Letters to the Editor for May 25
May 28, 2018
Big shots backing Thaler, Rice
I was alarmed to see our local Republican establishment big-shots endorse the candidacies Steve Thaler and Wes Rice, Douglas County Commissioner candidates who are campaigning together as a team.
The Nevada GOP platform advocates for lower taxes, smaller government and zero-based budgeting. Thaler, a sitting Commissioner running for re-election, has a record of voting just the opposite; for spending on almost anything except the two biggest taxpayer priorities, road maintenance and floodwater control. Last June, for example, he voted to give lavish raises for county employee contracts, which he later voted to re-open to plus up their taxpayer funded health care benefits.
Both Thaler and Rice support building affordable housing projects (i.e. apartments). It's well established that new housing development, particularly multi-family, doesn't pay for itself, but that doesn't bother Thaler and Rice. It's the current taxpayers who will have money diverted from their priorities to supply added county services to these new developments and the added cost of wear and tear on our infrastructure.
The addition of multi-family housing projects will ruin the rural nature of our county; more traffic congestion and other related issues will degrade our quality of life. It's understandable that the who's who of special interest players and the public employee unions are endorsing Thaler-Rice but it's disappointing that Senator Settelmeyer, Assemblyman Wheeler, Congressman Amodei are endorsing the Rice-Thaler platform to make local government even bigger and more out of touch with the majority of county voters. The developers and the casino-hospitality money machine have three prominent sock puppets doing their bidding.
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Engels ad misleading
The pro-Engels ad (Page 5, May 11 edition of the R-C) is rather misleading and in some cases outright false. The author and sponsor of the ad fancies himself as an expert on county affairs and is promoting someone who has lived in Douglas County about five years or so. Mr. Engels, county commissioner candidate, appears to be a disgruntled California transplant and I certainly can't blame him as that state government has made bad choices for its residents over the past 50 years. Not so in Douglas County.
But if you're going to run for political office in Douglas County, please have the decency to have a competent understanding of our complicated issues before spewing negative political oratory.
We here in Douglas County have collectively set forth goals and policies in a document called the master plan (a desired outcome). The goals and policies in our master plan are intended to protect the rural character and beauty of Douglas County. And if that's not enough, we have a Development Code (the "law") which contains, among other strict ordinances, a growth management law that only allows our county to grow by 3 percent (compounded) per year which is not the unbridled growth we've witnessed in the state next door. If anyone intends to run for our Board of County Commissioners, I would think the Master Plan and Development Code would be required prerequisite reading and understanding before spouting off about excessive development, crime, congestion, conflating affordable housing with subsidized housing, etc.
The issues we face today are the result of County Commissions over the past 25 years ignoring the protection of and future expansion of our infrastructure (roads, utilities). Douglas County is roughly 750 square miles with a population of about 48,000. That's considered rural by any standards. There are several population centers spread throughout the county from Topaz to Tahoe and our infrastructure is spread thin.
The current Commissioners are no longer ignoring infrastructure goals and are making the tough and thoughtful decisions necessary to fix the issues we face today. Not everyone will be satisfied with how the goals are accomplished, but Douglas County will be better off because of these decisions. If a candidate or his surrogates are going to spew rhetoric regarding the state of the county, then they should bring solutions to the table.
Commissioner Steve Thaler has lived here almost 40 years and has worked hard during his first term on the County Commission talking with the people to understand their issues, to analyze the fiscal impacts and to offer solutions. Steve has always practiced strong Republican conservative values. He is someone that all the residents of Douglas County can count on to protect our County, regardless of political affiliation,
The choice is clearly yours, vote for an outsider whose only interest is to protect his little ranchette lifestyle or vote to retain Commissioner Steve Thaler who has the interests of every resident of Douglas County in mind when making decisions to keep our community the rural beautiful place it is.
Affordable housing bad for county
Attainable, affordable, low-income whatever you want to call it, more houses, apartments, condos in Douglas County will have a negative impact on the residents already living here.
While others have mentioned the impact on infrastructure, no one has mentioned an obvious one: Many of these families will bring children. Multiply them by the houses or units in the works or on the drawing board and you are looking at building more schools, hiring more teachers, providing more buses and bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers, etc.
And where will that money come from? Property taxes.
If you want to avoid being taxed out of your own home, the only choice is to vote for John Engels and Janet Murphy who will fight to keep our quality of life intact and our beautiful valley rural.
Thaler best for commission
John Engels stated at the May 16 candidate forum that the county should do away with receiving areas, yet he wants to maintain the rural character of Douglas County. It's painfully obvious that Mr. Engels hasn't read nor does he care about the Douglas County Master Plan or Development Code.
When the Master Plan was approved more than 20 years ago, the ranchers throughout the Carson Valley had the zoning changed (down zoned) on their land from one house per acre to one house per 19 acres. The concept was, and still is, to preserve open space and to place future development in areas close to the towns & GID's where infrastructure and services is readily available. To compensate the ranchers for the loss of zoning, the concept of Transferable Development Rights was conceived. This meant that a property owner who wished to develop residential or commercial projects would need to purchase the development rights from a Sending Area (ranchland) and transfer those development rights into a Receiving Area which is areas more appropriate for development. A conservation easement would then be placed on all or a portion of the rancher's property. Thus the development rights would be stripped from the ranchlands to preserve and protect the rural character of the Carson Valley. The ranch owner receives compensation for each development right purchased which allows the rancher to sustain his/her ranch. Thus, the Carson Valley is that much greener forever. Over the past 20 years, more than 30,000 acres of ranchland has been permanently protected, much of which has been accomplished through the TDR program.
Now Mr. Engels wants to eliminate Receiving Areas. Please vote for Steve Thaler for county commissioner. Steve understands the Master Plan and understands where development is most appropriately located. Steve is passionate about preserving the rural nature and beauty of Douglas County.
Supporting Coverley for sheriff
We, the citizens of Douglas County, face a critical decision in the selection of our next Sheriff. Our county has been blessed with a dedicated, compassionate, and thoughtful leader in Sheriff Ron Pierini. As Sheriff Pierini retires, we must think very critically about our choice for the new leader of our community's law enforcement agency.
I'm sharing my informed perspective, as I previously served as a Deputy Sheriff here, as well as served as a consultant to senior leadership from other agencies around the country. My current role is to foster the development of the next generation of leadership in public service. I am honored to have served with both Captains Dan Coverley and Joe Duffy during my tenure.
I believe Captain Dan Coverley is the best choice for Sheriff as he possesses a broad spectrum of leadership experience across all department divisions, higher education, and critical decision-making skills. Dan's lifetime experience in our valley and strong moral convictions make him the best leadership choice for Sheriff. His selection of Ron Elges to serve as Undersheriff speaks to his excellent judgment as Ron is a resourceful, considerate, and principled leader.
While the remaining candidates possess various skills and abilities, none possess the mixture of experience, ethics, and critical thinking skills of Captain Dan Coverley. Sadly, one candidate has immediately chosen to approach this election with a negative tone, coupled with deceptive representations of law enforcement experience. Suggesting that voluntary service equals fulltime custody, patrol, investigations, and supervisory experience therein is deceptive. Our community does not need a politician as our Sheriff; we need a professional, experienced civilian law enforcement professional.
While candidate Mr. Paris's dedicated service to our nation is most admirable, his experience enforcing the Military Code of Justice is substantially different than civilian law enforcement. He would face a steep learning curve both learning the operations of our Sheriff's Office and the significantly differing judicial structure governing officers, civilians, and the courts.
Lastly, Captain Duffy is a highly experienced, congenial candidate whom I enjoyed working with. However, one must carefully evaluate his lack of experience in the investigations division and, unfortunately, his public derogatory comments towards some members of the agency, which lacks the professionalism expected of an experienced leader.
A crucial ingredient of superior leadership is to have earned the respect of your superiors, peers, and subordinates. This is no doubt reflected by the fact that Sheriff Ron Pierini and the overwhelming majority of Deputies voted to support Capt. Dan Coverley to become their next leader. They fully understand the qualities necessary to lead the Sheriff's Office in the future. I respectfully urge you to vote for Captain Dan Coverley for Sheriff.
Brady best choice for sheriff
I have been a Gardnervile resident for three years. I am also a retired law enforcement officer , having given 38 years of service to the communities I have lived in. I attended the Sheriff's debate forum last week and am
extremely impressed with the presentation of candidate Dave Brady.
As I listened to the other three candidates speak, it became clear to me that Mr. Coverly, and Mr. Duffy, while having many years of experience with the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, didn't present any kind of vision or strategic plan should either one become elected to the office. Mr. Brady did, and explained in succinct detail what he intended to accomplish. His first priority was determining which direction the organization should take by interviewing every employee about their feelings and concerns, and then forming a strategic plan of action based on that input. Bravo to Mr. Brady. This approach is keeping up with modern day changes within the department and the community. It indicates a positive and progressive attitude for the Sheriff and makes for a well respected leader. This benefits the overall morale and work ethic of the employees, and cements a strong bond with the public they serve.
I have experience with this approach. In 2009, I was hired by a Southern Colorado Indian Tribe as their Deputy Director of their law enforcement and Environmental Divisions. That included 12 departments and 108 employees. My first task was to interview every employee under my supervision. The wealth off information I gleaned from that process was invaluable, and provided me with the direction I took in weeding out personnel that had become complacent, were bad for morale, or that just didn't belong in supervisory capacities. It gave me a clear direction on where to improve training, increase morale, and be respected as a leader by my peers and to identify those employees who were exceptional. I am impressed that Mr. Brady has that vision.
I have seen and experienced the complacency that comes with local leaders who are okay with business as usual. Unfortunately, it happens in every community. The outgoing Sheriff or Police Chief endorses a particular candidate and a lot of people assume that that person is the absolute right candidate for the job. Very often this person is not the best candidate, but is elected based on a popularity contest. That's what wrong with this process. Business as usual doesn't allow for change, and lack off change leads to all sorts of problems. We as law enforcement officers are sworn "To Protect and Serve" and service is the most critical part of our job. If we don't have the respect and trust of the community we are not going to be effective law enforcement leaders.
Finally, I am voting for Dave Brady because his experience is well rounded and not confined to only serving as a deputy. Being the Sheriff of any county requires experience not only in law enforcement, but close relationships with county government, state government, and private entities. Dave Brady has this experience and I believe he will make a fine Sheriff, one who earns the respect from those who will work for him, and most importantly the community.
Carl R. Smith
Werner must go
Ronald Reagan in 1976 challenged a sitting Republican, Gerald Ford, for the Presidency. Reagan identified the root problem in Washington D.C. as a "buddy" system that functioned for its own benefit—not for the American people.
Douglas County has its own local government "buddy" system. Rather than "call to account" County Manager Larry Werner in response to the "Tiregate" scandal, a $1 million-plus criminal embezzlement over 10 years, three county commissioners (McDermid, Penzel and Thaler) "circled the wagons". They actually gave Werner a vote of confidence by extending his contract for two additional years. This action was taken at a time when commissioners were aware of "Tiregate" but the general public was kept "in the dark". A Nevada state criminal investigation is still ongoing.
In stark contrast to the Douglas County government "buddy" system is the accountability required in the private sector. For example, when serious management failings were identified at Wells Fargo, the bank terminated the CEO, named six new corporate directors and transformed management.
County Manager Werner served 1½ years during "Tiregate". He's responsible for the annual county budget. County expenditures on tires ballooned from $46,371 in 2008-09 to $396,163 in 2015-16. Werner failed to notice that more than 400 commercial truck tires purchased in 2015-16 didn't fit any county vehicles.
Most egregiously, Werner failed to have internal audits conducted or have adequate fiscal controls in place. It was an invitation for theft. As the Grand Jury noted , the $1 million-plus embezzlement "should never have occurred and the failure to detect it was inexcusable". Their report cited "poor management". The "buck stops" with the County Manager. Werner should have been held accountable—not rewarded.
Whistleblower complaints about "Tiregate" made in 2008 and 2012 were ignored. It took a third Whistleblower complaint in 2017 to end the 10 year long embezzlement. One person was actually reprimanded for calling for an investigation. This demonstrates the "Arrogance of Officialdom", another favorite Reagan target.
A Grand Jury report in 1989, after a prior 10 year long embezzlement, concluded Douglas County had a "lackadaisical method of inventory control, poor purchasing system…exacerbated by a lax and tolerant attitude by county commissioners and management." A culture of self-dealing has been able to take root over at least 20 years as a result of the local "buddy " system.
Werner's management shortcomings were further exhibited last year in his selection of two top deputies, chief financial officer (Vicki Moore) and assistant county manager (Brad Hurley). After very brief tenures, both abruptly resigned.
Whatever the composition of the new Douglas County Commission after June 12, the rebuilding of trust begins with the appointment of a new county manager. It's past time to clean out the Douglas County stable by identifying , recruiting and hiring a new county government chief executive.
Engels committed to rural character
In creating our Master Plan, Douglas County residents clearly expressed their desire to "keep our rural character," which is still true today. At the recent candidates forum. all four candidates for County Commissioner stated that they supported that goal. Some, however, seemed more believable than others.
John Engels stated that variances and amendments to the Master Plan should be more difficult to obtain, and that we always need to remember that water is our most valuable resource, and that its supply is finite. It was clear that he planned to act to help retain our rural character.
His opponent, Commissioner Steve Thaler, on the other hand, has demonstrated by his actions that he has rarely met a development that he couldn't support. Let's look at his record.
Thaler voted to approve a Master Plan Amendment for the Corley Ranch project, changing agricultural land into a Receiving Area with up to 16 homes per acre, despite the fact that it did not meet the required findings. It also creates sprawl, and extends the town boundary, even though there are thousands of already approved development units that are within the existing urban services area. Perhaps that is why the Corleys are hosting an event for the Thaler campaign.
Thaler voted last year for two Master Plan Amendments that now allow up to 480 multi-family units near the corner of Lucerne and Ironwood. Not only could this be the largest collection of apartments/condos anywhere in the valley, but it will create a traffic nightmare at Lucerne and 395, necessitating yet another stoplight. Is that "keeping our rural character"?
Recently Thaler voted to support a 178-unit development in the Sunridge area. Even though the area was zoned for minimum 8000 square-foot lots, he approved lots with a median size of just 7100 square-feet, and his approval was based on knowingly false information.
Last month Thaler voted to amend a conservation easement so as to allow two homes to be built there, even though all the development rights had been stripped from the land 25 years earlier when a clustered development was created. He ignored the fact the the conservation easement itself stated that the easement could not be modified, which is why the County is now being sued by neighboring landowners.
Thaler also voted to approve Redevelopment Area #2 in the casino corridor at the Lake. It is estimated that this RDA will siphon off $215 million over its lifespan, money that could otherwise be spent on schools, roads, the fire district, the sheriff's office, or other county priorities. While $50-100 million may be spent on an event center (to the benefit of the casinos), the remainder of the money must be spent in the casino corridor, too, not on other county needs.
It certainly seems that Thaler is much more interested in development than he is in retaining our rural character. John Engels seems much more committed to that goal, which is why I will support him.
Engels a true Republican
Steve Thaler, a Harry Reid Republican, hides his liberal beliefs by using a Trump-like slogan, "Make Douglas County Great" for his campaign for county commissioner, but his opponent, John Engels, is the true conservative who will drain the local government swamp.
Thaler admits that he if he had still been an investigator with the District Attorney's office in 2012, he personally would not have dropped the investigation into Chris Oakden's activities. This could have prevented nearly all the $1 million thefts. Instead, the District Attorney's office hid their negligence. Consequently, Thaler should be advocating investigating why the District Attorney's Office stopped their investigation in 2012, and he should find out why the District Attorney's Office secretly appointed themselves in March 2017 to conduct the internal investigation.
The District Attorney's office turned over the criminal investigation in March 2017 to the State of Nevada Department of Investigations because our sheriffs could not investigate themselves, but likewise, the District Attorney's Office should have directed the commissioners to turn over the internal investigation to independent outside investigators, and they absolutely should not have kept the Tiregate scandal and their unethical internal investigation a secret from the commissioners. It appears that the District Attorney's Office, along with the County Manager and Chief Financial Officer, orchestrated a cover-up from March to September 2017.
Thaler thinks Tiregate is just one employee who did something wrong. He does not see himself as part of the problem. He champions all things for the benefit of county employees, casinos and other crony capitalists to the detriment of the taxpayer's needs for road maintenance, flood control, and infrastructure investment.
In contrast, John Engels agrees with the Douglas County Grand Jury report that our county management is weak and needs to change.
On June 12 vote for John Engels for Commissioner from District Two.