Commissioners Corner: With Reflections and Appreciation
With the onset of a new year we often reflect on where we’ve been the past year and set goals for the year to come. As I reflect not only on this past year but the last eight years, I am very pleased with what was accomplished and the foundations laid for the future.
In 1994, when seeking election for the first time, it was clear the vision must include what was necessary for Douglas County to protect its future, keep taxes low, preserve open space and our natural resources, provide quality services to our seniors and youth, implement effective recreational programs, maintain public safety, and the like. At that time, there existed over 30 residential subdivision development agreements for thousands of homes to be spread out over our Valley, an abandoned Master Plan process, no predictability for our economic future, severe budget challenges, unpredictability for private business investment, and an under-used airport requiring room tax fund subsidy to operate, with no end in sight other than increased taxes or severely reduced key services. We’ve come a long way.
Outcomes are difficult to predict. So, when we wish for change, we typically begin the process by forecasting what the end result might look like. In Douglas County we have taken the 5, 10 and 20-year visionary outlook, using known facts today as the basis for future projections, then developing a list of a thousand guesses on what might happen during the projected time frame. Once established in a plan, we then repeat the exercise annually, updating the plan from current knowledge and results acquired along the way. Today, Douglas County enjoys several multi-year planning documents, multi-year contracts and multi-year service agreements.
The residents of Douglas County developed the vision, saw the need for and engaged in a most difficult process; bringing forward a new Master Plan. A plan that leveled the playing field for all who were interested in legally managed growth, economic diversification and development, open space preservation, drainage, flood and erosion control, access to public lands, recreational opportunities, retail shopping, and broadening the job base with new industry and higher paying jobs. The vision offered up by our residents was clear. “Do it all and keep our taxes low.”
In other communities across the country, residential growth historically does not pay its fair share of community costs. However, in Douglas County, since the Master Plan (adopted in 1996) and the Development Code (adopted in 1998), all future subsequent residential development was made to carry its own financial burden, and pay what it imposed on our community.
With the help of so many interested people willing to work interactively and within the system, the process and the challenge of developing a thousand guesses began. The priority setting of each came next, and when to begin what and at what cost were important parts of the puzzle for the residents and county leaders to solve.
The components of this management plan entertained new concepts for the County, such as “‘Redevelopment” (Improvements at Walley’s and in Genoa, along with Target, Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Ross’s, Staples, Best Buy, Borders, et al, and more to come). The vision of Redevelopment was ignored back in ’95 as “never in Douglas County,” but with persistence, community outreach and a vision, it was brought to success by the current Board. New revenue from these efforts will help the County to “keep taxes low.”
As an integral part of any government, our residents speak their interests, priorities and concerns and we listen and learn from these interested parties and special interest groups. All must, and should, be heard regularly. Some are loud and excitable, others calm, but all voices have been heard. Many times during my past eight years, it has been the public who has brought forward not just great ideas, but timely solutions to perplexing problems.
This steady flow of citizen input blends with our annual updates to all of our 5-, 10- and 20-year planning efforts and helps establish new priorities and areas for execution. To make it all work requires the active involvement of our citizens and their respect and appreciation for Douglas County being all it can and should be. The foundation is laid for Douglas County to continue to prosper in the year(s) to come.
As we look to the future we have both certainty and uncertainty. The recent ruling by the Nevada Supreme Court upholding the right of the residents to place Question 4 on the ballot, gives us certainty on a “new” way to master plan our community — by voter initiative. However, we look to the New Year still with uncertainty, as the Court did not rule on the “measure’s substantive validity.” This issue will continue to be worked through courts, (with a potential significant cost to the taxpayers), to a final conclusion — a conclusion that I hope will maintain private property rights, allow the County to continue to effectively manage growth, not destroy an industry, and keep taxes low. In other words, I hope that the courts overturn the initiative, as I do not believe it to be in the best long-term interest of Douglas County. Only time will tell.
I have very much enjoyed and have appreciated the opportunity to be among the changing times of Douglas County. I have learned a great deal about State and local governments, towns, general improvement and other special districts, fire and emergency services and law enforcement. Today, I am pleased all areas of the County are on the right track, fully responsive to your expressed needs, and the momentum continues, while your tax rates remain among the lowest in Nevada.
Having been in the County since 1980, following the decade of the ’70s when our population had tripled, I have personally witnessed significant change and improvements in Douglas County and the quality of our life.
Certainly, the lifestyles we enjoy are attractive to others, and they will continue coming to live in our beautiful Valley and near our Lakes. They, too, will acquire land entitlements, private property rights, become solid citizens, get involved, become promoters of the qualities of life each of us enjoys, and work to make their contribution to our community. And they, like you, will awake each day to beautiful scenery, clean air, friendly people, ease of living, low crime, efficient law enforcement, enhanced services, great parks and recreational opportunities that all of us enjoy.
There are many good things occurring in Douglas County and many more in the planning stages. True America is expressed and personified in Douglas County. Each of us will continue making it better as we work together, respecting and appreciating what we have.
I am grateful to live and work in Douglas County and believe we are a far better community and a finer place to raise our families than when I first arrived in 1980. This holiday season, I am hopeful we all can reflect and appreciate what we have and enjoy in Douglas County.
I am pleased to send my most sincere best wishes for each of you to fully enjoy the holidays. Thank you for providing me with the opportunity to serve.