Scene In Passing: Art of solid deal: winnowing, money cost

Robert Burton, English scholar of Shakespearean times, captured the essence of oft-repeated government or personal financial foolishness in four words.

“Penny wise, pound foolish,” according to Burton’s well-known aphorism.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and transcendentalist thinker, once gave great financial advice for government or anyone in just five words: “Money often costs too much.” Check your credit card interest rate.

Ben Franklin, inventor, diplomat, rake and founding father figure, was almost prolific with his seven-word “A penny saved is a penny earned,” and positively verbose with this: “If you would know the value of money, go and try to borrow some.” Ponder at this point not only credit cards, but payday loans and the granddaddy of dufus financing: The Federal Reserve System.

Anyway, from this trio of dead men comes the summary judgment of financial wizardry, both individually and collectively, if government heeds their counsel. It boils down to this: be frugal but not cheap; never borrow dear and if you borrow, do it to invest long term in assets at the lowest cost that is available for capital.

Good on ya, Carson City. You just did that and capitalized on wisdom of the ages, if not the age. A little local history from last century, this century, this year and recent news tells the tale.

A while back Carson City was a small city with a small animal services facility. Now it’s mid-sized and has an inadequate shelter. It needs a new one badly. In the 1990s, Carson City approved funding for various capital projects, among them a multi-purpose athletic center. But nada yet. Last decade, Carson City decided to alter downtown and give it a facelift for a pre-recession price tag estimated at $12 million.

Not much got done on those things, whatever the reasons. Whether you like or hate any or all of them doesn’t mean the results of too little or no change addressed concerns many felt piling up. And I would argue in nearer history, spurning the downtown city center project proposal in 2012 was wise. It split private from public and set the stage for a better public sector deal covering more needs with relative frugality.

Last week, city government obtained a $13.6 million bond issue rate of about 3.7 percent over 30 years to do the animal shelter, change downtown some, partly fund the athletic center, plus more.

Still on tap later are sprucing up other business corridors and enhancing the community center, though additional bonding might be needed based on the slight sales tax hike that undergirds the bonds.

So someone criticizing my view that opposition is becoming immaterial doesn’t comprehend politics or occasional but possible sound government decision-making. The train left the station. You missed it. This process took decades, winnowing pie-in-the-sky projects and finally obtaining a solid cost for capital to do much with little. Nearly a half century of watching politics and government tells me Carson City cut a good deal.

As Robert Burton, who was 13 years William Shakespeare’s junior, once put it in the versified form of his day: “He that will not when he may, when he will shall have nay.”

John Barrette covers Carson City government and business. He can be reached at


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