Editorial: Reading the tea leaves on City Center
“Carson City officials gave the Office of Business Development the nod Tuesday to participate with the Carson Nugget in developing a detailed plan for nearly nine acres of downtown property as a civic and business city center. The public-private partnership would feature a new central library in the downtown center and a business and technology center. …” – Nevada Appeal; Nov. 6, 2009.
When those words were written, the City Center project was billed as a win-win for Carson City’s downtown – a unifying catalyst around which tourism, commerce and culture could flourish. The complex’s offices would house professionals and generate jobs and revenue. The plaza would be a place to dawdle and daydream. Its new library would serve schoolkids and scholars alike and would come with a suitably hifalutin handle: “Knowledge + Discovery Center.”
And from its inception, the plan also had opposition: Do we really need a new library? Can we afford this project? What are we getting ourselves into?
Fast-forward a few years: The project’s architect has been replaced, and the proposal has been trimmed by almost half – but its opponents are not appeased. In fact, they’ve united and begun circulating petitions to block the Board of Supervisors from spending any more money on the project without a public citywide vote. By most accounts, they’ll gather enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.
But wait – now comes word that the Carson City Library Board will vote this week whether to advise the Board of Supervisors to put the City Center on the November ballot. In essence, it’ll be a vote to call for a vote to call for a vote.
No details have been made public beyond that. We don’t know what, if anything, the Library Board will recommend about funding. We don’t even know whether the Library Board will back the idea, and if it does, whether the Board of Supervisors would follow suit.
Given the polarizing nature of the project from its inception, the library directors, the supervisors and the public all deserve a chance to weigh in.
Sara Jones, the director of the Carson City Library, deserves credit for acknowledging that the petition drive was a factor in her decision to seek a vote. After almost three years of wrangling, she understandably needs some clarity on how and whether to proceed. The city as a whole needs resolution on the issue. Frayed friendships need mending.
But most of all, giving Carson City residents a say is the right way to govern.
All those in favor of putting the City Center Project to a vote, raise your hand.