Tarkanian Making it Easy for Horsford

It doesn’t rank with Ferris Bueller’s day off, but Steven Horsford, the state senator running as the Democratic nominee in Congressional District 4, had an interesting week.

At a recent fundraiser, his Republican opponent, Danny Tarkanian, declared, “We could be like Steven Horsford, who’s not doing anything with that community, and you know, pretend we’re black and maybe try to get some votes if that’s where it is.” Tarkanian told Channel 8, “Obviously, I made an inarticulate statement that is being misconstrued right now. What I meant to say is, ‘It’s now clear that Mr. Horsford has ignored the community in the time he’s been a state senator, and he can’t expect to get votes from there.”

Horsford shot back, “Tarkanian has proven that he is bankrupt in more than one way, and it’s time he takes responsibility for not only his actions, but also his words. I am simply disappointed in Danny Tarkanian.” That expressed it nicely, and managed to include the unsubtle reminder that Tarkanian now owes $17 million in a judgment against him in California.

Let’s stipulate that if Danny Tarkanian is in the least bit racist, he has hidden it tremendously well, so let’s set that aside. 

But Tarkanian is in a district that includes rural Nevada, about halfway up the state. Neither that area nor the GOP base is a bastion of liberalism. Since 1982, the rural areas where Horsford and Tarkanian are running have been in the same House district, and only one Democrat has come within 5 percentage points of a victory. If Tarkanian wanted to paint Horsford as a big-spending liberal who funnels money to his district—and that sells well in rural Nevada, despite the federal help that area receives—he just provided evidence himself that that is untrue. That may be the most inarticulate part of all.

Making Horsford’s week even more interesting, the committee he chairs on funding higher education met, and he demonstrated why some worker bees in the Nevada System of Higher Education will miss him when he’s no longer in the Legislature, and why some higher-ups won’t miss him in the least. The new funding formula the system proposed for colleges and universities uses a “weighting” system, meaning some courses will be more valuable than others in determining where the money goes. That makes sense: It costs more to teach some classes than it does to teach others, due to equipment and other needs. Horsford wondered why the approach had no explanation other than that other states use it.  That didn’t thrill some folks.

Nor did his referring a couple of times to “games.” One of the problems we have in higher education-land is that the budgets have been cut by about one-third since 2007. Threats included closing one of the College of Southern Nevada’s three main campuses, UNLV eliminating its philosophy department, and so on.

In fact, the cuts were bad, but the worst of the threatened chopping never took place. Horsford fought hard to limit the cuts, and he appears to have the feeling that NSHE could be a little more up-front about exactly what goes on and what those things cost.

Horsford and Hugh Anderson, a past Chamber of Commerce chairman who’s with Merrill Lynch, raised questions about accountability. If schools will be funded according to whom they graduate, who bears the responsibility? The system for evaluating faculty (that would be me) is much more detailed than the one for evaluating administrators whose orders the faculty (also me) are expected to obey.  Accountability is good for everyone—including those who confess to being inarticulate.