Las Vegas Sun

April 24, 2014

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Former governors discuss issues

Nevada's last five governors discussed Yucca Mountain, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the last 30 years of state politics as part of a forum at UNLV Monday night.

Gov. Kenny Guinn was joined by former Govs. Bob Miller, Richard Bryan, Bob List and Mike O'Callaghan at the event planned by Sheriff Jerry Keller and the university's Department of Public Administration.

Keller is working toward his master's degree in public administration, and after talking to his instructor and his classmates, he made some calls asking the governors to attend.

About 50 people attended the forum at the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Natural History, and the governors got some laughs recounting the work that each had left the other. List recounted something that O'Callaghan left him when he took office in 1979.

"Mike kept a clean desk, but in the bottom drawer he left me a little aerosol spray can, and it had a little sticker on it that said 'BS repellent,' " List said. "The sticker said I'd need it and I did."

The discussion then turned to the changes in government and policy that the terrorist attacks have wrought.

"Sept. 11 did change the way we operate, because the No. 1 priority immediately became the security of America and the people of Nevada," Guinn said. "It means that we have to be more vigilant, and have a heightened awareness."

Guinn estimated that as much as 60 percent of his time has been spent on security and terrorist-related issues.

O'Callaghan, who is the executive editor of the Las Vegas Sun, said that dealing with crises has always been part of being a governor.

"Crises come and go, but you still have to deal with education, the environment and the other issues that the state is faced with," O'Callaghan said.

The only real disagreement of the night came when an audience member asked each governor for their opinion on the storage of nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain. List said that it is likely that the repository will come to Nevada, and that the state may in the future have to look at what it can gain in exchange for the site.

"In my judgment the likelihood has grown to be very, very high that in the next several months we'll see Nevada designated as the site," List said. "I think the day is coming that Nevada will have to step up. I respect having to fight the good fight, but there will come a day when Nevada will be in a position to ask for many things."

The other four governors disagreed, with Bryan and Miller saying that proponents of the Yucca Mountain repository have been feeding Nevadans the line that it's inevitable since 1983.

"Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent here to change public opinion, but it hasn't changed," Miller said. "Until we have played all our cards, I don't think we should agree to what amounts to a death penalty."

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