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September 23, 2014

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Partisanship found in naming something in Nevada after Ronald Reagan

What local celebrities would name after Ronald Reagan

George Wallace: "The Ronald Reagan Las Vegas Monorail. We could make it a moving museum in honor of Ronald Reagan. Nobody's riding it anyway. This could generate some ridership, and we'd kill two birds with one stone — we'd pay tribute to Reagan and get some people to ride that thing."

Frank Marino: "If they are going to name a place or monument after Ronald Regan, I think they should make it a place of worship like a church or temple so people can go in and pray that the economy would turn around and be as good as it was when he was in office. I remember back in the '80s when Regan was president things were so good, you would go to church on Sundays and before you get to sip the wine, the priest would let you smell the cork."

Nathan Burton: "A Ronald Regan party pit where all the dealers can wear Reagan masks."

I'm being subjected to Lee Greenwood's "Proud to be an American" yet again, this time in a 1984 campaign video for Ronald Reagan, one of the highlights of a 99th "birthday" celebration for our nation's 40th president Feb. 6 at the M Resort. It was a pretty decent turnout — around 90 suit- and dress-clad conservatives gathered by Citizens Outreach Foundation to both honor Reagan's legacy and hear about efforts to name a local landmark after him.

But what to name for the man considered by many as one of the last century's biggest game-changers? We've certainly got some cool options locally — something at Red Rock, perhaps? A section of the I-15 near the Strip? A building at UNLV? Uh, none of those, actually. If this group gets its wish, it will be Boundary Peak near Hawthorne, a whopping 330 miles from Las Vegas and 135 miles from Reno. The middle of nowhere.

But that's how politically polarizing Reagan is still considered. Chuck Muth, CEO of the nonprofit Citizens Outreach Foundation, who coordinated the event, says the attempt to establish Mount Reagan will work best where red or blue areas can't get their grubby hands on it.

"We are looking at the Mount Charleston area as well, but quite likely we'd get resistance from [blue] Clark County," Muth says. "Congress knows there's a downside in opposing this, but people who don't like Reagan will object to it." Perhaps he's right — only 14 presidents have had mountains named after them. What's more, Nevada has named only a handful of landmarks after presidents, and one of them, Hoover Dam, continues to be referred to by many as "Boulder Dam."

Saturday night's event also served as the kickoff for the Reagan Legacy Project in Nevada, which hopes to get the landmark established by Reagan's 100th birthday, next February. The Reagan Legacy Project was started in 2000 by anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, and has so far resulted in about 100 dedications. But Norquist added that Martin Luther King Jr. and JFK each have at least six times that number, and that much more is needed.

The U.S. Board of Geographic names has to approve the application, and the process can take anywhere from eight months to two years, although sometimes the process can be expedited by an act of Congress. "That's possible, but not likely," explained Karri Bragg, Citizen Outreach's executive vice president and local director of the Reagan Legacy Project.

At least they know they have the support of politicians such as Bill Raggio and Dean Heller, not to mention political consultant Sig Rogich, who worked on Reagan's campaigns.

Attendee Dani Denton said she was there "just to celebrate Reagan. He brought optimism at a time of great depression. Right now we need optimism again, and the current administration isn't doing much for that."

"Hey, this is a night for celebration," Bragg half-joked.

When asked if he expects a Reagan memorial to become partisan in Nevada, Norquist responded, "I hope not."

But even Saturday evening's celebration was tinged with a bit of partisan snark. Enthusiasm was high during Saturday's event, particularly whenever a sharp barb was pointed Obama's way. (This from guest speaker, impressionist Rich Little: "People ask, "Do you do Obama?" I say, "No, he couldn't even do himself.") After a Reagan video, Muth mused, "Just think, it took Jimmy Carter to get us Ronald Reagan. Imagine what we have to look forward to in three more years if we don't blow it."

Does that mean he's gearing up for the Palin Legacy Project?

— Originally published in Las Vegas Weekly

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