Actual knocking-on-doors candidates of every stripe appear to be hearing about one thing more than any other (gasp): Rent control.
Everybody wants affordable housing in the abstract but political leaders are stuck in cement shoes when it comes to concrete solutions.
In 1978, coinciding with the rise of the Reaganauts, Sparks-Reno was as much a boomtown as today. Eight major casinos, including the MGM Grand, had opened and even gambling execs were living in tents or vans down by the river.
Back when he was still a Democrat, future State Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, backed a temporary rent control law to blunt landlord profit gouging. The establishment went bananas. Adding insult to injury, Townsend narrowly lost to a self-admitted Republican slumlord.
After Townsend’s high-profile loss, rent control was dead, right? Wrong.
A champion rose up from the Oddie Blvd. mobile home park. A grandmother named Barbara Bennett got into her little yellow Volkswagen Beetle and organized tenants to push for a rent justification ordinance.
Prodded by their constituents, the Reno City Council actually passed rent control and got so much heat, they quickly nuked it. (Barbwire 7-17-2019)
After Townsend’s high profile loss AND the city council’s collapse, rent control was dead, right? Wrong.
Grandma Bennett filed for mayor in the spring 1979 city primary. She had no money and no chance, right? Wrong.
She beat two incumbent councilmembers in the primary and the incumbent mayor in the general election. In 1999, the only Reno mayor to make the Reno Gazette-Journal’s list of “100 who made a difference” was the little old lady in the yellow VW. A downtown Reno park today bears her name.
DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN. The housing situation in today’s Tesla Town is made worse today as state and local governments pass out corporate welfare like cookies and turbocharge uncontrolled growth. Without developer money to mitigate the impacts, increasing numbers of people are on the streets or down by the river. Throw in a pandemic recession, garnish with war in Europe and the little people languish.
A few months back, I wrote the story of a couple forced to pay $500 just to apply at five apartments. (A background check costs less than a buck.)
Such exploitation has brought international shame to Sparks-Reno. In 2018, I lined up desperate renters for The Guardian of London’s west coast bureau. None would allow their names to be used. I tried to start a Facebook page where people could anonymously post the facts about larcenous landlords. Tenants who responded were still too intimidated to go forward in this fire-atwill/no-cause-eviction state.
It is thus no wonder that rent control weighs heavy on the minds of voters while pols remain scared to freakin’ death.
Officeholders always pass the buck saying they don’t have the authority without specific legislative approval which will never come. Maybe it already has.
In 2015, the Nevada Association of Counties pushed Senate Bill 29 thru the ledge. It “gave more power to County Commissioners,” according to Creative Commons via Wikipedia.
The bill reaffirmed existing draconian “home rule” law, which means Nevada municipalities have no power other than that specifically granted by the state…
EXCEPT (drum roll, please) “boards of county commissioners,” who “in the absence of a constitutional or statutory provision requiring a power to be exercised in a specific manner,” (shall have) “all other powers necessary or proper to address matters of local concern for the effective operation of county government, whether or not the powers are expressly granted to the board.”
That advice came from a pack of flaming liberals. It was written on August 15, 2016, by Deputy Attorney General Dennis Belcourt to Nye County District Attorney Angela Bello on letterhead from noted socialist Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R). His first assistant AG was former Assemblymember Wes Duncan, R-Las Vegas.
You may have noticed Mr. Duncan in last week’s Tribune being sworn in as city attorney by Republican Mayor Ed Lawson. (Them closet socialists are everywhere!)
Which brings me to the Democratic primary for Washoe County Commission District 3 (northeast Reno/western Sparks). C
andidate Kyle Isacksen told the Reno Gazette-Journal that he favors creation of a “rental registry” database to “find out where the money’s going, who owns the houses…and then, the next step is rent stabilization.”
Shades of Barbara Bennett. Landlords would have to justify rent increases during tight times based on actual costs.
Isacksen’s next step would be some form of rent control. “Are you in favor?” I asked. “Yes,” he said.
One of his two opponents, Hawah Ahmad, was a bit more circumspect, apparently noticing that the hills of the Truckee Meadows are littered with the bones of those who uttered the shibboleth.
“I appreciate the notion of rent control, but it doesn’t positively impact the demand issue we have and isn’t anything we can get enacted immediately…I personally think incentivizing good landlords is important…My most immediate potential fix is the creation of county positions to negotiate long term leases” (I assume with incentivized good landlords) “that are specific on rent increases to come over a period of time for those transitioning out of homelessness and individuals on fixed incomes (seniors and disability recipients). We need to also change what the county defines as affordable housing to be more than just a percentage of units. A rent registry would help.”
I heard back from candidate Mariluz Garcia’s campaign management but they did not venture a position. Her statements to the RGJ’s Mark Robison were long on homelessness but did not mention the word “rent.”
Links and references at NevadaLabor.com/ Monitor for late-breaking developments.
RAZING THE BUS SYSTEM. Local bus overlords just gave a huge raise to regional transit bus boss Bill Thomas who has presided over three Teamsters strikes and a humongous decrease in passengers. (The wusses wanted masks. Who knew?)
Thomas and his foreign contract enforcers colluded with the Washoe County School District during the strikes and even stopped transit driver Michael Lansborough from speaking to media.
He is now home recovering from open heart surgery. Support him and his family at or by sending checks or money orders payable to him at Teamsters Local 533, 1190 Selmi Drive, Suite 100, Reno NV 89512. Tell your friends.
Bill Thomas will soon be making almost $300,000 a year including benefits. Maybe he’ll send a small check.
Take care of each other and be careful out there.
Pray for Ukraine and 53 other currently war-torn lands.
Be well. Raise hell. / Esté bien. Haga infierno.
Andrew Quarantino Barbano is a 53-year Nevadan and editor of Rentvolution.org and NevadaLabor.com/ Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988. E-mail