Paying for the trench

It’s unfortunate to see this newspaper and others succumbing to some of the lies that Mayor Jeff Griffin and other train trench proponents are dishing out in their propaganda campaign. Of course, city officials have been assisted by half a million in taxpayer dollars.

As the old saying goes, “The devil is in the details.”

The project’s environmental impact statement has ruled out a park covering the top of a depressed railway through downtown. The same EIS document also has railroad officials stating the maximum number of trains that would pass through downtown Reno to be 24—a far cry from the trench proponents’ estimates of up to 50 or 60 trains per day.

Another misconception is that the federal government is going to “give” Reno money in the form of loans. A loan is not free money. It needs to be paid back with interest.

Another misconception is Union Pacific’s contribution to the ReTRAC project. The railroad and city overvalued land transfers at $42 million. The county tax assessor says maybe $12 million, but in no event will transferred land be sold to pay project costs. Instead, it will be leased, except the land under the tracks, to generate $1.1 million per year in revenue through 2028, and then 18 percent of the land goes back to the railroad.

Many of the proponents of the trench project are going to be making large amounts of money off the project—some already have in consulting fees and campaign contributions.

What’s sad is that the rest of us will be losing out. For one, taxpayers who will be asked to bail out yet another special interest boondoggle. Remember the bowling stadium?

Second, downtown small businesses will be forced to close by the construction traffic rerouting and the significantly reduced numbers of locals who are unwilling to brave delays. And third, homeowners and businesses will be consumed by the project. They will get only $22,000 in federally assisted relocation according to the EIS, and some fear opposing the trench vocally due to the threat that the city will not fairly compensate them unless they remain silent.

To those who believe that the project will just cost $230 million, wait until you see future utility bills, diminished city services and other negative financial consequences that will likely occur.

The people who were saying that the citizens of Reno are too stupid to vote on the trench project are the same ones who support a legal effort by the Reno city attorney to invalidate the ballot initiative. Of course, your tax dollars are funding that effort as well.

This is an example of what’s called a SLAPP suit—Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation—a similar tactic the billboard industry attempted two years ago to keep citizens from voting on the “No New Billboards” initiative.

After taking all this into consideration, why would anyone want to trust these people and allow them to continue with what the mayor describes as "doing God’s work?"