Sunday, Aug. 24, 2008 | 2:02 a.m.
It’s time for Jim Rogers to put up or shut up.
And the chancellor is not the only one who needs to turn words into action — he’s just the only member of the business and political elite who has been willing to put in writing what most of the cognoscenti (and many others) have been thinking and whispering: Gov. Jim Gibbons is slowly but surely destroying the state with his myopic view of the world and a mantra (no new taxes) masquerading as a philosophy.
Rogers has for months been writing missives to Gibbons about what his broadsword cutting of the budget will do to all segments of higher education. The pointed memos have been compelling and frightening reading for those who have taken the time to look, but the volume has begun to vitiate their effectiveness.
Rogers is in danger of being caricatured as some rich guy flitting around from subject to subject without any real purpose. Gibbons knows this and responded to Rogers last week with a letter devoid of much substance — outside of pointing out that hundreds of higher ed employees make six figures — and a repetition of the all-too-familiar no-tax bleating.
So it’s time for Rogers and the like-minded others who are fine with lamenting privately about the Gibbons disaster to do something about it. If, indeed, Rogers & Co. believe Gibbons is visiting the apocalypse on the state with his mindless adherence to his no-tax mantra and his indiscriminate, thoughtless budget-cutting, they need to act before the governor presides over the most important legislative session in memory.
If these are honorable men and women, men and women of principle who run the private sector of Nevada, they have no choice but to fund a recall of the governor. And now.
Tempus fugit — and if Gibbons is allowed to institute his brand-new restrictive spending cap and permitted to present his no-growth budget to lawmakers in February, the consequences will be difficult to overcome. The Gang of 63 won’t stop him; change can come only from without. And if Gibbons is successful and wins reelection, Rogers & Co. would be to blame.
It’s fine for Rogers and others to complain about the nonpolicies Gibbons is pursuing — and many of these people who helped put him in office should be mortified at what they have wrought.
But pontificating without putting your money where your mouth is happens to be the exclusive province of pundits. Rogers and others have the power and resources to recall Gibbons, and it seems quite clear that the effort, if properly funded, would be successful.
Just last week the Reno Gazette-Journal found that only 29 percent of Nevada residents have a favorable impression of the governor, so there is fertile ground, perhaps even a swell from that ground, for a recall.
I am not a big fan of recalls because I think they should be used only under extreme circumstances. But if one-dimensional budget policies in a time of tremendous need — not to mention all the other embarrassments that take up too much space to list — do not meet the threshold, nothing does. Gray Davis was recalled for much less, and Nevada has plenty of would-be terminators up to the task.
And yet, Gibbons seems unbowed and unfazed.
On Friday, before a room in Fallon packed with municipal officials who understand what is happening, Gibbons gave a boilerplate speech to the Nevada League of Cities that was either lazy or arrogant. The speech was laden with the usual cliches — “live within our means” and “it’s a spending problem” — and the by-now-expected plagiarism — “We are going to become the shining beacon on a hill.”
Gibbons lavished praise on himself for holding the line and ridiculed legislators for not raising taxes if they wanted to during the special session — it was a near-instant replay of his hollow missive to Rogers, and to a sophisticated audience that clearly had a right to expect more than his play-to-the-base pandering.
But, ironically, Gibbons made the case for an immediate recall by asking the right question about how this budget crisis is resolved. “What do we want the state of Nevada to look like?” he wondered.
We already know what Jim Gibbons wants it to look like. The question is what do the only people who have the power to change that want Nevada to look like.
Jim Rogers and others have the time and the money to alter the course of the state’s future. The only question is whether they have the will.