Wal-Mart shootout at Reno City Hall
Expanded from the 11-26-00 Sparks (Nev.) Tribune
The term "arbitrary and capricious" has fresh currency these days due to overuse by legal types down Florida way.
All them learned lawyers ain't wrong.
If you want to beat the opposition in the adult game of Dungeons and Dragons known as the judicial system, prove a government decision arbitrary (meaning "without reason, arising from will or caprice") and capricious (from "caprice," a term often used to describe teenage love which means "a disposition to change one's mind impulsively").
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A recent State of Nevada study blames proliferation of low-wage jobs for driving state and local governments to raise taxes.
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The magic sword which will slay the Blue Meanies named Arbitrary and Capricious has a very dry label: "evidence on the record."
A Reno dirty book and video store went all the way to the Nevada Supreme Court a few years back, alleging that the Reno City Council arbitrarily and capriciously denied the operator a liquor license to open a bar next door. The Supremes said stop in the name of love, ruling that the city had "ample evidence" to turn down the application.
Actually, the city didn't have much, but it doesn't take much. Sierra Pacific Power once lost a major rate hike because one public service commissioner hung his hat on a single sentence in the record which noted that the country's national policy of energy conservation would be violated by finding for SPP.
The courts considered that ample evidence and ratepayers were saved a humongous rate increase.
Which brings me to the new Reno City Council which, this Tuesday, Nov. 28, at 6:00 p.m., will signal how it plans to do things for the next few years. The test will come over Wal-Mart.
The nation's biggest retailer, basically a marketer of imports from third world and slave labor countries, wants to build a big box superstore in northwest Reno at the intersection of W. Seventh and North McCarran, just north of Interstate 80.
Put aside all arguments about Wally World as a vicious, exploitive, job-destroying predator, which it is. The Achilles' Heel of this particular Trojan War lies in the increased traffic this project will generate.
The area is already heavily congested. The most recent fatality occurred on Mae Anne Avenue on the south side of the proposed site, between Taco Bell and Safeway where autos pick up dangerous speed on a sharp downhill grade. For a brutally clear demonstration, hang around there any weekday afternoon when nearby McQueen High School adjourns.
Based on their previous statements, councilmembers Sherrie Doyle and Dave Aiazzi seem pretty well convinced to vote against the megastore. Newly elected Jessica Sferrazza-Hogan produced a campaign commercial terming herself as "inclined against" the store and hitting her opponent, Glade Hall, as "inclined to support it."
They took those positions in response to my question at the Sept. 20 Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Atlantis Hotel-Casino.
Councilman Tom Herndon and the opponent who defeated him, Toni Harsh, said they needed more information. Newly re-elected councilmember and attorney Pierre Hascheff took a lawyer's way out, saying that the city attorney has advised that stating any position could result in his disqualification.
That didn't stop Mr. Aiazzi from flatly stating opposition.
Neighbors in northwest Reno have been quietly meeting and organizing in advance of Tuesday's showdown. Doyle and Aiazzi wanted a decisive vote at the Oct. 3 council meeting and trashed Wally World for continued failure to bring promised information and exhibits before the body.
Herndon and Hascheff moved to allow postponement. Councilman Dave Rigdon, the only other member present, sided with Herndon and Hascheff to grant Wal-Mart until Nov. 28 to make its case.
Rigdon actually did the residents a favor by giving them time to gather opposition research.
Afterward, one councilmember pointed out that landowner Ed Ricks' previous project, which included boutiques around a plaza anchored by a United Artists theater, was opposed with arguments similar to those made against Wal-Mart. The UA theater evaporated partly due to the city's decision to subsidize construction of the struggling downtown Reno riverfront movie house.
A traffic planner with the Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County told the city council on Oct. 3 that RTC's long range plan for the area included the impact of any major retailer on Mr. Ricks' site.
Local architect Jeff Codega, apparently representing Wal-Mart, asserted that "Las Vegas found that you have more traffic when you break the product lines (i.e., groceries, dry goods, automotive) into smaller pieces."
However, "Wal-Mart's traffic study underestimated Northtowne's traffic by as much as 34 percent," asserted Reno council candidate Mike Tracy, Aiazzi's then-opponent who lives nearby and continues to work against the project.
Wal-Mart's Northtowne location, 4.75 miles away at U.S. 395 N. and N. McCarran, has become legendary for its traffic backups.
"We have struggled for six years with no answers (from Wal-Mart) to fix Northtowne," Councilmember Doyle said.
"We cannot inflict upon another neighborhood what we've done to Northtowne unless we are absolutely certain," she added.
Traffic backups are already a major problem at the Interstate 80 West exit onto McCarran, which will become the gateway to the new Wal-Mart. The Nevada Dept. of Transportation plans to widen McCarran between Mae Anne and the freeway, but that expansion may be a decade away and only brushes one corner of the Wal-Mart development.
If one sentence can place enough evidence on the record, here it is, from a letter dated Nov. 16, 1999, to North Las Vegas City Manager Patrick Importuna from Stephen A. Orosz, principal traffic engineer for the California engineering and surveying firm of Penfield and Smith: "...discount superstores have been shown to generate over 25% more traffic than the generic shopping center land use."
Such evidence, combined with the experience of Northtowne, trumps any assertions such as those of Mr. Codega and the RTC. It will stand up in court.
You may watch the proceedings live or repeated later on tape on Sierra Nevada Community Access Television (SNCAT) on Reno and Sparks cable, but nothing tops live action.
Come locked and loaded Tuesday at Reno City Hall.
Be well. Raise hell.
RENO CITY COUNCIL CONTACT INFORMATION
Council and Mayor Fax: (775) 334-2097
Hizzoner the Mayor, 334-2001
Ward 1, Toni Harsh, 334-2011
Ward 2, David Rigdon, 334-2017
Ward 3, Jessica Sferrazza-Hogan, 334-2012
Ward 4, Sherrie Doyle, 334-2015
Ward 5, Dave Aiazzi, 334-2016
At Large, Pierre Hascheff, 334-2014
City Manager Charles McNeely, phone 334-2020, Fax 334-2097
City of Reno website
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copyright © 2000, 2006 Andrew Barbano
Andrew Barbano is a 31-year Nevadan, a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of NevadaLabor.com. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988. For more detailed research, especially on Wal-Mart, use the search engine at the front page of this site.
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