Girly men and battlebots
Expanded from the 5-7-2006 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune
UPDATED 5-21-2006

Last Monday's Ballardini Ranch debacle is now officially installed in the Barbwire Rogues Gallery of Bad Government Boondoggles.

Letters to the Editor

Mr. Barbano:

Do you understand why it happened? 

I've watched the meeting on TV; something mentioned about the city attorney being in secret negotiations w/Evans Creek? 

— Reno

Dear Reno:

I hope this column answers some of your questions. The secret dealings happened in 2002. Apparently, Evans Creek convinced County Manager Katy Singlaub to enter into secret negotiations. She did so without the permission or knowledge of the commission, a serious mistake in the opinion of some. When commissioners started talking about eminent domain, she had to disclose what she had been doing. The developers apparently used this turn of events as reason to break off contact altogether.

"Singlaub was played," according to one observer.

Had the county moved in 2002, the market value would probably have hovered around $20 million, but Singlaub's dealings with guys who really didn't want to deal completely derailed matters, leading to the 2004 condemnation action.

The delay certainly proved to Evans Creek's advantage.


Reno Gazette-Journal, 5-7-2006

It's difficult to express the my disappointment with the county in the Ballardini Ranch settlement.

Once again, those with money will make even more. With this turn of events, I will be surprised if we do get even a trailhead out of it all.

— Larry Scritchfield, Reno


I told Washoe County commissioners that the proposed settlement ranked with Honey Lake water importation and the giveaway of Washoe Medical Center among the biggest mistakes county government ever made.

Alas, with only stalwart Commissioner Pete Sferrazza dissenting, your elected representatives gave the Minnesota developers everything they wanted with a cherry on top and not even a kiss afterward (although Commission Chair Bob Larkin and county-retained lawyer Mike Chapman were greeted with handshakes, shoulder pats and everything but high fives from developer representatives after doing the deed).

How bad was it?

They approved a six-page "statement of settlement" which curiously included additional items not agreed upon in negotiation, according to Mr. Sferrazza.

Chairman Larkin consistently tried to silence Sferrazza and prevent him from getting answers to his questions. Larkin's performance was both glaring and embarrassing.

I have requested a copy of the final agreement when the developer's lawyers have finished rewriting it. I have also asked if the public will get a chance to review it before it's signed.

I'm not hopeful.

I reminded commissioners that post-approval drafting resulted in a hemorrhage of millions when the 1985 commission gave away Washoe Medical Center. The Washoe County Grand Jury later found that now-Judge Ed Dannan, then a deputy D.A., had removed the reason for the privatization from the contract.

The new owners had promised to pay for the medical care of those unable to afford it in exchange for a free hospital. The county would be permanently off the hook. Dannan removed it from the contract. (Barbwire 8-5-2001)

In just the past five years, Washoe County taxpayers have given Washoe Med more than $35.5 million for indigent care. That's almost exactly the amount of debt commissioners approved to pay for the Ballardini Ranch.

The commission debate even produced a second new entry into the Rogues Gallery. Sferrazza noted a recent turnover of county owned land to the Mt. Rose ski resort. Forty acres of prime property, potentially worth hundreds of millions, was deeded over to private interests for just $200,000.

Again, more than enough was squandered to pay even the highest appraisal for the Ballardini Ranch.

Had Commissioner Jim Galloway not lost his nerve, Commissioner Dave Humke might have been emboldened to stay the course and let a jury decide the value. Humke faces a tough primary against Elisa Maser, daughter of former state treasurer Patty Cafferata and granddaughter of former Rep. Barbara Vucanovich, R-Nev.

Alas and alack, it all boiled down to a case of Reno good ole boy juice politics.

Powerful developers called and gave orders to back off. Major law firms sent out the word "you're gonna lose, so settle."

Larkin, Humke and Galloway, all highly educated men with passive personalities, were up against surly lawyers hired to implement a scorched earth strategy. The battlebots won, even carrying uberconservative Commissioner Bonnie Weber, who originally wanted to give the developers nothing.

INVASION OF THE TREE HUGGERS — by Harry Spencer's old friend Don Dondero, from the Barbwire Dondero Gallery. Perhaps the best Reno News & Review cover ever. I know the identities of all three "models" who made the supreme sacrifice so that Don could get this shot in the snows of Mt. Rose. Their secret is safe with me. Sort of. As for Harry, he and his smarmy good old boys can kiss my bark and eat my bite.

Saddest of all, local TV, the Las Vegas Review-Journal and even Tribune columnist Harry Spencer bought the spin that taxpayers will get about 500 acres of open space.

Settlement draft posted
Harry Spencer in a snit
Barbwire 5-21-2006

That's a lie.

We get nothing.

Harry even published namecalling of "green panthers" and (gasp) "tree huggers." (Tribune, May 4)

He'll have a surprise waiting for him with the web edition of this column should he care to view a response barely suitable for a family newspaper.

I COULDA BEEN A CONTENDER. Last week, Reno insurance magnate Mike Robinson gave me a hot tip on the Kentucky Derby, a horse named Barbaro, which is one letter away from Barbano, so he called to pass along his hunch.

Robinson said that he was going to lay some money on Barbaro to win.

I might have paid more attention had I googled the race and found that Barbaro had drawn gate position number eight, which is my favorite number, the symbol of infinity to mathematicians, of imponderable contradiction to Mobius, of graphic perfection to artists and of underdogs to us rebels.

Barbaro barely broke a sweat in coming from behind to win by seven lengths.

I suggest that Mr. Robinson launch a tout sheet blog ASAP.

AGAINST THE ODDS. If you read Janine Kearney's story in last Tuesday's Tribune, your paper should have tear stains.

THE KIDWilliam Albiniano, 8, needs expensive kidney treatments and medication his family cannot afford without insurance.

"We ran out of his medication two weeks ago," said his mother Lisa Albiniano.

— Copyright © 2006 Debra Reid/Daily Sparks Tribune

"William Albiniano needs expensive kidney treatments and medication that his family cannot afford without insurance," Kearney wrote.

"We ran out of his medication two weeks ago," his mother told Kearney. The story with donation locations and photos will be permanently posted with the web edition of this column. I will upload updates as I receive them.

On Friday, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman commented on a study which shows that the health of U.S. residents is far inferior to that of countries which spend far less on health care.

"The United States has achieved a sort of inverse miracle: We spend much more per person on health care than any other nation, yet we have lower life expectancy and higher infant mortality than Canada, Japan and most of Europe," Krugman wrote.

The medication which will help young William is not approved for his particular ailment, so the drug manufacturer can't even give it to him for free!


With all the millions the taxpayers have paid Washoe Med for the past 21 years, perhaps the octopus will find a glimmer of kindness in its greedy innards to help this little boy. He may not live long enough to witness the paving of Ballardini Ranch, but somewhere amid all those billions, someone should have some spare change for a very sick kid.

Ironically, William Albiniano is a perfect eight years old.

ON THURSDAY, I'll be joining Sam Shad and the usual suspects on Nevada Newsmakers at 12:30 p.m. on KRNV TV-4. Those afflicted with Charter cable may view the rerun at 9:30 p.m. on channel 12 in Washoe, Carson and Douglas counties. The Radio-TV rebroadcast schedule and download options may be accessed hereat.

Be well. Raise hell.

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Copyright © 1982, 1984, 1996, 2004, 2005, 2006 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 37-year Nevadan, editor of and webmaster of His opinions are strictly his own. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.


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