Scene In Passing: Ode to four-letter words and the future

The more things change the more they stay the same, until much changes. Again.

Carson City, a community of nearly 55,000, grew from a scrawny 2,221 souls in 1930. It has prospects to build out at about 75,000. Population isn’t the point, but it shows nothing stands still. In 1900, Nevada’s state capital was 2,893; in 1910, 3,415; in 1920, it slid to 2,453. By 1930, when it dipped below that 2,300 mark after upheaval from the nation’s stock market crash of 1929, the tiny community had reached its 20th century nadir.

The law of life, commerce, cities and whatever else you care to track is you grow or atrophy. That doesn’t necessarily mean bigger is better. Bottom line, better is better, and that’s a rule of life, commerce, cities and whatever...well, you get the point. In other words, there’s exterior growth and interior growth. Carson City still is operating in both phases and had better get better even as it gets bigger.

That’s happening. While it requires vigilance going forward, an economic launch pad is upon us and vigilance isn’t the only requirement. So is investment. The not-so-great Great Recession is a bitter memory and Carson City, along with Northern Nevada, are on the move.

The Capitol Mall project on the drawing boards for land near the Nugget casino is just the latest sign people view the city and region, with proximity to Lake Tahoe, as a gold mine in the making.

Pardon the golden metaphor. It’s used because there are two types of gold mines — the ones that pay off and those in which the bulk of folks involved find themselves separated from the gold and getting the shaft. To use another metaphor, this one from gaming, that’s always the roll of the dice in capitalism.

But with launchings under way here, people are figuring the odds better than a gambling addict at a craps table or a plunging securities speculator chasing penny gold mining stocks. Like it or not, we live in a semi-capitalistic society in which people do what they will with their money and property — within reasonable limits — and this scrivener says good on ‘em.

Don’t throw loaded dice or buy penny stocks, but launch away. Private property is the cornerstone of freedom and reason, not the ravaging pillager it’s portrayed to be by many who should know better.

So if Steve Neighbors and his Hop and Mae Adams Foundation own or buy up scads of downtown property, and developers put up a tech conference center, a hotel, offices, parking garages and retail space on some of that land, super.

If Don Lehr and his partner buy and take years to renovate the Ormsby House, it’s little skin off my nose. His skin is in the game big time, and he, or someone else eventually, is going to open it when business conditions merit.

Debt and risk are four-letter words. Used foolishly, either or both can wind up as curse words. Used wisely, they are the stuff that life, commerce and cities are built upon. Risk always means change, either slowly or at a brisk pace. People take on debt and risk, or they tiptoe up to it, even duck it. But taking none, few or pallid risks brings opportunity cost. Risk isn’t just to grow bigger, but to get better.


John Barrette covers Carson City government and business. He can be reached at


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