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Playing With Fire
by Andrew Barbano
Jul 15, 2012 | 1580 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
By Woodrow
By Woodrow
Not only are the Reno City Council and Washoe County Commission figuratively burning down their own houses, they might literally burn down yours.

Murphy’s Law Dept.

At about 12:30 p.m. on July 2, roughly 28.5 hours after the divorce of the city of Reno and Washoe County fire departments, a major forest fire broke out near the exclusive Caughlin Ranch area of southwest Reno, one of two newly unprotected county areas. At about 1:45 p.m., I saw one U.S. Forest Service and three Reno Fire Department trucks “speeding” to the scene, if you can term being more than an hour late as speeding. In addition to their taxes, I’ve gotta hunch Caughlin fire insurance rates just went up.

I chuckled when the new fire chief said the system worked “flawlessly.” For the best perspective on how partisan politics has cut back local fire protection, read former Tribunite Dennis Myers’ inflammatory exposé about how the Washoe County Commission Republican majority raised taxes and cut fire protection simply to damage unions. News Editor Myers’ June 28 Reno News & Review piece will be linked to the web edition of this column at

Ulterior Motives, Part Deux

The best way to stifle a fire is to keep the lid on. Former Reno City Manager Charles McNeely mastered the fine art of misrepresenting the city’s finances. He apparently failed to keep the lid on in San Bernardino. Now, he’s out of job and San Berdoo is belly up.

The city was in the red for 13 of the past 16 years but reported deficits as surpluses for public consumption, Enron-style.

“There was a $3 million discrepancy in last year’s budget,” San Bernardino Mayor Pat Morris told Pasadena’s National Public Radio affiliate KPPC.

“McNeely abruptly resigned after the error came to light. He claims his resignation was spurred by what he called poisonous political divisions between mayor’s office, the city attorney and the city council,” KPPC reported.

As I wrote years ago, McNeely’s main job was keeping the lid on Reno’s true financial condition. In late 2008, I broke the story that his finance underling, Andy Green, was resigning to go to (irony alert) Pasadena. I thus predicted that McNeely would soon walk and he did. Green’s principal job was shoveling the City Council at public meetings.

Perhaps McNeely’s talent at keeping Reno taxpayers in the dark made him attractive to SB. He can now retire on fat California and Nevada pensions to his estate in Brazil. I hope he says hello to Joe Conforte for us.

Et tu, Clinger?

A few days ago, extroverted Reno Mayor Bob Cashell surprisingly deferred to new City Manager Andrew Clinger to mouthpiece the State of the City address. In the finest McNeely fashion, Corporal Clinger performed a passionate tango with that ubiquitous lady of pliable moral character, Ms. Rosy Scenario. Nobody much questioned Reno’s $289 million of unfunded liabilities and the unmentioned downtown redevelopment corporate welfare program that’s upside down and sucking money from the general fund.

Once burned, twice shy

Local activists are firing up their friends to show up at the July 16 Washoe County Commission meeting. Commissioners will consider placing a question on the November ballot for a general services tax on motor vehicle value. A 1 percent increase would generate about $9 million a year for “critical public services such as senior services, public safety and public infrastructure.”

As always, the devil is in the details. In 1982, Nevada transit boss Jerry Hall went all over town pimping a sales tax increase to “save Elderport,” the senior/disabled transportation service started by activists Dorothy Pharis and Patricia Fladager. The ballot question was worded in “such as” language so that the future Regional Transportation Commission could use the money any way it wanted. Pharis and Fladager were soon out and the money-wasting RTC was born.

Books are so 20th century

We might as well start burning books because a library that’s closed is no more than a storage locker.

At 4 p.m. Wednesday, the Washoe County Library System board meets at the 12th St. Sparks branch. They will consider cutting back the already almost zilch hours of the Verdi Branch and “approval of revised interlocal agreements for the Duncan/Traner, Gerlach and Verdi Community Libraries.”

Without the latter agreements, there would be no public hours at these school libraries. See the Barbwire of 20 May 2012 at

Hot ticket

Country-folk legend Anne Feeney plays Reno this Tuesday at Abby’s Hwy 40, 424 E. Fourth St. There is no charge but donations for the band are encouraged. Seating is very limited so get there at 6 p.m. for the 7:30 performance.

She’s coming as a favor to the Reno Wobblies Union (IWW) as the last stop on her Woody Guthrie 100th Birthday Tour.

Ms. Feeney’s “We Just Come to Work Here, We Don’t Come to Die” made the 2006 Smithsonian Folkways collection of classic labor songs, a frequent feature on my once-and-future TV show. She has recently made a remarkable comeback from cancer, so there will be no smoking.

Support the Nevada citizen TV project

To re-establish a non-corporate people’s channel, donate a or contact me. You might just see a show featuring Anne Feeney.

Be well. Raise hell.

Andrew Barbano is a 43-year Nevadan and editor of Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988. He can be contacted via email at

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Playing With Fire by Andrew Barbano

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