Eugene T. Paslov: How do we think about the current economic crisis?
I attended a Board of Supervisors meeting recently to hear the discussion about budget cuts for city services, the Sheriff’s Office and the Carson City Library.
I am well aware of the serious economic problems facing our community and state. Elected officials like the sheriff and the supervisors have a responsibility to operate within a balanced budget. Sheriff Ken Furlong made an impassioned plea to minimize cuts because he is charged with saving lives and protecting property.
Library Director Sara Jones didn’t have a chance to testify because of time constraints. But I’m certain if she had, she would argue that library services were critical to the economic health and intellectual life of the community. She would be right. Both the sheriff’s office and the library took cuts (other city services as well) by the end of the meeting.
We need to be creative about how to grow our economy. I recently heard Mayor Crowell talk about the many outstanding efforts he was taking to revitalize our city. It would have been helpful to juxtapose those positive remarks with budget reductions. Dedicated employees need a taste of hope to swallow a bitter pill.
There are some in our community who argue for smaller local government. When pressed, however, we discover that these people don’t like government at all. In private they talk about “starving the beast” which means that one reduces or eliminates government services by cutting funds. They don’t intend for those funds to return. In public they imply, sotto voce, “we are cutting waste, fraud and abuse.” But the fact is that such “waste, fraud and abuse” had been eliminated years ago by the caretakers of these already fragile budgets.
I would encourage the mayor and the supervisors to avoid those who suggest “starving the beast” is good policy and look to the future for improving our economic vitality. In the case of the library budget, cuts are hurtful, but this may be the time when we should move aggressively toward approving the Nugget Redevelopment Project and its Knowledge Center. Even as we cut, we should be thinking of ways to restore the budget to the Sheriff’s Office – through federal grants, volunteer efforts and other creative methods. We have to reduce expenditures to balance budgets, but we also have to support the sheriff in his responsibility to protect lives and property.
George Bernard Shaw once said, “For every complex problem, there is a simple solution, and it is … usually wrong!” Let’s find a creative way to solve this complex problem.
• Eugene Paslov is a board member of the Davidson Academy at the University of Nevada, Reno and the former Nevada state superintendent of schools.