A life sentence paying corporate welfare taxes
I just got handed a life sentence. Like other irrelevant voters, I
can protest, but it won't matter much.
One eyelash-bat after the Nov. 3 election, the Washoe County
Commission took the first step toward raising the sales tax to pay for
depression of the downtown Reno railroad tracks.
This continues the commission's reputation as most corrupt of local
elected bodies over the past three decades. Not even the old Joe
Conforte-controlled Sparks city council comes close, and that was one
morally obtuse group. Legend has it that one guy tried to extort money from
a Catholic parish. Making the offer during confession ensured that the poor
pastor on the receiving end could reveal nothing about it!
(With all due respect to brothel owner Conforte, that bit of
mischief had nothing to do with him. Captain Hook respected the church even
if the pols did not.)
CAPTAIN HOOKERS. How bad does that make the Washoe County
Commission? Well, in 1985, the outfit gave away Washoe Medical Center to
its current owners for about $3 million. Actual value lay somewhere around
The current commission just put those pirates to shame. The track
depression will supposedly cost $192 million and probably much more. The
stick-it-to-the-little-guy sales tax will fund the lion's share. Union
Pacific will put up not one penny in cash.
To avoid reversal when two anti-corporate welfare commissioners get
seated in January, the lame ducks are pushing a quickie bond sale. At that
point, all who choose to live in this county begin serving a 30-year
sentence of higher taxes.
BONDAGE BROKERS. Re-elected chairperson Joanne Bond, mid-term
Sparks member Jim Shaw and defrocked commissioners Sue Camp and Mike
Mouliot imposed the ripoff. Only Jim Galloway dissented, arguing for a
They may have inadvertently secured the sunsetting of gambling as
our major industry. The impending construction disruption may expedite the
shutdown of one trackside hotel-casino. Some smaller properties are
similarly considering closure or following their peers into timeshare condo
The track trench will facilitate tripling train traffic and
doubling current speeds through the hearts of Reno and Sparks. The
gold-plated gulch will provide marginally better protection when (not if) a
major toxic or nuclear accident occurs.
The casino industry loses any way you slice this particular hog.
The construction hurts traffic in the short term and provides in perpetuity
both legal and political cover for dangerous trains.
"If we don't...send a message, people nationally won't invest in
our community," Bond said.
"If we don't bite the bullet and make this a viable place for
tourism and industry to locate, we have lost it. I will take the heat."
Her comment was multi-layered nonsense. We already combine just
about the lowest business taxes with the highest individual taxes in the
IF YOU SELL CHEAP, YOU ARE CHEAP. Officials of bygone days at least
stood to make honest and/or dishonest profits from whoring the public
trust. Back in the Sixties, Reno councilmen who voted to park the
convention center at its current site made sure friends or family members
acquired cheap land nearby before the location was announced.
The Conforte councilmen and a long line of Washoe Med lackeys have
gained handsomely for their "pro-business" efforts.
I can't understand what's in it for the current crop. I think
they've sold out for some serious sucking up and maybe the price of lunch.
For Mike Mouliot and Sue Camp, I see only revenge for election day
embarrassment, although Camp will continue to fatten as a crony of Reno
Mayor Jeff Griffin.
She's certainly not smart enough for public office. The voters
apparently agreed, having knocked out the appointee in the primary. In
voting for the slaves...er...sales tax, Camp incredibly called the hike "an
insurance policy for our economy...our property taxes won't go up to make
up the difference for a rotten economy."
Muttonheaded, undereducated poppycock. Sales taxes are those most
sensitive to economic ebbs and flows. If retail sales dip too low, property
tax money must be devoted toward making up the revenue shortfall.
The same holds true for debacles like the bloated Reno bowling
stadium. If room tax revenues fall, county property taxes are likewise in
jeopardy of rising to keep up the payments.
Dire predictions of red ink surfaced last Friday.
All this comes with the gambling-industrial complex demanding more
corporate welfare by drumming up fear from the far-distant threat of
California Indian casinos. The gamblers want a new downtown Reno convention
center and expansion of the current facility. Taxes must be raised to suit
them, as Reno-Sparks tourism and downtown redevelopment agencies stand
broke because of past expenditures, bond sales and corporate giveaways.
WHO PUT US IN THE HOLE. The gambling industry pushed tax hikes on
all but itself through the last legislature. Every northern assembly
member, with three exceptions, voted in favor of raising the sales tax.
Only Don Gustavson, R-Sun Valley, voted nay, as did John Carpenter, R-Elko.
John Marvel, R-Battle Mountain, was absent.
"In my opinion, Mr. Speaker, taking away the people's right to vote
on this tax increase themselves is poor public policy," Assemblyman
Gustavson said before the vote.
"If I'm going to protect my rights, I must first protect the rights
of the voting public, and for that reason, Mr. Speaker, I will be voting
'no' on AB 291," Gustavson stated.
Clark County assembly members in opposition were likewise few.
Democrats in opposition: Arberry, Mortenson and Williams, all Las Vegas;
Price, North Las Vegas. Solo opposing Republican: Tiffany of Henderson.
Republican senators in favor: Jacobsen-Minden; McGinness-Fallon; Raggio-Reno; Rhoads-Tuscarora; James, O'Connell, Porter, Rawson, all Clark. Democrats in favor: Adler, Carson City; Regan, Schneider, Shaffer, Titus, Wiener, all Las Vegas.
Republicans opposed: Townsend-Reno; Washington-Sparks; Augustine and O'Donnell, Las Vegas. Democrats opposed: Mathews-Reno; Coffin-Las Vegas, and Neal, North Las Vegas.
Next time you see any of the above, ask them to show up for the
commission's final vote on Dec. 8 and explain their actions.
Be well. Raise hell.
© Andrew Barbano
Andrew Barbano is a member of CWA Local 9413. He is a Reno-based syndicated columnist, a 30-year Nevadan, editor of U-News and was campaign manager for Democratic candidate for Governor, State Senator Joe Neal.
Barbwire by Barbano has appeared in the Sparks Tribune since 1988 and parts of this column were originally published 11/29/98.