Being active in local politics for years, our political swords have crossed more than once. He was a good listener and always respected my opinions, even though he may not have agreed with them. One case in point was his vote approving the use of Sales Tax Anticipated Revenue (STAR) bonds as an incentive for new development in Reno and Sparks. It allowed local government to fund new tourist-related businesses with bonds paid with seventy-five percent of the taxes generated by the new projects.
Republican State Senator Maurice Washington from Sparks sponsored the STAR bill in 2005. The same Maurice who was accused of comingling his church’s funds with his political contributions. He also had to pay two fines because of nonpayment of insurance for his church workers. And, while serving on the Judiciary Committee he was accused of approving legislation benefitting halfway houses that would benefit him personally. Washington said he didn’t own the property; he only applied for a license to run and manage the facility. He was also accused of inflating his assets when applying for a church loan.
STAR bonds allowed local government to fund new construction for businesses with taxpayer money if they could demonstrate half of their total receipts were tourist based. In other words, the brand would have to attract tourists. Cabela’s provided projected receipts to Reno, qualifying them for STAR bonds. And, in time may be profitable for the city of Reno.
However, the developers of the Legends in Sparks could never offer any solid proof that their revenue would be primarily generated from tourists. The only bait they had for the loan was a plan for a casino that might someday become a destination resort. They didn’t guarantee when it would be built.
In the words of Andrew Barbano: “there is no tracking of results and no penalty for underperformance” in Washington’s legislation. And he’s right. Prospective retailers would not divulge the source and origins of their customer base. Assemblywoman Debbie Smith attempted to amend the bill to protect the secrecy of shoppers but sales receipts still do not distinguish between purchases of a local customer and tourist. Assemblyman Bernie Anderson with all of his political leadership, integrity and honesty in hand said there was no way to redeem the STAR bonds and issued a public apology admitting he was wrong for supporting the bond concept it in the first place. Now that is something rare in itself. Of course, some could say Maurice was rare in a different kind of way.
Bernie Anderson will be remembered and eulogized as a dedicated teacher and an intelligent mentor. He devoted his life to the security of his family, personal success of his students and political well-being of Sparks. His leadership on the Judiciary Committee benefitted everyone in the State of Nevada. His life-long commitment to education speaks for itself. But I will always remember Bernie for his political leadership, integrity and honesty.
David Farside is a Sparks resident and political activist.