A conversation with Frank the Farmer
November 14, 2007
A local lady who read my conversations with Bo the Builder suggested I talk with her friend Frank the Farmer for another point of view. “You and Bo are too jaded,” she chided.
So I did. It turned out that Frank follows county affairs closely too.
“I was born in this Valley,” Frank began. “A lot of my friends weren’t too happy with some of your jabs at county leaders. But then they slapped on those utility fees, and now want a business tax. You pointed out the building industry’s own expert, Dr. Elliot Eisenberg, calculated the county should be swimming in surpluses from all the tax revenue from the residential and business building explosion over the past several years.”
“Being raised in Carson Valley, I see both as part of a bigger picture of staff and politicians shifting the Valley business focus from boutique retailers and service shops to out-of-state box stores.
“That kind of shop in the core communities could evolve Minden and Gardnerville into prosperous small twin cities. Carson Valley has enough wealth and tourist attraction to become the Carmel or Solvang of Nevada.”
“Problem is county government demonstrate no comprehension of the fundamentals of how business functions, no appreciation for ‘the great American dream’ of entrepreneurs sniffing out profit opportunities without government help.
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“Or maybe they have a self-serving agenda we can’t see. It’s disturbing to see elected commissioners taking taxes out of the little guy’s pocket and literally handing it to the box store developers, thereby throttling development here in the Valley center.”
I was stunned.
“Wow, Frank, that was a tirade worthy of Bo. I wish I’d met you earlier.
“You mean like Home Depot putting Copeland Lumber and a hardware store out of business? Or Target, Wal-Mart, and now Kohl’s practically killing opportunity for small investors to open those Carmel-Solvang-type stores?”
“Something like that,” Frank smirked. “You and Bo point out they took taxpayer money, $24.7 million of it, to subsidize box stores and the casino in north county. Using people’s own money to smother small business.
“It’ll be interesting to see if they throw roadblocks at the proposed C.O.D. casino in downtown Minden.”
“Frank, as a small-business-friendly guy, what do you think about the business tax county staff are selling? I’m against it because it hurts retail Mom and Pop stores. I see three reasons for county staff wanting that tax and all are self-serving.”
First, county employee compensation increases annually at 7 percent to 8 percent average per employee, so staff have to find new taxes so their incomes continue rising faster than existing tax revenue. Second, they spent taxes on infrastructure in north county at the expense of everything else county citizens want.
Third, they are just enraptured with increasing government importance and staff levels by regulating business, whether business likes it or not.
Oh, and they feel badly, maybe even deprived, because other counties have a business tax and Douglas doesn’t.”
“That business tax is infuriating and about the last straw for some business friends,” Frank said. “Business doesn’t retain taxes, it passes them on to customers unless they like bankruptcy. I had no idea staff compensation rose like that. How can they when business profit is falling? And they want more regulation, more profit-squeeze, they want their cake and eat it too while small business or public consumers take a hit on their behalf.”
“Tell me, Frank,” I asked, “if you’re a farmer why does the business tax bother you so much?”
Frank said simply “Farming is a business too.”
— Jack Van Dien is a Minden resident. Frank the Farmer is a composite figment of Jack’s imagination.