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Thursday, August 05, 2004
Copyright © Las Vegas Mercury

Letters

Monorail responds to Knapp broadside

All of us who put a great deal of energy and enthusiasm into bringing the new Las Vegas Monorail transit system to Las Vegas were disappointed to read last week's column by George Knapp ["Taxpayers Getting Hammered by Monorail Sweetheart Deals," July 29]. Since the monorail's public-private partnership is innovative and can be considered complex, we spent time with Mr. Knapp answering his questions, educating him and providing him with numerous details about how the monorail was developed and financed without the use of any local tax dollars.

Unfortunately, his column contained several errors. We'd like to set the record straight and correct some misleading information.

First, Randy Walker, who runs McCarran International Airport for Clark County, is not related to Las Vegas Monorail executives Cam Walker or Todd Walker.

Second, as we explained during our meeting with Mr. Knapp, the taxpayers of Nevada are not paying for the construction of the monorail. It was financed through the sale of revenue bonds with complete disclosure of obligations for repayment in bold print on the cover of the Official Statement. The disclosure advises potential investors that bondholders will have no recourse against the state of Nevada. (The state of Nevada is not at risk.) The first-tier bonds are also insured, which guarantees repayment of both principal and interest to the bondholders.

Third, Mr. Knapp was correct in his story that when the concept for the monorail project was in its infancy, the cost estimate was $250 million. However, the concept accounted for an extension of the old ride between MGM and Bally's with only a single new station at the Las Vegas Hilton, and no new trains. To meet public transit standards and add stops to the Sahara, Harrah's, Imperial Palace, Flamingo and the Convention Center, construction costs increased as the route and scope of the project increased. The Las Vegas Monorail compares favorably with elevated rail projects in other cities on a cost-per-mile basis.

Fourth, we advised Mr. Knapp that Bombardier Transportation Inc., the monorail contractor, requested a tax refund of approximately $700,000, the amount previously paid for the purchase and delivery of the first monorail train.

Fifth, contrary to the column in the Mercury, the year-end financial statements of the Monorail Company have been audited by an independent certified public accounting firm and are filed with the state of Nevada with a copy also sent to Clark County. In fact, the monorail company's annual budget and completed audit are available for public review.

Finally, the Las Vegas Monorail is committed to releasing ridership numbers on a monthly basis to the media and the public beginning in mid-August.

We hope this clears up any misperceptions readers may have had after reading the July 29 Mercury. We encourage anyone interested in learning more about the monorail to call us at 699-8200 or visit www.lvmonorail.com.

--Todd Walker,

Las Vegas Monorail

Monorail does ease traffic congestion

In the monorail story by George Knapp, he claims that the monorail is doing nothing to help the traffic or air quality, yet he admits that 30,000 people per day are riding the monorail. If the traffic seems extremely bad, how would he like those 30,000 people instead driving their cars from casino to casino?

He also makes a big deal about the tax breaks the monorail receives. States, counties and cities every day use tax incentives to lure businesses to their area, yet he does not jump on them for that. Also, virtually every public transit system in the U.S. (except the Strip buses) lose big money and have to be heavily subsidized. Most lose 70 cents for every 30 cents they bring in. The monorail expects to show a profit and not need those subsidies. Would he rather put a lot more buses on the street, adding to traffic and costing taxpayers subsidies? Would he rather those people drive?

I'm almost willing to bet that if you say you're going to put a light rail system throughout Las Vegas, which would be either on private rights-of-way (but cross streets) or operate in streets that need subsidizing, he'd favor that. Most of the monorail's critics want (in their cities) exactly that.

I'd like to see a story in your paper which shows the truth to what he says.

--Don Kirk,

Oregon State Railroad Museum

Property taxes aren't as progressive as they seem

It was nice to see Geoff Schumacher write in favor of the proposed cap on property taxes even if he was somewhat ambivalent about it ["The Free Market Gone Wild," Editor's Note, July 29]. Just one point: Property taxes are not progressive as Geoff stated. They are, in fact, brutally and cruelly regressive. At the top of the economic pyramid they are practically irrelevant in relation to assets held and cash flow received. But as you move down the pyramid they become more and more of a burden imposed on the largest and in many cases the only asset a family has. At this level runaway property taxes can and have cost many people their homes.

But there is still another level down, one which has not been mentioned: the working poor. The renters, for whom home ownership is only a dream and property taxes are a direct out-of-pocket expense each month with no return in equity build-up. It is here in particular that the vicious regressivity of the property tax does its most harm.

The cap is absolutely necessary. It probably should be CPI or 6 percent, whichever is less, and perhaps most important of all, the law should carry a provision that the cap cannot change without a vote of the people.

--Knight Allen


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