Talk is cheap; capital projects aren’t
January 22, 2014
Eric Ingbar, a businessman who showed up Tuesday to put in his two cents on Carson City's city sales-tax boost and capital projects, tried to raise the bar.
He suggested that it doesn't do a lot to spiff up streetscape on city business corridors with part of a million a year from a sales-tax hike unless city government ties in business design standards to spiff up what is located along those corridors. A radical concept? A socialist plot? A collectivist's attempt to put in an architectural police force via local government? Doubtful. But will it fly? Also doubtful.
You may agree or disagree with the concept, but it raises a point previously mentioned in this column. What do citizens get besides the projects?
After two workshop sessions on the capital projects and tax-hike proposal now before the city, the question lingers. So far it looks like the projects and talk. The talk holds out the vague promise of better business and economic development because Carson will be a better place. Probably true in the long haul, but still nebulous at best.
So let's consider what Carson City residents might expect. Even if this community and region aren't wild about Ingbar's idea because of faith in a laissez-faire approach to capitalism and governing, then what else? Couldn't it help to get a commitment by a citywide business-improvement district to cleaning things up, enhancing building facades and holding periodic cooperative events to lure tourists?
Here's another. What about restaurants, retail shops with a tourist bent, bars and casinos that don't have associated lodging forming a group and assessing themselves to kick into the kitty at the city's Convention and Visitors Bureau? Now just the lodging tax pays that bureau's freight. Don't other outlets, besides hotels and motels, benefit from tourists coming to town?
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What about establishments that sell sporting equipment forming a group to lend equipment and provide volunteers to staff events at the multipurpose athletic center the city will build with everyone's sales-tax revenue?
To date, the main private-sector contribution to all this looks like it is being raised by Carson Animal Services Initiative to help pay for a new animal shelter. Businesspeople undoubtedly will contribute as individuals. But what about the other projects?
Ingbar is onto something. Congress may not be admirable, but money from that body often comes with strings attached.
Priorities plus trade-offs are the nitty-gritty of politics and governing. Ingbar's raised bar is a good place to begin contemplating options.
John Barrette covers Carson City government and business. He can be reached at email@example.com.