Jim Clark: Why Incline should care about the Reno mayor race
May 5, 2014
There are 18 candidates for mayor of Reno. We should congratulate the Reno Gazette-Journal and KNPB Channel 5 for getting them all on one stage for a televised debate last week.
The results, however, were not encouraging.
Comments like: "I don't know how to fix the homeless problem but I'll figure it out when I'm mayor," and "We need to either find a way to raise some funds or, somehow, we need to raise some taxes. We just need to do it" do not inspire a lot of confidence in this candidate pool.
Last weekend's RGJ posted a scathing editorial headlined: "Homework assignment — candidates for mayor have a lot of catching up to do on issues."
Why should Incline/Crystal Bay residents care what happens in Reno? Here's what our former county commissioner Jim Galloway has to say on the subject: "The prospects for Reno are indeed bleak … if the state has to take over a bankrupt Reno can they not raise property taxes above the ($3.66 per hundred dollars assessed valuation) cap as high as they need to pay Reno's bills and debt service?
"This will kill the Reno economy and that of the entire Truckee Meadows as well; but that is the easy way out and most likely what the state will do. If the state takes over Reno I would hardly be surprised if this mess is followed by legislation that will tax unincorporated residents to pay for the Reno financial mess."
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Recent Washoe County political history tells us this is not just a distant threat. During the last decade the Reno City Council proposed to unincorporate as a city and add their seven council persons to the county commission giving them a majority.
The proposal quietly died. Subsequently Reno pursued legislation that would have allowed them to annex non-contiguous lands such as Incline/Crystal Bay. That went nowhere in Carson City.
In 2010, Reno persuaded the Washoe County Commission to approve an advisory ballot question, WC — 2, asking voters' opinions on a Reno — Washoe County consolidation.
The measure passed 54 percent to 46 percent but failed in the unincorporated county areas and Sparks. Immediately, the Reno City Council voted to consolidate with Washoe County, again adding their seven councilpersons to the county commission.
No action was taken at the county level. Anybody see a pattern here?
The reason Reno covets our mountain paradise is that Incline/Crystal Bay has 13 percent of the entire assessed valuation of Washoe County … $1.4 billion worth based on the latest figures.
Our consolidated real estate tax rate is $3.46. Reno's is $3.66, the statutory maximum or "cap." If Reno could somehow gain jurisdiction, it could raise our tax rate an additional $0.20, which would produce a heap of new tax money.
Why is Reno so troubled and Sparks, for example, relatively serene? Reno's history is one of aggressive spending and leveraging with bonded indebtedness.
This provided cash to enter generous public employee union contracts, lower the railroad tracks, build a down town events center, build a homeless center, and finally, entice a minor league baseball team to locate here with financial incentives Reno cannot now deliver on.
Perhaps the city's plight is best illustrated by the firefighters' union demanding four-person fire engine crews when Sparks, Washoe County and North Lake Tahoe have flexible three-person crews.
Adding insult to injury was the recent story, now gone viral, about Reno firefighters going to exotic locations for their emergency medical certification training (including one such session on a one-week Mexican Riviera cruise) and billing the city for the costs.
However much we locals like to complain and criticize, IVGID and the NLTFPD look pretty good by comparison.
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.