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If goal is recovery, why stop drug testing at welfare recipients? – Las Vegas Sun News

I found this article refreshing as I have listened to many claims blaming our nations poorest for being drug users and moochers. It seems to me that most of the nations poor are only trying to survive in a society that decides what type of person you are by the size of your bank account. The numbers are in and Florida’s drug testing welfare law is a failure. It seems as though there is not as many drug users on welfare as people thought. Could people actually be using the system for what it is there for? Who do you think are the real moochers, drug users and creators of financial crisis in our country? What do you think about Nevada taking on the same regulations as Florida? 

Here is what happened when Florida started drug testing its welfare applicants:

Of 4,086 applicants between July and October 2011, 108 tested positive, or 2.6 percent, with another 40 canceling the test. That rate is less than one-third the estimated drug use among Floridians overall.

Got that? Welfare applicants were far less likely to use drugs than the rest of the population.

And despite the few that canceled their test, overall, the threat of a drug test had no appreciable effect on the number of applicants, according to an internal state government document obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union when it sued the state, challenging the constitutionality of the law.

Because the tests cost $30 each, and because Florida reimbursed applicants who tested negative, the law wound up actually costing the state money. Plus, a federal judge temporarily halted the law because it was in violation of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition of unreasonable searches and seizures.

So, all in all, an embarrassing failure.

But ideas can be zombies, especially in Nevada. So here’s Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Minden, offering up our own welfare drug test bill, Senate Bill 89, which would deny welfare benefits as well as food stamps and Medicaid.

Settelmeyer told my colleague Cy Ryan that his intention is to help people get straight, which is why he included a provision that would allow an applicant who failed the test to enter drug rehab and receive public assistance while there, with another test scheduled 30 days later.

Good plan, if rather patronizing. Except there’s a severe and chronic shortage of treatment beds. A shortage that would have been worsened if Settlemeyer had his way last session — he voted against renewing more than $600 million in taxes that were set to expire. Where do you suppose they would have found the money? I’m guessing drug treatment beds would have been on the chopping block.

There’s a false idea I sometimes hear from readers and the occasional politician that some significant portion of the population is welfare-dependent. (Some seem to think it might even be as high as 47 percent!)

In fact, since President Bill Clinton signed the big welfare reform bill in 1996 that placed limits on how long you could remain on welfare, the national caseload dropped 50 percent from 3.94 million families in an average month to 1.95 million by 2011, according to Pamela J. Loprest of the Urban Institute.

With 310 million people living in America, you can see the percentage of people on welfare is quite small. In Nevada, fewer than 30,000 adults and children get welfare, or what’s officially called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. That’s 1 percent of us.

There’s also a belief the numbers have surged since we elected a foreign-born Muslim socialist president whose goal is to make everyone dependent on government because he’s a secret anti-colonial Maoist, or something.

Welfare rolls have gone up since the recession but still remain below 2005 levels, before the recession.

It’s true that food stamp enrollment and Medicaid and unemployment recipients have increased significantly in Nevada, but that’s because in 2007 we entered the worst recession since the Great Depression. Food stamp enrollment increased 128 percent in Nevada between 2007 and 2010, but that’s largely due to the fact that the unemployment rate tripled. Historically, food stamp and other anti-poverty enrollments increase during recessions and decrease during expansions. Go figure.

If Settelmeyer’s real goal is to help people get straight, why stop at welfare recipients? What about farm subsidy recipients, sometimes known as “welfare cowboys”? Why not test Medicare and Social Security moochers? Or state employees?

Or legislators?

via If goal is recovery, why stop drug testing at welfare recipients? – Las Vegas Sun News.

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Our Downtown columnist offers friendly advice for the area as he prepares to move on – Las Vegas Weekly

This is one of my favorite writers, Mr. Coolican. If I ever met him I bet we’d get along really well. Here is another great article from him about Downtown Vegas this was taken from the Weekly. I am a huge fan of Downtown and excited to see more and more improvements coming in due time. What are your ideas about what Downtown needs? Please leave your comments below.

About six months ago we devoted this column to all things Downtown and its resurgence. I’ve been dividing my time between that assignment and the rest of my job as Las Vegas Sun columnist. Splitting my time this way has been less than ideal, so I’m relinquishing this spot to a colleague. I’ll still keep my eye on Downtown and write about it when the spirit moves me. It’s been fun and educational, and hopefully I got the ball rolling.

The rest of the Las Vegas Valley, from the Strip to the suburbs, was built by rich individuals and corporations and their handmaidens in government. A top-down, oligarchic approach. As a result, despite our reputation for libertarianism and libertinism, the Valley can feel pretty constricting. Try to paint your house a weird color or play your trumpet on the Strip, and the authorities—the homeowners association, Metro police, respectively—will come knocking.

It’s their city; we just live here.

Downtown is different. Of course, we’d be naive to pretend some Downtown landowners and rich interests—certain technologically advanced shoe salespeople, for instance—don’t have more power and influence than others. Still, watching Downtown develop is fun because for Las Vegas, it’s very small “d” democratic. Downtown’s transformation is turning on the actions of thousands of businesses, residents and voters, rather than a mere few. It’s participatory and passionate. In short, a real city.

In that spirit, here are some issues I’ve raised and some opinions about what’s next for Downtown:

People, not cars. Urbanism, that great serendipitous relationship of people and commerce and culture, requires walkability, which in turn requires density and the subordination of cars to other needs, such as pedestrian safety. So, we need narrower streets and wider sidewalks. We should become a city known more for shade structures than insufferable summers.

Here’s an idea in that vein: Extend the pedestrian walkway of Fremont for a few blocks. (Though not the canopy, or at least not that canopy!)

And the city should make the walk between the Smith Center and other Downtown attractions and neighborhoods—currently a cheap horror flick nightmare of underpasses—a priority.

Downtown has too much parking—a 38 percent surplus over demand, according to the city—aside from the occasional special event, which can be solved by using shuttles and spacious vacant lots. Yes, it’s important that suburbanites be able to get to Downtown stores and restaurants, but you don’t see New York City ruining its urban streetscape just so the bridge-and-tunnel crowd can park.

Which brings me to another point: It’s all about residents. We need people who will live, work and play Downtown. All policy decisions should be made with them in mind, and, indeed, should include their input.

Downtown residents I talk to, and I’ve talked to a lot of them, are quite clear: They need basic things that have unfortunately come to be called “amenities,” but are actually necessities.

Typical economic development that gives away tax goodies are often wasteful boondoggles—Neonopolis, anyone?—but I could be persuaded that the city should subsidize a grocery store, because it’s so central to everything and no one will build it until we have more residents, but we can’t get more residents without a grocery store.

Other necessities: Either a significant park or series of smaller parks. A coffee shop that cleans its equipment. (There, I said it.)

When we talk about residents, we should be open to diversity—Downtown lifers, young professionals, but also families with kids.

UNLV could be a catalyst. The university should move one of its schools Downtown, something with a real architectural and intellectual footprint. Arizona State has done this to great effect in downtown Phoenix.

Remember, we know what works—we can copy good ideas from other cities while preserving what’s uniquely Vegas.

Most important, Downtown isn’t theirs. It’s ours. Let’s keep it that way.

via Our Downtown columnist offers friendly advice for the area as he prepares to move on – Las Vegas Weekly.

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