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)