financially trying times even consider hopping aboard either of these futuristic trains?  Las Vegas Backstage Access contends that that’s the key statistical profile that first needs to be researched prior to any determination on which method, if any, is best to deploy. 

This week, the federal Transportation Department is planned to unveil guidelines for those seeking to apply for a portion of the $8 billion passed by Congress as part of the economic recovery package. Decisions will be made this year.   Hopefully, the guidelines will follow from a robust, statistically valid needs analysis.

The maglev project desperately needs public dollars and has appealed to Obama’s transportation secretary, Ray LaHood, for $1.8 billion to develop the first segment — from Las Vegas to the state line at Primm — and to continue planning the rest of the route.

DesertXpress Enterprises LLC has shunned federal aid, promising to be privately financed and turn a profit, a feat no other modern rail line has been able to accomplish in this country. But it is also in the market for federal loans.

If the maglev project gets a federal boost of stimulus dollars, it could make it difficult for DesertXpress backers to raise private equity. If DesertXpress can leverage its newfound support from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, it could knock maglev out of the picture.

Maglev’s boosters say that even if DesertXpress is constructed, it will still pursue its own project. But skeptics doubt there is sufficient appetite, financial or otherwise, for the Federal Railroad Administration to permit both trains.

This maglev project is the brainchild of the California-Nevada Super Speed Train Commission, a highfalutin name for a nonprofit entity formed in 1988 with the sole purpose of developing a fast train between Las Vegas and Southern California.

The commission, made up of private citizens and public officials, entertained several technologies before choosing magnetic levitation in 1991 and choosing American Magline Group as its developer in 1993.

The maglev train,  proposed originally in 2002, proposes to zoom passengers between Vegas and the Disneyland area, enabling tourists in either city to experience the other, just 80 minutes away, without need of automobile. The northbound maglev would stop in Ontario to connect with the airport, and would stop southbound stop at Ivanpah, to connect with an airport planned for there. The project could break ground in 2011.

With California separately building a north-south high-speed train line between San Francisco and Orange County, the maglev team envisions passengers being able to connect to the California train at its stop in Anaheim station to continue to Los Angeles’ Union Station.

Groundbreaking for the California network could happen in as little as the next few years, funded by an $11 billion bond issue approved by California voters last year.  It is considered a front-runner in being awarded federal stimulus money.

Maglev critics, though, deride the technology as wishful futurism, and transportation experts say it is maglev’s price tag, not the science, that has left it undeveloped in this country.

In fact, the world’s only operating commercial maglev line links Shanghai and Pudong International Airport — a 19-mile-long run completed in 7 1/2 minutes.

That system, now in its ninth upgrade, is what American Magline wants to build between Anaheim, California and Las Vegas.

Not only Reid, but much of Nevada’s political class has at times supported the maglev train. And then DesertXpress plans emerged, relatively suddenly, to pose a competitive challenge.  That has left lawmakers to rework their support. Democratic Rep. Dina Titus, a former commission member as an appointee of three governors, thinks maglev is the “technology of the future,” but is now giving some thought to DesertXpress, her spokesman said.  Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley is among those who support “whichever one is successful.”  Sitting on fence.

Over the years, the commission has raised $10 million for maglev — more than $7 million in federal allocations championed mainly by Reid and more than $2 million in state and local funding.

Internal Revenue Service filings from recent years show that most of the commission’s annual expenditures go to the American Magline Group, the consortium of private companies that is developing the project.

Rail lines are an expensive undertaking:  Before a single track is laid, millions are spent drafting the inches-thick environmental review required by the federal government.

After two decades, the commission’s maglev project is suddenly losing the paper war.In just a few short years, the DesertXpress backers have spent $25 million producing an environmental report.  DesertXpress is the nation’s only privately financed train proposal before the Transportation Department’s Federal Railroad Administration.

If their plan is approved this year, DesertXpress backers say, they can raise private funding and break ground in 2010. Earlier groundbreakings have been postponed.

Although Reid secured another $45 million last year for maglev, the money has not been spent because the commission had been unable to raise the required matching funds until American Magline Group contributed the $11 million two months ago.

Should precursor rider statistics first staunchily justify the real feasibility/usage of any high-speed train, before reviewing and selecting of any particluar method, Las Vegas Backstage Access would favor the maglev proposal.  

The DesertXpress appears to be a dead-end train to nowhere proposal, a mass transit system doomed to economic and ridership failure from the get-go.  Few riders from Las Vegas, it is believed, would relish the idea of stopping in desolate Victorville and then wait to catch another train or rent a car to drive or find an airline to fly their last leg across the Mojave Desert to Southern California, adding considerable more time and expense to their trip.   

The maglev train would provide a relatively more successful ridership and would greatly boost Las Vegas tourism numbers and relieve traffic congestion at McCarran International Airport, on the I-15 freeway and in Clark County, especially along the Strip corridor. Without having the maglev option, passengers could just as easily and economically fly the entire route in one stop.  And more may just opt to do the usual four-hour plus grueling drive. Looking to long-term debt, the DesertXpress would most likely be severely challenged and potentially cause much more relative public funding than the maglev to stay afloat.

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U.S. President Barack Obama Swoops into Las Vegas, Leaves Little Impact

Not long ago outspoken Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman was taking to the air waves to voice his dismay at comments that President Barack Obama made.  In the February speech on bank excesses and the economic distress faced by so many, Obama stated “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 taxpayers’ dime.  There has got to be some accountability and some responsibility, and that’s something that I intend to impose as President of the United States.” 

Goodman responded with a full-media assault – demanding an apology, even as 340 corporations and business meetings were canceled or worse, moved from Las Vegas to San Francisco, San Diego and Phoenix. 

But it’s always been said that politics make strange bedfellows and now, just months later, the media was on hand when Goodman met Air Force One at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas on Tuesday, shook President Obama’s hand and escorted him to the waiting motorcade. 

After starting his day in Washington with the announcement of  Sonia Sotomayo for the Supreme Court, President Obama ended his day at a Caesar’s Palace fund raiser for Nevada Democratic Senator Harry Reid.    

The Las Vegas fundraiser wasn’t the routine chicken and a handshake event.  The sold-out party of 4,000 at the Colosseum listened to about 15-minutes of Obama speaking about and touting the accomplishments of Reid and his support for issues “that matter not just to Democrats but to middle-class families all across America.” 

Obama didn’t mention anything about the local controversy over his remarks earlier this year condemning lavish Las Vegas junkets by corporations getting federal bailout funds, but did praise Caesars Palace where he spent the night in a lavish 22,000-square-foot suite in the Forum Tower, the first time a sitting president has stayed at Caesars.

In fact, for those that had long hoped to hear some substantial “magic” words from Obama during his visit to help boost the Las Vegas and Nevada economy from the doldrums, they never came.   And while Goodman shared his disappointment from the visit, his prior demands appeared to soften and he expressed much more optimism than Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons, who said the President’s comments “were better than nothing, they were also next to nothing.  I thought he could have done more.”

Hopes and rhetoric were set aside as entertainment ensued with performances by Rita Rudner, Sheryl Crow and even Bette Midler will take to the stage for her milestone 100th performance. 

During it all, about 100 peaceful protestors gathered outside in front of Caesars Palace, chanting “Heave ho!” waiving flags and carrying signs protesting against Harry Reid, criticizing his “tax-and-spend,” “big government” ways.

Today, President Obama will give a federal stimulus package and solar energy speech that primarily will highlights job-creating solar and geothermal energy projects.

Will the Las Vegas crowd expect the President to stand on stage and apologize for his February comments anytime soon?  Not many – if any – are predicted to look for a retraction or softening of his words.  The unfortunate reference cost Vegas in the short run but in a city that plays all the angles, this visit by Barack Obama is guaranteed to become a showman’s golden opportunity.  

So it was lights, cameras and You Tube at Caesar’s Palace with the city of Las Vegas betting on, but not receiving, a Presidential image upgrade, all the while pouring $2 million into Reid’s 2010 campaign coffers.

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