Over the next few months, Mayor Ray Masayko and Carson City supervisors will make some fundamental decisions about the future of our state capital, and their decisions will greatly affect quality of life issues for those of us who live here.
I have two basic questions for them: (1) What kind of a city do we want to live in? (2) What kind of development should we be seeking?
As I've read the reactions to Max Baer Jr.'s proposal to build his garish Beverly Hillbillies hotel-casino on the old Wal-Mart site at the south end of town, it's become clear to me that there are two competing visions for the future of Carson City.
One vision says that any development is good development because it brings in revenue. If this vision prevails, we'll have more of the same: Sprawling "box stores," ugly strip malls and smoke-filled slot arcades. And if Jethro gets his way, visitors to Nevada's capital city will be greeted by a 200-foot-high, flame-belching oil derrick, making us the hillbilly capital of the nation. Yee Haw!
In the interests of full disclosure, I'll confess that I supported Baer four or five years ago when he proposed to build his hillbilly project on the site of the woeful Park Lane Mall in Reno. I thought that was an appropriate location for Jethro's oil derrick because The Biggest Little City in the World is a tourist town and, unlike Carson, Reno depends on gambling and tourism for its economic livelihood.
By contrast, Carson City's economic health has never depended on gambling and tourism. Our economic base has always revolved around state government and retail businesses, and that's why sales tax revenue is so important to our city.
Even though we've lost some retail business to Douglas County, we still have several strong retail and services outlets, including thriving auto dealerships, with the potential of attracting more in the future. And we should preserve what we already have, like Harley-Davidson Financial Services, which employs more than 400 local residents, and return to the Ormsby House if and when it reopens.
So why should we fall all over ourselves to bring the Beverly Hillbillies to town when most of the revenue from that operation would go to the state in the form of gambling taxes? This was a stealth project all the way and Baer didn't bother to pave the way with local citizens and officials.
Instead, he showed up here one morning in his black-and-chains outfit to congratulate us on our good fortune. But I have a question: How many more casinos does Carson City really need? I already see too many of my fellow seniors grinding away in those dreary slot arcades, and I worry about the future.
Instead of encouraging Jethro to impose his hillbilly vision on us, I urge the mayor and supervisors to proceed full speed ahead with their "Shop Carson City" campaign and to support new City Manager Linda Ritter in her efforts to keep our automobile dealers right where they are instead of opting for an auto mall on BLM land in northern Douglas County. Over the years, Carson City has been good to local auto dealers Michael Hohl and Dink Cryer, who purchased a 144-acre BLM parcel for $14.6 million. Now let's see what they're willing to do for us.
In making retail decisions, Carsonites should pay attention to geography. If you have a choice between Lowe's and Home Depot, shop at Lowe's. If the choice is between Office Depot and Staples, go with Office Depot. Buy your clothes at Penney's or Gottschalk's, or even Costco, buy your new car here and patronize local restaurants. That's how we can keep our sales tax dollars at home, where they're sorely needed.
The other vision of Carson is the one that beloved Nevada author Robert Laxalt -- a local boy made good -- wrote about. In "The Basque Hotel," the first book of a family trilogy, he recalled what summers were like when he was a boy.
"Along the length of Main Street, the business people of Carson City had come out to sweep the sidewalks in front of their shops and stores and little hotels," he wrote. "They did this when the sun had barely cleared the desert mountains to the east with a blinding burst of light...."
Now, although I recognize that those idyllic days are long gone, I'd like to retain some of the small town flavor that sets our capital apart from other Nevada cities. Sorry, Jethro, but the Beverly Hillbillies hotel-casino doesn't do it for me, nor for many other longtime residents of our community. So I oppose this misguided project for some of the same reasons I opposed the sale of Fuji Park to commercial developers last year. We won that battle and I think we can win this one too.
Appeal colleagues Barry Smith, Kelli DuFresne and Abby Johnson have already made many valid points about our economic future, and Abby asked a key question in her most recent column: "At a time when increased dependence on gaming is considered to be an economic weakness, why is Carson City pursuing this direction?"
I agree with her that we should "actively recruit businesses...that will broaden the tax base, provide stable jobs and improve the quality of life." Baer's project does none of the above.
And as for the guy who said he wanted to read less about the Brewery Arts Center and more about the Beverly Hillbillies, I hereby volunteer to pay his bus fare back to the Ozarks. Jethro may have been a lovable character 40 years ago, but today he represents a threat to the quality of life we still enjoy in Carson City. Thanks but no thanks!
Guy W. Farmer, a longtime Carson City resident, was a big fan of the "Beverly Hillbillies" in the 1960s.