We’re wrapping up 2022 in yesterday’s paper, so to speak. Our countdown to 2023 featured our top images, the communicator of the year, the top five reader opinions and now the top newsmakers of 2022. We conclude tomorrow with our top 10 stories of 2022.
There were a lot of people grasping for headlines this year, not just because it was an election year but because many of the races either featured a lot of candidates or very polarized candidates – sometimes both. Sometimes when people got the news coverage they were looking for it wasn’t for the story they wanted to tell. That’s life.
That’s also the case for our three newsmakers of the year: election deniers, local hospitals and the City of Reno’s penchant for dishing up major policy without public input.
An undeniable losing streak
The election denialism spurred by Donald Trump and his cronies following the 2020 election reached Nevada that same year, but it gained momentum in northern Nevada in 2022 when a far-right faction of the Washoe County GOP tried to push through an “election reform” measure at the Washoe County Commission.
The measure was supported by Commissioner Jeanne Herman, but it was largely drawn from an “election integrity petition” written and pushed by so-called patriots led by the deep-pocketed crypto fanatic Robert Beadles. The group flooded a Board of County Commissioners meeting in February with public comment demanding changes to the county’s election laws, bashing commissioners and county staff, and making unsubstantiated claims and accusations.
Herman’s measure eventually made the commission’s agenda for the March 22 meeting, but not before ACLU Nevada threatened a lawsuit, and an in-depth evaluation of the measure showed it would cost the county more than $5 million to enact. A This Is Reno point-by-point fact-check revealed many of the changes were blatantly illegal or impractical, and some were even nonsensical.
Voting rights advocates – along with average community members who saw through the election denialism being peddled by the far-right – came out en masse to speak out against the election measure at that March 22 meeting. So many turned out that it seemed as if the “election integrity” folks were caught off guard by the community pushback and falsely claimed that people had been bussed in from California to oppose the measure.
On the statewide ballot, election denier and hand-count advocate Jim Marchant also failed in his bid for Secretary of State.
In the end, Washoe County and state officials said the 2022 elections were successful. Just 23 instances of potential voter fraud were submitted by Washoe County for state review – .01% of total votes cast in the Nov. 8 election.
Local hospitals gone wild
Renown and St. Mary’s both drew repeated headlines in 2022. St. Mary’s continues to draw protests, since 2020, from its employees who said the hospital – owned by out-of-state company Prime Healthcare – fails to provide basic levels of service to the point of negatively impacting patients. In June, nurses went on strike, and in November, after St. Mary’s ceased providing maternal child health services, nurses held a vigil.
Renown’s dramatic firing of its longtime CEO Tony Slonim came just weeks after a Renown board member told the Northern Nevada Business Weekly everything at the hospital was amazing.
“The fact that Renown and Tony are being recognized on a national level as “best in class,” [sic] alongside leaders from Mayo, Cleveland Clinic, Mass General, Stanford, Google, CMS, Kaiser Permanente and other national leaders demonstrates just how far Renown has come as an organization,” Kramer wrote in a statement published in the Northern Nevada Business Weekly.
That statement was made while Slonim was under investigation. Four weeks later, Slonim was fired “with cause” for a number of damning allegations.
“He is an egotistical prick,” one local official said at the time, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “He is not community minded. He is narcissistic. He has not been a partner with our community the entire time he was at the helm.”
Then Renown got hit with a negative credit rating after facing more than $100 million in losses. Sources say those losses could be much greater.
Renown PR head Suzanne Hendery accused This Is Reno of being “slanted” and “having an agenda” as the reason why the hospital refuses to provide information and answer simple questions.
This Is Reno’s agenda is to inform the community what’s really going on, something Renown appears to prefer would stay behind closed doors.
Community members desperately want answers when larger, established institutions put forward only rosy PR statements when it’s clear those statements are half truths. Pile on top of that, Renown’s own employees to this day continue to express outrage at how the hospital is being run.
The latest: The hospital has begun the process of outsourcing its IT services, something employees said will end up saving the hospital little money and may put it at risk.
Big decisions, little input at the city
The City of Reno made repeated headlines in 2022, some of those centered on major decisions being made at City Hall often outside of public view while city officials ignored some of the basics, such as keeping its own resources and processes in check.
Reno Historian Alicia Barber called the situation “public process in crisis” more than a year ago.
After months of investigation, more of that crisis was revealed when public records showed local officials from the city and RTC conspiring with downtown casino interests to kill the long-planned Center Street cycle track. City Manager Doug Thornley all but admitted the project was dead.
The City Attorney’s office drives a good chunk of City Hall nonsense. It recently denied public records, a standard response, that would have the finalists for the Reno Police chief position. It’s no wonder This Is Reno has had to file suit twice to get the city to respond in accordance with the law. We look forward to hearings in 2023 to address those matters in Washoe District Court and the Nevada Supreme Court.
Average citizens are feeling the effects of what they said are a culture of opaqueness and even hostility from city officials. Edward Coleman, who serves on the City’s Charter Commission, said he was faced with racist, disrespectful responses by council members when the commission presented its recommendations to the council in August.
Two unsolicited reader submissions took to task what they said was a general lack of accountability and unresponsiveness by city staff.
Stephen Van Zee in November said, “City government is primarily responsible for serving the needs of its citizens. When city management (i.e., the City Council and City Manager) does not hold city departments accountable for their actions, the city risks failing its primary responsibility. Such is the case with the City of Reno, Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR).”
Alex Nay in October wrote to express concern that the city’s youth council had not met for nearly two years. The response from city staff was to place the burden of finding youth council members back onto those members.
“It is now October 2022. I am a junior in high school, and it has been almost two years since I applied. While many boards and commissions have continued to meet uninterrupted, the YCC has come to a complete halt,” Nay wrote.
And the seniors at Paradise Park are still complaining about lack of resources devoted to basic maintenance, such as cleaning up needles and human feces.
On top of the above, hostility and histrionics expressed by sitting council members at critics, real and perceived, the news media and other constituents help ensure the public has a skeptical level of confidence in all things city government.
“Our community—that is, the residents who actually make up the community—is being shut out,” Barber wrote last year.