Scene in Passing: Money talks; eyeball-to-eyeball counts

The fascinating thing about government service is that saying no isn’t as easy as it might look.

Decisionmakers fight about money and how it is raised or spent. They can even get downright nasty in guarding power prerogatives. They display little trouble when they can separate and isolate money or power decisions from people decisions. But put people and money or power into the same equation, and the dynamic becomes electric.

This is why lobbying, bought and paid for or just plain pleading, works. It’s the eye-to-eye, person-to-person stuff that can move policy makers from stolid to wavering. Sometimes it works wonders. Sometimes one wonders why it works, but quite often it does.

So there was little surprise when Carson City’s Board of Supervisors on Thursday twisted itself up like a pretzel over just $508,147 in Community Support Service Grant (CSSG) and Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) money for various programs, many of them social service-oriented. Of that, $72,200 went for youth services and the rest went for either new city sidewalks or adult services.

The pretzel-like morning came the same day a sales-tax hike to raise $1 million a year and bond issues totaling about $30 million for utilities came with less angst, though fairness requires acknowledging those decisions were a long time coming and carried their own people/money/power pressures earlier.

On Thursday, however, considerably more time went into deciding that some 40 percent of the half-million would go for sidewalks and the rest would go for the social programs. In the meeting room were people advocating their various positions, lobbying tenaciously for their points of view.

It isn’t surprising that $45,000 in CDBG money was diverted from sidewalks to help two people programs, though each sidewalk dollar can be leveraged via matching funds to do double the work. People can trump public works at times.

At another point, Susan Haas of Nevada Rural Counties RSVP advocated for seniors her programs serve and pleaded that $36,021 not get cut as CSSG funds were carved up. Mayor Robert Crowell then teased her and amused the crowd.

He said Janice is never far from such lobbying circumstances, referring to the late Janice Ayres, who preceded Haas as RSVP executive director. Ayres is still remembered for advocacy so robust she won a seat on the city’s governing board and would kick then-Mayor Marv Teixeira in the ankle or shins under the table, smiling all the while, if he crossed her.

Money talks, but people prevail.

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


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