Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mesquite's New Symbol: Spermatozoa

The modern-day petroglyphs of spermatozoa adorning the walls of the underpass at Exit 120 in Mesquite.

Traveling up and down the interstate, road engineers have been very creative in decorating bridges and overpasses.  In Las Vegas the overpasses are colorful, with various engravings like horses, bighorn sheep, and even fighter jets adorning the highway structures.
When you think about it, these are our modern day petroglyphs - permanent markings in "stone" that will be around for thousands of years, or until the Nevada Department of Transportation decides to replace those bridges.
The mustangs represent our state's proud tradition of wild horses roaming the millions of acres of BLM-owned land.  The desert bighorn sheep?  Nevada's official animal (not to be confused with Colorado's official animal, the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep).  Even the jets have significance, since they are part of the overpass that leads to the Nellis Air Force Base.
About five years ago, Mesquite finally got its highway art.
As part of the Grapevine overpass which crosses the interstate to connect Pioneer Blvd. to Mesquite Blvd. mid-city, Mesquite requested and received a big yellow orb backing a flat tan mountain.  It was supposed to be the city's official logo of a large sun setting on Flat Top Mesa, the artwork which can be found on city vehicles and letterhead.
Instead, after some mischievous pranksters placed a small dot of black rocks inside the yellow circle, drivers up and down the interstate began asking themselves why Mesquite's insignia was a large PacMan eating a mountain range.
"Did we just pass PacMan City?" was probably a common question.
Fortunately, thanks to the intersection NDOT recently built at exit 120, we have a new symbol of civic pride: Spermatozoa.
Built into the walls underneath the bridge that crosses Falcon Ridge Parkway is a collection of what look like badly engraved sperm cells.  It's a certainty that government officials will insist that the designs are supposed to be some sort of decorative rock.  To be fair, the concrete surfaces above and below the line of spermatozoa are shaped and colored to look like boulders.  What Mesquite has to do with the Flintstones, I'll never know.  Maybe when combined with the PacMan symbol, our city can capitalize on a new tourist-friendly cartoon theme.  Since some in our city government believe the road to prosperity will be paved with out-of-state kids playing soccer in a $5 million tent, it's probably a valid move.
But spermatozoa between the boulders?
When you think about it, while the sperm cells swimming along the wall might be considered distasteful by some, the ejaculate is actually the most honest depiction any government has ever created.  It's the perfect symbol for that interchange.
For starters, NDOT basically date-raped the city by insisting that the new exit should include roundabouts, those insidious fender-benders that have damaged more cars in this country than hail, hurricanes, and Firestone tires.
Because of our city government's whorish nature in shamelessly pursuing state and federal grants (you know, "free money"), the 2010 city council prostituted itself by going against the wishes of local citizens who didn't want the roundabouts.  Those citizens got screwed.  Also, because the Regional Traffic Commission said they would pull a few million in state funding if we didn't include those ovary-shaped obscenities, our council happily bent over and grabbed their ankles in anticipation of the pile of money to be left on the nightstand.
Cementing the choice of spermatozoa on the walls as an apt symbol, all you have to do is look at an aerial shot of the new Exit 120 interchange.  When viewed from the correct angle, the interstate bisecting the two roundabouts looks a lot like a long, thin penis with two testicles.
So while it may be embarrassing for those of us who actually live here, the sperm cells on the underpass walls are probably the most honest roadside symbols in the entire state.  Maybe the whole country.
The next time you're negotiating the bumper car ride on the west end of town and you pass under the Spermatozoa Bridge, simply lean back in your seat, smile, and enjoy seeing your tax dollars at work.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Prepare For Rate Increase At Rec Center

Usually when people at the Mesquite Recreation Center are told to bend over and grab their ankles, it's part of a calisthenics program.
In the coming months, it will be for a different purpose.
The Rec Center patrons are about to get screwed.
Mark Twain once observed that "no man’s life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session."  That is doubly true when it's budget time at Mesquite's City Hall. 
While the city continues their endless folly over the "Tent That Would Not Die" at the sports complex, wasting more thousands of taxpayer dollars preparing RFP's and continuing to study this wooly mammoth of an idea, they simultaneously continue to search for new and creative ways to sneak a few new taxes into the mix.
The latest hot button idea is to raise fees at the Rec Center.
That's right, ladies and gentlemen, Mesquite is going to tax its way back to prosperity on the backs of children.  We should be so proud.
More than a decade ago, politicians all over the country began turning the latest campaign gibberish into a snazzy slogan, then into policy.
It started when people complained (as they have since George Washington was issued his first rubber stamp) that government should be more efficient, like a business.
In typical fashion, the Trough Suckers ignored the "more efficient" part of the plea and simply started shouting that government should be more like a business.  As in, various government agencies should start being used to turn a profit instead of surviving on taxes alone.
If you say it fast, and you're a recent lobotomy patient, that makes a lot of sense.
Why should these agencies be operating on taxes they receive from us citizens?
They should be able to survive on income and fees...they receive from us citizens.
The best example of this is the U.S. Postal Service.  Using the "let's make a profit with a government service" mantra, the feds have managed in less than 10 years to bring the post office to the brink of that most common and storied of business practices -- bankruptcy.
Typical government thinking, like Mesquite's reliance on all that "free" money they get from state and federal grants.
Governments should never be looking at profit margins; they should always be looking at expenses and asking "do we really need to spend this money?"
One of my favorite examples is all around us.
The federal government continues to waste billions of dollars each year on a long list of improvements and programs for BLM land.  We're talking about desert wasteland.  If there was ever a parcel of real estate in less need of maintenance money and government largesse, it's the vast emptiness of Nevada's scrub land.  Yet watch how much cash is going to get flushed down the composting toilet "protecting" places like Gold Butte.
To pretend that they're recouping some of this wasted loot, the government will turn around and charge outrageous admission fees for a handful of not-too-atrocious plots of land they've optimistically named "parks."
It's the same in Mesquite, where the city staff will recommend tearing up miles of attractive, wide sidewalks along Pioneer Blvd. so they can install nicer, wider sidewalks along Pioneer Blvd.  And it's okay, because they're mostly using "free" money. 
Or in this instance, the city will continue pushing full speed ahead on their dream-slash-nightmare of an opulent multi-million dollar soccer tent to benefit mythical out-of-town child athletes who will travel thousands of miles just to defy their mothers and kick a round ball inside the house.
And what better way to help pay for it than jacking up the rates at a current city facility that actually gets used by kids every day.  It's okay, these are just local kids.  They don't count.
The funniest thing is that this is exactly the kind of lame-brained thinking that doomed the city's Economic Development department.  I'm sure it's just a coincidence that the guy who drove that department into the ground is now the head of the parks and recreation department.
At this rate Mesquite city government's plan of profiteering with public properties will succeed in making the Rec Center (ironically, a highly visible edifice located right next to the interstate) just like some of the city's other landmark businesses.
Namely, the Oasis and the Mesquite Star.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Mesquite Should Embrace Golf Cart Traffic

The Mesquite Police Department sent out a press release a few weeks ago reminding citizens of the numerous limitations on "Low Speed Vehicles" (government-speak for "golf carts").  The article mentioned that golf carts couldn't be used on city streets unless they had headlights, tail lights, turn signals, rear-view mirrors, seatbelts, air bags, anti-lock brakes, and Global Positioning Satellite navigational systems.
Okay, the last three items on that long list are exaggerations...but not by much.
Most of these ridiculous requirements aren't MPD's idea.  They are borne of the crucible from whence most truly idiotic ideas spew -- the state legislature.
It reminds me of the cartoon about OSHA's version of the cowboy, complete with obnoxious safety features that render the species unrecognizable.
The same is true in this instance. 
At a time in history where the government has so miserably failed its citizenry in allowing oil companies to rape and pillage pockets with confiscatory pricing on gasoline, all lawmakers should hang their head in shame.  The last thing they should be doing is adding more restrictions as to which non-gas-guzzling machines are allowed to travel our city streets.
Electric golf carts are a spectacular answer to a variety of problems, beginning with the fact that they don't use gasoline, are quieter, and don't pollute.  (As an avowed anti-environmentalist, I usually don't give a whit about emissions or greenhouse gasses, but this is a win-win.)
They are also small, don't take up much room on the road, and can fit in small parking areas.
Due to the fact that they travel at about half the speed of smell, as Ron White would say, they are a much safer means of travel than most cars and all motorcycles.
Speaking of which the state, and thereby the city, have similar unwieldy restrictions on mopeds and scooters.  Those two-wheeled vehicles aren't as safe as golf carts, but are much more economical to operate than your average Harley, take up less of the road, and would contribute to lower emissions and lower consumption of fossil fuels.
Yet in both instances, our nanny-state overseers claim that all these rules and restrictions banning golf carts and scooters on the roads are for our own good, and in place to maintain safety.
It's not about safety, it's about money.
These "low speed vehicles" don't sport license plates, which means the state hasn't had an opportunity to gouge their operators for the exorbitant fees they charge other motorists.
At some point, common sense must enter into the equation.
The city of Mesquite is stuck.  They could implement a new set of traffic laws within the city limits that would allow the use of golf carts, scooters, and other methods of convenient conveyance.  However, the feds and staties would cut off our road funding faster than a young Kennedy sporting a new tattoo.
Of course, if our local government had a little more spine and a smaller hand constantly outstretched in search of municipal welfare (grants and gifts from state and federal coffers), we could do whatever we wanted, since the main roads of Mesquite Blvd., Pioneer Blvd., Sandhill Blvd., and Falcon Ridge Parkway are all now city streets thanks to the deal we made with NDOT in 2005.  (Only Grapevine, Riverside Road, and possibly Hillside Drive are still state-owned.)
But our city government is never going to give up what they continue to call "free money," so we will continue to operate under the yoke of greedy and short-sighted state legislators.
The only other option would be for our police department to quietly let it be known that their enforcement policy would be to look the other way on LSV's.  Non-enforcement policies on various laws are common throughout the country (otherwise police would never have time to catch real criminals or solve real crimes).
Unfortunately, again, that would take some support and backing from a city government that quivers every time the word "lawsuit" is tossed in their direction (and with our current city attorney, who could blame them).
It's a shame.
To have a city where people could take their golf carts to the store or use it to visit friends in the next subdivision would be quaint and attractive.
It would also be extremely convenient, economical, and sensible for those who live here.
But governments long ago stopped caring what was best for their constituents, so this is a non-starter.
However, it's nice to dream.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Mountain Feud A Pain In The Butte

The battle over Gold Butte is shaping up to be Mesquite's version of the Hatfields and McCoys, a deeply seated mountain feud between two "clans" -- the cattlemen and the tree huggers.
The dispute revolves around the federal government's plan to designate the 300,000 acres of BLM land southwest of Mesquite as "National Conservation Area with Wilderness."
According to the 1964 Wilderness Act, the designation would declare Gold Butte as "an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man."
Somehow, under the NCA plan, the dirt and dust would wind up untrammeled by cattle as well.
As for ATV use in the area?
For the longest time, I could sum up my feelings in two words when asked about the issue:
Don't care.
"The cattle won't be allowed to graze on the land!"
Don't care.
"The desert tortoise is losing its habitat!"
Don't care.
"ATV's are destroying the landscape!"
Don't care.
Don't care.
Don't care.
The truth is, I don't go to Gold Butte.  Have no interest in going there.  As far as I'm concerned, they can have all of my part of it. 
When I head south on the interstate and look to my left, I don't see purple mountain majesties.  I see some of the ugliest terrain on earth.  God was definitely having an off day when He created that mess.  I have trouble believing that on the third day, He saw this piece of handiwork and declared that "it was good."
I often think "somebody ought to break out some bulldozers, paint brushes, and brooms and clean that up."
And I've frequently said out loud "what a waste of land."
The one thing I do find amusing is that we are here in the early 21st century still fighting a modern-day version of the late 19th century range wars that defined the Wild West.
For some reason, cattlemen are still cast as the villains.
The new entry into the fray is the variety of environmental radicals who continue to insist that critters like the desert tortoise are more important than human beings.  I've quit trying figure out lunatics like that.
Most of all, arguments about the best use of Gold Butte are as meaningless as bar fights over such dire questions as "which Gilligan's Island castaway would you rather date: Ginger or Mary Anne?"
The fact is that the feds are going to make this decision in Washington, D.C., which is about as far from Gold Butte as you can get without getting wet.  And if I know anything about Congress, it's that they don't give a whit about what the people think or want.  The only reason they haven't sewn this controversy up already is that there isn't any money in it.  The tree huggers are noisy and obnoxious, but for the most part they're broke.  The cattlemen have some cash, but there aren't a lot of them left, so it's not real money like in oil and pharmaceuticals where the big PAC paydays are found.  You want to see Washington change directions and slant in favor of the cattlemen and against the ecologists?  Let Uncle Jed find some bubblin' crude up there.
On a philosophical level, I'm opposed to most government actions, especially those that restrict citizens from being able to do whatever they want on their own land.  And contrary to what the Bureau of Land Management believes, this IS "our" land, not theirs.  I'm not fond of rules, so I don't like the idea of a whole new layer that bans ATV's and makes a lot of public land off-limits to the public.
Most of all, since living out west I've come to hate desert tortoises even more than my old nemesis, manatees, and for the same reason.  They are a species that have outlived their evolutionary usefulness.  If it wasn't for the $10,000 federal fine, I'd line them up and use them for batting practice.  And if the Arizona Lottery would cooperate, I'd be one winning ticket away from not even letting the fines stop me. 
Desert tortoises serve no real purpose, other than as a rallying caricature for the environmentalists to use for halting fun or barring construction of homes and roads (which I find hypocritical, since most environmental zealots I've met live in homes and drive on roads).
As for the cattlemen: I usually root against them in movies like "Gunfight At The O.K. Corral."  But I have to admit that I love steak and hamburgers.  Without some of the cattle grazing on that public land, I'd be forced to become an anorexic tofu-eating vegan filled with nothing but rage and bean gas.  Which, when I think about it, describes a lot of environmentalists I've met.
But overall, I just can't get my bile to rise over this issue.  My anger and rhetoric won't make a difference to the government, and picking sides in a quixotic battle has lost a lot of its appeal.  If I want to take my righteous indignation out for a Sunday drive there are plenty of other issues worth fighting over, like oil companies raping American citizens for fun and profit, or whether Lindsay Lohan should be allowed to portray Elizabeth Taylor in an upcoming made-for-TV movie.
And there's always that most deeply divisive of ongoing debates in America, a battle which has wrecked friendships and shattered families for decades.  Finally, here and now, I'm going to pick a side and take a stand, no matter how many friends it may cost me:
Mary Anne.