What about when the boom fades?
As economic development officials whine that they just cannot understand why our community isn’t fully embracing the 50,000 thousand new jobs and 60,000 new people pouring into the Truckee Meadows by 2020, I’m happy to explain it to them. We’ve seen this movie before.
Mike Kazmierski from EDAWN expressed the development point of view in the Reno Gazette-Journal recently, complaining that despite all the current and forecasted growth, “our local attitude continues to be restrained, business-as-usual and skeptical, if not cynical. The ’we’ve been through this before’, ’let’s not forget this is a boom-bust economy’ or ’EDAWN’s numbers are unrealistic’ mentality will likely exacerbate the significant challenges we will face with this unprecedented growth.”
He probably wrote that insulting statement in anticipation of the business community’s newest campaign to raise our sales and property taxes to make up for all the revenue they insisted we give away to, you know, attract growth.
Here’s the deal, Mr. Kazmierski: Those of us who were here in the ’70s during the last mega-boom cycle aren’t being obstinately skeptical, cynical or unrealistic. We’re just well acquainted with the consequences of unbridled growth. During the last population explosion that welcomed the MGM and other large casinos, it wasn’t all rosy in the Truckee Meadows. Housing was so tight, entire families lived in tents along the river. Hospitals advertised heavily in other states for nurses so they could keep their facilities functioning. Traffic backed up and the winter inversions polluted our air. The public safety system was strained. Finding quality child care or an open softball field was more than a challenge, it bordered on impossibility.
Fast forward to 2015 and the blind boosterism of the business community, with dreams full of dollar signs while the rest of us fret. Those 50,000 new jobs aren’t going to magically find water where it doesn’t exist. They aren’t going to compensate our poorest citizens whose income isn’t going to rise along with their rent either. Unless we raise taxes, there’s not going to be money to build and repair new roads and schools, expand the sewer system, or hire the public employees needed to handle the boom.
Where’s the evidence that the benefits of growth will trickle-down to us? Many of the new jobs are being filled with new people from out-of-state, who land here and are then classified as residents to meet the conditions of the tax breaks. When they start asking where the uncrowded schools and pothole-free roads are, what will you tell them?
When the boom fades, as it inevitably will, those of us who truly love living here will be left to deal with the bust. You take that as skepticism. We call it reality.
These are the reasons we aren’t out celebrating in the streets to welcome the great god Tesla and its supporting industries. How will we pay for more schools, improved roads, and find the water necessary to accommodate the growth that you tout as our new normal? Surely not with the tax money we gave away to get the growth in the first place.
So don’t blame us for your lack of planning when there’s not enough water to go around or our beautiful valley has air unfit to breathe. And don’t try to shame us for not jumping on your bandwagon or cry foul when we put up a fuss about paying more in taxes so another billionaire and his company can be lured here. Instead of faulting us for not “embracing” your reality that all growth is good, how about embracing our desire that business pay its own way and stop demanding a taxpayer handout as the price of expansion. Then you might hear some cheering.