Friday, August 05, 2005

Column 39 - County

Last Thursday I went to the airport and picked up some friends who live in New Jersey and have a second home here in Incline. While they have had a home here for some years, first a condo and now a house, they have only recently become interested in Village affairs, partly because they are coming close to making this their first home and partly because it’s hard to be around me for any length of time and not get into a conversation about Village matters.

We drove up the hill and had lunch at the Grille at the Chateau. They had not been to the Chateau before (they are, mirabile dictu, not golfers) and were marveling at the building that has already become commonplace for many of us who are here full time. This led to a conversation about the governance of the village and its history, and provided an opportunity for me to take a fresh look at a number of issues that, for me at least, had faded into the background over time.

The key thing that my friends seemed to have trouble wrapping their minds around is that, as a GID, Incline is neither fish nor fowl governmentally. We are less than a city and more than a non-GID unincorporated area. IVGID has the authority and responsibility over recreation, water, sewers, and waste management, but for other vital services, e.g,, schools, roads, public safety, fire, we are dependent on the County, the State, the Fire District, etc., and the IVGID Board of Trustees, in turn, is dependent on public support or at least tolerance when they venture into areas beyond their basic four.

On the whole, this system has worked well over the history of the village, but as has been discussed in this column and in this newspaper many times, it has also fostered a number of problems. The services Incline Village/Crystal Bay receives from Washoe County are disproportionately low in comparison to the taxes we pay. The Washoe County Board of Education has been less responsive to Incline’s needs than many of us would like and seems to be biased toward the schools in Reno at our expense. We have fine police and fire services, but we do not have any direct control over these, and our representation on the County Commission, while perhaps proportional to our numbers in the County population is out of proportion to our tax contribution and inadequate to represent us to a County that seems to see IV/CB primarily as a nice recreation spot and a cash cow to be milked regularly.

This has left us in the same difficult position that led the Founders of the Republic to revolt against England – taxation and governance without adequate representation. There has, in fact, been one successful revolt against Washoe County’s predations on the property tax front, showing that, with persistent, determined, and effective leadership we can organize to defend ourselves. The greater revolt, however, is yet to come and is sorely needed, and that is the recurrent recognition that we need to form our own county and take control of our destiny.

The IVGID Board renewed General Manager Bill Horn’s contract last week, which I consider an outstandingly intelligent move. Almost throughout his tenure as GM, Bill has been a strong advocate for county-hood and did an outstanding job of educating us as to the issues and the facts. When it became clear that the matter should be brought to the residents and, hopefully, to the Legislature, IVGID correctly bowed out and the initiative passed to a committee of residents of which I am a member. Now, with IVGID’s initiation of and participation in the attempt to formulate a comprehensive vision for Incline’s future, hopefully Bill and the Trustees will once again become involved in the County question and we will begin to mobilize community support for it. Congratulations to Bill and to the Board – I for one am very glad that we will have Bill’s continued leadership in our village, and hope he will resume the effort to lead us to becoming a county.

No comments: