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Mayor: Keep it simple, get jobs finished

John Seelmeyer & Anne Knowles

When Bob Cashell and his partners bought Bill & Effie’s Truck Shop in the hinterlands west of Reno in 1967, employees heard Cashell’s simple list of attributes of a successful business: * Cleanliness.

* Friendliness.

* Service.

* A quality product.

Bill & Effie’s these days is known as Boomtown, and Cashell is known as the mayor of Reno.

But he thinks the four rules he laid out for truck-stop employees 35 years ago apply equally well for the city as it seeks to regain its confidence as a tourist destination.

Take cleaniness, for starters.

In a wide-ranging interview a few days ago, the mayor said he views a citywide cleanup as a priority one that might enlist the help of the private sector in matters great and small.

“When your mother-in-law comes to see you, you clean up,” Cashell said.

With tens of thousands of visitors headed to Reno for events ranging from the Womens International Bowling Congress tournament to the ESPN Extreme Games, it’s time to clean up, he said.

Some of the clean-up is minor.

Annoyed by the number of pink curbs he sees around town, Cashell suggested that businesses buy cans of red paint and freshen up curbs in their neighborhood.

Bigger, neighborhood-wide cleanups may need the help of equipment and crews from contractors and waste haulers.

The mayor was thrust into the spotlight a few weeks ago when he identified a list of major eyesores around the city ranging from the shuttered Kings Inn motel downtown to the Mark Twain hotel property on South Virginia to the Corporate Pointe hole in the ground at McCarran Boulevard and South Virginia.

Cashell said city members continue to bring pressure on property owners to get those sites cleaned up.

“The biggest complaint in city meetings is there is not enough code enforcement,” he said.

Cashell knows how to solve that: “We’re going to get more code enforcement officers.” How about friendliness? The mayor suggested a new standard for friendliness “Don’t let anyone leave town unhappy” and said he hopes chambers of commerce or other business groups will launch regular classes in customer service and friendliness for cab drivers.

Service? Cashell called for the city’s major gaming and hotel properties to begin competing on the basis of service, rather than price.

“Without price-fixing, we’ve got to get room rates up,” he said.

If nothing else, consistently higher room rates would generate more roomtax money.

And that, Cashell said, would provide more muscle to market the region.

To jump-start the process, the mayor in coming days plans to bring officials of the eight major hotel-casino properties in the region together for what he called “a prayer meeting.” Cashell will tell the hotel and casino operators that he expects them to devote a share of their current marketing budgets to sell the region rather than individual properties.

How about Cashell’s belief that Reno like any business needs to provide a quality product? He said downtown, as the heart of the city, needs to be the focus of the city government’s efforts to create a place that visitors remember.

And it’s critically important, he said, for the city to establish a track record of success with downtown projects.

“One little project.

Start it.

Finish it,” Cashell said.

“It’s very important that we get started.” A successful city project would build confidence by private investors, he said, and also would begin to defuse some of the political wrangling that surrounded city hall in recent years, Cashell said.

He acknowledged that a successful redevelopment project in the downtown area is likely to require use of the city’s power of eminent domain, no matter how distasteful city officials might find it.

Without that power, he said, it will be impossible to assemble small pieces of property into parcels large enough for redevelopment work.

If the mayor had his way, the downtown area also wouldn’t see issuance of another liquor license, and he expressed a hope that some of the existing liquor establishments will somehow disappear.

An improved downtown, he said, might be centered on a Virginia Street reduced to two lanes from the Truckee River to Interstate 80.

With narrower traffic lanes, sidewalks could be widened and more amenities for pedestrians could be made available.

At the same time, the mayor said he’s wary of efforts to turn Reno into something it’s not.

“We’re an Old West town,” he said.

“And we should stay an Old West town.”



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