Saturday, October 13, 2012

Bonanza Column 254 - The Race for County Commissioner

I finally had a week when I was not traveling coincide with a Bonanza/SNC Candidate Forum, so I was able to attend the Q & A session with the two candidates for Washoe County Commissioner District One. Unfortunately I was one of the few IV/CB residents who did. If you subtract the press and moderators as well as the IVGID candidates who were there, it was less than 20 people, a poor turnout indeed for information about an office that could have a major impact on our community in the months and years to come.
District One is huge – it stretches from the Washoe County line on Route 28 down the hill to Lakeridge, north through Caughlin Ranch to the North end of Reno. While much of the area of the District in the valley is within the City of Reno, the County Commissioner represents those areas in matters to do with the County as well as representing the unincorporated areas of the District, which includes us. There are over 56,000 registered voters in the District, with about 7,000 of those voters within the Incline/Crystal GID. In other words, our community accounts for about 1.8% of the registered voters in the District.
One of the main points made by those present at the Forum and in questions submitted to the Bonanza in advance was the need of our community to be represented. As you’d expect, both candidates hastened to reassure us that they would represent us and not neglect us in favor of the rest of the district. Both acknowledged that (a) this community is not like the rest of the District due to altitude, weather, the Lake, etc., (b) IV/CB residents rightly feel that we don’t get enough of our tax money put back into the community (i.e., we’re subsidizing the rest of the County), and (c) we have in a number of instances not been treated equitably by the County (cf. the tax revolt).
All that is well and good, and both candidates said the right things. The execution of those promises may be a different matter, though. Let’s say that our only real competition for the Commissioner’s attention is the unincorporated areas of the District – maybe then we get up as high as 10 or 20% of the population, maybe higher – I don’t know how to calculate it, but even if, of the 49,000 voters not within IVGID’s area, 30,000 live in Reno, we are still 9,000 out of 19,000, and I think that figure is likely to be generous. It’s going to be very difficult at times for whomever gets elected to stand for our interests when they conflict with those of voters down the hill.
This is important because the TRPA Regional Plan Update has greater local control of community character as one of its mainstays. For a community like South Lake Tahoe, this means the city government. For us, it means the County, and if history is any indicator, that’s not good news. Again, both candidates said the right things – they think we should have more local control, but it was clear that this was an area where neither had done extensive homework – both were very sketchy on the TRPA plan, and seemed more or less ignorant of what has already been tried with regard to gaining a greater degree of independence for the community. By way of refreshing everyone’s memory, early efforts to form a county were stopped in the Legislature, and there is little to suggest that today’s Legislature has much more of an appetite to form a new county than did the Legislature under Governor Miller. Analyses of the possibility of incorporating as a city don’t pencil out economically, and two years ago voters rejected becoming a town, which would have only expanded the purview of what is now IVGID, but still would have left us subject to the County as the final word on most things.
So to paraphrase Princess Leia “help us, Washoe County Commission, you’re our only hope.” Our last two Commissioners did a pretty good job of keeping up on our concerns and representing us – hopefully whichever candidate gets elected will also, but it will take close vigilance on our part to ensure that they do. Of the two, Andrew Diss seemed to me to have the greater grasp of important areas and less prone to predetermined solutions, so I’m going to give him my endorsement.
Most of all, vote. It’s important.

No comments: