Pahrump Valley Times

Dann Weeks: Suggestions offered to county government

Having lived in these parts for nearly all of my 42 years, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say I’ve seen some strange things happen in the Kingdom of Nye.

No, I’m not talking about little green men but there certainly have been some strange characters and bizarre situations that have happened over the years in local politics.

I’m supposing there is little space on this page to recount all of the outlandish political stories that have surfaced over the years making national news so I will spare the editor and move on to share my own taxpayers’ perspective to this most recent installment of ridiculous from Nye County government.

There is a reality that has long existed in this county that persists to this day which was shared with me by a much wiser and more intelligent man and I’m thinking it still has a lot to do with our current political culture. It’s called the “Nye County Knee Jerk” and while the name itself may be quite self-explanatory for most people, the consequences of such a culture can be very difficult to pin down in black and white.

This unfortunate culture is being perpetuated by far more than just one department or one particular commissioner. This is a pervasive, systemic problem that has roots in the past and will continue to bloom forever so long as we voters allow it to continue.

One clear aspect of the “knee jerk” that I will try to quantify in this short space is the perpetual onslaught of lawsuits Nye County has faced over the years. I, as likely you, have watched as our county government has been reprimanded and sanctioned by various courts and bodies of governmental oversight. The list is so long I can’t spare the space for fear none of this will ever see print but understand that our county has long been and continues to be a prime target for very lucrative lawsuits.

But why? Are we just a bunch of dumb suckers with poor layering? Is there really something in the water as has been so often joked and painfully mocked? Is there a reason our county is such a magnet for litigation? I believe there is and it’s that “Nye County Knee Jerk” of quickly conjuring up some unnecessary law, ordinance or even a new licensing department when a complex situation arises. It’s common knowledge that departments in Nye County are fast and loose with these unthoughtfully considered rules and regulations. I’ve personally seen the county’s rules stretched wide-open for some of my friends that would never even be considered for others. Let’s just say, “In-lieu-of-traffic-study-fee.” Ya, that’s a real thing and other similar nonsense quietly happens all the time in Nye County.

So year after year our county, via the aforementioned “jerks” have laid down layer after layer of bureaucratic guano until now, around seemingly every corner is a steaming pile of lawsuit. That great idea to save the proverbial spotted owl of the day has repeatedly led our county down completely unforeseen roads of violated constitutional rights and outright denial of due process. It is long past time to bring the “knee jerking” to a stop. It’s time for our local government to grow up and drop the high school culture of leaping before looking.

The code words here are: Litigation Mitigation. Simple idea right? I think so and I hope someone out there in a position to do something about it is reading.

First, every single code and regulation currently on the books in Nye County needs to be evaluated by a proper constitutional lawyer. That alone should stem off about half of the litigation the county faces every year. All new codes and ordinances, after being considered by the county commission and the district attorney’s office, should be looked over by that same constitutional expert. Until a new code, ordinance, bill, board or office can pass the constitutional muster of a disinterested third-party review it should not go on the books and jeopardize the county to further litigation.

Second, the district attorney’s office needs to take on the full-time role of protecting the people rather than the commission members who represent the people. It’s a tough road to travel but one that is necessary and desperately needed. There are times in life when we humans need protection from ourselves and I feel the commission needs to find itself in the firm grip of just such an intervention. Cold-turkey changes can be difficult but are often the best way to effect necessary growth. We may have to ultimately face the scary reality that the state of Nevada might get directly involved in all of the county’s affairs until a real change of political culture can be created.

Third, and probably most importantly, the county commission really needs to stop and listen to the people of Nye County and maybe consider listening to their own lawyers. Over the last few months, the county has ignored lines of people voicing their discontent about various topics and repeatedly paid the price. If the people are gathered, loudly complaining in a huge flock about an issue perhaps the board members should step back and consider a little litigation mitigation.

Dann Weeks served as longtime editor of The Mirror, a publication that had more than three decades of history in Pahrump.