Faced with a daunting $3.7 million municipal budget deficit, Mayor Bob Crowell and city supervisors last Monday decided to raise our property taxes by nearly 4 percent a few days after voting to draft a ballot measure that would increase local sales taxes to pay for a big new library that we don't want, don't need and can't afford.
The Board of Supervisors met 10 days ago to discuss the latest iteration of the ever-changing Nugget Project, also known as the City Center Project, which has become a constantly moving target because it changes every time it's presented to the public. Let's call it what it is: yet another "feel good" project that we can't afford in a weak economy. One of my friends called it "the incredible, shrinking Nugget Project," which is an accurate description.
As it's been shrinking it has morphed into a project that increasingly depends upon taxpayer dollars for funding. Last fall, Mayor Crowell, an astute attorney, and Supervisor Shelly Aldean, a successful businesswoman, wisely objected to additional public funding for the project. But that was then and this is now at a time when proponents have admitted that they can't raise the $20 million in private funding that they promised.
At the May 17 supervisors' meeting, Nugget President Steve Neighbors, the self-described "outsider from Idaho," assured us that we'll love the project "when the details come out," a startling statement from someone who advertises himself as a "certified turnaround practitioner." After all, he's been pushing this dubious project for nearly three years with little to show for his efforts.
Neighbors, who administers the Mae Adams Trust, mentioned the late Ms. Adams so often - "Mae says" and "Mae thinks" - that at one point I thought he was going to convene a seance with Ms. Adams, the deceased wife of former Nugget owner Hop Adams, of Boise, who owned and operated the local casino for many years with his brother Howard. Ms. Adams, who died three years ago, had little to do with casino management and rarely visited Carson. Truth be told, the Adams family took most of their profits back home to Boise.
Although Neighbors always mentions how much the Adams family cared about Carson City, that's not how former mayors Ray Masayko and Marv Teixeira remember the Idaho family. While recognizing the Nugget's good deeds, including free holiday meals for the needy and some charitable contributions, Masayko and Teixeira also recall many broken promises.
"They promised forever to build a hotel and a parking garage, but those never materialized, and they tried to harpoon the freeway," Masayko told me last week. "They had many opportunities to invest in our community, but they never did," Teixeira added.
City Manager Larry Werner is drafting a ballot question asking voters to approve a one-fourth of 1 cent sales tax increase to pay for the amorphous, multi-million-dollar Nugget Project. But personally, I favor the petition being circulated by project opponents, which would prohibit the city from spending any public money on this expensive boondoggle without a vote of the people.
• Guy W. Farmer has been a Carson City voter since 1962.