Letters to the editor for June 20, 2019
Event Center would help Nevada side
I had occasion to spend the afternoon at South Lake Tahoe. What a wonderful afternoon. Boutique shops, art galleries, home furnishings and so many great food choices. It was closer than Carson City, and has a wonderful walking area. Of course, this is all on the California side. The Nevada side, as reported in the May 16 presentation to the county commissioners, is blighted. The road is blighted. In February when the California roads were all cleared, the Nevada roads were still snow-packed. I just have this feeling that for some of our commissioners’ “ownership” of this other area is so different in lifestyle — it must be a real kick in the pants. Heck, there are no hay fields, or cattle and many houses, all clustered together. Where is the open range that our “now I am a cowboy” commissioner(s) want to relate to?
An Event Center would do so much good there. If you build it, they will come and if they come, the hotels/casinos will use their funds to renovate their properties that are deemed “blighted” in the report. Here you have casinos losing money on the gambling aspect, and losing hotel revenue to what seems like thousands of timeshares, and you all feel that it is “their duty” to fund this center. Walking around the Heavenly gondola area we saw many families with young children who won’t visit casinos. But an Event Center would bring many, year round. Didn’t Reno just lose one of its annual bicycle vendor shows? Tahoe, what a great venue for that. And, Silicon Valley companies often have shows in other places, or employee events, and Tahoe is almost as far as Monterey. How can the revenue brought in by this center, and the additional hotel rooms and food, not help to bring the Nevada side of the lake up to date?
If the Douglas County commissioners pass on this — pass on using Redevelopment Funds for its primary purpose of renewal of an area — then perhaps Stateline, Round Hill, Incline, Zephyr Cove should all opt to become their own Nevada county — and Douglas can lose all the wealth that they share in by having these communities.
Time running short to rescind RDA2
Redevelopment agencies are created to channel tax money to correct blight, such as derelict properties. But in the case of Stateline-based RDA2, Edgewood Golf Club and the luxury Tahoe Beach Club were fraudulently blighted in order to fence off approximately $1 million in property taxes per year to fund projects, like an event/convention center, that’s supposed to draw visitors to casinos and related businesses hurt by competition from California Indian gaming.
Redevelopment advising is a huge business in which consultants, attorneys, and bond brokers counsel (that is, sell) local governments on forming RDAs, which can be done without a vote of the people. Douglas County commissioners have bought into the theory that giving your tax dollars to private businesses will stimulate the local economy. This is the age-old conceit that the government planners are smarter than the free market.
Over the life of RDA2 (30 years), funding losses to Douglas County agencies include Tahoe Douglas Fire District: $20 million, schools: $26, million, and law enforcement, infrastructure maintenance, and other general fund budgets: $69 million. Douglas County is currently struggling to fund bare minimum services, with $2 million permanently lost to RDA2 already.
As previously pointed out, the lake casinos and related leisure and entertainment businesses are losing money because their international gaming corporation owners are partnering with California Indian casinos, competing directly with their Tahoe-based subsidiaries. Commissioners Walsh, Rice, and Penzel have gullibly bought into the notion that a redevelopment slush fund bailout can somehow correct this self-made problem.
As Commissioner Engels has said, we expect our commissioners to act in the citizens’ best interests, not special interests. They should make financial decisions using their backbones, not their wishbones.
As to the plan itself, the Event Center’s price tag has gone from $50 million to $80 million. More millions have been earmarked for bicycle paths, street beautification and other frivolities. The cost estimates and targeted projects keep changing depending on which “experts” are performing in front of Commissioners Walsh, Rice, and Penzel. The only consistency in the RDA2 plan is that there’s no guarantee the Redevelopment Agency will actually rescue Stateline businesses, and no guarantee that the money being taken from vital Douglas County services won’t be completely wasted.
We’re running out of time to rescind RDA2. Plan to attend the county commission meeting on at 1:30 p.m. today. If Walsh, Rice, and Penzel won’t dissolve the Redevelopment Agency, tell them to put it to a vote of the people. The commission is currently scheduled to meet at the Tahoe Transportation Center (adjacent to the Kahle Community Center), but watch the county meeting calendar for a possible shift in venue.
Appalled by arguments
I have been a homeowner for over 33 years, and a business owner for 28 years in Douglas County. My family roots here run deep, as do those of my two children and six grandchildren.
I am writing in support of RDA No. 2 because I am appalled by the hate and lies being spread by County Commissioners Nelson and Engels, and their supporters in the so called “good governance group.”
I urge all of your readers to do the same homework that I have about the benefits of redevelopment. The truth is readily available if you take the time to look. Look first at the commercial boom in the north county.
Then look at the major reinvention of the California stateline area of South Lake Tahoe. These developments would not have been possible without the redevelopment process. The sales tax and room tax dollars alone are a huge boon to the local tax coffers.
Redevelopment does NOT take away existing tax dollars. Only the increase in taxes, based on the increased value of the redevelopment on the property goes to support the financing for the redevelopment.
Consider the facts of our current county revenues:
The lake population is 9 percent of the county, but the Lake provides 40 percent of the county property tax revenue
The valuation of the Stateline casinos has declined dramatically since 2000, costing the county $1.2 million in lost property tax revenue per year
Consider the facts about RDA 2:
Redevelopment Area 2 will not increase taxes to anyone outside of the RDA 2 boundary at Stateline
RDA 2 will not put the county “On the Hook” for the proposed Event Center. The Tahoe Douglas Visitor’s Authority will unwrite the bonds, not the general taxpayers.
RDA2 is not a “hand out” to the casinos, but a “hand up” to the citizens of Douglas County to increase revenues through increased sales tax, room tax, and general commercial health and vitality of the county as a whole.
Do not be fooled by the lies and hate being pedaled by the opponents of Redevelopment District 2.
Urge your county commissioners to support RDA 2.
Gary and Pam Midkiff
Shaming in the public square
There has been much ado lately about my participation in the Douglas County grassroots world of politics. Being called out by name in ads in the R-C twice is a bit intimidating, but also a bit amusing. I halfway expect a fake news headline that reads, “Local Retiree Septuagenarian Attempts County Take-over” in the not too distant future. I mean, who knew I could be so important to those who don’t like what I say that they would make false accusations and go the “shaming” route right there in the public square?
(Hint to “the establishment”: The GGG has zero to do with any of this. It has no “leader.” It is not an organization. It is a lunch group that has lively discussions. Period.)
It’s kind of annoying to be called a liar, but then not to have any specific supposed lies offered as proof. So let me respond in the same kind of blanket, because I say so, fashion: I did not lie and have not lied. I do my best to find and share the truth, and I am my own woman.
And on the “shaming front,” because I spent my career at a public university teaching English, including how to write an argument, I have to point out the irony of an accuser huffing and puffing in my direction (in his published rant) that “words mater,” (all except the word “matter,” evidently, which doesn’t matter enough to be spelled correctly).
What’s being (deceptively) “sold” through RDA No. 2 is a (super expensive) nose job (Event Center) on Clint Eastwood (casino corridor) with the promise that he’ll look like Rowdy Yates again. I put “deceptively” in those brackets since after studying the documentation from the last decade and more, and after the actions taken by the 2019 Legislature, I doubt we should even be talking about the Event Center as if it mattered. You think Stateline needs an Event Center? You got it (without the RDA). The new $5 room tax can build it. So … what’s RDA#2 really for?
The “Event Center” was, from where I sit, merely a useful “focus” for legitimizing the formation of RDA No. 2 when it had to be formed. What’s behind the curtain, I suspect, is a whole phalanx of special interests (casinos, chamber of commerce folk, government employees who want job insurance, developers) who are all convinced they will benefit in some manner from a $116 million taxpayer funded 30-year slush fund. For starters, spending OPM is definitely better than spending your own.
What I’m after is for the commissioners we elect (as Republicans in the partisan position of commissioner) to be true to their promises and to do what’s right. RDA No. 2 does not pass the smell test.
Founder and Director
Editor’s Note: Mike Bailey’s original advertisement copy said matter. The error was introduced in retyping the ad, and was not his, but The R-C’s. Our deepest apologies to all involved.
Put RDA on the ballot
Redevelopment Area No. 2 in Stateline, over its 30-year life span, is expected to take in tax revenues of $116 million. That money can only be spent in the Redevelopment Area, which is essentially the casino corridor, Edgewood, and the new Tahoe Beach Club. The reality is that the $116 million going into RDA2 would otherwise be used for needed services, like roads, schools, the fire district, sheriff’s deputies, a much-needed new Judicial and Law Enforcement Center, flood control, or any number of other county priorities. That gives county government two choices: either raise taxes or cut important services.
The estimated cost of the proposed Event Center is $80 million. The Nevada Legislature recently passed a bill that will impose a $5/night surcharge on lodging in the Tahoe Township to be used specifically for the Event Center. It has been estimated that, over the next 30 years, this surcharge will raise $91 million, and that the Lodging License and TOT fees will kick in another $20 million to $30 million. Hence, it doesn’t appear that there is any need for redevelopment funds for the construction of the Event Center. So, what will the estimated $116 million be spent on? That seems unclear. There has been no serious talk about other projects that RDA2 would address, nor any concrete proposals or cost estimates.
Most residents would say that it is not the county’s mission to take revenues that should be used for priority county responsibilities, and put it into RDA2, that will primarily benefit the Stateline casinos (which had a win total last year of $231 million). Operators of some of the biggest Stateline casinos are building and buying Indian casinos and Event Centers in California that compete directly with their own Stateline casinos. Why should Douglas taxpayers bail them out?
This is not a valley versus lake issue. If you polled Tahoe Township residents on whether they wanted tax dollars to go into RDA2, or be used for roads, schools, fire district, and other county priorities, I’m sure the 5,000-plus county residents living at the lake, almost none of which live in redevelopment area, would not support RDA2.
I don’t think that lake or valley residents support the idea that taxpayers should take nearly all the risk, while private businesses stand to be the primary beneficiaries. RDA2 is a taxpayer v. special interests issue. If the casinos are so convinced that this will save their businesses, then they should pay for, build and manage the Event Center.
Let’s face it: the Stateline casinos will never return to their former glory days. There’s too much competition from Indian gaming in California and elsewhere. An event center will not change that. The history of publicly-funded stadiums and event centers is full of disasters, often at enormous cost to taxpayers. There is no evidence that this one will be any different.
There is only one way to determine if RDA2 has the support of county residents: RDA2 (and its $116 million) should be put to a vote of the people next year. I would predict that RDA2 would be soundly defeated.
Some issues with redevelopment
I have read many of the articles, ads, and letters to the editor regarding the above and still have questions.
First, what actually defines Tahoe Township? It should also be noted the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, with four members from casinos and one from the County Commission, should hardly be considered as being unbiased.
Secondly, the Event Center, if built will be owned by the Lake Tahoe
Visitors Authority which is controlled by the casinos. The use of the
Event Center will then be subject to the desires of the casinos over the desires of the general population.
Thirdly, I wonder who can best afford the cost of the Event Center and who will benefit the most from the Event Center. RDA2 will be taking badly needed revenue from the County which is being faced with increasing costs. If the Event Center is to be owned and controlled by the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority shouldn’t it be built by them? I believe the Event Center will be of greater benefit to the casino industry than to any other group.
Lastly, I feel the title, Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, is misleading. If it is truly a visitors authority I would think members of the tourism industry would have more representation than the casinos.