Grover Norquist, the head lobbyist for Americans for Tax Reform and the architect of the Republican government shutdown attempts and debt ceiling debacles, has started a movement to name several areas of the country after Ronald Reagan. The effort in Nevada has gathered over 3,000 signatures.
Frenchman Mountain (adjacent to Sunrise Mountain) was named after a unique Nevadan from the early 1930s named Paul Watelet who was actually Belgian. The area exposes some of the oldest rock on earth at the Great Unconformity. We should preserve this special and quirky piece of our state’s history. There is already significant confusion between Sunrise and Frenchman Mountain, and adding another name that has nothing to do with Nevada or Las Vegas, would only further the confusion. Indeed, President Reagan's greatest connection with Nevada is probably his signature on the famous "Screw Nevada" bill that established Yucca Mountain as the only site under consideration for nuclear waste disposal.
President Reagan’s legacy is also complicated, and does not represent several of the values that we have come to embrace in Southern Nevada:
* President Reagan did not recognize HIV and AIDS publicly as a disease until 1987, the second to last year of his Presidency, after tens of thousands of people had already passed away.
* President Reagan was anti-union, and used federal funding and his power to break strikes on several occasions, including firing 13,000 air traffic controllers. This was despite his own history as the President of the Screen Actors Guild.
* President Reagan supported the Nicaraguan Contras and other Latin American death squads, who committed several horrible atrocities.
* Eleven of his officials were implicated in a scheme to sell arms to Iran, and 127 others were investigated, indicted, and/or convicted for other crimes - a record number.
* In his earlier career as a commercial pitchman, President Reagan recorded an LP attacking Medicare as socialized medicine, while extolling the virtues of cigarettes.
* President Reagan signed the "Screw Nevada" bill, eliminating Washington and Texas as potential sites and placing the burden solely on Yucca Mountain