Voices carry

Here's a way to make a real difference in your city: www.reno.gov/government/boards-commissions/d-r/neighborhood-advisory-boards

Reno’s new City Council, run by a non-partisan mayor and a Democratic majority of council members, is a welcome change from the overwhelmingly white, male, and developer-focused council of the past. Although the council remains mostly white, with Oscar Delgado providing the only hint of the growing influence of Reno’s largest minority population, the majority female and noticeably younger group seems much more willing to listen to the average citizen instead of the good old boys at the Prospector’s Club.

The council seems to be hitting its stride in the last month after being a bit slow off the mark in reacting to the severe drought and then needlessly diverting their attention to endorsing a nonsensical new “R” logo that says nothing about Reno’s unique qualities.

But now they’re getting things done. They’ve reestablished the neighborhood advisory boards (NABs) and banned pesticides from 12 city parks. Councilwoman Jenny Brekhus is working with citizens to change the way we invest in transportation infrastructure through the Great Streets effort to adopt a better, safer, multi-model design in the Midtown-South Virginia Street corridor. The council is also taking a firmer stance in favor of the people when developers come begging for new tax breaks, a radical change from the wide-open doors and coffers of the past.

The council is asking citizens to actively engage in the process of creating a new master plan, a set of policy guidelines that will serve as Reno’s framework for the next 20 years. We should take them up on their request for input to assure that the Chamber of Commerce is not the only voice they hear. We’ve seen where that leads us—to a city that thinks so little of itself, it gives its resources and its soul away.

Take a minute and exercise your influence as a citizen by looking up reimaginereno.us and taking the survey about a future Reno. You’ll be asked questions about your ideal housing situation, the neighborhood you’d like to live in, and the amenities you desire, such as dog parks, good schools, shopping and restaurants, trails, and high-speed wifi. There’s space at the end of the survey to add your own comments about the direction the city should take and what would make Reno a more vibrant, livable community for you and your family.

The council is also sponsoring a number of community gatherings to collect more citizen views about key topics. Over the last two months, these meetings have featured issues affecting Latinos, the LGBTQ community, arts and culture, housing, historic preservation, planning and architecture. The NABs are also devoting a portion of their meeting time to gather neighborhood opinions.

A climate change and resiliency gathering last week was especially well attended, with over 60 people full of articulate opinions about what’s right and what’s wrong in Reno in reference to climate change. There were no deniers in this mixed-age crowd, with plenty of young people more than holding their own with their elders.

The recommendations that emerged from six small group discussions were nearly identical. These residents want the council to stop valuing corporate interests over the people who live here. They want a sustainable community with better public transportation, improved bike lanes, and a no-lawn policy for new development. Several groups called for the city to divest itself of fossil fuels and consider municipal control over our energy supply. And they want Artown year-round.

By the end of the meeting, the vocal crowd was cheering for a more robust democracy along with municipal composting, neighborhood-centered parks, and championing a new city slogan: “The Greenest Little City in the World.”

It’s a new era of civic conversation in Reno. Add your voice to the mix.