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George Knapp: Don’t go changing

<p>George Knapp</p>

George Knapp

I’M OLD ENOUGH to understand that change is inevitable. And I’m stubborn enough to shout to the heavens that I generally don’t like things to change all that much.

For example, I don’t relish the idea of living on Mount Reagan. An article in the paper the other day focused on efforts by longtime political activist Chuck Muth to rename part of Frenchman Mountain in honor of President Ronald Reagan, described by the tireless Muth as “the greatest president of our generation.” It really made me wonder just how old Chuck Muth is. He is either a whole lot younger or a whole lot older than I thought. Did he grow up in the era of Herbert Hoover, or is he a hip-hopper Gen Y kinda guy?

Apparently, Chuck and I reside in the same general neighborhood at the base of Frenchman Mountain. Maybe he gets all goose-bumpy at the thought of waking up every day, peeking out his front door at those communication towers perched atop the peak, and thinking warm thoughts about his political hero — but I don’t think that’s the same reaction many of the area’s residents would have.

The Reagan I remember was certainly a likeable guy, and like all presidents, he did some good things and he did some not-so-good things. (Iran Contra comes to mind.) But the reinvention of Reagan as a mythical figure who probably should have resided in Asgard or Olympus instead of atop Frenchman Mountain is largely a work of fiction.

Reagan espoused many of the core beliefs of today’s right, but in reality, he was far more of a pragmatist than an ideologue. Grover Norquist, the anti-tax crusader who in 1997 started the program to rename every possible puddle and dirt clod after Reagan, would not support the actual, historical Reagan. If Norquist had been as politically prominent during the Reagan presidency, his melon of a head would likely have exploded at many of the things Reagan did.

Two years ago, when I first wrote about the deification of Reagan, I talked to political consultant Sig Rogich, one of Reagan’s most trusted advisors. Rogich agreed with commentators who wrote that Reagan couldn’t possibly win the Republican nomination today, that he would be demonized as a RINO, a tax-and-spender, a weak sister who committed the unpardonable sin of putting country ahead of political posturing.

As we all know, Reagan railed against the size and power of government, but he enacted what was then the largest corporate tax increase in history, along with other tax increases. He cut deals with Tip O’Neill and the Democrats, ran up huge deficits, invested heavily in the Stars Wars defense system and then offered to share it with the hated Russians. He led the country to victory in the Cold War, but his willingness to bend his principles for the good of the nation would have made him a figure of scorn and ridicule among the likes of Norquist and right-wing radio. Compromise? Can you imagine?

Rogich thinks the Reagan he knew so well would have supported gay rights, as well as a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, that he would have opposed government intrusion into American bedrooms or the government sanction of a single religious viewpoint. The real Reagan couldn’t win a Republican primary in any state except maybe Massachusetts, not today anyway. The views he held back then would almost make him a Democrat today, which was his party affiliation in his younger years.

I suppose that if Chuck Muth wants to honor the actual Reagan instead of St. Ronald, the fictional character whose exploits are now closer to myth and lore than reality, then I might even welcome the naming of the peak outside my door. But if we are going to names places based on current Republican preferences, maybe Mount Norquist is a more appropriate choice, or Mount Limbaugh.

The other change that is not welcome news is that a group of investors has purchased the Las Vegas 51’s baseball team and is seriously considering moving the team to a new stadium out in Summerlin. It’s their team now, so they can do what they want with it, but I sure hope they don’t follow through with their plans.

Some of my reasons are entirely selfish. I love attending 51’s games, and while I have read about all of the problems with Cashman Field from the standpoint of the players and management, the park doesn’t seem all that bad from a fan’s perspective. Moving the team to the far west side of the valley would be great for fans who live out there, but miserable for everyone else. It would mean the drive to the stadium from my side of town would take the better part of an hour, as would the drive back. Folks in Henderson and Boulder City would be unlikely to attend many games, either.

So much effort and money has been poured into the revitalization of the downtown area that it seems counterintuitive to remove such a key element of the new energy that is exploding in the city core. The most audacious part of the proposal described in the RJ was the idea that the City of Las Vegas would be asked to use some of its bonding capacity to raise funds for the new stadium that would be built outside of the city limits. Seriously? It’s hard to imagine city taxpayers being thrilled about the idea, or city officials agreeing to it.

Summerlin is a wonderful community, no question. I try to enjoy its many fine qualities every time I take a drive to Nye County. But if the investors move the 51’s to the western edge of civilization and then rename the team (and maybe readers can suggest some new names), then perhaps the actual city of Las Vegas can try to get its own Triple A baseball, one that would play its games at Cashman Field.

Maybe I can talk my neighbor Chuck Muth into helping to start a new movement.


Congratulations to my KLAS Channel 8 I Team partner Colleen McCarty, who somehow has managed to balance her challenging profession and her role as wife and mother to two twins with the incredible burden of law school. After a couple of grueling years of study, Colleen graduates from the Boyd School of Law this week and will be one of the commencement speakers. Amazing.

GEORGE KNAPP is a Peabody Award-winning investigative reporter for KLAS Channel 8. Reach him at