Stop the dole

Recently, the Reno Gazette-Journal quoted Reno city finance director Robert Chisel on Cabela’s supposed inability to meet its Sales Tax Anticipated Revenue (STAR) bond payments for the Verdi branch of the upscale chain.

In STAR bonds districts, corporations like Cabela’s get to keep 75 percent of the sales taxes they generate. If the corporation can’t then meet its bond payments, Chisel said, the bondholders—the corporation itself and the owner of Boomtown—and not the city will be left holding the bag.

Then came Chisel’s comment: “If they don’t get enough money [to pay the bonds], too bad. But I encourage everyone to go to Cabela’s and shop.”

Think about that. At a time when Reno is suffering major revenue shortfalls brought on in large part by the city handing out corporate welfare like cookies, the city recommends—more of the same. Go to Cabela’s, where earnings are sent out of state. Go to Cabela’s, where the store gets to keep most of the sales taxes you paid, draining local schools of funding. Keep doing what caused the problem in the first place.

We have a better suggestion: When you need sporting goods, skip Cabela’s in Verdi and Scheels in Sparks—another STAR bonder—and go to Reno’s Mark Fore & Strike Sporting Goods and shop.

It’s not often a newspaper recommends a particular merchant, and we would like to recommend more than one. But the city governments of Reno and Sparks have driven other local sporting goods out of business and Mark Fore & Strike is about all that is left.

But all of the sales taxes collected by Mark Fore & Strike will go to Reno city government. And the capital generated by your purchases goes to merchants with roots in the community. As Houston Chronicle columnist Rick Casey points out, “If the fisherman doesn’t buy a rod and reel at Cabela’s, he’ll buy it somewhere else.” Choose somewhere else.

Besides, our first concern should be not the solvency of city government but the recovery of the economy of the Truckee Meadows, and with Cabela’s and Scheels shipping capital out of the valley to North Dakota and Nebraska, local merchants are your best buy.

Cabela’s and Scheels both got their giveaways by producing studies that claimed they would attract huge numbers of tourists to Nevada. As anyone who has driven through their parking lots and examined license plates can testify, that has not happened.

Cabela’s arrangement is particularly odious. It is a corporation with a welfare-based business model. Since its first store in Nebraska opened in 1987, the corporation has gone from state to state cadging other people’s money out of local governments to build its stores. It is a monument to socialism. Mark Baker, CEO of Cabela’s competitor Gander Mountain, said “Buda, Texas … gave Cabela’s subsidies worth $61 million, or about $271,000 for every full-time job, according to our estimates. Reno, Nevada, spent $54 million, or $208,000 for every job. It also should be noted that incentives to lure retail into a community often do harm to businesses already located in the area. … We cannot in good conscience go down that road and maintain our integrity as a good corporate citizen.”

While we are offering tips, let us make one more suggestion. The Occupy Together movement has been accused of not having a specific program. We urge Occupy Reno and Occupy Las Vegas to take on the project of getting the state STAR bonds law repealed by the Nevada Legislature—not “reformed,” but repealed. It is a local goal that fits into the movement’s ire at corporate conduct and the coziness between business and government.