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April 21, 2014

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Where I Stand — Columnist Brian Greenspun: Act on principles

Brian Greenspun is editor of the Las Vegas Sun.

WEEKEND EDITION

March 20 - 21, 2004

I know what Hank would have done, but what would Mike have said?

Those are the two questions that should be asked most around my house as life moves forward and we continue to try to do the right things for our families, our communities and our country.

It isn't that most adults shouldn't be grounded in the right vs. wrong department long before they reach the age where their decisions have meaning, it is, rather, that when mentors are available or, in this case, only the examples of their well-led lives are present to guide us, we would be foolish not to pay heed.

Since I have been a most fortunate fellow to have been able to grow up, work with and be part of the lives of two real-life heroes --- Hank Greenspun and Mike O'Callaghan -- I have determined that my decisions, as freely and voluntary as they are, should always be guided by their wisdom. That is a selfish position, I know, but it is one that will cause fewer mistakes on the big issues and provide benefit to so many others on the little ones.

Mike was barely buried following a most fulfilling and deserved funeral service when the first dilemma occurred. First the set-up.

For the past 20 years, it has been the federal government's desire -- aided, abetted and encouraged by the nuclear power producers -- to find an answer to the nation's high-level nuclear waste problem. Any answer will work, no matter how outrageous or how dangerous it may be to people and other living things, because it matters not to those who seek only to build more plants and produce more waste.

Hence, the radioactive waste dump at Yucca Mountain. That's just 90 miles north of Las Vegas, which just happens to be home to 1.6 million Nevadans and a temporary home to 36 million people from all over the world. In short, not a very safe place for plutonium and other deadly substances that will outlive everyone on the planet -- by a few hundred thousand years -- and kill anyone who comes too close to the deadly substances. That would be by land, by water or by air.

The only person who could have determined Nevada's fate with regard to the Yucca Mountain dump was President George W. Bush. By law, it was his and only his decision to make in 2001 whether or not to pick Las Vegas as the city closest to the nuclear waste bull's-eye for a time period that is the closest thing to eternity on this earth.

Well, we all know what happened. First, as a candidate for the presidency he told us that he would require science to pass on the safety of Yucca Mountain before he ever made a decision that put Las Vegans in harm's way.

After he was elected -- thanks to Nevada's vote which put him over the top -- he caved in to the monied folks in the power industry, ignored the science, which was, at best, incomplete and shoved that dump so far down our throats that it was hard for people in this state to speak of their outrage. In fact, the most our good governor could do was be "disappointed"!

The gaming industry showed some feigned concern, lest their bottom lines and taxes be disturbed, and most people who could do anything about the problem found something else to talk about.

The rest of the people, the 1,599,000 people who live and work here and depend upon the leadership to protect them from all manner of harm, are stuck. They and their families may have to pay the price for what the rest of us have failed, so far, to stop.

In the meantime, the gaming industry, the banks, the doctors and real estate moguls have coughed up almost $1.5 million to re-elect the president. I assume their largesse is the way some people say thank you to the person most responsible for all the pain that may come to Las Vegas as a result of the nuke dump coming to a place near us at warp speed.

My view, of course, is different. I don't believe in rewarding enemies -- those are the people who think so little of you and yours that they will lie to you on matters of life and death. I don't think raising money for their re-election is the right or, more importantly, the moral thing to do. And that is what caused my dilemma.

I have a very good friend in the U.S. Senate who supported Nevada's position against the nuclear waste dump right down the line. At the end, though, his position got somewhat murky, to the point that it could have caused confusion out here as to whose side he was on in this great struggle. There was no doubt in my mind because I know him, but even the slightest concern among my friends that I would promote an anti-Nevada candidate and there would be hell to pay.

So, I asked myself what would Hank do? And what would Mike say? They would both do and say the same thing. When it comes to Nevada's working men and women; Nevada's families and their health and welfare; Nevada's economic livelihood -- that would be plenty of tourists looking for a good time, not plutonium illuminating their view of the Nevada desert -- then the answer was simple.

Not only should those who have our worst interests at heart, like President Bush and any other elected individual who sides with the nuke industry against Nevada families, not get any of our money, but they also shouldn't get our votes.

I know they would say that, knowing full well that both believed that there were many issues to consider in any election and that no one candidate would be right in all cases. But, when it comes to the health and well-being of the people who live here and the industry they are proud to work in, then there could be no compromise. Those who want to send nuclear waste to our state are the enemy. And we should not aid and abet them.

As President George Bush is fond of saying, "You are either with us or against us." So for all the politicians coming to Nevada in the future looking for our money and our votes, it would behoove each of us to ask that simple question.

And we should have the courage to act accordingly.

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