The price of a piece
2008 Nevada Press Association first-place award winner
Expanded from the 6-17-2007 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

Updated 6-18-2007, 10-26-2008, 9-20-2009

The late great Johnny Carson's arguably favorite joke involved an indecent proposal. Many times over his 30 years on The Tonight Show, Carson told the story of a wealthy mogul who was entranced by a beautiful woman at a social function.

The Dean's List

   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

The 2009 first-place Nevada Press Association award winners
Tony the Tiger & the flaky NFL
Barbwire / 11-30-2008
Deregulation is never having to say you're sorry
Barbwire / 8-3-2008
Nevada: A good place to visit, but do you want to live here?
Barbwire / 6-15-2008

Live Streaming Barbwire.TV
Monday thru Friday
Reno-Sparks-Washoe Charter cable channels 16 and 216

2 :00-4:00 p.m. PST
22:00-24:00 ZULU/GMT/CUT/SUT

The executive was not given to wasting his valuable time. Approaching the vamp, he introduced himself, made her aware of his wealth, and asked her if she would hop into bed with him for one million dollars.

"Yes, I suppose so," said the lady.

"Well, would you go with me for one dollar?" replied the gazillionaire.

"What do you think I am?" icily said she.

"We've established that," said the gentleman, "we're just haggling over the price."

Badda boom, badda bing.

Which brings me to the latest chapter in the neverending story of the moral obtuseness of Scheels – oops – Sparks city government.

For those who've missed it, and city hall has apparently made every effort to make sure you did, the heavy hitters on Prater Way cut a deal with an out of town retailer to rename Sparks Blvd. after said store. That way, they could get free advertising from the feds via Interstate 80 directional signs.

This is not a new marketing concept. Former Sparks entrepreneur Joe Conforte had the same idea a few miles east of the city limits about 40 years ago. He made a lot of money and at one point controlled three votes on the city council.

Same Scheels, different day.

The current sellout is being sparked by another high profile Italian, Mayor Geno Martini who hails from the hill behind Reed High.

In a statement published in this newspaper, Hizzoner said "The concept to rename Sparks Boulevard to Scheels Boulevard stems from the development agreement between the city and the developer. "

That's the equivalent of Dubya and his daddy saying "mistakes were made."

That's not only bad writing, but passive verbs remove fingerprints. The mistakes just happened, made by no one. Was there a star in the east when this deal was written? Can we call Gomorrah South CSI to dust for prints and DNA?

Gently flicking the powder from his latex gloves, Hizzoner goes on to damn the idea with faint praise.

"As mayor, I do not vote. And while I cannot speak for any member of the city council, I can tell you that I am not a staunch supporter of renaming the entire length of Sparks Boulevard. After all, it is our city’s namesake."

Nothing like firm commitment to principle.

"However, granting the Scheels name for a sum of $1 million for a strip of pavement that is less than a mile in length certainly has some merit. Only a handful of businesses would be impacted," Martini wrote.

"Scheels has agreed to pay the city $1 million over a 20-year period ($50,000 a year) for the renaming….The money received from Scheels for the name change could be used for valuable city services such as public safety."

He said the magic word, Groucho – again.

Because of a half-century of corporate welfare programs, Reno and Sparks don't have enough money to provide proper public safety. The two cities' longing for wholesale annexation of county land lies in lust for increased taxes to keep this 52-year chain letter going.

A majority of voters got wise to the shuck, turning down a 2006 sales tax increase misleadingly marketed in the name of public safety.

This is not a new story.

As former Tribune columnist Dennis Myers points out in the current edition of the Reno News & Review, very little of the voter approved tax increase for flood control (a stalking horse for the Reno Rail Trench tax hike) has actually gone to flood control.

This deal can't suck because it's too full of holes to build up any vacuum pressure.

Web edition 6-17-2007

   The present day value of the $1 million as calculated in the print edition is probably unduly low. To arrive at a discounted, present day value for $1 million over 20 years, I recomputed by starting with $50,000 in year one.

   Then, assuming a loss of five percent for every year in which the remaining money is not paid, I calculated a discounted actual cash value for today's $50,000 in each of years two through 20.

    For instance, assuming a real (adjusted for inflation) rate of return of five percent per year, $50,000 paid in year two is worth $47,619 today. ($50,000 divided by 1.05 = .9523. In other words, next year's 50k is worth only $47,619 today, calculated by taking 95.23 percent of $50,000 ).

   Year three's value is simply year number two divided again by 1.05, or $45,351, and so on. The $50,000 due in year 10 is worth only $30,808.75 in today's dollars. The final payment in year 20 is worth only $19,785 today.

   Totaling each annual time-eroded value for the next 19 years comes to $584,712.03

   Added to year one's $50,000, the actual cash value of the Scheels offer comes to $634,712.03 in today's dollars, keeping in mind that this assumes a real, inflation-adjusted rate of return of five percent per year.

   Sorry for the confusion, but it's been 40 years since I took a finance class and I didn't keep my textbook, correctly forecasting that I had no future in the likes of Wall Street.

First, the $1 million figure is bogus. Fifty grand a year over 20 years is not a million dollars. Any realtor or banker will tell you that you have to discount such a deal for the time value of money. Hizzoner, a lifelong banker, certainly knows this and knew it when the deal was cut.

The time value of money is why a lottery winner gets far less as a lump sum today rather than taking payments over 20 years.

"If you have a monetary value in the future, to find the current equivalent you divide by 1 plus the discount rate," advises a financial website.

"If you want to discount by 5%, then $100 in a year is worth $100/1.05=$95.24 today."

I divided that $95.24 nineteen more times. At 10 years, Martini's million has shrunk to $613,913.25. At year 20, it's really worth $376,889.48 in today's dollars – assuming that you could get a five percent a year return, not allowing for potential inflation.

Good public policy would demand that the city get all the money up front. What if these guys go bankrupt in an economic downturn? Going the other way, the city should factor up the payments so that the public treasury is getting a real million in today's dollars. I guess they aren't that smart.

Next come the moral questions.

Hizzoner asserts that "only a handful of businesses would be impacted."

The Rev. Onie Cooper tried for decades to get a street here in Mississippi West named in honor the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. One of the deadly obstacles was always the inconvenience and expense of changing business addresses. Cooper finally got a token stretch of US 395 dubbed the Martin Luther King, Jr., Highway, marked with a stingy few road signs.

Dr. King and Rev. Cooper didn't have a million dollars, discounted or otherwise, to throw around.

Others have wanted a local street named in honor of labor leader
César Chávez. While anti-King critics noted that the Nobel Peace Prize winner never made it to these parts, at least as far as anyone knows, Chávez most certainly did. I have long had the photos and history of his 1986 visit posted at NevadaLabor.com.

In his News & Review column, local radio legend Bruce Van Dyke wrote "to actually accede would set a truly ghastly precedent. It would be the municipal equivalent of Sparks selling off its street names like they were so many logos on Jeff Gordon’s racing outfit. Could the intersection of Pizza Hut and Jiffy Lube be far behind? If all parties have this stuff worked out by now, never mind."

Whether this asphalt deal is set in cement is anybody's guess. Keeping such a controversial, if vague, contractual commitment under wraps demonstrates contempt for the public. (The city is obligated to employ "best efforts" to rename the road).

If best effort is defined as mediocrity, this is indeed a done deal.

Sparks stands unique among local governments for its history of endemic racism, effects of which linger today. A new community center gets named after slain Sparks police officer Larry Johnson, an African-American whose orphaned son was busted for the crime of walking while black during Hot August Nights on Victorian Square a few years back.

Tribune editor Janine Kearney reported last week that "the name change will be considered at the Regional Street Naming Committee meeting held on July 19 at the Washoe County complex. If the committee approves the name change, it will be considered by the Sparks City Council."

If city hall renames a piece of Sparks Blvd. for Scheels, don't leave the body cut and bleeding. Name a segment for King, another for Chávez, a third for Johnson, then find a new thoroughfare to carry the name of the city.

Otherwise, dammit, just leave well enough alone.

Haggling over the price of a piece is not worth the price of peace.

Be well. Raise hell.


Barbwire Nevada Corporate Welfare Archive
Learn about the goodies the gambling industry gets at the public trough

BARBWIRE: Labor Day '94: People vs. corporate con job, 9-4-94
Chilling forecasts from Alex Carey

Nevada: Right to Work for Less
Those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it

Barbwire Oilogopoly Archive
I've been telling you so for more than 10 freakin' years

NAOMI WOLF: Fascist America in 10 Easy Steps
There are some things common to every state that's made the transition to fascism. Author Naomi Wolf argues that all of them are present in America today.
Alternet 5-20-2007

...and more ammo

The campaign against forcibly-paid newspaper obituaries
And they wonder why the newspaper business is dying?


The Dean's List

   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

The 2009 first-place Nevada Press Association award winners
Tony the Tiger & the flaky NFL
Barbwire / 11-30-2008
Deregulation is never having to say you're sorry
Barbwire / 8-3-2008
Nevada: A good place to visit, but do you want to live here?
Barbwire / 6-15-2008


NevadaLabor.com | U-News | Bulletins + Almanac
Casinos Out of Politics (COP) | Sen. Joe Neal
Guinn Watch | Deciding Factors
| BallotBoxing.US
DoctorLawyerWatch.com | Barbwire Oilogopoly Archive
Barbwire Nevada Corporate Welfare Archive
Annual César Chávez Celebration
War Rooms:
Banks, Cabbies, Cabela's, Cable TV, Cancer Kids/Mining, Energy, Health Care, Resurge.TV/consumers, Starbucks, Wal-Mart
Search this site | In Search Of...


Copyright © 1982-2007, 2008, 2009 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 38-year Nevadan, editor of NevadaLabor.com and JoeNeal.org; a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413/AFL-CIO,and the Reno-Sparks NAACP. As always, his opinions are strictly his own. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.


Site composed and maintained by Deciding Factors, CWA 9413 signatory

Comments and suggestions appreciated. Sign up for news and bulletins