Scene In Passing: Public servant exits; 3% loans re-enter

Public servant is one of those terms, much like the euphemisms “sanitary” engineer or napkin, that obscures as much as it enlightens.

The 80/20 principle tells me most on my payroll — the public’s payroll — are public employees rather than servants. No matter which category is embraced by each of them, the 80/20 principle means four-fifths of every universe is mostly average or below and just one fifth is above.

Favorite examples: 20 percent of sales people make 80 percent of the sales, approximately, and vice versa; most of my clothes just hang in my closet while I wear a fifth of them four-fifths of the time.

Carson City Fire Chief Stacey Giomi over three decades fell into the 20 percent who were public servants rather than the 80 percent I consign to the category called public employees. If you publish a local dictionary including the term public servant, his picture should accompany the definition as a prime example. After devotion to this city’s fire service, Giomi joins the healthcare sector next month. A straight shooter, he will be missed.

He sought the city manager’s role last year but it wasn’t to be. The Board of Supervisors chose Nick Marano, a retired Marine colonel from outside the state. Both Marano and Giomi are leaders.

The board sacrificed local experience and talent for unfettered outside talent. It was a clean slate move after a fair competition. The proof, as they say, will be in the pudding. Marano is moving quickly and cuts through local custom or clutter to make changes. But his military training, decisiveness and strong leadership seem abrupt to some civilians.

Marano’s sunny but curt courtesy and get-the-job-done approach shortchanges political niceties he knows little about. But he’s a quick study. Whether he’ll grow to understand or care about the local political landscape won’t be known for some time. How he will fare over the long haul is anybody’s guess.

Giomi knew the lay of the local land and it’s ego-infested signals or land mines; Marano will learn them, but undoubtedly handle them from a more global perspective.

‘Nuff said on the local landscape; now on to national matters.

Debt is a four-letter word. In last week’s New Yorker magazine, James Surowieki wrote an article citing an estimate upward of 50 percent more mortgages default from loans with down payments under 10 percent than those more than that figure. Once, 20 percent down payments were standard. But times change, not always for the better. Surowieki decried loose lending standards and other government underpinnings to prop up housing.

“The real winners are the banks,” he wrote on the New Yorker’s financial page, “which can make these loans without worrying about risk; the government — the taxpayer — has them covered.”

After the economic decade from hell — replete with no doc loans, Bush’s ownership society, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, etc. — note this: Fannie and Freddie, which guarantee most home loans, have announced they will guarantee first-time home buyer mortgages with 3 percent down payments. The more things change the more they stay the same.

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


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