Cashell was introduced to the group by longtime media personality Bob Carroll. The mayor first gave a brief overview of the current status of the city and then opened to questions from the floor because, as he said, he was more interested in talking about things that concerned his audience than things that concerned him.
Right out of the box he was queried about his feelings on the Hot August Nights issue. He noted that he was more than pleased to discuss what he could, but said that as a new board member at HAN, both he and Sparks Mayor Geno Martini had to sign a confidentiality agreement not to discuss board matters in public. He further noted that at the first board meeting in the future he would propose that that particular restriction be dropped. That “code of silence” was one of the main sticking points last year when it was first announced that HAN was going to expand to both Long Beach, Calif., and south shore Lake Tahoe. During the last year there was a firestorm of controversy that swirled about the change, particularly among local sponsoring hotel/casinos who traditionally blocked out the first week of August for the classic car event. Under the new proposal both Long Beach and south shore events were scheduled to precede the Nevada celebration, pushing the latter to a later August date. That later date will prevail here this year but next year the local HAN will return to its regular early August setting.
A highlight of Cashell’s opening remarks was to assure his listeners that the city of Reno is not “bankrupt,” but that it is going through the same difficult times the rest of the country is suffering. He praised his city council members for spending the enormous amount of time it takes to do the city’s business, pointing out that each member serves on 12 to 15 different committees and that regular council meetings are the smallest part of their commitment.
During the Q&A session, the questions came fast and furious and the mayor was able to answer them to the satisfaction of all present.
One of this queries was about the Kings Inn, which still is a dormant property in the heart of the downtown area. Cashell said that the place is still tied up in the bankruptcy court so that legally little or nothing could be done. He added that the Kings Inn was one of the top priorities on his “Hit List” for cleaning up the downtown area when he was first elected. He elaborated on that topic a bit when he said that in the past eight years the object of the city was to clean up and spruce up the downtown area. He credited the realignment of Virginia Street with its wider sidewalks and regular curb paintings and striping as two of the reasons for downtown’s more pristine look. Another plus is the new lighting that has been installed and which will continue to be implemented throughout the central core.
When asked about the possibility of the Nevada State Fair springing back to life he said that both he city and a number of groups are working towards that goal. He added that by the time he was notified that the fair might not make it this year, which it didn’t, it was too late for him or anyone else to do anything to save it.
Asked about any plans for the vacant lot where the Mapes Hotel once stood he said that plans for a complex on the east of that block, where the Majestic Theater and the Hall building were located, had long been set up for some commercial buildings but that to date no developer has come forward with a specific plan or the financing to accomplish it.
He was asked if he had checked out the newly reopened Siena hotel/casino and said that he had and was impressed with the quality and extent of the remodeling and new configuration. “Most importantly,” he added, “Was the friendly and attentive nature of all the personnel in every department of the new venture.” He noted that other properties could take a cue as to how to develop a more friendly persona for the entire Truckee Meadows.
When asked his thoughts on a state lottery he laughed and said he had recently purchased a lottery ticket himself as a possible means of contributing the potential winnings to the city to fix its budget woes. As a matter of fact, he added, when he was a regent for the university system he had proposed a lottery to help fund education.
He handled a raft of other questions and noted that he was particularly proud of how the Aces ballpark had turned out and what it meant to other businesses in the city’ center.
Harry Spencer is a freelance writer in Reno. His column about the past and present of northern Nevada appears weekly in the Tribune.
Editor’s note: Opinions expressed in Harry Spencer’s column are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Tribune.