Guy W. Farmer: A dicey plan for downtown Carson
Although I was out of town for the public unveiling of the latest version of the multi-million-dollar Downtown Project, my friend and Appeal colleague John Barrette provided detailed coverage of the flawed plan. I say “flawed” because I believe there are a number of issues and questions yet to be addressed by Mayor Bob Crowell, the Board of Supervisors and City Manager Nick Marano.
“Questions … remain regarding whether enough private sector support steps up, and how robust it will be,” Barrette wrote, and I couldn’t agree more. This is a project designed to help downtown businesses and yet those same businesses have yet to step up to the plate and contribute to the project. I think they should put some skin in this game, especially the Downtown 20/20 organization, which has been quick to advocate spending our tax dollars without contributing anything to the expensive project. They’ve contributed words, nothing more.
One of my questions is why, if this project is so good for business the Chamber of Commerce — which is the voice of business in our community — hasn’t endorsed the project. In most communities the Chamber would be leading the charge, but not in Carson City.
“There is buy-in from some (businesses),” said city Community Development Director Lee Plemel, adding many businessmen and women are holding back until they know how much the project is really going to cost. Barrette wrote the Supes “likely will want tangible evidence that property owners and businesses are committed” to the project. I sure hope so but to date I don’t see much tangible commitment from the business community, which leaves the taxpayers holding the bag yet again. That’s what happened on the 2012 Nugget Project, which voters defeated in an overwhelming two-to-one vote. Let’s not repeat that fiasco.
Do we like a single-lanes Carson Street through downtown? I think the jury is out on that question. I remember when we had a single lanes downtown in the 1960s, and traffic moved rather smoothly. But that’s when Carson’s population was 10,000 or so, not 50,000-plus with a freeway bypassing downtown businesses. Another difference between then and now is 1960s Carson had a downtown retail “anchor,” Murdock’s Department Store. What we have now are three old casinos and a few restaurants.
Frankly, the downtown rendering published by the Appeal looks like Sausalito, or some other fancy Bay Area shopping and tourist destination. Carson is an Old West capital city, not a tofu and bean sprouts (no offense intended) kind of community. I’m also skeptical about the idea of a downtown food bank because I don’t see how that attracts the affluent shoppers sought by local businesses. An upscale farmers’ market perhaps, but not a food bank.
In last Sunday’s opinion column John Barrette raised the question of conflicts of interest among our elected politicians in regard to the Downtown Project. I won’t name any names in order to protect the guilty — they know who they are — but I don’t think officials who own and/or manage downtown property should vote on projects that increase the value of their properties.
I know some unnamed “ethics officials” think it’s OK to vote to increase your own net worth, but I don’t think so.
One final observation: The anonymous “Carson City Politics” blog continues to comment on the Downtown Project and other issues, and I strongly object to their anonymous commentary. I put my name on my columns and stand by everything I write, and so should the cowardly people who produce that blog. Tell us who you are and we’ll decide whether you have any credibility.
Guy W. Farmer is a 52-year resident of Carson City.