By Don Dike-Anukam
Late this past summer I had a chance to speak with Nevada Congressman Mark Amodei (R-Carson City), who represents the Second Congressional District in Nevada. The district spans the northern half of the state. Amodei was first elected in 2011 in a special election to fill a vacancy left by former Senator Dean Heller.
We spoke about a number of issues related to the greater Reno area. This interview was edited for length and readability. Listen to the entire conversation, at nearly two hours, in the audio player below.
Lemmon Valley and flooding
To directly answer your question — the county hasn’t asked us to contact FEMA for them. I don’t want to sound critical, because it’s not meant to be, but our view of the world on a lot of this stuff is, is I can’t file for the stuff because I’m not the jurisdiction for FEMA.
But I can sure as heck do oversight on FEMA, which we have been doing for purposes of wildfire and stuff. We haven’t been asked for any assistance on behalf of the County to do with FEMA. The reason I’m answering the question that way is, quite frankly, it’s the county’s request. And so if the county wants to help with FEMA in responsiveness, or wherever they think it is, all they have to do is ask.
Transportation and the Spaghetti Bowl
There are already federal dollars in the much of the Nevada Department of Transportation’s stuff. Congress annually does a funding bill for highways. We’ve got a new chapter these days now, which is [what] people [have] been talking about, an infrastructure bill. Of course, everything … gets uber politicized, quite frankly … and so the transit, the infrastructure bill, fits that description to a tee, where you got both sides do it.
We got an infrastructure bill through and … you know, it’s more jobs, better economic development, because you [have] all that other sort of stuff. But that’s not directly responsive to your question, which is the Spaghetti Bowl.
NDOT is the primary jurisdiction agency to the feds [which] give the money to NDOT. They got the bids back, and the bids were way over what NDOT engineers estimate…
What that means … that [the] project is now a year to 18 months behind when everybody thought it was going be. I think one of the reasons it was pulled back is there was some there was some discomfort on what the perceptions were at NDOT with the plan and the engineers’ estimate.
But there’s some serious concern in [northern Nevada] that [the] money is going to go elsewhere. The concerns I’ve heard is the elsewhere is not elsewhere in the Truckee Meadows.
It’s been a bit of a long-time issue with in Nevada, like this is the whole north-south regional stuff, which quite frankly, I don’t think accomplishes much for anybody, but you know, that ebbs and flows.
Road projects in Nevada have always been controversial, in terms of where … you’re building them. I think the most saying sanguine stuff I heard about it was from some of the folks in your Regional Transportation Commission (Washoe) that basically said …the project hopefully get is going to be set back a year to a year and a half.
I mean, it’s a growing state, Don. There will never be enough money to do everything. And it’s very competitive. People have strong feelings, and they want their project yesterday. That’s been the culture for forever, as far as I’m concerned. But at the same time, you have to try to basically say, “Hey, we’re being fair about things, and we’re trying to address those needs that the whole cost benefit thing.”
The alarm bells are going off with people who have those low paying jobs who can’t qualify for a home.”
We have gone to those same people we have been talking about: The City of Reno, Washoe County, [the] City of Sparks. One of the biggest challenges that anybody faces is, well, what do we do about affordable housing? It costs money, ground costs money, building costs money, you know…
Guess what, Don, for the first time in my life, my adult life and my professional life, I’m worried. Kenny Guinn used to say, when he was the governor: We want people to come that bring jobs that pay a living wage. Well, guess what? We’re making some pretty good progress on that — jobs, living wage, that sort of stuff. I mean, out east, up north where you are … those are some well paying jobs [but] the alarm bells are going off with people who have those low paying jobs who can’t qualify for a home.
It’s a pretty challenging time for housing, in all of western Nevada.
Nobody on a county commission, or city council, comes to me and says, “Hey, please tell us how to do affordable houses.” And guess what? They’re not going to. And they shouldn’t. That’s their jurisdiction. So the answer isn’t to take away somebody’s jurisdiction, and say, “By the way, I’m willing to help you. But you got to do what I say.” Part of the answer is: “We’re willing to help you, by trying to get you some resources here. And what you do with them is, whatever sensibly works in your jurisdiction.”
Affordability affects people who are fully employed.
Both sides are absolutely addicted to using [immigration] as a political issue, to bash the other side for political purposes. I’m a guy who signed to discharge petitions in the last Congress to … get an Immigration Bill or a DREAMER bill to the floor. Both of them were constructed in such a way, with the Republicans in the majority, they were both constructed in a way so that they would lose enough votes from Democrats, or uber conservative Republicans, that [it] wouldn’t pass.
That was under Republican leadership in the house. Shame on you, Republicans. But guess what? So now they can say, “Well, you know, the Democrats voted it down.” And the Democrats can say, “Well, they put nasty stuff in there, and vice versa.”
Here’s what comes attached to the DREAMER bill: If you have a conviction for domestic abuse, or a firearms thing or a gang member, you can still be treated like the DREAMER.
Now, mind you, there are several million DREAMERs in this country who are absolutely phenomenally deserving … no question. They set them up for failure. Here comes the first immigration piece really of the next Pelosi speakership, when you’ve got in there: gang members, firearms conviction and domestic abuse people are okay for citizenship. It’s like, no they’re not! C’mon!
So my answer to your question is, I think both sides are hopelessly addicted to using to using the immigration issue for what they see as their political benefit, which is why these bills that we finally got to vote on were constructed in a way so that they were damn sure that they wouldn’t get 218 votes.
Gun control and background checks
In the last month, we’ve had some major shooting events. And obviously, calls for gun control are back on …
99.9 percent of people who own guns respect each other, respect human life, follow the law, and don’t shoot at people with them. Do we need to do something about the 350 to 60 people a year who do a mass shooting? Absolutely.
Nobody said anything about all the money we put into the 21st Century Cures Act, on mental health, [and] a lot of that was school related. Because quite frankly, you know, with the internet and of the reality of the internet today, and young people happy to react to and deal with all the stuff that goes on … that can be phenomenally unsettling to an adult, much less an adolescent.
Nobody wants bad people to have guns. I think you’ll see a bill come out of the house that says, “Here’s a new process element for the red flags.” And here’s some more. Here’s some more things on background checks, which quite frankly, we talked about at the Bipartisan-Solutions group and Problem-Solvers caucus.
Editor’s note: Since this interview was conducted, Amodei has made a number of statements regarding evolving impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. The Nevada Independent has covered this extensively. Read more: https://thenevadaindependent.com/article/amodei-reviewing-articles-of-impeachment