Colorado River Looking Good

1983 was not that unusual.  It wasn’t unusual for the US Dept. of Reclamation to fail to hit the target for how full to let Lake Mead get. What was unusual was that it was so obvious.

You see, if your target is to fill Lake Mead to the 65% level, and you make a mistake and it ends up filled to 80%, no one but your supervisor will be able to tell. The casual observer can’t see the difference.

But when Lake Mead is already 90% full and your target is 95% but it actually goes to 101% – well, that’s what happened in 1983. The video shows water coming over the spillways at the top of the dam. Bureau of Reclamation actually placed six-foot tall plywood extensions to make the spillway even higher, to stop the spectacle.

I was reminded of all this as I checked on the snowpack above Lake Powell. We’re only a third of the way through the water year and still holding above average, and much better than recent years past. We are reminded of the folly in trying to forecast each year based on last years’ activity, even for the “experts”.

Pro Arena Faction Wins Bloody Victory

Good heavens, folks. That was the headline in the Review Journal. Puh-leeze!

For all the drama imputed by the headline writer over there at the RJ, I didn’t receive very many phone calls or emails from people.

One year’s interest on our Symphony Park debt is just about the same amount of money required annually to get the City’s 38-hour-a-week employees back to 40-hours a week, and its been true since they were cut back to save money. I still think we need to figure out how to get out from under that cash payment faster rather than slower.

Stadium: where you at?

I have long experience with City redevelopment dreams. In 1993, I moved my fledgling first company, Wilson, Beers & Company, to the Las Vegas Technology Park, an exciting new city redevelopment project. We were first generation PC network and accounting software wizards for medium and small businesses.

Today, the Las Vegas Technology Park still has vacant parcels, twenty years later, while all around it, the private sector sections are completely developed. The City’s master plan has yet to be realized. Today, most of the businesses there are not tech.

Today, Symphony Park sits mostly vacant, about half government tenants who pay no taxes and the other half enjoying near-complete property tax rebates. So the City sees dwindling revenue and plenty of expenses.

Much has changed – the economy continued to decline rather than immediately rebound… and the composition of the City Council has almost completely changed.

Thus, I believe we should end our existing agreement sooner rather than later. We need fresh ideas for this land now. Because time is money. This extension costs the developer nothing, but it will cost City taxpayers about two million dollars in extra interest payments on the money we borrowed to equip all those vacant Symphony Park lots with sewer, power, streets and water. We were going to pay the bonds back from land sale proceeds. Last year, Lloyds recalled those
bonds, and we were forced to hurriedly refinance at a higher interest rate. So time is money.

Every month we extend this EDA will cost us about a half million dollars in interest payments.

2009 Energy Code partially repealed

The Las Vegas City Council has acknowledged problems with the 2009 Energy Code and partially repealed it. Here’s the story in the Las Vegas Review Journal:

The council voted 4-3 in favor of the measure that would make an exception to the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code for buildings that predate the standards.

Proponents of the bill, including sponsor Ward 2 Councilman Bob Beers, say the exception is necessary because it can cost too much money to bring old buildings up to the latest energy efficiency standards.

I did not express myself well to the reporter, but it’s complicated. Some hold a philosophical opinion that our government has no authority to use its sovereign power to regulate the carbon footprint of private property. If society wants government to go that direction, that’s why our Constitution can be amended. Let’s get on it, they say. Have the debate, have a vote.

But most people, I think, have found that government regulation is a wasteful process. It needs to be used carefully. Any multi-decade collection of US newsweeklies is littered with anecdotes of the benefits of regulation, but it is also littered with those exposing waste or abuse.

Members of this group are pragmatic; they leave the Constitutionality debate to others, more concerned that the government is doing it anyway. So these people focus on how this brand new regulatory process is being implemented.

The folks who created this new area of regulation sold this idea to our elected officials on a promise that in no case would any required investment not result in a direct savings on energy costs such that the cost of the investment would be paid back to the private property owner in less than ten years.

Now, we have several consecutive anecdotes where the mandated “investment” will never be recovered, because it will not result in any actual reduction in energy consumption.

It seemed clear to me, but it is apparently a grayer matter than I think. My motion to exempt buildings built before 2009 from the energy code, as amended by Cm. Coffin to not exempt residences, passed on a 4-3 vote.

Incoming mail on the Energy Code

I received an email from an energy businesswoman @ this weekend:

Comments: Dear Councilman Beers,
You have an upcoming bill 2013-24 to vote on June 19th. I have been to all of the meetings and debates on this bill and I am not sure why we even have this bill up for a vote. It comes down to one business that this bill was created for and was affected. The IECC 2009 code has an exemption clause in the bill that this business could have used. The owner hired bad contractors and AP’s that took him for a ride with his expenses not the IECC 2009 code. The code was not the cause of his excessive expense. Nor did the code make Trivoli put in tinted windows! One other key factor is the fact the you are a partner with this business owner on another project DOWNTOWN so doesn’t it seem odd that he is making a bill for his own use and benefit? There is never a time in any situation where going backwards is in the best interest for anyone. You have the City of Las Vegas striving to be the leader in LEED projects and sustainability to save water and electricity, then you are working this other angle to go backwards? I would hope that you will not support this bill, the bill already has avenues for exemption there isn’t a need for the change. It is time decisions are made for the right reason and for the people of Las Vegas not for your personal benefit. Thank you for your time! Jodie Date: 6/14/2013 10:38:40 AM

I wrote back:

Thanks for writing.

Interesting. I see your points, but from a different perspective.

George Harris won’t benefit from the passage of this ordinance. The “International Energy Code” has already wreaked its full havoc on his investors’ last project downtown. Mandating an investment that will never be returned in energy cost savings is the worst possible outcome for Governance. And it can’t be undone. That damage is done.

Only future projects will be impacted by this change. If a group led by Harris (or Tony Hsieh, or Nevada Legal Services, or you, or whatever downtown property owner you want to name) moves forward with a new project refurbishing an old commercial building, none will benefit more than any other. If everyone benefits, that’s actually the goal of government policy.

I don’t understand how this ordinance would create an inequity in the rental market, either. To renters, the “nut” is the sum of all costs to occupy a commercial space. Consumers consider the sum of rent and energy costs (and a bunch of other costs) as the figure they base their business decisions on. Thus, spaces with higher energy costs carry lower rent, punishing energy wasting property owners. That’s why almost all investors take all reasonable steps to build energy conservative spaces, and did long before this code was adopted.

Sustainability is everyone’s goal here, Ms. Smith. Nobody is interested in wasting energy, willy-nilly. But sustainability must consider livability. And it doesn’t matter if it’s an error within the “International Energy Code” or one with the way we’ve implemented it, that caused the problem. The fix is to pull back, regroup, and figure out what’s broken. To me, that’s not backward. That’s smart.