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 $120 million.

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 public vote.

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 conversion.

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 country.

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 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.

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