Pom-poms in the vineyards of public life

It’s too bad the University of Nevada, Reno, cheerleaders bailed on Mayor Jeff Griffin’s State of the City speech Monday. Oh, yeah, sure. Reno City Councilwoman Sherrie Doyle took the blue pom-poms proffered by Griffin. But she didn’t jiggle them furiously at any of Griffin’s subtle verbal cues. Darn.

Here’s how the speech went. Griffin listed three or four happy city things: more parks, more art galleries, less trouble with the city’s credit rating. The list would be reiterated via high-tech slide presentation, and occasionally, Griffin paused to allow a happy city video segment to play. Then Griffin would say the key line: “And that’s something to cheer about.”

In theory, the audience was supposed to stop munching away at their free subs and Doritos, cease sipping their Pepsis and give it up in a big way for Griffin and the city of Reno. And much of the time it worked. Doyle stopped writing clever notes to Councilman Dave Rigdon. Councilman Dave Aiazzi, having already carefully removed an offensive tomato slice from his sandwich, took his fingers out of his Fritos.

We all clapped, because the city of Reno has done some stuff worth applauding. The crowd of mostly city employees dug the consolidation of fire services. The acquisition of Sierra Pacific’s water division didn’t exactly have everyone doing the wave, but it seemed to be solidly appreciated. Especially with the hyper-Griffinesque spin on “keeping water in the hands of the people of Truckee Meadows!”

“When Sierra Pacific decides that they’re going to shed an asset, they go to Wall Street. They don’t go to the local real estate agent.” By working together, local governments put together a successful bid, Griffin said. “Wall Street was impressed, and that’s something to cheer about!”

Clap, clap, clap, responded the audience. Clap, clap, clap.

Citing a recent city of Reno survey that found 71.8 percent of residents satisfied with the level of city services they receive, Griffin claimed a victory.

“Those of us who toil in the vineyards of public life … have pulled together and made real progress!”

Clap, clap, clap, we raved. Clap, clap, clap.

But when Griffin breezed past government accountability, he threw off the “something to cheer about” line without pausing for applause. And downtown redevelopment didn’t go over well, either. The mayor became a tad defensive when discussing the Riverside Century 12 Theater, “which is doing very well, thank you” despite the “critics who say it’s not enough.”

Never mind the fenced-off emptiness at 12 N. Virginia St. Think of the River Gallery. Think of the Siena. “We’re building a place where people want to invest and, more importantly, a place where people want to go, and that’s something to cheer about!”

The audience was quiet. Perhaps Griffin meant to allow a moment of silence, say, for the Mapes.

But that’s OK. Griffin recovered quickly and went on to laud the affordability of the ReTrac project to build a trench for trains in downtown Reno. (Where are those smiling, bouncy pom-pom girls when you need them?)

"And that’s something to cheer about!"