In Sunday's paper, Wayne Benson encouraged members of the Board of Supervisors to explain their reasons for voting to place an advisory question on the November ballot regarding additional funding for the V&T Railway reconstruction project. On the same opinion page there were other letters to the editor expressing disappointment in the board's decision not to place a measure on the ballot, which if approved by the voters, would authorize a property tax override to fund additional public safety spending. Although I did my best at the board meeting to articulate my reasons for voting the way I did, in response to Mr. Benson's request I would be happy to further explain my position on both of these funding proposals.
To date, Carson City has invested approximately $21 million to reconstruct the historic V&T Railway (which is a multi-jurisdictional public works project) in an effort to create a tourist attraction that will help provide the region with long-term financial stability through job creation and increased sales tax collections. However, without additional capital, the railroad may never be extended through the Carson River Canyon, which is by far and away the most majestic part of the railroad route.
While I am sorely disappointed by the lack of financial support received to date from other counties on the commission and have suggested that any additional funding from Carson City be accompanied by an increase in our representation on the commission board to ensure that our money is spent wisely, we do have a huge investment to protect. In addition, if authorization is received by the voters to impose the additional one-eighth of a percent sales tax, it would be mandatory that the tax sunset upon repayment of the bonds issued in support of the project.
Although I understand the skepticism associated with the proposed advisory question, I have already publicly pledged to respect the will of the people and will not vote to implement an additional sales tax in support of the V&T without their approval.
With respect to additional funding for public safety, I would like first to acknowledge the efforts of the citizens who served on the Ad Hoc Committee to study the community's public safety needs and associated funding options. Carson City owes them a tremendous debt of gratitude.
Although not reported in the paper, as a compromise to the committee's recommendation that a funding question be placed on the ballot this November, I made a motion (which ultimately failed) to direct staff to draft a proposal for the placement of a question on the ballot in 2010. My suggestion was prompted by two considerations. I was concerned about placing a public safety measure on the ballot in direct competition with an economic development proposal (the V&T Advisory Question), fearing that both might fail as a result. In addition, due to the tenuous state of our economy, I was also concerned that now was not the right time to propose a 23-cent increase in our property tax rate even if implemented over time. Throughout the city we are attempting to do more with less, streamline our services, increase our efficiency and live within our means and to date, with the dedicated help of our staff, we have succeeded.
Presently, 45 percent of the city's general fund is spent on public safety and I am confident that the sheriff and his staff, with the support and cooperation of the D.A.'s office, will continue to do an effective job of addressing the community's law enforcement issues, including the emerging gang problem, with the resources they have.
It is interesting to note that experts from around the country emphasize the importance of focusing not just on the suppression of gang activity through law enforcement, but on preventing kids from joining gangs, and intervening in the lives of kids who do. In recognition of this, within the last two years, two coalitions have been formed. One, known as the Carson City Community Coalition, focuses on disseminating information regarding gangs to parents and residents. This coalition's ultimate goal is to guide the community's youth toward a more productive future. The other, known as the Quality of Life Coalition, was formed by the Carson City Area Chamber of Commerce and consists of members from business, law enforcement and the faith-based community. The objective of this group is to forge a long term, sustainable solution to the gang problem in Carson City. Both groups bring new talents and resources to bear on this multi-faceted problem and represent the sort of eclectic approach that will be needed to affect a lasting change in our community.
• Shelly Aldean is the Carson City Supervisor for Ward 2.