Month after month since the advent of the pandemic, his actions met with a bitter brew concocted of a mixture equal parts harsh criticism and deflated resignation, Governor Steve Sisolak has attempted to lead Nevada out of crisis, while placating, some would say ignoring, the disparate, warring factions roiling his agenda from across political, social, and economic divides. During photo ops Sisolak, recently referring to himself by the self anointed nickname #SouthwestSteve, is the epitome of genial approachability and calming competence. And last week he set out on an old-fashioned barnstorming effort to sell that Steve Sisolak to the public.
“Media coverage is welcome…” announced the public facing calendar put out by the Nevada Governor’s press team. With a desire to focus attention on economic recovery, and his reelection campaign underway, Monday September 27th, 2021 was the launch date for Sisolak's ‘Jobs and Workers Week’ blitz through southern Nevada where he intended to highlight the profound and instrumental role organized labor plays in relation to the state’s economy.
Beginning that morning with a 10 am visit to Resorts World, where he would address the International Union of Elevator Constructors International Convention, Governor Sisolak set out a robust agenda for himself. Composed of meetings intended to allow him to both laud union leadership while making certain that large corporations and pro-business lobbying groups knew that Nevada was recovering and readying for economic expansion, Sisolak intended to stay focused on the positive. However, jubilant appearances in front of arranged crowds did little to alleviate what was taking place on the first day of his tour outside of the public’s gaze.
More than a half dozen faces filled a Zoom screen as the Governor, striving to maintain their attention, failed in an attempt to maintain a calm facade. Cycling through topics his demeanor began fluctuating rapidly. Eventually those in attendance saw the disappearance of any attempts at control or decorum, watching as Governor Sisolak’s emotions became raw and unguarded.
This meeting, an exclusive mixture of Sisolak’s close team along with high level state employees from the health and safety fields, was convened to address the ongoing pandemic and to brief those watching as to where the state truly stood in combating the still lingering effects of the pandemic. As numbers were shared with the assorted attendees, it became apparent as to how impotent the Governor’s words had become to those employed by the state’s executive branch.
One in particular stood out. Despite months of cajoling Nevada residents to voluntarily become vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus, going so far as to support monetary outlays in the form of lottery-like drawings, Sisolak admitted a grim statistic. Of those workers employed by the state of Nevada, across all levels, in areas not required to vaccinate based on job, the full vaccination rate was under 50%. Describing himself as embarrassed to the assembled audience, the Governor pondered aloud as to how 53% of the state’s employees had decided to not get fully vaccinated or vaccinated at all. The possibility of a full, statewide employee vaccination order was broached.
While listening to this, and understanding where the Governor was leading with his observations at least one of the attendees, who has close ties to elected Clark County leadership, vowed to Political.tips that they would never take the “shot,” no matter what order would come down under the guise of one of the many Emergency Declaration Directives still in force.
Another topic addressed was the implementation of a mandatory Covid-19 vaccine policy for students in grades K-12. Governor Sisolak, reported as being equal parts angry and frustrated over the reticence of parents and school district employees to comply with what the Nevada Department of Health, FDA, and CDC states is settled science, informed the gathering of his plan to see all children, regardless of whether they attended private or public schools, to undergo the Covid-19 vaccinations by January of 2022. Expressing optimism over the potential granting of an EUA for shots to be administered to those younger than 12 in the near future, the rollout being devised by Sisolak and his health officials will address all ages and not just those groups that the FDA has thus far approved them for.
The meeting also waded into the issue of institutional control and governance, with Governor Sisolak expressing hope that local school districts and unions could come to agreements on staff vaccination policy by the middle of November at the latest. That time frame is said to be the target date so all local education employees who had yet to receive their vaccines could do so over the winter break or tender their resignations before returning for the second semester. The timing of these efforts, according to a source close to both the Governor and local Clark County School District Administration, is to allow these actions to take place with as minimal disruption as possible to the respective schooling efforts of each location.
Another source, this one close to Democratic leadership, stated that despite the almost guaranteed court challenges that will arise if these plans come to fruition, Attorney General Aaron Ford has declared his confidence in the Governor’s legal standing on these matters.
Reaching out directly to the Governor for comment and receiving no response, we next spoke to an elected state official experienced in dealing with the Governor and his staff and who has oversight of similar areas as to what was discussed on the 27th. Questioning the timing of the Governor’s plan as well as their belief that the emergency directive may have run its course the official ruminated aloud as to when the politicization of the pandemic would end.
In offering their various observations, none of the Clark County School Board Trustees we reached admitted, on or off the record, of knowing about the Governor’s intentions.
The first Trustee to speak with us was Danielle Ford, who in offering a generalized observation commented on the potential politics at play. In Ford’s view the concepts discussed were not problematic but the implementation, in the form of haphazard planning, for the programs we asked her about seemed less designed to protect teachers and students and more focused on finding some person or group to bear the brunt of the expected political firestorm. In this case, she wondered if that would be the local school boards.
Trustee Evelyn Morales referred any comments to Board President Linda Cavazos. Cavasos stated the following regarding the potential for a school age vaccine mandate “We’re tracking what’s going on in other districts, but have not gone down that road as of now.”
The final Trustee to go on record was Katie Williams. Williams made her points known, clearly and without equivocation. Looking back on the CCSD employee mandate vote which she spoke out forcefully, and controversially, against Trustee Williams said that while a mandate for adults took away the right to private medical choice, a similar law aimed at kids was not only wrong for the same reasons, but in stripping away parental choice, had to be looked at as fundamentally worse.
Following up with our original source before publication, they reiterated a willingness to lose their job before they lost their perceived freedom of choice. For those who will be forced to draw a line of demarcation, the only question at the moment is if and when Governor Sisolak’s initiatives, already in the late stages of planning, are implemented will they be for one or all of the groups mentioned above.