Jim Clark: A look at Incline’s independence movements
May 15, 2013
As part of a recent presentation the IVGID board I was assigned to research and present a history of independence movements in Incline Village/Crystal Bay.
Few of the details or names of the movers and shakers were recorded, so I am indebted to Attorney Geno Menchetti for filling me in on such activities as occurred before my arrival in 1992.
Gene Brockman and my own recollections were the sources of information for the period 1992 to the present. I caution readers that memories may be imperfect but it's the best we can do.
Even before spiraling property values raised Incline/Crystal Bay cumulative assessed valuations to 13 percent of Washoe County's total Geno and his comrades found that being 100 round trip miles distant from the centers of local government was difficult at best and impossible when our little community was snowbound 6 months of the year.
So the movers and shakers decided that Incline/Crystal Bay should be an independent county.
Even in the early years we had some power players living at the Lake. Bob Weise was a member of the Nevada Assembly and Bennie Ferraro was a Washoe County Commissioner. Don Steinmeyer was also involved.
In 1977 and again in 1979 the group went to the legislature intent on separating from Washoe County. While supported by Commissioner Ferraro the county opposed the effort.
However, Weise was Speaker of the Assembly and got the measure approved in the lower house only to have it killed by Senator Bill Raggio in the Senate.
A compromise of sort was worked out however. The Hyatt was the third largest producer of room tax in the county and all that money went to Reno. The compromise was to create the local Visitors Bureau and award them 34 percent of local room taxes.
Two more efforts at independence were launched in 1983 and 1985 to no avail. In 1991 IVGID Trustee Joe Marson and resident Don Kornreich headed still another effort at independence but came home empty handed.
In 1994 a large independence group was assembled by Bob Olsen. Volunteers included Gene Brockman, Bob Edwards, Bill Seidler, Ted Harris, Joy Gumz, Don Oswald, Chuck Masters, Bill Biehler and … me.
We raised some money and hired a lobbyist. Our Assemblyman, Pete Ernaut, insisted on a vote of residents and 66 percent supported a separate county in the 1994 election. Pete then introduced the "Ponderosa County" bill in the 1995 legislature. He required that the Washoe County financial officer meet with our CPA and agree on a"Ponderosa County" budget. The final product showed a $500,000 surplus. Ernaut called it "inadequate" and tabled his bill.
Olsen resigned for health reasons and I became chair. Ernaut promised to make Incline/Crystal Bay an independent school district in the 1997 legislature.
He succeeded in both the assembly and senate only to have Gov. Miller, who didn't want to see an "elitist" school district in Nevada, veto the measure. That was a close as we came to independence.
Reno, which had been aggressively annexing county territories and raising taxes, began looking for more taxable resources (read: Incline/Crystal Bay).
In about 2000, the city proposed to "unincorporate" and add its 7 council members to the 5 person county commission, effectively a hostile takeover. Then the city unsuccessfully sought legislation permitting non-contiguous annexation.
A couple of years ago, after an advisory "consolidation" vote, the city sought unsuccessfully to "consolidate" and add council persons to the county commission. Therefore for most of the last decade the independence group looked at defensive positions, including cityhood.
Currently the Governance Committee of IV/CB 2020 Vision is looking at still more options but that will be the subject of another column.
Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates, and has served on the Washoe County and Nevada state GOP Central Committees. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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