City government transparency and tomorrows well beyond the horizon prompted praise, questions and ample discussion as Carson City’s Board of Supervisors met Thursday.
Eric Von Schimmelmann, city information technology manager, said at 8 a.m. — a half hour before the Thursday meeting began — Internet pages on city government’s budget and expenditures were rolled out online. Later in the meeting, Community Development Director Lee Plemel made a presentation on next steps in the city Master Plan, which prompted extensive discussion. But the Von Schimmelmann presentation was the public comment surprise.
“Transparency,” Mayor Robert Crowell afterward. “A great way to start the day.” Supervisor Jim Shirk called it a ”vast improvement” on former web information for citizens, and later called it “fantastic.”
“You can actually get into the city’s checkbook,” said Von Schimmelmann, “and see expenditures.” He demonstrated during his presentation by showing on a large screen in the Carson City Community Center’s Sierra Room examples from the Public Works Department. Not only expenditures, but budget matters are available. “The public now can see our budget in real time,” he said.
Von Schimmelmann noted the information is available at opendata.carson.org.
City Manager Nick Marano thanked Von Schimmelmann and city Chief Financial Officers Nancy Paulson for working smart and hard in a short period of time to get the material online. He said an updated website that’s more user friendly is coming.
Plemel, meanwhile, detailed past and future data in a presentation showing city residential and commercial development swooned much of the past decade, but is picking up even though it’s “not exploding yet.” He said, however, the pick up should accelerate in 2016 and beyond and cited subdivision proposals, among them the Schulz Ranch plans in south Carson City. The first phase calls for 100 lots and dirt moving preparations are well under way.
Plemel said goals to advance the Master Plan next year include developing both short- and long-term parking strategies for downtown development, which is expected next year, as well as continued work with downtown property and business owners on marketing for the business core area and coordination of events to attract people there. He also said there’s no need yet for a full-scale Master Plan overhaul. The board unanimously accepted the report.
Before that under questioning, much of it from Supervisor Brad Bonkowski, Plemel and Michael Salogga, city business development manager, discussed what comes after downtown’s makeover is done. The project with wider sidewalks, added bicycle and fewer vehicular lanes is anticipated to be done prior to Nevada Day next autumn. Salogga cited a retail leakage study he says shows Carson City does well overall, and particularly well in vehicle sales. He said, however, there’s leakage in things like furniture and family clothing, which means people often buy such products elsewhere. For example, he said, only 25 cents of every possible furniture dollar is spent in the city.
Bonkowski asked if it was a leakage study or one identifying what gaps need to be filled. “It’s really a combination of both,” Salogga replied.
Plemel talked of facade improvement discussions upcoming at the Redevelopment Authority Citizens Committee, as well as possible design standards, while Salogga said a community discussion is needed to determine if local boutique shops, national chains or a combination are best to lure downtown. He said officials need to begin a community dialogue and “spread the word so that we can do the proper recruiting.”