City attorney’s mud hole

Tom Stoneburner is from the Alliance for Workers’ Rights and Laura Mijanovich is from the ACLU of Nevada

The concept that the public should benefit from the expenditure of public funds is not new. When a business wishes to grope around in the public cookie jar for help in setting up shop in our community, we have the right and our leaders have the duty to see to it that those funds benefit the whole community in every way possible. That was the idea we had in mind when the Alliance for Workers’ Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union proposed that businesses that ask for public funds for their projects be required to produce and follow through with an aggressive plan to reach out to targeted members of our community.

It’s pretty simple really. If you want the city to foot part of the bill on your development, show us how you intend to reach out to veterans, minorities, women, those with disabilities and the economically disadvantaged. Don’t want to do that? Then, keep your hands out of the public cookie jar. This goes for those who want exemptions from hook-up charges, taxes, curb and gutter or sewer fees and whatever else they can dream up.

In November of 2002, we submitted a proposal to the city of Reno asking that just such a public policy be implemented. In the coming years, public projects amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars will be started in our city. Smaller projects, which also add up to a large outlay in public funds, are started on a regular basis. We feel it’s not too much to ask for a commitment from the various departments of the city government to explore ways to implement this as expeditiously as possible. Some appeared to be willing to do this. We discussed this issue with the Reno City Diversity Committee. We spoke to the City Manager Charles McNeely and Mayor Cashell to further explain this proposal. In the process, those working on this project have grown another year older.

One mud hole we can’t seem to get out of seems to be in the Reno City Attorney’s Office. We have offered to meet with their attorney and have not been able to do so. It appears that they feel we can’t require a developer to engage in outreach in order to receive public funds. One wonders if anybody in that office has even read the material furnished to them!

We at the Alliance for Workers’ Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union and a number of other community organizations feel that "foot dragging" in this matter is not fair to the veterans, women, minorities, economically disadvantaged, and those with disabilities in our community who would benefit from this policy. Reno needs to send a clear message to those who would ask for public funds that we expect in return that they reach out to all members of our community. Remember, the community controls the purse strings. Let’s all move forward in a positive and aggressive manner to put in place this most important public policy.