Planning commissioners’ only agenda: serving the public | Mike Lawson, Planning Commissioner Washoe District 2

Michael W. Lawson Published 11:00 a.m. PT Oct. 23, 2018
Cows wander the Butler Ranch across the canal from the Heron’s Landing development on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2006. Floodwaters from the New Year’s Eve flood from last year filled the area, leaving only the tops of the fence posts showing.(Photo: David B. Parker/RGJ File)
Dear Washoe County commissioners, 
I understood that you appointed me to the Planning Commission based on my 40 years as a professional planner and my desire to serve our community. I told Commissioner Lucey that I was an advocate for thoughtful growth and that I had volunteered to serve because of the irresponsible growth I was witnessing in the region. He said he shared my views, but his recent votes to overturn several Planning Commission denials of irresponsible development belie that statement. You have voted to approve development regardless of flood risk, traffic congestion, degradation of existing neighborhoods, noncompliance with area plans and other legitimate concerns. 
On July 24, you claimed that planning commissioners have individual agendas and are not qualified to rule on matters of growth. You contend that because you are elected, you have greater legitimacy in judging issues of development than the planning commissioners you have appointed. Your background is largely in real estate and hardly compares to the planning and development experience embodied by the Planning Commission. We have no agenda other than to serve the people we represent. We are not the recipients of campaign contributions from builders, developers and special interests. I have prepared and reviewed hundreds of engineering reports for both private and public entities. I am intimately familiar with how data can be represented to make a case to suit a client. My objectivity is not somehow diminished for being appointed. 
My colleagues on the commission are experienced, thoughtful and learned individuals invested in their duties to scrutinize all reports for validity and for compliance with area plans. You commissioners accept all applicant reports as legitimate, yet these are vetted by a staff that is directed to assist the developer in getting approval. Most egregiously, you contend area plans are irrelevant. While property owners have a legitimate right to develop their properties, they are properly required to conform to existing plans and codes. Homeowners have the ultimate “investment-backed expectation” that their property values and neighborhood character will be defended by the county. 
You may claim that new development is needed to solve existing traffic, flooding and other problems, but have offered no fiscal analysis to support this. To the contrary, RTC has reported that developer fees only pay 25 percent of the cost that new developments impose on them. It appears that taxpayers are subsidizing the developments that are despoiling their neighborhoods. 
This letter is to notify you that I will continue to work with our citizens, county staff and applicants to ensure they all understand that all applications must comply with area plans and existing zoning. As elected officials, you should be promoting the interests of your constituents. Impugning the character of those of us who truly serve our community on the Planning Commission will not go unanswered. 
Michael W. Lawson is a Washoe County planning commissioner.

Summary of Road Safety Assessment – State Route 431 Mount Rose Highway

The following includes the executive summary and suggestions for safety improvements to Mt. Rose Highway based on the road safety audit (RSA) conducted in July 2016.   This post is long, but I think necessary to relay all salient information contained in the Final Report. Summary of Road Safety Audit Conducted on Mt. Rose Highway – July 2018

A Community Information Meeting with NDOT will be held on Wednesday December 5 at 6 PM at the South Valleys Library.  Please plan to attend and make your voice heard.


The Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) Traffic Safety Engineering Division authorized a Road Safety Assessment (RSA) to be conducted on Mount Rose Highway State Route 431 (SR 431) from Washoe County milepost (WA MP) 18.694 to WA MP 23.050. in Washoe County, Nevada. The RSA for this section of roadway conducted a before and after comparison of crash data due to a construction project that occurred in 2014. The purpose of this RSA is to identify potential road safety issues and suggest potential countermeasures for SR 431 to mitigate those safety issues for inclusion in future projects along the corridor, as well as identifying specific short, mid, or long-term suggestions for the corridor. The RSA Team included three participants that live on the corridor and drive it daily. One of the three participants is also an agency representative.

Between WA MP 18.69 and approximately WA MP 19.00, SR 431 consists of one lane in each direction with a center two-way left-turn lane (TWLTL). From WA MP 19.00 traveling northwest along the study corridor through WA MP 23.05, SR 431 consists of two lanes in each direction with a center TWLTL. Three NDOT Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT) count stations are located along this section of SR 431. An overall increase in AADT was observed from 2015 to 2017 along the corridor.

There was a total of 49 crashes over the three-year period (2015-2017) along SR 431, of which two were incapacitating injury crashes. Both incapacitating injury crashes were non-collision and one involved a motorcycle. There were no fatal crashes within the dataset obtained from NDOT but there was an angle fatal crash on an uncontrolled left turn that occurred at the Callahan Road intersection on May 5, 2018.

SR 431 is identified as a “Urban Minor Arterial” by the functional classification for the State of Nevada. The injury crash rate for the corridor was found to be 0.22 crashes per million vehicle miles traveled (MVMT) as compared to the state average of 1.27 injury crashes per MVMT for the urban minor arterial functional classification. The fatal crash rate for the corridor was 0.00 crashes per MVMT as compared to the state average of 0.01 fatal crashes per MVMT. However, considering the fatal crash that occurred in 2018, the fatal crash rate would be above the state average. The total crash rate along the corridor was lower than the statewide average for the respective functional classification.

The RSA Team evaluated the crash history and existing conditions in the field to make specific suggestions to mitigate the issues, particularly the high number of non-collision crashes and the angle crashes for uncontrolled lefts from SR 431 and/or the side streets. The RSA Team’s suggestions for mitigation focused on intersection improvements to improve safety for uncontrolled left turns, on and off side streets, which included geometric improvements, updates to signage and striping and installation of lighting at the site of the fatal crash at Callahan Road and at sites with similar conditions. Suggestions for mitigation are divided into different priorities, Priority 1 improvements are near term., Priority 2 are intermediate improvements, and Priority 3 are long term improvements.

The suggestions stated in the RSA report could be considered in future planning for this corridor and may be implemented based on funding availability. A Priority 1 suggestion that is not able to be implemented in the near term should be considered for implementation with the Priority 2 suggestions. Similarly, Priority 2 suggestions not incorporated into upcoming Priority 2 projects should be considered with Priority 3 suggestions. The issues and suggestions for SR 431 are summarized below.


A summary of all suggestions for SR 431 are numbered in the following section based on priority. Priority 1: is defined as those suggested improvements that can be done in the near future by NDOT District II agency maintenance staff during their periodic maintenance as appropriate funding is available, unless otherwise noted.

Priority 2: is defined as those suggestions that will require some engineering design or those suggestions typical to Priority 1 improvements being completed as part of future NDOT roadway projects.

Priority 3: is defined as those long-term recommendations that will require significant engineering design and/or right-of-way acquisition and are to be considered for a future NDOT roadway improvement project if funding is available.

An “A” at the end of the priority indicates that it is a suggestion for the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) Washoe and a “B” at the end of the priority indicates that it is a suggestion for Washoe County.


Suggested improvements that can be done in the near future by NDOT District II agency maintenance staff during their periodic maintenance.

Entire Corridor

Priority 1: Add additional speed limit signs after the major cross streets.

Priority 1: Add dynamic message sign (DMS) warning system package for speed and congestion warning throughout the corridor. For example, at the intersections of SR 431 and Callahan Road and SR 431 and Edmonton Drive.

SR 431 at WA MP 19.5

Priority 1: Coordinate with Washoe County to deenergize the traffic signal heads and remove or bag them. A letter was sent from NDOT District II to Washoe County Community Development on July 19, 2018.

SR 431 at Callahan Road

Priority 1: Extend the westbound to southbound left turn lane striping closer to the center of the intersection. Look at reflective posts behind the radius.

SR 431 at WA MP 21.0

Priority 1: Consult with NDOT Transportation Multimodal Planning to determine if a bike crossing should be provided at this location or in another area.

SR 431 at WA MP 22.0

Priority 1: Remove vegetation covering sidewalk.

SR 431 at Edmonton Drive

Priority 1: Install a speed limit sign for eastbound traffic west of the intersection.

SR 431 at WA MP 23.0

Priority 1: Provide directional signage in advance of Wedge Parkway, so bicyclists can choose to make the left turn and ride on the path (if desired).


Suggested improvements that should be considered by NDOT for inclusion in upcoming projects if funding is available. Priority 1 suggestions should also be considered for implementation with Priority 2 suggestions if they have not already been implemented as a result of funding or other considerations.

Entire Corridor

Priority 2: Replace HPS lights with LED lights.

Priority 2: NDOT to coordinate with Washoe County on access management and the installation of snowplow friendly raised median islands throughout the corridor for cross roads and driveways. Consider limiting uncontrolled left turns from the side streets where feasible. If median islands are installed provide ramped median noses and yellow raised pavement markings and/or plastic delineator posts on top of the curb for the median islands per NDOT Standard Plan T-38.1.5.

Priority 2B (Washoe County): Washoe County to consider access management for developments along the corridor.

Priority 2: Consider the use of alternative pavement markings to improve delineation of the bicycle lanes near right turn lanes.

Priority 2: Restripe the bike lane through the intersection.

SR 431 at WA MP 19.5

Priority 2: Remove the emergency signal.

SR 431 at Callahan Road

Priority 2: Restripe the intersection and relocate the stop bars closer to the through lanes. Add snowplow friendly median islands and/or right turn channelizing islands, if feasible. Consider snowplows in the design.

Priority 2: Consider the feasibility of extending the eastbound to southbound right turn lane.

Priority 2: Implement the results of the ICE Analysis.

Priority 2: Install two additional LED luminaires.

SR 431 at WA MP 21.0 at Fawn Lane

Priority 2: Consider the feasibility to extend the eastbound acceleration lane.

Priority 2: Consider the feasibility to extend the eastbound to southbound right turn lane.

SR 431 at WA MP 21.0 at Fawn Lane

Priority 2: Install additional lighting at the intersection.

SR 431 at Thomas Creek Road

Priority 2: Provide a landing and pathway to the crosswalk on the west leg of the intersection. Review adjacent development as it was mentioned that new development could restrict pedestrian access.

Priority 2: Consider the feasibility to extend the westbound acceleration lane.

Priority 2: Consider the feasibility to extend the westbound to northbound right turn lane.

Priority 2: Consider reconstructing the curb ramps and restriping the crosswalk to move the stop bar up.

Priority 2A (RTC): Review traffic responsive timing for eastbound to northbound left turn. It was noted that the advance signal flasher for westbound through traffic impacts the traffic responsive operation. Study the intersection traffic volumes to determine if the signal can be upgraded to flashing yellow arrow by time of day. Upgrade signal heads to have retroreflective backplates.

SR 431 at Edmonton Drive

Priority 2: Restripe the intersection and relocate the stop bar closer to the through lane. Add snowplow friendly median islands, if feasible. Consider snowplows in the design.

Priority 2: Consider the feasibility to extend the eastbound acceleration lane.

Priority 2: Consider the feasibility to extend the eastbound to southbound right turn lane.

Priority 2: Consider. the use of High Friction Surface Treatment (HFST) on the south leg of the intersection.

Priority 2: Consider the need for intersection warning signs for the eastbound approach.

Priority 2: Install additional lighting at the intersection.

SR 431 at Telluride Drive

Priority 2: Restripe the intersection and relocate the stop bar closer to the through lanes. Add snowplow friendly median islands, if feasible. Consider snowplows in the design.

Priority 2: Consider the feasibility to extend the westbound acceleration lane.

Priority 2: Consider the feasibility to extend the westbound to northbound right turn lane.

SR 431 between Edmonton Drive and Sundance Drive/De Spain Lane

Priority 2: Evaluate a HAWK or other pedestrian treatment per the NDOT Pedestrian Safety Improvement Evaluation Guidelines for Uncontrolled Crossings.

SR 431 at Sundance Drive/De Spain Lane

Priority 2: Restripe the intersection and relocate the stop bar closer to the through lanes. Add snowplow friendly median islands, if feasible. Consider snowplows in the design.

Priority 2: Consider the feasibility to extend the westbound acceleration lane.

Priority 2: Consider the feasibility to extend the westbound to northbound


Suggested Improvements that should be considered by NDOT as those long-term recommendations which will require significant engineering design and/or right-of-way acquisition and are to be considered for a future NDOT roadway improvement project if funding is available.

Entire Corridor

Priority 3: Review the intersections along the corridor and provide additional lighting, if needed, per the NDOT Signal, Lighting, and ITS Design Guide Section 5.2.6 Safety Lighting.

Priority 3: Remove the existing rumble strips and re-install rumble strips per NDOT standard R-10.1.7.

SR 431 at WA MP 20.0 – 20.5

Priority 3: Remove the existing southbound to eastbound left turn movement at Callahan Road and provide an unsignalized High-T intersection at Callahan Road. Coordinate with Washoe County to provide access from Paris Court to Mountain Ranch Road and provide an unsignalized High-T intersection at Mountain Ranch Road to provide the ability for motorists living north of SR 431 to head east.

SR 431 at WA MP 21.0 at Fawn Lane

Priority 3: Consider the reconstruction of the intersection as an unsignalized High-T intersection.

SR 431 at Edmonton Drive

Priority 3: Coordinate with Washoe County to evaluate the feasibility of adding a fourth leg to the intersection of Thomas Creek Road and provide an access road to the intersection of Butch Cassidy Drive and Edmonton Drive to relocate turning movements to the signalized intersection and make Edmonton Drive a right-in/right-out intersection.

Priority 3: Consider cutting the slope to improve sight visibility.

Priority 3: Extend the left turn lane and remove the rumble strips that form the taper on the left turn lane.

Priority 3: Reconstruct the intersection as an unsignalized High-T intersection with channelized islands. Consider snowplows in the design. Add intersection

Please vote for Steve Wolgast to the Washoe County Commission

Guest Post by Pamela Galloway
So, former mayor Bob Cashell says in Sunday’s RGJ LTEs that Bob Lucey has the right vision to prepare Washoe County for the future for a long time.  Cashell goes on to state that he looks forward to casting his vote Nov. 6 for Bob Lucey.  The last I knew, Bob Cashell was living in Marsha Berkbigler’s district. But perhaps he moved.
Our former mayor is the same guy who was secretly planning behind the scenes to sell TMWA to Goldman Sachs while he was mayor, and then take the money mostly for Reno (sorry Sparks and Washoe County) to pay off the city’s debt.  I (and others) listened to a tape recording of his plans, so he cannot deny it.  It took a U.S. senator stepping in to stop this.  He was going to basically steal the assets of our publicly owned major water purveyor and redirect it because he messed up Reno’s finances so badly.
This is the man who, along with former city manager Charles McNeely, Mark Lewis, and the former city council basically bankrupted Reno.  It continues to this day to try to climb out of this.  He rammed and jammed this vision through and left a swath of destruction as he and his cohorts mismanaged Reno’s precious taxes.  It is pretty rich of him to now tout long-term economic stability for Washoe County.  He also makes a big deal about Lucey being a lifelong Nevadan.  We are all paying for the train trench and downtown events center, plus flood control.  This train trench involved floating a huge bond, which has been refinanced by the City of Reno at least twice.  Monies for the trench were redirected under Cashell for other things such as street lights.  Reno re-financed this again several months ago because it is broke.  Cashell bankrupted the city. Then the economy crashed and Reno struggles to get out from under. They used the train trench as a big piggy bank.  A political consultant dialed closely into downtown interests told me that “a lot of people got very rich off that trench”.  At the expense of the taxpayers, of course.
Cashell also elevated Reno officials who redirected monies from the sewer fund illegally, and of course Andrew Clinger, who was in trouble in Carson City before Cashell brought him into Reno as city manager.  This brought the city nothing but grief, and has proven quite costly.
Reno is not alone.  A former county manager and finance director tried to secretly run with a bill draft request (BDR) to form a big “bond bank” for who knows what.  It started out just to be for a water purveyor merger but ended up being worded in such an open-ended way it could have paid for flood control, and fears of citizens were that Reno would use it to bond more debt.  Spread debt out among everyone — forever, just like the never-ending train trench debt.  The commissioners knew nothing of this, nor did their legislative liaison.  Some of these folks now serve with flood control and the school board. These are worthy of close watching too.  I never meant to get sucked into watching local government but things got hinky with our water supply.  Last year a top government official retired and wrote me an email the day prior.  All it said was, “Keep watching the government”.  Some warning.  We all need to watch closely, be aware, and elect good people to help watch our local governments closely now.
Enter Steve Wolgast, a relatively new citizen who moved to Callahan Ranch Road off the Mt. Rose Highway just in time to be greeted by a proposed massive development of more than 600 homes — “Ascente”.  Core samples reviewed by area residents indicate that this land, on steep, mountainous Steamboat Hills, involves several inches of soil followed by massive rock for a long way down.  It will require major blasting for each homesite. Despite significant, widespread resistance and objections by residents, the Board of County Commissioners rammed this through.  Entry and exit from this bad development will be off Fawn Lane, a narrow country road. 
Meanwhile, Wolgast was also suddenly observing much of what Reno and Washoe County governments have been doing – approving sprawl without associated infrastructure, in serious flood zones, closed basins.  There is not enough sewer capacity, water, water lines, police, fire, transportation, schools, to accommodate this.  One Reno city councilwoman (Jenny Brekhus) is now warning that all TMWA ratepayers are going to have to pay millions of dollars to run water lines up to Cold Springs for future growth.  Does it even matter that we all had to pay 100% for our own water systems down here in South Truckee Meadows and beyond? We took out our own bonds, paid them off over nearly 30 years.  As more development came, they paid to hook up and build their own lines. Now we are going to be asked to pay for the sprawl — not the developers. We need to watch TMWA closely now.
So, Wolgast decides to run for county commission and calls for a timeout or moratorium until these matters can be addressed.  It was not his intention to move here and run for political office.  He and other newcomers have been aghast at what they perceive as a corruption that the rest of us old-timers have grown accustomed to.
Lucey’s “accomplices” (?) are out tearing down Wolgast’s political signs, or stealing them, or just defacing them, in an effort to “win”.  Lucey forces engaged in this same behavior with opponents in the last election, too, with at least two other candidates (Democrat and Republican).  If you see this activity occurring around Wolgast’s campaign signs, please contact the candidate.  So much for freedom of speech.  We have become used to this behavior, too.  We start accepting this as being normal.  It is not.
Lucey never saw a development he doesn’t like.  He has voted to place homes along Bailey Creek, which came to the edge of its top banks in 2017 and almost flooded.  This is the land for 56 homes located immediately west of Nik ‘N Willy’s Pizzeria on Geiger Grade.  It has been cleared and graded, but not built upon yet.  When it floods, who pays?  Hopefully they form an HOA and buy flood insurance.  Ironically, all this was being considered as the junction of Geiger Grade and Toll Road experienced massive flooding for weeks.  Ditches and culverts under roadways were overwhelmed.  And yet they continued to approve this.  We sent a video of the Bailey Creek roaring downhill on these very proposed residential lands.  It meanders through the development area.  Normally a dry creekbed, it became a raging torrent for many weeks.  If it comes up over the edge, which is just a matter of when, not if, the homes will flood.  Meanwhile, down the road from this less than a mile, Reno approved a massive low-income apartment project right on the banks of Steamboat Creek as it, too, was threatening to flood.  It blocked with debris and backed up at the piped entry to the Geiger Grade bridge, forming a large pond.  Developers have elevated the land and continue to build.
So it is not just Washoe County approving development in very serious flood zones.  It is Reno, too.  It has postponed voting on Daybreak (aka Butler Ranch, 4,7000 residential units along Veterans Parkway known to become submerged under many feet of water) until November.  This is the second delay, and my guess is it will be scheduled after Election Day.  Just a hunch.  Who pays when this goes under four or five feet of water?  Regional Planning denied this development years ago, but no one, including Bob Lucey, is standing up and saying this is wrong.
Pleasant Valley residents are not happy with Lucey’s approving position on Colorock (which ultimately was denied after a significant citizen show of force that a rock crushing and hauling plant was not appropriate in a rural residential area).  Mt. Rose residents have had problems with him on several developments.  South Hills residents are unhappy that he is unavailable and does not return phone calls. They tried calling, concerned about a new fire station. No response.  Residents in the Arrowcreek area and Zolezzi Lane objected to a middle school planned in an area that floods significantly.  Detention ponds are now planned.  Toll Road area residents would be surprised to learn that Lucey told people there are no more wild horses in our area.  This was in response to a citizen’s appeal about Bailey Creek Estates, now ironically called Bridle Gate. Sadly, at least one wild horse and maybe two were killed right in front of Bridle Gate on Geiger Grade days ago. Wild horses are all over our area constantly.  Why doesn’t he know that?  Does he not know what horse poo piles look like, or is it that he never drives around in his own district?
Lucey is out of touch with what is occurring in the area.  He reportedly approached Pleasant Valley residents about why they had Wolgast signs up.  He tried to kill our Citizens Advisory Board.  He does not engage in much citizen input. Plans are on the drawing board to build many more homes in the canyon above Toll Road. The Board of Adjustment rejected this, but now commissioners are talking about eliminating this board, and destroying the Area Plans developed by citizens and county planners over many years, many meetings.  There is an assault occurring on more rural, less dense areas.  They want to eliminate their own planning commission, too.  Clear the way to approve everything development without any oversight.
Now, Lucey is taking charge on a federal lands bill that is highly controversial.  People do not know or trust what the county is doing with this measure – adding much area forest service and BLM land to be removed from the feds and placed under the county, much for future development.  It is being alleged (good sourcing) that Lucey is laughing about the developers lining up requesting certain lands be added to the federal lands bill for future development.  The City of Reno does not know what is in this bill.  Neither do concerned groups, concerned individuals, even other politicians.  This is being handled by county staff behind the scenes, and begs for transparency.  Filling in islands within city limits is one thing – using this to sprawl outward unsustainably is another.  We all love our open spaces, our wildlife, our natural settings, our waterways.  Our quality and way of life.  We do not want to look like Denver or San Jose.     
One public official told me months ago that there are more than 70,000 “approved, unbuilt” residential units now on the drawing board.  We have enough water for a maximum 620,000 – which some push out to 680,000, while others say 550,000 is a more realistic population number.  If you put 2.5 people into each unit already approved, that is 175,000 and we are now nearing a population of 500,000.  In other words, if we did not approve any more residential development, we would have to provide water for about 675,000 people.  We simply do not have the water resources for this lands deal sprawling outward further and further.  These numbers do not include big developments on the drawing board in Verdi and North Valleys, either.  Both of those areas are going to be blown out with massive development.
In Wolgast we do not get someone who has spent a lifetime here and who is dialed in to the who’s who of the area.  He will not take campaign donations from anyone who plans to do business before the commission.  He is running for office on a shoestring budget, financing about half of the effort out of his own pocket.  Wolgast is not for sale.
If you want to see some sanity, honest dealings, fair play and hard questions asked please vote for Steve Wolgast.  I don’t care if you are Republican, polka dot, Democrat, Independent, or whatever.  We desperately need this voice on our commission.  We need someone who will rise up for “sustainable” government.  We need someone who will engage in constituent communications. 
That Cashell writes this letter to the editor (printed in RGJ Sunday) says it all.  The good old boys want to continue owning and operating the local elected officials.  We need to stop this.  They must be worried that “ordinary folk” from the Southern Truckee Meadows will vote.  (This is an inside joke.  One day a Mt. Rose area resident walked into a county offices meeting years ago and was greeted by an employee who said she did not know that they allowed “ordinary citizens” in there.  So now we remind one another we are the ordinary citizenry, not really allowed “in”.)
The future of our whole area is at stake. It might just take a newcomer from California to remind us of what we do not want to become.  We do not have the money or tax structure to pay for the sprawl planned for us.  We need someone who will defend our quality of life and not continue jamming more and more people densely into the south Truckee Meadows and further south into Steamboat, Pleasant and Washoe valleys, up Mt. Rose Highway, etc.  We have a right to lesser density, to a more rural lifestyle, to not look like Las Vegas or the Bay Area.  We do not have the water or money or other resources to keep sprawling mindlessly without regard to what we are able to sustain.
This is a position held by Republicans and Democrats alike.  We all have to be so aware of our resources, and protecting our area.
We are a community whose average household income is $51,000+ (gross, not net).  Our governments are giving away our taxes to the special interests.  We cannot afford to allow big developers to come in here and put their costs on the rest of us.  We cannot afford to have governments not paying their bills (pension plan payments, sick leave, vacation pay, post-retirement health care plans, other debts).  This becomes a house of cards.  We need elected officials who will serve honorably on our RTC and TMWA boards and school board (for starters).  People who will follow the money and look out for us.  We cannot afford “business as usual” with the same casts of characters looking for government dollars to finance their development projects anymore.
We need to elect people who will fiercely defend our quality of life, our Nevada-ness.  We cannot have a county government that wants to do away with citizen advisory boards, the Board of Adjustment, the county planning commission, citizen-propelled area plans, or anything else that involves citizens.  This is not an authoritarian dictatorship in which the people are shut out and suppressed.  Far too much business is being conducted out of the public eye and it needs to stop.
We deserve better.  We deserve someone who will defend ordinary citizens.  If you agree with me, please send this to as many South Truckee Meadows voters as possible. 
Thanks for listening,
Pamela E. Galloway
Voices for a Sustainable Washoe County
Virginia Foothills (Washoe County, NV)

Lucey’s Native Nevadans’ Privilege

I attended a lovely dinner last night at the home of friend.   There was a group of around 25 people, most were District 2 residents.   After dinner I chatted with the host about the upcoming elections and asked his opinions of how things are going in Washoe County.   He is a 6th generation Nevadan. His great grandparents settled in Dayton in the 1870s and worked in local government, so I specifically wanted his views on the changes he’s seen in Washoe County in his lifetime, and the challenges our county faces with uncontrolled growth and fiscal mismanagement.   He told me that he grew up as a neighbor of Bob Lucey’s and knew him and his family.   He didn’t give credence to Lucey’s public campaign position that as a “fifth generation Nevadan” he is best-placed and most experienced to make sound fiscal, zoning and land development decisions for Washoe County.   My friend’s comment: “Oh, really? My family and ancestors have been here just as long, and we despise what’s happening to Washoe County!   But the corruption is embedded. It’s been going on for SO long that we just feel despondent. What’s the point in trying to change this county?   It’s always been this way. Boom and bust. Budget problems, infrastructure problems and public-school problems. The local politicians have been lining their pockets for so long, that it will just be too hard to change.”

I asked him why he and his long-time Washoe friends have never tried to change the county governing system by proffering candidates with better governing and technical experience.   He said that “outsiders” never have a chance, and even if they are Washoe natives, they have to be backed by the Washoe insiders – gaming, real estate and now cannabis.   He chalked up County residents’ resignation to the boom-bust of real-estate, mining and gaming-based Washoe economy. Even the push to bring in new business comes at a huge economic cost to the county – incentivizing tax breaks that leave even larger voids in Washoe County coffers. These are then patched with higher sales taxes. This has been going on for all the “generations” that Bob Lucey and his family/ancestry have lived here.   Why should Lucey and the County Commissioners change this dynamic in this economic recovery cycle where they stand to prosper so much from real estate development?   He knows the drill.   He knows better than anyone because he’s a “fifth generation Nevadan”!   He has the privilege of CLAIMING Washoe as more his, than anyone else here?   He has more right to govern because an ancestor came here to settle?

I can’t help but think there were a lot of lawless people moving to Nevada five generations ago. So, was his great grandfather a cattle rustler, or a gun slinger, or maybe a claim jumper? Also, I highly doubt that Lucey’s father’s side, Lingenfelter, was here for 5 generations.   In fact, nowadays most people who live anywhere out west are from somewhere else!   More importantly, the trust of the people has to be earned.   Why SHOULD we think that ancestry denotes expertise?   How does ancestry in and of itself promote candidate trustworthiness?   And why should that be a qualification for office, if that very geography has a governing system that desperately needs to change?

This concept of “native privilege” got me to thinking about some of the commentary Steve Wolgast has heard during his District 2 campaign canvassing efforts.   Some have told him that they just cannot vote for him because “he is a liberal democrat from California, trying to make Reno a suburb of California”.   Um, really?   Just LOOK at what’s happening now, with a majority republican Washoe Board of County Commissioners who also have real estate and business as careers.   Washoe is well on its way to looking like the sprawl of ANY big city in the US (not just CA), certainly not the “biggest little city”!   And who’s happy with this sprawl?   Anyone making money off of it, that’s who!   And who’s trying to manage growth to a safe and sustainable pace? Currently, the only governing entity that even tries to uphold and enforce the County Codes, Area Plans and zoning are the County Planning Commission, a governing group that has more applicable career expertise than the commissioners.

With pressing growth problems facing Washoe County including infrastructure development, water supply and quality preservation, flood control, fire danger and air quality, how exactly does being a “native Nevadan” give a candidate better experience to manage these issues?   Do the commissioners have professional expertise in hydrology, civil engineering, traffic engineering, or environmental engineering?   Not a one! Lastly, honest and robust fiscal and budgetary management needs to happen in Washoe before we fall into another bust cycle.   The commissioners have so far not shown any inclination to revise Washoe’s tax revenue stream and hold developers and new big businesses to account and put some of their profits into the revenue stream.

So, unless Lucey’s ancestors were engineers, accountants or water management experts who passed along their “native” knowledge, I just can’t see how being a multi-generational Nevadan, in and of itself, gives Lucey more qualification for his position in county governance.   Let’s hope that his ancestors’ experience with bust cycles serves Lucey well when the next one hits Washoe County.

Where Does County Commissioner Lucey Spend His Time?

Washoe County Commissioner for District 2, Bob Lucey, has been in the news recently for his efforts toward passing the Washoe County Lands Bill (Washoe Federal Land Bill on Shaky Ground, RGJ September 13) and has spent time in Washington DC promoting this bill.   According to Lucey’s Washoe County webpage, he is involved with several Washoe and State governing groups and lists “public safety, water and regional parks & open space additional key issues”.   Arguably the most important group representing the populace that Lucey represents, the South Truckee Meadows/Washoe Valley Citizen Advisory Board (STMWV CAB), should be a priority for him, but it is not.   After he took office in January 2015, he attended the first 4 monthly meetings, then attended only 3 more meetings through January 2017.   He has not attended a STMWV CAB meeting since.

During the February 15, 2105 STMWV CAB meeting Lucey made the following statement, as excerpted from the meeting minutes: “The County Commissioners and the department heads met in a special meeting. County has a new direction with new commission. Our mentality is to be true stewards and rebrand the county as positive place to be part of. We will make more of an effort to be in attendance at meetings and public appearance with constituents and be true stewards for the constituents. We are making it a priority to do that and take your comments to heart.”

Interestingly, Lucey “missed” several contentious CAB agenda items including those considering Ascente development on Steamboat Hills, cannabis dispensary locations, Truckee Meadows Fire Department and fire safely, school overcrowding, traffic and flooding.   The last STMWV CAB meeting Lucey attended was in January 2017, with 14 meetings held since, and Lucey’s attendance record since taking office at 24%.

Bob Lucey’s membership and attendance records for the following County and State governing groups are:

  • Nevada Association of Counties Board of Directors – 50% attendance
  • Truckee Meadows Water Authority – 67%
  • Truckee River Flood Management Authority – 37%
  • Washoe County Debt Management Commission – 73%
  • Washoe County School District Capital Funding Protection Committee – 40%
  • Washoe County School District Oversight Panel – 40%
  • Western Regional Water Commission – 65%

Lucey missed 29 meetings in 2017.   So far this year he has missed 18 out of 70 meetings for which attendance records are available.

What does this say about Lucey’s priorities?

We know Lucey has spent time out of Washoe County to promote the Washoe County Economic Development and Conservation Act, the “Lands Bill”, thereby neglecting to address his in-county responsibilities.   Now that this Bill is on shaky ground, the question for residents of District 2 is, where will Lucey devote his time for the remainder of his term?   Campaigning? Listening to District 2 residents? Attending community meetings and events to get feedback on salient issues facing District 2 residents?

Let’s look at Lucey’s community meeting and events attendance record for 2018.   County Commissioner Lucey seems to be disengaged from his constituents. He has missed community events that are important to residents in his district. He did not attend the “ACTIONN Last Resort Tour” (August 29) put on for community leaders. This tour highlighted the plight of those who struggle with housing. Nor, did he show support for the local volunteer firefighters by attending their pancake breakfast at the station in West Washoe (August 26). He was not seen at the Townhall Meeting to discuss the design of the new Arrowcreek School (August 9). He did not attend the neighborhood meeting regarding safety on Mount Rose Highway after a fatal collision (May 16). He expressed concern that the Planning Commission and South Truckee Meadows/Washoe Valley Citizen Advisory Board (STMWV CAB) were not aligned with the Board of County Commissioners (July 24 Board of County Commissioners meeting) yet did not attend the CAB meetings on July 5 and August 2, respectively. In fact, Lucey has not attended a single STMWV CAB meeting since January 25, 2017, nor has he attended any Washoe County Planning Commission meetings in 2017/18.   He can’t effectively represent District 2 if he does not attend local meetings and events where he can interact with the people who voted him into office.   His lack of meeting attendance points to only one thing – a distinct prioritization of his own agenda over that of District 2 residents.