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Johnson to run for Assembly

ELKO – Outgoing Mayor Chris Johnson announced his candidacy for the Nevada Assembly Wednesday, facing incumbent Republican John Ellison.

“I’m enthusiastic to be able to have the opportunity and chance to serve at the state level,” Johnson said at a Feb. 7 press conference at City Hall.

Johnson cited his combined experience as mayor, a business owner and Elko resident to represent District 33 in the Legislature, which includes Elko, Eureka and White Pine counties.

“I know I would be a great candidate for that office and [it would be] just another chance to serve the people of Nevada,” Johnson said.

He explained that he was not familiar with Ellison’s voting record, but said he was sure the main issues would “be brought to the forefront” during the campaign.

“My goal is not what the incumbent has voted in the past. In fact, I think on a lot of issues, we would probably agree on.”

Johnson is expected to face Ellison in the Republican primary on June 12. Ellison was elected in 2010, succeeding John Carpenter, who reached his term limit.

Johnson said “strong representation” was needed for rural areas and their resource-based economies.

“This area is definitely the biggest area, probably in the world, for gold production,” Johnson said, adding his experience in mining, agriculture and wildlife game hunting would be valuable if elected to the Assembly.

“I see the multiple-use of public lands is key,” he said.

Johnson was a supporter of Donald Trump’s campaign for president, and noted they share the same background as business owners.

“Trump obviously, with the appointments of the different heads of the departments, is making an impact to the state of Nevada, with the BLM and the EPA,” Johnson said Wednesday. “The thing that I’ve liked about Trump is that he comes from a business aspect.”

Johnson has owned and operated Charles H. Chester Plumbing Inc. for 30 years.

In representing rural Nevada, Johnson said he would look at financial formulas, specifically secondary calculations that he said have brought less property tax income to Sparks, and the needs of northeastern Nevada, including Great Basin College.

“I think as a representative of rural Nevada that I could bring the issues to the forefront and give District 33 a good representation.”

Johnson has served on the Elko County Planning Commission, two terms as a city councilman, and was elected mayor in 2011, winning re-election in 2014. He terms out of city office this year.

As mayor, Johnson said the support of the city council and staff allowed them to “work as a team,” pointing to additional street funding, the revitalization of downtown, and the completion of the new Elko Police Department building as highlights of the past eight years.

Johnson said he plans to file for the seat in March with full support of his wife, Lorrie, with whom he has three children.

Johnson said he plans to attend the Lincoln Day Dinner Feb. 9 at the Boys and Girls Club and be available for questions at the event.

Filing for all city, county and state candidates is March 5-16.

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Grammar No. 2 celebrates school milestone

ELKO – What do students at Grammar No. 2 have in common with Highland Village resident Barbara Beal? On Wednesday, it was the number 100.

About 340 students, along with faculty and staff of Grammar No. 2, celebrated the 100th day of school with Beal, who will turn 100 on Aug. 29.

The children sang “Happy Birthday” to Beal and each grade presented gifts to her, including handmade hearts and flowers. Second grader Hagen Robinson read a poem that gave the amount of days, hours and minutes within 100 years.

“One hundred years of love and laughter, 36,525 days, 876,600 hours, 52,596,000 minutes, four amazing children, four beautiful grandchildren, five loving great-grandchildren and one blessed family all because of you.”

A slideshow was presented during the assembly that included facts and history about 1918 and photographs of cars, schools and how people dressed along with photos of Elko landmarks from that era.

Beal told the students she was happy to be at Grammar and to be turning 100 years old, explaining what life was like for her as a child growing up in southern California.

“When I went to school, boys and girls at recess couldn’t play together and we had to wear a uniform,” Beal said. “We didn’t have TV or telephones or things like that … but we had fun roller-skating and riding scooters.”

After the assembly, Beal said she thought the children were “wonderful.”

“I love children and every one of them is just adorable,” Beal said. “They are so pleased to give somebody something. They look you right in the eye and they say, ‘Happy Birthday.’”

First grade teacher Gretchen Lutes said she organized the program with second grade teacher Christy DeBray after learning about Beal from Grammar employee Becky Cummings, who is Beal’s daughter.

Lutes said she, DeBray and Cummings thought it was important for children to see Beal, who will turn 100, “because it’s not that common to know someone” who is approaching that age.

“We definitely want to recognize her because it’s a big deal to be 100,” Lutes said.

Principal Sean Stanton agreed with Lutes about the opportunity for students to meet Beal, which was a change from previous years that honored the school’s 100th day of school.

“We thought that would be fun for the kids to see what that looks like,” Stanton said, explaining that in previous years, students would celebrate the 100th day milestone with a one hundred year-old person dress-up day and activities.

Cummings said a larger celebration is planned on Beal’s actual birthday, noting that the celebration Wednesday was in honor of Beal’s birth year.

The school’s 100-day achievement was also something to be recognized, said DeBray, telling the children they were now “100 days smarter.”

“You’ve learned many things in these last 100 days,” DeBray said. “You’ve worked hard and had a positive attitude.”

James Cummings, 6, attended the assembly with his kindergarten class taught by Christa Bair. His class and some of the first graders gave Beal cutouts of Hershey’s Kiss candy and a bag of Kisses.

“I thought it was pretty cool,” said Cummings about meeting Beal.

Gifts to Beal were presented by each student one at a time. After the kindergartners and first graders, first and second graders gave her hearts on paper doilies, third graders read a character trait for being a good citizen, and fourth graders handed Beal a carnation.

“The carnations were a donation by Raley’s,” Lutes said, adding that the PTA made cupcakes for the event which were given to all of the students at the end of the assembly.

Endless recall efforts? Parties battle for Nevada Senate

Nevada’s major political parties are locked in a legal battle over a Republican effort to take control of the state Senate by recalling two freshly elected Democratic lawmakers — a tactic that Democrats warn could undermine the validity of elections across the U.S.

Experts and those from both parties say the move could be the way of the future for the losing side to keep control of influential statehouses. In Nevada, no official reason was given for the recalls, and none was required. Some conservatives have been open about hoping Republicans gain partisan advantage.

Republicans in 2016 lost hold of the Nevada Senate, which Democrats now control by an 11-9 margin. The GOP then circulated petitions to recall two Democratic senators and one independent who caucuses with them.

Republicans gathered enough signatures to launch recall elections of the Democrats, Nicole Cannizzaro and Joyce Woodhouse, who had been narrowly elected the previous year from swing districts in the Las Vegas area.

Democrats launched a counteroffensive. They sued in federal court, arguing the recalls violate the U.S. Constitution. They also persuaded thousands of people who had signed the petitions to withdraw their signatures — likely dropping the petitions below the threshold needed to qualify for the ballot.

Whether the signatures are allowed be withdrawn is at the heart of the case that will be heard in court Wednesday.

National Democrats fear the Nevada effort, if successful, could become a template for Republicans seeking to hang on to power in statehouses nationwide, especially if the midterm elections this year lead to losses in some of the 68 legislative chambers the GOP controls.

Democrats have drawn parallels to other recent steps Republicans have taken to retain power in the states.

In Pennsylvania, the Republican-controlled Legislature this week threatened to impeach the elected Democrats on the state Supreme Court, who ruled that the GOP had improperly drawn the congressional districts.

In North Carolina, the GOP-led Legislature has tried to wrest control of how the state administers elections from the newly elected Democratic governor.

National Democrats have invested heavily in Nevada to try to undermine the recall and mount legal challenges.

“We are in a new frontier in that they are using the recall statute to change an election,” said Marc Elias, a prominent Democratic election attorney who represented Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

But Joshua Spivak, who tracks recall elections and is a senior fellow at the Hugh Carey Institute at Wagner College, said the Nevada case is not that unusual.

He noted that Democrats in 2012 briefly seized control of the Wisconsin Senate after a series of recalls sparked by Gov. Scott Walker’s attacks on public sector unions. While Nevada Republicans have not cited a single big decision like the Wisconsin union vote to justify their effort, Spivak said that’s in line with history.

“It is a feature of the recall to just kick someone out for partisan benefit,” Spivak said.

Lawyers for the recall effort did not return multiple calls for comment Tuesday. They work in the law firm run by Republican Nevada Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison, whose office said it would not comment on the campaign.

Logan Churchwell of the conservative Public Interest Legal Foundation, which intervened on behalf of the recall, stressed that Nevada law allows recalls and that Democrats are trying to limit voting.

“Nevada places few barriers on the electorate to trigger a recount,” Churchwell said. “It’s curious that the Democrat Party’s attorneys would label such a system and its uses as frivolous when their actions are undemocratic by definition.”

But the state’s Republican governor, Brian Sandoval, has voiced alarm at the recalls.

“There really wasn’t, I think, a legitimate reason for the recalls,” Sandoval told The Nevada Independent news website last year. “So it just kind of escalates the politics, mean-spiritedness politics. I think both parties will now use it on a regular basis, and that’s not what Nevada politics has ever been and that’s not what it should be.”

Survey prompts county to confront hospital owner

ELKO — Concerns over hospital prices and management practices will be expressed in a second county letter to LifePoint Health leadership regarding Northeastern Nevada Regional Hospital.

LifePoint is the Tennessee-based corporation that owns the hospital, and the letter that Elko County commissioners unanimously approved drafting at their Feb. 7 meeting will be the second such letter sent in a little over a year addressing complaints and concerns from residents and providers about NNRH.

A survey of health care providers conducted by the University of Nevada, Reno, at the request of the commission prompted the follow-up letter. Gerald Ackerman, UNR School of Medicine assistant dean, presented survey findings to the board at its regular meeting.

Of primary concern to the commissioners were results showing that physicians cited dissatisfaction with LifePoint’s management of the hospital and the hospital’s high prices. About 48 percent of respondents said that the hospital’s management by LifePoint was the worst thing about practicing medicine in Elko. About 22 percent said the worst thing about practicing in Elko was high prices at NNRH.

The physicians surveyed said that policymakers’ best approaches to improving practicing medicine in Elko County would be to create competition for NNRH and lower prices at the hospital.

“It looks like we have some work to do as both policymakers and providers in the community,” Ackerman said.

Delmo Andreozzi, chairman of the county commission, said the survey was not aimed at finding fault with the hospital. He pointed out that none of the questions specifically asked about management or prices at NNRH, yet the results revealed issues.

“I think we have the impetus to write another letter to them,” said Andreozzi, who explained other methods to enact change would be to encourage competition or work on regulation.

Commissioner Rex Steninger asked what good the first letter did but received no answer to his question. The board unanimously passed a motion to draft a follow-up letter to LifePoint. Commissioner Cliff Eklund was absent.

LifePoint could not be reached immediately for comment, and NNRH stated in an email that it was unable to comment directly at this time.

“All of us who work at NNRH remain firmly committed to making our community healthier,” the email stated. “We love northeastern Nevada, and it is our privilege to provide our neighbors and fellow community members with high quality healthcare whenever they need it.”

The first letter from the Elko County Health Board, dated Jan. 4, 2017, states that prices at NNRH are driving employers to encourage patients to seek out of town care.

“The local hospital is having an extremely negative impact on our local economy and the safety, health and welfare of our citizens,” the first letter states.

UNR’s Elko Physician Satisfaction Survey was distributed to 59 physicians, and there were 23 respondents. Nurse practitioners and physicians assistants also participated in a separate group with 11 respondents.

Additional concerns discovered in the survey included the ability of policymakers and health care providers to attract and retain primary care practitioners.

“This is a national issue,” said Ackerman, who explained that rural areas are struggling to recruit providers. “It’s more complex in the West. We have a harder time competing with East Coast and urban areas.”

Ackerman advised the commissioners to recognize that the survey also unveiled positive information.

Some physician respondents expressed approval of their place of employment, with 39 percent “very satisfied” and 30 percent “somewhat satisfied.” Fifty-seven percent also said that the best thing about primary care practice in Elko County was a great population of colleagues and patients. PAs and nurse practitioners echoed those sentiments in their responses.

“The people that are here in this community are second to none from top to bottom,” Ackerman said.