Letter: Who are the real constituents in Douglas County? (opinion)
With their gaming take dented by California Indian casinos, Nevada’s Lake casinos joined with the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority a few years ago to persuade an ethically challenged Douglas County Board of County Commissioners to form a public/private partnership to help them out.
Using Alice in Wonderland logic, commissioners declared the Edgewood (recent “hotel of the year” winner) as blighted in order to justify creation of Redevelopment Area number 2 (RDA#2).
This allows fencing off an expected $116 million in taxes from the area to fund an event/convention center that’s supposed to generate revenue for the casinos.
Meanwhile commissioners are struggling with a budget crisis of their own doing. The long-term union contracts Commissioner Penzel presided over about two years ago have resulted in benefit cost overruns, even as his one-time quarter million dollar tax money gift to the employee unions for dependent health care has now become a permanent annual recurrence.
The BOCC’s reckless zoning waivers to developers have created residential overbuilding that has swelled our population, but with no expansion of infrastructure and county services like deteriorating county roads, traffic congestion, and the impossibly crowded Judicial and Law Enforcement building.
The April 30 budget meeting was a pathetic example of this. Commissioners agonized having to fund a required technical election expert position at the expense of denying the sheriff’s completely justified request to fund three new deputies, to hire only one. There was no excuse to risk public safety and create longer emergency response times: $2 million is unavailable because it’s in the RDA No. 2 fund.
Commissioners Nelson and Engels have repeatedly tried to dissolve RDA No. 2 but Commissioners Penzel, Rice, and Walsh stubbornly refuse to abandon their special friends in the wealthy casino corridor. How does RDA No. 2 benefit Douglas County taxpayers, you might ask.
Commissioner Wes Rice, who got many campaign contributions from casinos and developers, explains that “… [the tax] money that will be generated will flow off the hill.” That’s even more magical thinking than Chairman Penzel’s recent claim that if we don’t overpopulate and start using more water, the state will take our water rights away.
Caesar’s Entertainment, the owner of Harrah’s and Harveys at the lake, includes among its billionaire investors George Soros. Our commissioners have chosen to enhance Soros’s investment portfolio at the expense of meeting the needs of Douglas County taxpayers.
We should probably be grateful; at least we know who their real constituents are.