Welfare are us
Expanded from the 1-15-2006 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune
Recent BARBWIRE Media Hits
and Ego Trips
The Dean of Reno Bloggers could very well be Andrew Barbano, self-described "fighter of public demons," who started putting his "Barbwire" columns online in 1996 and now runs 10 sites.
RENO NEWS & REVIEW, 11-9-2006
BARBANO: Nevada's newly-hiked minimum wage is nowhere near enough
Reno Gazette-Journal, 11-11-2006
NOTE: Many of the Reno Kazoo-Journal links, both above and in the column at left, are now broken because Big Gannett in the Sky randomly nukes their affiliate archives as some cockamamie corporate bean counter cost-cutting gesture. Perhaps they see cutting their web traffic as a benefit to their advertisers. Go figger.
Sparks Mayor Geno Martini has unintentionally come close to advocating good public policy.
Local officials are trial ballooning a sales tax increase in celebration of the Hundred Year Flood which now visits the mucky Truckee Meadows every 10 years.
Mayor Martini was simply categorizing the obvious last week when he told the Reno Gazette-Journal that "we need to start immediately" with new flood control projects.
There is certainly no time to lose, especially when some local governments and major media suffer from collective attention deficit disorder.
With the mud and mold not yet dry, the Reno city council just approved a major new subdivision in a flood plane which created its own lake to celebrate the new year.
But such madcap behavior is expected from those who inhabit the haunted black tower across from the cursed Mapes graveyard.
The Gazette-Journal reported that a $42 million tax hike might be needed because local flood control funds seem to be falling short of projected needs. The RGJ noted that "an existing one-eighth cent sales tax enacted in 1998 for the flood project and other public safety improvements will raise only about $133 million when combined with other revenue sources."
That leaves Sparks, Reno and Washoe County about $42 million short of their projected share of the $350 million project. So, if that's the bad news, what's the good news? Sorry, that was the good news. The shortfall could be as much as $192 million.
The RGJ's institutional memory then failed. The 1998 flood control tax increase served as a stalking horse for the Nevada legislature to allow the Washoe County Commission to impose an additional eighth-cent sales tax to build the downtown Reno railroad trench.
Two of the three commissioners who voted for the tax hike had already been ousted by the voters in the November election. When a new commission was seated in 1999, Pete Sferrazza (D) and Jim Galloway (R) tried to turn the trench support around. Newly-elected commissioner Ted Short (R), who had campaigned against the trench, turned the voters around and supported it.
One good thing happened because of the trench: the northern Nevada union movement became much stronger. You can't build a major project such as the Union Pacific Memorial Corporate Welfare Bomb Shelter without skilled construction labor and that means union workers.
Now, the wet chickens are coming home to roost. Had the entire sales tax increase gone to flood control, we'd not only have avoided another round of attempted tax increases but also might have actually had some flood controls that worked this month.
CUE HIZZONER. "Officials also said neighboring counties affected by Truckee River flooding, including Storey and possibly Lyon counties, should consider raising sales taxes to pay for improvements. 'Let's include everybody we can,' Martini said."
If the solution were a Doberman, it would have bitten him on the ass.
Yes, Mr. Mayor, we need to include everyone we can and that means reviewing the big picture. Just think a little bigger. Local governments have squandered perhaps half a billion on corporate welfare programs since 1960. The Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority long ago perverted our room tax originally passed as a "fair and recreation" measure to improve parks and community facilities into a corporate welfare program for casinos. RSCVA funds were used to build the National Bowling Stadium in downtown Reno. That white elephant went more than 50 percent over budget and remains unfinished after squandering more than $50 million.
Sparks and Reno have skimmed over $200 million in casino district property taxes and spent them promoting and renovating decaying downtowns to the detriment of schools, parks and roads. The City of Reno's expensive PR machine now trumpets the success of the millions poured into downtown. Not so fast. First, much of the private investment has been taxpayer subsidized, starting with the Sparks and Reno Syufy theaters. I submit that unsubsidized investment would have happened anyway as the area benefited from the flood of California refugees.
Local retailers howled last week when the Reno City Council approved a $54 million tax subsidy for Cabela's sporting goods on the pretext that it will bring in three million tourists a year. Will Cabela's guarantee that in writing? I don't think so.
So thank you, Mr. Mayor, for stumbling onto the truth. We certainly need to include everybody we can, starting with a comprehensive review of all potential sources of money, including unraveling some of the earmarked empires noted above.
If you're ready to barbecue some sacred cows, I'll bring the charcoal and lighter fluid.
READ MORE ABOUT IT. Read Reno News & Review Editor D. Brian Burghart's 1997 exposé about how any flooding is automatically made worse by the federal watermaster. Court decrees and legal settlements mandate that the floodgates on the Lake Tahoe dam remain open even during torrential storms, which makes any Truckee Meadows flooding worse. You may access the masterwork at http://www.pyramid.net/burghart/flood.html [UPDATE: NEW LINKS BELOW]
BACK IN THE SADDLE. I apologize for not showing up for my mid-December gig on Sam Shad's Nevada Newsmakers. First time in my 40 years in the media that I've been a no-show. I am still recovering from a nasty bacterial lung inflammation for which a flu shot does no good. If you start feeling like all you want to do is sleep but can't because coughing wakes you up, see your doctor. This bug is virulent.
I'll bring my cough drops to this Wednesday's airing of the Shad soiree at 12:30 p.m. on KRNV TV-4. The victim of honor will be acting UNR President Joe Crowley. I'll be joined on the Shad pundit panel by Larry Matheis, executive director of the Nevada State Medical Association (the doctors' lobby) and Carole Vilardo, president of the Nevada Taxpayers Association (the big biz lobby).
Be well. Raise hell.
Massive 1997 flood caused by paperwork
D. Brian Burghart / Reno News & Review 12-25-1998
Flood Money: Pray for salvation from acts of God because governments, flush with money, remain all wet
D. Brian Burghart / Reno News & Review 2-23-2006
How they flushed millions down the riverMore flood plane talk
Jeff DeLong / Reno Gazette-Journal 12-1-2012
Of floods and cows
Barbwire by Barbano / Expanded from the 1-1-2006 Daily Sparks Tribune
Barbwire by Barbano / Expanded from the 1-8-2006 Daily Sparks Tribune
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Copyright © 1982-2006-2012 Andrew Barbano
Andrew Barbano is a 43-year Nevadan, editor of NevadaLabor.com and JoeNeal.org; and former chair of the City of Reno's Citizens Cable Compliance Committee, He is producer of Nevada's annual César Chávez Day celebration and serves as first vice-president, political action chair and webmaster of the Reno-Sparks NAACP. As always, his opinions are strictly his own. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Barbwire by Barbano premiered in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune on Aug. 12, 1988, and has originated in those parts ever since. Tempus fugit.
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