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Vote for Howard Rosenberg anyway, dammit
by Andrew Barbano
Jul 26, 2008 | 626 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Welcome to déjà vu all over again. The voters of northern Nevada elected Howard Rosenberg in 1996, then had to fight another campaign to allow him to take his seat on the State University Board of Regents.

The university administration brought an action before the Nevada Ethics Commission in an attempt to keep Rosenberg from taking office.

“Rosenberg’s crime seems to lie in the fear that he might empty the piggy bank controlled by a narrow clique of academic alchemists adept at turning leaden incompetence into personal gold,” I wrote on Dec. 8, 1996.

The phony rationale was that a university professor should not sit on the board of regents. The commission ruled in Rosenberg’s favor in a brouhaha that aired much of the dirty laundry of the U-system, most of it originating right here.

From the last quarter of 1996 well into the following year, I printed a never-ending series revealing corruption and financial mismanagement. I showed how foundations were used as money laundries and a source of tokes for administration pets and their wives; how non-existent “ghost professors” were kept on the payroll with their salaries shunted to pay lawsuit losses. The Tribune entered 10 of my columns in the 1997 Pulitzer Prize judging.

Xerox stock went up during the series run. I had to place originals of my weekly exposés at Sparks and Reno copy shops where they sold by the hundreds after the Tribune ran out of papers.

Chancellor Richard Jarvis witheld copies of the Barbwire from the board of regents and lied to them about why he had done so. (Tribune, Dec. 8, 1996) Regents started calling the chancellor when constituents from around the state began asking the officeholders questions about stuff which only the regents had not read.

I found UNR triple-dipping (charging three different non-profit foundations for the same expenses) and even illegally shunting funds for landscaping to buy a new basketball floor for Lawlor Events Center.

I hoped having Howard Rosenberg on the board of regents would help stop some of the rampant abuse. As the recent rash of employee lawsuits has shown, the fight continues.

My most vivid memory of those years came from one guy interviewed about why he was supporting Rosenberg: “I know Howard will protect the students.”

How serious was Rosenberg’s commitment? Two decades ago, the nationally noted film critic was offered a lucrative syndicated television deal. He turned it down because it meant that he would have to leave his students.

As he stated on my TV program last Friday, “Everything I am relates to my students.”

In other words, critic Rosenberg could not exist unless he was also professor of cinematology (my term) Rosenberg.

I would like to think I showed political prescience in scheduling Howard for two hours last Friday, just hours after the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that his name would be stricken from the November ballot. Actually, it was equal parts dumb luck and the hot issue presented by the ongoing state budget crisis.

Rosenberg has no anger at the blackrobes who, he said, did their job as they viewed it. He also said that either of his two opponents will have the university’s best interests at heart. He reserves his anger for two people: Secretary of State Ross Miller II and Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, both Democrats. Each was asked to rule on the term limits question in January and chose to do nothing, Rosenberg said, adding that many people who might have filed for office did not do so against now-disqualified incumbents.

An e-mail from a prominent southern Nevada attorney stated that this is a “very sad day for Nevada losing (Clark County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury). It’s a shame he has to go out like this. Many will never forgive Ross for this timing.”

Rosenberg’s attorney, former Nevada Assembly Speaker Byron “Bill” Bilyeu, R-Elko, is reviewing legal options. He may ask the Supremes for a rehearing, he said on my show.

Nevada’s cockamamie term limits law was on the ballot in 1994 as a single proposed constitutional amendment. The Supremes later cut the baby in half, turning it into two ballot questions for the required second vote in 1996. The state constitution says that constitutional amendments must be the same on two consecutive general election ballots. This one was not.

The Supremes placed a separate question for judges before the voters in 1996, and left all others to a separate vote. Then, the legal profession mounted a successful media campaign against term limits for jurists, so blackrobes are now exempt.

I see a substantial issue based on the Fifth and Fourteenth amendments to the U.S. Constitution and am sure Mr. Bilyeu and attorneys for other officeholders will explore it.

Last Friday, the Supremes exempted a group of very powerful legislators on the goofy reasoning that lawmakers take office immediately upon election but those lower on the food chain are sworn in after the supreme court’s official “canvas” (rubber stamping) of the election in late November.

Rosenberg told the Reno Gazette-Journal that lawmakers take their oath of office on the opening day of the legislative session in the year following their election, as did everyone who was blown off the ballot.

But lawmakers just happen to set the budget for the supreme court and the salaries of justices. Heavyweights like Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, can have significant impact on one’s career after leaving the bench.

There’s not a chance of that happening in a state like Nevada where our judicial system has always been above reproach.

Rosenberg will still be on the primary ballot. Let’s send him out a winner and keep up the good fight.

To news purists

Article 11 of the Nevada Constitution says that the “State University” shall be controlled by a “Board of Regents.” Whether anyone had the power to unilaterally rename the U-system without a constitutional amendment, I leave to lawyers and other exemplars of the enlightened ethers. Until somebody changes the constitution, the “Nevada System of Higher Education,” a bloodless term worthy of the scorn of George Carlin, does not exist.

Be well. Raise hell.

Andrew Barbano is a 39-year Nevadan and editor of He hosts live news and talk Monday through Friday, 2 to 4 p.m. at Barbwire.TV and Reno-Sparks-Washoe Charter cable channel 16. E-mail Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.
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