Letter: Be on the right side of history

Letter: Be on the right side of history

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I find it ironic that the “leaders” of our community have said repeatedly that they want “family friendly” activities in Elko, and then proclaim that we must have the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. While most events at the gathering are “family friendly” little to no money is made by the events (most of the money that is paid to go to events goes to the performers). The money is made by hotel rooms, restaurants, and bars – which in turn, means more tax revenue.

First, our leaders have said that the Cowboy Poetry Gathering is a “family friendly” environment at the events. While I agree in theory, the reality is much different. Take, for example, how difficult it is to get tables at any of our wonderful restaurants, and how much alcohol is served at restaurants throughout the city during the Cowboy Poetry Gathering. The bars are typically packed, and even the Folklife Center serves alcohol!

All of this is a good thing for the city, county, and for tax revenue, but not for public health during a pandemic that has killed over 120,000 of our fellow countrymen (which is more than total American deaths from the Korean and Vietnam Wars combined, and just slightly lower than the total American deaths in World War I).

Secondly, the sheer amount of people that travel here are from all over the world, by your own admission, is a good thing for Elko. This means that hotel rooms are being filled for an event, as well as tax revenue for the city and the county. Which, again, is a good thing. However, we are now in the midst of a pandemic. Which also brings me to the demographics of this event. Most of the folks that do come into town for the Poetry Gathering are over the age of 50 and are in the high-risk category. How many of these folks are going to come here, and unwittingly spread the virus to our community, or vice versa? Let alone, be able to follow guidelines set forth by the CDC and the state.

There is literally no way to make the Poetry Gathering profitable. The Beerfest most assuredly disregarded any and all guidelines set forth. You are all naïve to think that the Beerfest won’t cause an increase in infections in the county.

Thirdly, all of you signed your name to a comment that we are having sporting events in the near future. This is wildly optimistic, considering that professional football and basketball are looking less likely each day we get closer to their opening. Especially, since yesterday the U.S. has seen the most single day confirmed infections (over 38,000 citizens nationwide – that is the more than the total population of the City of Elko), and I assume that this trend will continue until we listen to our infectious disease experts. Even professional golf is rethinking their opening, and some of the highest ranked athletes are even dropping out.

How can you say with a straight face if golf cannot handle the spreading of the plague (which has very little interaction between competitors) it will be better in Elko during the poetry gathering? Hope and prayer? Most athletics are out of the question at any level other than professional as it is going to be prohibitively expensive to sterilize the play surface or the ball for that matter, let alone, the sheer amount of touching and breathing on other people.

I believe that you have laid bare your hypocrisy for all to see. There was no problem when a true “family friendly”– one where NO alcohol will be served – events at the California Trial Interpretive Center were canceled, you all said and did nothing. You said nothing when Trail Days at the California Interpretive Center was canceled. This event is annual and has the potential to be similar to the “Days of 47” in Utah, yet there is very little involvement from our local leaders to promote it! You said nothing when the Oregon California Trail Association National Convention was postponed. This event alone will bring in hundreds if not thousands of people from all over the Western United States to Elko – much like the Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Not to mention, that if it went well, we could, potentially, serve as a meeting place for the National OCTA Convention every third or fourth year. None of you said a passing word. It is astonishingly hypocritical.

Everyone wants to get back to our normal, but unfortunately, like it or not this is the new normal for the foreseeable future. Be leaders of this community, even if it means being unpopular or going against the loudest skeptical voices, it is what good leaders do! By Mayor Keener’s own admission there are only five ventilators for the entire county – just over 50,000 people. We must bend the virus to our will to safely open our economy and quicken our recovery, otherwise we may be in a situation like Florida or Texas and begin shutting down again.

I have urged caution at the outset of this, and I will continue to do so. We can use this time to re-think how we market this town, but most if not all of you are too stuck into your own ways to see the picture beyond your own nose. The lens of history that you are trying to avoid will not be kind to any of you.

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