Griffin’s legacy

Amidst all the political hubbub last week, it would have been easy to miss the fact that the Reno City Council voted to put the city’s ice rink this coming winter on the Mapes lot. But as simple as this action seems at first, it really speaks volumes.

The decision to put the rink at 10 N. Virginia St. is, in and of itself, a good thing. (The city rarely uses the word “Mapes,” even though everybody else in this town does, because the city doesn’t want to remind anyone about how upset many were to see the building go down.) It means the lot, which will also be in use during Artown this summer, will not be sitting empty (as it has for the 15-plus months since the implosion). It also gives proponents of open space some hope that a park or other recreational usage, i.e., non-retail and non-casino, will be chosen for the land.

But the announcement also means that the stated goal by some city officials, including Mayor Jeff Griffin, to put a property-tax-earning business there—i.e., casino or retail—won’t be happening anytime soon. This is why the city was in such a hurry to blow up the Mapes, with proposals to save the historic building still on the table: It wasn’t doing anyone good, having sat there empty for 18 years, when the land could be used for something and could be earning someone some money.

This is a typical Griffin/City Manager Charles McNeely result. Whether or not you like them, it’s undeniable that things have gotten done while they’ve been in power. The First Street riverfront has experienced redevelopment with the opening of the Century Riverside 12 building; the city’s built a handful of new parks around Reno; the Mapes issue was resolved once and for all; the ReTRAC train-trench project is moving forward.

But despite their impressive track record for getting things done, the manner in which things have gotten done is what will damage their legacies, especially Griffin’s. He has unnecessarily made many enemies along the way, because he often dismisses the opinions of others. He’s arrogant. He doesn’t return phone calls. And all of these projects, save the increase in the number of city parks, have happened under sketchy, unnecessarily controversial circumstances with mixed results.

A disgruntled theater operator pulls out before the theater opens. The city’s pet developer is fired after a lack of results. Secret meetings of small groups of City Council members are held. The Mapes is blown up with proposals still on the table to save it, despite Griffin’s pledges to save the building, if possible. The trench project goes forward when nobody is exactly sure whether we can afford it.

And now, the city is essentially conceding that the Mapes land isn’t in such high demand, as some officials thought it would be.

That’s the Griffin-McNeely paradox. They get things done. But they don’t get things done with integrity, and they get them done with—at best—mixed results.

When I interviewed “Perforated Object,” the much-maligned metal sculpture that is rusting in front of the federal courthouse at Liberty and Virginia streets, it was all in good fun. I thought it would get a few chuckles from some people, and that would be the end of it. However, even though it’s been two months since the interview ran, people are still talking about it. Apparently, we’ve hit on some untapped demand for interviews with inanimate objects.

In any case, we recently received our own “Perforated Object"—a much smaller ceramic replica of the Swiss-cheese fish—from a local business, Paint N Pot. Attached was a card, which said: “Thanks for keeping us informed on local news. The staff at Paint N Pot hopes you enjoy the custom-made art piece. Should you sell it to a government agency, we would understand.”

Thanks. Considering I live on a journalist’s salary—and considering how much the government spent on the larger "Perforated Object"—I’ll keep that last option open.