What's your connection to Reagan?
I'm a Reagan kind of guy. He shaped my political philosophy when I was in my 20s. One of my greatest regrets is that I was invited to the inaugural ball in 1984 but didn't go because I couldn't afford to rent a tux. When he passed away in 2004, I was living in Baltimore and my kids were 3 and 4. My wife and I took the family, got in the car at 10 at night, parked at Union Station and walked to the rotunda to pay our respects. The line stretched all the way to the Mall. We waited for 12 hours. Nobody was complaining -- we were all just standing there reminiscing about the president. I have a big picture on my wall of him lying in state.
What's the mountain like?
It's on the east side of Las Vegas. The elevation is 4,052 feet. It's not part of a larger mountain range. There is a hiking trail that goes all the way to the top. You can hike up it, but it's a very strenuous, steep hike that takes about four hours. There's also a service road for four-wheelers to get to the top to service the radio towers that are up there. The view from the top is supposedly just fantastic -- you see the wilderness, the barren desert, and Lake Mead to the east, and then on the west side you see Las Vegas and the bright lights of the city and the Strip. You can see Boulder City and Nellis Air Force Base. I've never been to the top. I tried walking it with my kids, but we only got about a quarter of the way up before we got tired.
President McKinley's namesake mountain in Alaska is 20,000 feet. Do you really think a 4,000-foot peak is sufficiently grand to honor the greatness of President Reagan?
I've had a couple of people say, "You need to find a better mountain." There are, I'm sure, higher mountain peaks. The problem is, are they unnamed? You're just not going to get the board to unname something that already has a name. This is a peak that can be seen from anywhere in Las Vegas. It can be hiked. It's easy to get to, unlike Mount Rushmore. People all over the world have great respect for Ronald Reagan, and a lot of them come to Las Vegas. It would be a great tourist attraction for the millions of people who come here to go and see. I'm not saying it's the most majestic mountain in the world, but as far as an unnamed mountain that's easy to get to, I think it's certainly appropriate for honoring a great president.
What do you think Reagan would make of this effort?
He was a very humble man. I'm sure he wouldn't have wanted a lot of to-do over him. But I think he would have had a lot less objection to a mountain named after him than a federal government building.
It does seem like your struggles with the bureaucracy to get this named are an ironic tribute to Reagan's small-government philosophy.
Believe me, that was the first thing I thought about. Immediately, when I found out there's a whole federal department for naming mountains, valleys, and rivers, I thought, "This is something Reagan definitely wouldn't have approved of." I've had a little change of heart, though. After getting into it, when I started reading about the conflicts over names, and the problems it creates when there are different maps with different, conflicting names, or when states decide to change the names of things without federal approval. And the process really hasn't been that onerous -- it's nowhere near as bad as the IRS.
It's right near your house, right?
The base is about a block from my doorstep. I'm looking at it out of my window right now. The other day, at sunrise, I took a beautiful picture of the sun peeking over the top of the mountain. It was morning in America.