$2,682,046.31 of Your Tax Dollars hard(ly) at work in Storey County in 2107
The Tax Foundation began tracking Tax Freedom Day in 1948. Tax Freedom Day is the day that the nation as a whole pays all the taxes to all the Federal, State and Local agencies they need for the year. In 2018 Tax Freedom day fell on April 19th for the nation as a whole, 109 days into the year and three days earlier than in 2017 due in large part to the tax cuts pushed through by President Trump. Tax Freedom Day fell on April 16th for Nevadans this year.
Taxation is Theft
America was able to get along without an income tax for the first 137 years of our existence. In 1913 President Woodrow Wilson added to his infamy by forcing Americans to share part of their paycheck with the federal government.
Each April 15th we are collectively held up at gunpoint and a big pile of cash is handed to the government to spend. If we don’t comply we will end up in jail. Most people think this is just fine since they are being robbed as well. The figure that if they are going to be ripped off, everyone else should have their “fair share” stolen as well. Besides, who’s gonna fix the roads without taxes, right?
We rely on the benevolence and wisdom of the elected and appointed government officials to spend the money efficiently and judiciously. We expect them to spend the money on things that will benefit the greatest number of constituents. In many cases, at every level of government, The money earned by the toil of you and me ends up being squandered, wasted, handed to cronies and otherwise used to benefit the very few at the expense of the the many. And every year it seems to get worse.
According to the Tax Foundation, as a nation, we pay more money in state and federal taxes that we do on housing, food, and clothing combined. I am of the opinion that all taxation is theft, even when done with the best of intentions.
The Richest Place On Earth
Here in Storey County, “The Richest Place On Earth”, is no different. Your Tax Dollars work to employ some dedicated hard working people who genuinly have the best interest of those they serve at heart. Sadly, the higher you go up the management chain, the less public interest is served. At the highest levels of Storey County government actions of waste, abuse, cronyism, and straight up misappropriation of public funds are all part of the way business is done at the top. We rely on our County Commissioners to look out for us and do the right thing. Too often they push us to the back of the line (take public comment at a Commissioners Meeting as a clear gesture), keep us in the dark, spend our money, and hand our County property and perks as they see fit.
The same 5 or 6 families and the flesh peddler who ran the County when I grew up still run things today. The self serving monkey business is the same, only the names (Conforte-Gilman) have changed to protect the power structure. But not for long.
Every two years we get to vote for our County Leadership. In June we will have a chance to vote once again. We have the opportunity to remove a Good ‘Ol Boy and again in November to select the most qualified candidate. The power is in our hands to change things up, or not. The folks who are used to calling the shots are betting that we will be happy with four more years of the same Good ‘Ol Boy self-serving garbage we have been fed since forever. However, the appetite for Good ‘Ol Boy road apple pie is waning.
It’s All About Priorities
Spending your tax dollars is all about priorities. With this in mind, I have compiled a small sample of the things that our County Commissioners considered priorities in 2017. Check them out and see if they align with your priorities. Consider this list when it comes to your choice for County Commissioner in the primary in the General Election. Keep in mind that one of the candidates up for election on June 12th was (asleep) at the wheel and voted for or wasn’t paying close enough attention to these decisions.
2017 – A Year In Review
January 21, 2017 – $ 7611.50 Spent to Send Gilman and Hess to The Presidential Inauguration
Storey County Commissioner Lance Gilman and Storey County Lobbyist Greg Hess witness the Presidential Inauguration at the expense of the Taxpayers of Storey County. Sold as a “high-level lobbying effort” by Commissioner Gilman’s Mustang Ranch roommate Kris Thompson, this example of waste and abuse cost the taxpayers 7611.50. In case you missed the details, you can get sick to your stomach by reading my coverage here. Grade: F-
April 11, 2017, $11,801.39 Spent on Antinoro Recall Special Election Thanks To Commissioner Gilman
Technically this was not a decision made by Storey County Government. It was shameless effort to exact revenge on Sheriff Antinoro with a recall election. The Sheriff, following the rules set forth by County Ordinance and applying them to the Mustang Ranch Brothel, created a problem for Commissioner Gilman’s freewheeling management of Joe Conforte’s erstwhile establishment. When the brothel was closed in 2011 because Gilman didn’t follow the ordinance and failed to disclose his minority partner, Gilman launched his jihad against the Sheriff. Sadly, he has pulled the entire county through his cesspool of drama. And he hasn’t stopped. We wrote extensively about tthe Grade: F-
June 30, 2017 – $436,248.12 Misappropriated for Wealthy “Retiring” County Employees
In a stunning, in you face case of plain old theft, County Manager Pat Whitten gave his pals Gary Hames, Mike Nevin and Dean Haymore a $215,000 retirement bonus. In an article I wrote here, the total amount of cash we were ripped off actually totals 436,210 as of June 30. We continue to get ripped off every time the unqualified former fry cook Gary Hames gouges the county for 11,354. each month his no-bid, no expiration date contract is paid.
For those of you paying attention, Commissioner Jack McGuffey was bewildered when this was brought to his attention. In fact all of the Commissioners were asleep at the wheel while Whitten and his cronies hands were in our cookie jar. This is the kind of thing that will either continue or change this November depending on what you, gentle voter, has to say. If I could give this less than an F -, I would.
July 2017 – $1,564,589.07 The “Million (and a half) Dollar Parking Lot”
At least we got something nice for the money. But seriously, this is absurd. Lockwood has to buy hard to cafeteria food from Washoe County for the meals on wheels program because there is no kitchen in the Senior Center. The Highlands has been fantasizing about a community center for generations while Jack McGuffey has done zero to take even the first step to get his district anything but an empty garage for the community to meet in. Mark Twain could use anything, even an new swing set. There are literally hundreds of things that would benefit the entire community more than something that keeps mud off the courthouse floor. Grade: F-
November 17th, 2017 – $355,000 Spent on 10 South B Street
Storey County ended the year with a couple of transactions that raised my eyebrows. The purchase of the private residence between the Court House and Pipers Opera House was one. With the ever expanding employee head count, we need more space to park the fannies. This historic building built in 1876 after the fire is conveniently situated and would be a great place for a county museum. But the plan is to convert it into offices. At 1450 square feet, The building is super small and has been used for 142 years as a house. Retrofitting it for office use will probably cost another $50-$75k making this a very expensive purchase.
While the potential use might help offload some of the space at the Court House, could this money and the money we blew on the Bank of America and Black and Howell disaster have been used to build a building that would server more people better? If we had a 5, 10 and 20 year plan for the County this purchase might make more sense. Sadly, the county doesn’t seem have much that can be mistaken for forethought. Grade: D-
December 5th, 2017 – $300,500 Spent to Purchase Pipers Opera House
This purchase is one that many people think was a good thing for the County to make. It protects one of the Crown Jewels of the Comstock and joins St. Mary’s Church and the 4th Ward School as cherished historic buildings the County owns. These buildings are accessible to the public, being cared for and are not falling into disrepair.
The concern I have with the Pipers Purchase is twofold. First, they are under the umbrella of Deny Dotson and the VCTC. Dotson proven himself to be inept at managing money and people. He is hypnotized by budget spreadsheets, thinks that losing money is an investment, and lists the thousands of bottles of Cemetery Gin inventory as cash int he bank. Not exactly what folks who know what GAAP stands for would put up with.
Second and more important, is the notion that the county is now in the tourist business. Pipers Opera House now competes directly with other venues and represents competition with other businesses in Virginia City. But I ask more fundamental question: What is the core business of a public entity? If you think that the government should provide all kinds of services and should be involved in all sorts of endeavors, then the more the merrier. But if you thing that the government should do only the things that are in and serve the best interests of all County citizens, in the most minimalist of ways, then this purchase is outside this circle.
If the county leaders intended to run Pipers like St. Mary’s and the 4th Ward, with a 501c3 and a board of directors, then this might make sense. To me it does not. Grade: D+
December 15th, 2017, – $6226.23 Spent on The Storey County (Employee) Christmas Party
Storey County ended the year with a bash at the freshly minted County asset by treating “The Entire County” to a Christmas party. By sending the invite to all county residents via the Comstock Chronicle they insured that nobody would get the invitation. They may have used smoke signals and Morse Code to invite Lockwood and Mark Twain residents based on the number of folks from those communities who partook. As a result, the 2017 version of the Storey County Christmas Party, as in years past, was actually the Storey County Employees Christmas Party.
I was in attendance and I counted about 60-80 people in attendance, 6 of whom were not County employees or their relatives. County Employees sopped up free booze and grub while the people of the rest of the county got a tax bill. Nice work if you can get it. Full disclosure, The cash outlay was 4726.23. The other $1500 was the opportunity loss if the County had rented Pipers to a cash customer. Grade: F-
$30,765,000 Dollars not spent thanks to Public Outrage
County residents prevented this insult to our pocketbooks from being vastly worse. Readers of the Teller will remember our coverage of the Effluent Pipeline Corporate Welfare effort (if you missed it, read here and here and here and here) and the private property theft of the V&T Depot via emmenint domain. While the county has tabled the notion of stealing the Depot from Pierce Powell, the Pipeline deal remains very much alive. As usual the details are kept secret from us chumps er.. taxpayers, but we are promised they won’t use our money to benefit the potential freeloaders at TRIC. I don’t believe it for a minute and will pay close attention to this as the year unfolds.
Your Tax Dollars at work in Storey County in 2018
How well will our taxpayer dollars be spent this year? With the year a third of the way in the books(!), time will tell. I remain hopeful that thanks to a more involved electorate, times will change. We’ll check it out on June 13th, 2018.