Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Column 131 – Town (2)

Jim Clark is doing a good job of stating the case for the Town of Incline that will now be on the November ballot. While Jim and I often disagree on National, State, and sometimes even Local issues, we are of one mind on this one and I don't feel the need to repeat, much less rebut his points.


It seems that one of the hardest things for people to come to grips with about this idea is that there is apparently no downside to it. I was raised, as I'm sure you were, on the maxim "if something looks too good to be true, it probably is," and so I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. Something has got to be lurking in the woodwork waiting to come out and bite us about this, but it just plain doesn't seem like there is.


One thing I've heard is that this is "bigger government," in that the Town Board, which will replace the IVGID Board of Trustees, will have a wider scope of powers. Well, that's true – a GID is a limited purpose government – it is restricted by Nevada law to water, sewers, recreation, and garbage. A town is a general purpose government – it can take on whatever services it wishes, but is not required to take on any. Sounds like bigger government, doesn't it? Until you realize that the services in question are now being provided by either IVGID or by Washoe County – they're government services and all we're doing in the case of those we take over from the County is relocating them closer to the people they serve. The Incline Town Board gets a wider scope of services and Washoe County's scope gets smaller. Net change to the "size" of governance – zero. Net benefit to Incline – greater accountability and transparency in the administration of the services that affect us most.


Cost? Nevada law is clear – any such establishment of a town must be revenue neutral – money being spent is taken from the County and given to the Town. Net change – zero. Net benefit to Incline – control over how the money is spent.


A couple of statements keep cropping up – I won't call them arguments, more like aphorisms. Here's one: "If the County is for it, it must be bad for us." When I've heard that from people I've asked them what has them say that, and they really can't cite very much. By and large, Washoe County is a pretty benign presence here – they (meaning Dick Mento) do a good job on the roads, and the WC Sheriff's Department is first-rate. The library is terrific, and we get some support for senior services. On other fronts, the County has been pretty easy to get along with, seeming content to take our tax dollars and leave us alone to work most things out for ourselves. The exception is the Assessor's Office, and the Incline Tax Revolt has done a good job of bearding that lion in its den. The Town proposal will allow us to keep all the things that work – no change to road, Sheriff, or Library, for example, and move other things like planning, nuisance abatement, etc. closer to home. Net change in what we like – zero. Net benefit to Incline – government that's closer to the governed.


A letter in last week's paper brought up two things that I can't quite see how the writer got to – one was the idea of a "town center," which he seemed to equate to the proposal to be a town, and the other was TRPA. The "town center" idea has been floated quite a few times, particularly in the Incline Vision and Place-Based Planning processes. A "town center" would be a geographic location of indeterminate nature, the intent of which is to give the community a focus and a gathering place. Other than the coincidence of the use of the word "town," this concept has no relationship to the Town of Incline Village proposal, which affects only the form of local government. We could have a "center" as a GID or not have one as a Town. They're irrelevant to each other.


And as for TRPA, love 'em or hate 'em, they're a fact of life for everyone in the Basin, whether they're a city, a village, or just out in the country. Nothing will change with regard to TRPA except that, having demonstrated that (at least) a majority of the people in IV/CB value local government and self-determination, they may listen more respectfully to what the Town of Incline Village has to say.


So that's it – if you are out there harboring a serious objection to the Town proposal, we'd like to hear from you – really. If there is something we aren't seeing that is more substantial than "If the County is for it, it must be bad for us," we want to know about it – go to www.townofinclinevillage.com, or to the blogs at www.tahoebonanza.com, or come to the Bonanza Election Forum on August 20, or volunteer to write the "against" argument for the ballot – so far no one has stepped forward to do that. And don't forget to vote.

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