Scene In Passing: Ode to doggone dollars, nonsense & sense

It was raining kittens and puppies outside when I began this Sunday column at midweek in a bid to get a jump on disturbing topics in our town.

The above mini-version of “it’s raining cats and dogs” was based on elation at precipitation. But it’s also clear using such a metaphorical equivalent of the pitter-patter of furry four-footed friends to praise precip doesn’t mean the drought is in remission. That will take snowpack inundation stemming from a Sierra Nevada mega-dump of white stuff some winter.

Perhaps not everyone agrees, but the fourth year of this drought cycle seems mindful of the economic malaise of 2009-2013 in these parts.

Back then, construction was as absent as snow has been since.

Truth to tell, I know nothing about when snow will fly significantly around here again. But I do know construction is on its way back. I’m no meteorologist, but I’m a half-century observer of politics, economics, government, commerce, construction and — just as importantly — destruction. Knowledge here includes the context of human foibles displayed in private confidences and the public will as well.

From ample evidence, one verdict stands out: most of us aren’t just penny wise and pound foolish, we’re outright pit bulls of misplaced musings when it comes to money. Money alone is rarely the point; time often is.

Once again, ponder precisely 20 pertinent words from H. L. Mencken: “The chief value of money lies in the fact that one lives in a world in which it is overvalued.”

Many of us decry taxes yet embrace onerous consumer loan interest rates via time payments. Fees also offend but interest rates driven up or down over time by the Federal Reserve, and inevitable results, aren’t comprehended.

Public officials fight about spending $50,000, feigning fiscal conservatism, but at the same time rubber stamp multi-millions of dollars for some community, state or national priority upon which there’s near unanimous support.

Individually, we can carp about our personal income level being low but spend like drunken sailors, getting into debt over time in a vain attempt to buy happiness. The collective will, or its lack, is even more problematic.

Carson City took a decade to find a site, do the due diligence, work a deal and yet many were disconcerted when an athletic center cost $8.5 million rather than the $6 million that had been banked to do the job.

As an individual and as city government, on the one hand someone skipped inexpensive dog tags and, on the other, animal services euthanized a dog without following ordinance time line procedures, costing the dog his life and city coffers more than $40,000 in a settlement. This occurred, as you may recall, prior to current city management. In part, it awakened the community to unmet needs for animals on the loose in an urban setting.

Our city hired an out-of-state architect to design a top-of-the-line animal services shelter to replace the putrid pound, more than a half century old, yet now faces a cat fight over a $500,000-plus shortfall.

Is the proposed $4.5 million shelter too costly? You bet. It was too costly at under $4 million. But too costly is baked in the cake. More delay won’t help. The city can build it pretty much as conceived or reboot but buy less, unfortunately, with the value proposition destroyed by old father time. Time continues like a metronome, recession is in the rearview mirror and construction costs escalate as the nation’s economy reflates in resurgence.

As my own father, in his time, said time and time again: “The quality of decision is good even if the decision is flawed.”

It’s raining kittens and puppies out there, and I’m talking felines and canines now — not spring showers.

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


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