Scene In Passing: In food fights, avoid those with hot coffee

What’s most intriguing in a food fight is to watch who proves sufficiently artful to escape the cafeteria unscathed.

Many in politics and public life are either like John Belushi’s character in “Animal House” — the guy who hurled the first plateful — or most of the rest who joined in before the film’s director yelled, “CUT.” But that was staged. In real life, people often don’t know when to play defense. That’s terminology for buttoning your lip, avoiding the spaghetti scrum and slipping out the nearest exit. What follows is a case in point.

Kris Holt of Nevada Business Connections wasn’t exactly filling the Belushi role when he included a Coalition Against the Commerce Tax panel presentation on his NBC breakfast program at Carson City’s Gold Dust West Casino set for Wednesday. But there’s a clue he knew the risk when he billed another presentation by a business leader as the feature while tagging the coalition panel as an “as well,” or also-ran, event. So here’s the caveat.

Holt knew — despite saying “I didn’t know this was going to happen” — that something akin to what since has transpired wasn’t outside the realm of possibility. “This,” in this case, was a few people coming unglued about him providing a forum for opponents of the tax package passed by the 2015 Legislature at the behest of Gov. Brian Sandoval.

Perhaps what Holt meant was he didn’t know what would happen could include fallout with people questioning his previous naming of some people to his advisory board or as members who, in at least two known instances since, say they hadn’t known they were so listed and requested removal immediately.

The fascinating thing about a food fight is no matter who looks like the initiator, that person never stands alone in getting plastered rather than just being splattered or escaping entirely unblemished.

People who react think they get in good counter punch licks, whether true or not, but what really occurs is the food fight becomes the talk of the campus (remember my ”Animal House” scene-setter?). In the current case, the campus is Nevada’s state capital community, and what could have amounted to a tiny tempest in a small teapot takes on the appearance of a food fight in a quicksand box.

The last thing any artful politician wants after victory is a subsequent breakfast attended by his opponents that anyone pays much attention to in any other way than the most routine.

Aaron West of the Builders Alliance, also known as Builder Association of Western Nevada, carried the ball — or plateful of food — for those irked at Holt and the coalition. But he and Holt are just the public players, doing their jobs as they saw fit.

West and anyone who put him front and center to challenge Holt’s motives, however, must deal with any consequences. Those reacting have forgotten a key political rule: take vanquished opponents seriously, but never too seriously.

The wisest moves in a food fight are to avoid joining in, and watch out for both adversarial and friendly fire as you leave the premises. It’s mindful of a tip I once got from a savvy politico.

“The only thing worse than not getting what you want is getting it,” she said. So I’ll enjoy the breakfast eggs, thank you; but even though I love java, please hold the hot coffee.

Otherwise, I’m long gone.

John Barrette covers Carson City government and business. He can be reached at


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