Keeping Beers Hopping

The Las Vegas City Council Ward 2 race turned nasty. Ric Truesdell put out a flier about Bob Beers, the front-runner in the race. Beers sued him for libel and defamation. Beers went on to win. Unfortunately for Truesdell, he did nothing to help himself by criticizing Beers for the wrong things, and now it will be interesting to see how Beers’ history is reflected as he goes onto the Council.

The flier claims that “partisan flamethrower Bob Beers used his insider political connections to get a former business partner out of paying back taxes and a $1 million fine for breaking the law.” When Beers last ran for office, seeking a second state Senate term in 2008, he sued the Nevada Democratic Party for a flier saying the state Ethics Commission investigated him on those charges, and won a settlement.

Granted, this flier doesn’t make that charge. And Beers made clear that he merely introduced the former business partner to a couple of legislative colleagues. Then, when the attorney general told him there was no conflict of interest, he voted for the bill that changed the offending law. Therefore, according to Beers and his allies, he’s in the clear.

A 30-second commercial probably couldn’t cover the ground here, but Truesdell made some key mistakes in how to attack Beers.

First, Beers was critical of a previous general-election opponent, Ray Rawson, for being a state employee while serving in the Legislature. After all, state employees end up voting on their salaries, and that’s unethical and being a, well, politician. If so, why did Beers even introduce someone who he well knew might benefit from meeting colleagues who could help him? Why, even then, did he need an attorney general’s opinion to figure out whether he might have a conflict of interest?

Second, Beers is running as fiscally responsible, and so he is. He made perhaps his greatest name opposing Gov. Kenny Guinn’s $833 million tax hike at the 2003 Legislature, culminating in a legislative deadlock, a lawsuit in which Guinn sued the Legislature (with then-Attorney General Brian Sandoval representing Guinn in seeking higher taxes), and a Nevada Supreme Court decision upholding Guinn by declaring part of the Nevada Constitution unconstitutional under the Nevada Constitution (I didn’t say this wasn’t complicated). But Beers doesn’t seem to bring up that the anti-tax group of Assembly members who fought Guinn’s plan proposed its own tax hike of $636 million, which would have been less than Guinn’s proposal but still the largest tax hike in Nevada history.

Wouldn’t that make Beers a tax-and-spend liberal? Well, no, it wouldn’t.  But all’s fair in love, war and politics.

Third, Beers has made clear that he’s unhappy with downtown Las Vegas spending. That’s his right. It’s also wise.  He isn’t running to represent downtown Las Vegas. His ward is mainly Summerlin, and he would reasonably be expected to represent that area’s interests on the Council.

That, too, is politics: delivering for the home folks, whether it’s as a senator or representative from a state or a legislator from a district. So, the question is, how did Beers do as an assemblyman and a senator from Clark County, especially the Summerlin area?  Might Truesdell have wanted to know why Beers often complained about the budget for higher education but focused on UNLV rather than UNR? Isn’t UNLV closer to Summerlin than UNR? And if so, why should Summerlin residents think Beers will get their potholes fixed, so to speak?

This also begs a more important point.  Clark County’s delegation in 2013 will comprise more than 70 percent of the Legislature’s membership. That’s more than two-thirds—enough to override any veto by the governor and enough to approve any tax increase. Do the legislators plan to represent Clark County? And if voters here make clear that they expect them to do so, might that attitude trickle down to County Commission and City Council races, where candidates are expected to tend to their constituents, too? Perhaps Beers can help start a revolution—though it may not be the one he has in mind.