History is so full of little repeats, echoes and imitations of itself that it is rare, nowadays, to find anything new under the sun that hasn’t somehow happened before. But in recent weeks, there have been some pretty significant ‘firsts’ for the rural communities of northeastern Clark County, historic events surrounding our representation in the distant halls of the U.S. Congress.
To begin with, early this year, our communities sent one of their native sons to Washington to represent them. Rep. Cresent Hardy (R-Mesquite) is the first person in Nevada history ever to be elected to the U.S. Congress as a resident of northeastern Clark County. Hailing from Virgin Valley, he is the first ‘local boy’ to be elected to go off to Washington and serve in Congress.
Now, before all you history buffs start feverishly writing in to correct us, we will note that there is one prior instance where we have come close to having a local resident serving in the U.S. Capitol. That was in November of 1940 when then-Governor Edward P. Carville appointed Democrat Berkley Bunker to fill the vacant U.S. Senate seat left at the death of Senator Key Pittman. Bunker had grown up in the pioneer town of St. Thomas and was well known to the locals in both Moapa Valley and Virgin Valley.
As such, local folks gladly claimed him as a native son when he was appointed. But by that time, Bunker had been a long-time resident of Las Vegas. He was not actually a resident of either local community when he served. And since that time, no one from the Virgin or Moapa Valleys has ever made it that far. That is, until this last election when Mr. Hardy bucked all odds and won the seat for Nevada’s new Congressional District 4 (CD-4).
Throughout his political career, Hardy has made it clear that he was not seeking office to become an entrenched part of a “broken” system. Rather, he was running to find common-sense ways to fix that system. So, scarcely two months into his freshman term, last week Hardy introduced his first bill to Congress; a bill that encapsulates that very philosophy.
Like Hardy, this first bill was rough around the edges and a little unorthodox. But it aimed a simple, common-sense solution right at the heart of a big-government problem. The goal of the bill is to keep the federal government from over-reaching in its new public land acquistions. It would prohibit the Department of Interior and Department of Agriculture from buying land that would add to their total holdings in any year where the federal budget is running a deficit. This bill harmonizes well with an effort currently being crafted in the home state: a resolution, now before the Nevada State Legislature, that would transfer 7 million acres of federal land into the hands of the state.
Hardy’s bill is a bold move. And it’s still early to tell how much traction the bill will receive, if any. But it is an important issue for our communities and for the vast swath of rural Nevada that is included in Hardy’s district. Hardy should be commended for taking the fight to the adversary in this way.
But the introduction of his first bill was not nearly the boldest move that Hardy made last week. Not by far. Nor was it the only historic milestone he would cross for the week. Last weekend, Hardy walked right into another ‘first’ that brought something drastically new; not just for the local rurals, but for the entire state of Nevada.
On Sunday, the Las Vegas Review Journal published an Op-Ed piece by Hardy that was the absolute first of its kind. In it, Hardy suggests that the time has come for Nevada to open an “honest discussion’ with the federal government about storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain. Hardy said that this discussion should aim at determining what benefits the state might derive from agreeing to host the site, and whether the public would be interested in those benefits.
In his Op-Ed, Hardy claims that Yucca Mountain “is an issue that long ago lost its middle.” He points to the decades-long quagmire over the controversial site as an example of all that is wrong with Washington.
“Somewhere along the line, too many members of Congress became more worried about re-election than they were about solutions,” Hardy writes. “They became more interested in creating political advantages than dealing with important public policy. And they often want to tell us about the solution before they even understand the problem.”
Hardy then advocates for a frank discussion between Nevada and the federal government to determine if there is a possible scenario where the people of the state might welcome the Yucca Mountain facility. He contemplates the possibility of permanent investments made to Nevada schools, of a larger share of Colorado River water rights going to Nevada, of greater leverage for transportation and infrastructure funding and of a huge boost in research funding to the Nevada System of Higher Education. These might be just a few possible benefits that could come as a result of such a discussion, he said.
Of course, this line of reasoning was a huge ‘first’ for Nevada. The Nevada strategy on Yucca Mountain, beginning in the 1980s with Governor Richard Bryan and continuing all the way to the present day with Senator Harry Reid, has always been an outright refusal to even talk about possible benefits to the state for accepting the nation’s nuclear waste. Such a discussion, it has been thought, might reveal a weakening in the general repulsion for the idea always presumed to exist in the state. So the discussion has always been a complete non-starter.
Cresent Hardy is the only state-wide elected official who has ever broken that stance and suggested that we ought to drop the old presumptions and, at least, have the discussion. Never before has there been anyone in Nevada elected politics with the courage to cast off the emotional straight jacket that has imprisoned the state on this issue for nearly thirty years. No one has ever dared to take a good, honest look at Yucca Mountain and talk about what benefits might be derived by the state from it. That is a true ‘first!’
Mr. Hardy deserves accolades for his courage and his willingness to look beyond politics on this important and controversial problem and seek a common-sense solution.
With only two months in office, it hasn’t taken long for the native son to do the northeast Clark County rurals proud. Bravo Mr. Hardy!