Another View of Citizen Sam Dehne
and What He is Doing to Protect Reno

by Brendan Trainor (Northern Nevada Chairman of the Libertarian Party)
The great eighteenth century early Romantic English poet William Blake
was a classical liberal English supporter of the French Revolution. He
would wear a French tricolor cap and was once arrested for critiquing the
English Monarchy. Fortunately for English literature and art William Blake
was acquitted of the charge of sedition by a fully informed English
Sam Dehne is perhaps a modern Reno Nevada version of William Blake. He is
a visionary, sometimes sloppy in his conceptions as are all great artists,
but a man whose concept of limited government burns with the intensity of
a romantic's vision. There is no doubt that Sam Dehne has been
marginalized by the government he keeps abreast of and criticizes so
freely. He calls himself the Cal Ripken of local politics, basing that
claim on his long and unbroken government meeting attendance record. By
his claim that he has attended every, or even almost every, public
meeting in the greater Reno/Washoe County area for the last decade or so
Sam has established himself quite rightly as an independent expert on
local government.
And this expert has uncovered a hornet's nest of schemes, frauds and good
old crony capitalism. He can describe this cronyism with a vocabulary
that was last used by Ogden Nash against Boss Tweed in nineteenth century
New York. The hornet's nest's queen bee is Reno Mayor Jeff Griffin.
When Sam and the Mayor are together it is like matter and anti-matter
colliding. Civility and good manners take a back seat to name calling,
accusations and, at least on the mayor's part, pious self
-righteousness. Sam calls the mayor corrupt, the mayor calls Sam insane,
and says he prays for him every night. Is this political discourse?
Here we have a retired airline pilot who has attended virtually every
public meeting in Washoe County for almost a decade. Certainly he should
receive a Merit Badge in citizen participation in Government. On the
other hand, we have a Republican Mayor (a non-partisan position) who was
elected and re-elected on the platform that he is doing something (like
anything) to revitalize a decaying downtown Reno and encourages investment
in a Northern Nevada economy in crisis as its principal industry, tourism
and gaming, is beset by new competition in its primary feeder
markets-Northern California and the Pacific Northwest.
The Mayor has done "something" on several fronts. He has initiated
downtown redevelopment on the Truckee River, he has initiated a massive
public works project to build a trench for the Union Pacific Railroad so
there will be no more trains bisecting Reno's main traffic arteries,
blowing loud whistles as they go by, and he has been involved in
expanding the Reno Tahoe International Airport. What could be wrong with
According to Sam Dehne, there is plenty wrong with that. First of all, the
beautiful Truckee River flowing through Reno's downtown core is being
desecrated, not improved by the Mayor and City Council's obstinate
support of a movie theatre as the centerpiece of the new development.
Reno already has two major movie theatres in an age of VCR's with much
better parking than can be provided downtown. Citizen suggestions that
the river would be better served with patio dining and perhaps an ice
skating rink have been ignored. The City Council is adamant that "doing
something" means building a movie theatre and nothing else.
The railroad trench is another boondoggle, according to Dehne and many
others. Some say it is a flagrant attempt to placate the downtown casino
business interests because guests complain about the noisy train
whistles. Others insist the Union Pacific should pay more of the costs,
and they call it corporate welfare. Some say it is a good idea but the tax and
bond issues should be put to a public vote. In fact, two Washoe County
commissioners who voted on a sales tax increase to fund the project were
lame ducks, defeated by opponents who expressed skepticism or hostility
to the project and wanted a public vote on any tax increase.
Another eighteenth century man of letters, Tom Paine, wrote that
governments don't raise taxes to fight wars, they fight wars in order to
raise taxes. A Northern Nevada economist, Gary Horton, who publishes as
Nevada Research Associates, believes that something similar is happening
in Reno: The City is not raising taxes to build a railroad trench-it is
building a trench in order to raise taxes. Horton points out that the
City has experienced "economic stress" in the last few years. As the
casino based economy has taken hits from new Indian and other national
competition, the City has experienced 6 million dollar revenue shortfalls
dating from 1997. Rather than increase taxes forthrightly, cut services,
or embark on a reasonable downtown revitalization scheme, Horton contends
that the City conceived a massive public works project solely to raise
taxes and issue bonded indebtedness in order to commingle the funds with
general revenues and cover the deficits.

In the process, of course, that would incur a debt service of about 1.5 million
a year as the 87 million to be put into the railroad construction escrow would
not cover the interest on the 114 million actually raised. Furthermore,
environmental concerns were not fully addressed by the City. Unanticipated
contingencies include the need for eminent domain to seize at least an
additional 35 feet on each side of the trench for fencing. Perhaps most
important, the City does not appear to have figured in the actual cost
of damage and relocation for utility infrastructures that would have to
be relocated as the trench is dug, and the possible need to continuously
pump contaminated groundwater and rainwater that would seep into the
trench. The entire project could turn into a new Superfund site.
Against this Jackson Pollack mural Sam Dehne begins to look more like
Rembrandt and less like Van Dyke. Who is the insane person here?
Sam's greatest crusade has been focused on the Reno Tahoe International
airport. The City has embarked on a policy of eminent domain to expand
the Nevada Air National Guard to the airport, which is located about as
close to Reno's business center as McCarran International is to the Las
Vegas Strip. Sam has crusaded loudly against the use of eminent domain to
re-locate the affected citizens, even calling it "ethnic cleansing". He
claims almost a dozen have died from the stress.
However, the Nevada Air Guard scheme has metamorphised over the years to
expanding the airport into a "cargo center". What's wrong with that? Only
that Mayor Griffin's principal business interest happens to be-you
guessed it - cargo. And the Mayor, who along with the Reno City Council
appoints four of the eight Airport Authorities, has been granted the
largest contract to handle airborne cargo. Not only that, but he will be
an appointed mandatory "consultant" to any and all other businesses who
operate at the airport.
Sam Dehne has repeatedly challenged the Mayor and council. Two City
council women who often sided with him were attacked and defeated or did
not run again. Sam was fined $5,000 by the Nevada Ethics Commission for
his accusations that the mayor is violating the Nevada Revised Statutes
governing public employees profiting from official acts. There are other
serious issues at play here - the 1998 election primaries were
contaminated by sample ballots not sent to almost 5,000 voters and the
general election tabulation was so flawed the County Registrar of Voters
resigned (only to accept another plush job with the County School
District). There is an ongoing controversy over two downtown buildings,
the Mapes Hotel ( perhaps best remembered in the Walter Mathau movie
"Charlie Varrick ") and the Riverside Hotel , as to whether they should
be demolished or saved. Other issues regarding citizen participation in
the process of forming the future of the community include an enforced
time limit for critical public comment (aimed squarely at Dehne). A
victory for Sam occurred as a result of his loud protests over a sudden
proposal to collect parking meter revenue after 9PM. That plan was
scrapped as suddenly as it was almost implemented.
So for now a retired airline pilot who attends every meeting cannot get
appointed to the Airport Authority Board. He is marginalized and
dismissed as a crank. He is fined by the Ethics Commission for
"frivolous" charges against the Mayor and his City Council. He is loud,
he sometimes plays a guitar at council meetings, he sometimes extends his
criticism past his core issues to less objectionable areas. But Sam is a
citizen of vision. He calls the mayor corrupt. The Mayor calls him
insane. Who is the real fool in this medieval morality play?
Brendan Trainor
Dear Brendan, Oct, 2003
There is hardly a word to change.  The Air Guard move to Rewana Farms was not changed (metamorphised) to a plot for the airport to Go Postal and Cargo "over a period of years". That scheme was changed almost overnight... just after the airport hired its most recent czar. And of course it was mainly done to feather the nests of cargoman Griffin and his power club cargo/warehouse cronies.
It is obvious that you were paying avid attention during last Wednesday's 8 PM Liberty and Justice TV program on SNCAT chan 16... and that you have been obviously reviewing The Reno Citizen website.
All justice-loving citizens congratulate you on the writing of a masterpiece. I have rarely found so many of northern Nevada govt schemes so wonderfully encapsulated and exposed in one (fairly) brief report.
Sam Dehne
Another Report on Watchdog Sam (click)
Visit The Nevada Libertarian Internet Site (click)
Click back to The Reno Citizen