Andrew Whyman
Special to the Bonanza

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September 2, 2008
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Skeptical of the town bandwagon

I've never been fond of jumping on bandwagons. It's just not something I enjoy. Also, I can't think straight when everyone else on board is barreling for the finish line and I don't know what winning would mean.

That's why, to date, I have been rather tepid in my halting endorsement of Independent Incline. I'm kind of for it. Sort of. But at this point, still uncertain. So, had I voted in the recent Bonanza poll, I would have checked, "Need more information to make a rational decision."

The idea, at first glance, seems appealing enough. Home rule. Self-determination. Revenue neutrality. Enhanced respect in governmental circles. The list goes on, and my able political co-columnists Jim Clark and Ed Gurowitz have enthusiastically sponsored and tirelessly described the concept. So have a number of those I count as good friends in the community.

So what's not to like? For one thing, the stalwart project advocates have not, to my mind, provided an unambiguous, easily understood, factually-supported answer to a host of relevant inquires. Geno Menchetti, a well-respected local lawyer, in a letter to the Bonanza, made several points about steps that should be taken before becoming a town, and ended by suggesting that there may be simpler ways to achieve autonomy.

To learn at the town forum a few weeks ago that Geno had it at least partially correct and that, as a result, the advocates are "working on those things," doesn't exactly inspire confidence.

If Geno had it partially right, why didn't the advocates and their "expert" consultants address those issues before asking me to sign on?

Makes me uncomfortable.

Another good and caring citizen, Gene Murrieta, has put some 14 questions to the advocates, not the least of which, to paraphrase, is to ask what's "broken" that a town would fix? I'd feel more enthusiastically supportive if the advocates would answer his questions.

Then there is the problem of "revenue neutrality." This assertion I just don't get. If the town is to provide enhanced quality of service, and assumes powers heretofore not within its purview, it's going to cost more.

For example, at present there are few nuisance ordinances and virtually no nuisance enforcement. A robust town with its own nuisance ordinances and enforcement power to go with them will engender new costs.

What about zoning and redevelopment? If the town takes control of these complex matters, a good deal more time, effort and paid expertise will be required to study and implement proposals that might emerge from these new powers. That's additional revenue required, not revenue neutrality.

Let's be clear. IVGID has already spent money to study the town concept, and either it or the new town will spend additional money to ensure a relatively smooth transition from a GID to a town. That's not revenue neutrality.

In life you generally don't get something for nothing unless it's worth nothing or unless no one else wants it, in which case you have to wonder why.

Not to be a naysayer here, a town could lead to major improvements in service and what I would call quality of life, but it will cost money. And it will fire up a bunch of much needed dialogue about issues on which people differ, if only because a town provides the possibility of new rules, new regulations, new ordinances and more.

If town beautification or a redevelopment zone for a "town center" become locally controlled possibilities, you can bet there will be lively debate at town hall.

Personally I rather like the idea of prettying up the public face of Incline. I also believe that a genuine town center would provide substantial quality of life enhancements for many residents. Ditto nuisance ordinances with enforcement power and zoning that builds rather than destroys community.

I do think the doubting questions raised by public-spirited citizens need answers. And that those answers need to be available sufficiently in advance of the fall advisory vote.

From what I know, the possibility of real change lies in becoming a town. If, on the other hand, you don't want change in Incline, vote "no."

And, by the way, in acknowledging the reality of Crystal Bay as part of this community, how about a naming contest? My submission, "Incline by the Bay."

To contact Andrew Whyman, e-mail him at

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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Sep 2, 2008 07:50PM Published Sep 2, 2008 07:50PM Copyright 2008 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.