Scene In Passing: Lack of Big MAC finally in history books

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Speed isn’t government’s long suit.

In the United States of America, Nevada, and even in Carson City the chances of getting much done by government with alacrity can be minimal with but few exceptions (for example, notable exceptions like Tesla, Faraday and the Nevada Legislature).

Perhaps it’s a good thing most government matters take awhile despite the penchant of Americans to hurry up (and yet, in such cases, wait).

“America is a country that doesn’t know where it’s going but is determined to set a speed record getting there,” said Lawrence J. Peter, a Canadian educator who ended up in California.

Peter is best known for his formulation of The Peter Principle regarding those who rise above their capabilities, but I like his speed quote even more. It captures the essence of the governing dilemma.

Such thoughts came to mind as Carson City residents gathered for the official opening of the community’s new multi-purpose athletic center (MAC). The party celebrating the Big MAC opening at mid-week last was a long time coming.

When I first took over the city government and business beat at the Nevada Appeal three years ago, Parks and Recreation Director Roger Moellendorf told me a 2013 project goal would be building the MAC. His guesstimate proved premature. Undoubtedly, however, it didn’t seem premature to him.

The center was first conceived in the mid-1990s and was one of the ideas floated even as the 1996 Quality of Life (Question 18) sales tax hike was approved by voters 20 years ago.

Not being the top priority, I’m told, it took a decade to gain steam and almost a decade more to get built. It had to be sited, vetted, and even extra funds had to be found. As Moellendorf indicated Wednesday, it was redesigned, re-imagined, sited and re-sited, in essence re-everythinged. The $8.3 million result, however impressive, shows government decisions take time.

Even though Americans crave instant gratification, however, lack of governing speed isn’t all bad.

Delays may make something like the Big MAC cost more – though not necessarily in constant dollars — and can include an opportunity cost loss for those who wanted a recreational facility during the intervening years.

But a community, a state and a nation need to deliberate, often ad nauseam and certainly longer than in the case of an individual’s decision, before taking action.

So it was, and should have been, with the MAC. So it was, and should have been, with the downtown makeover that’s slated to start this year. So it was, and should have been, when Carson City became a consolidated municipality and swallowed up Ormsby County in 1969. Speed not only isn’t government’s long suit, it must never be.

Government decisions take time despite the individual’s desire for everything now, or better yet, a moment ago. Individual impatience aside, group decisions require a sound if slow process.

Perhaps British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, whose mother was an American and whose father was an M.P. (Minister of Parliament), understood why.

His take: “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing — after they’ve tried everything else.”

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


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