Tag Archives: Reno

Reno, Nevada: Dead City Walking

The centerpiece of Reno's future

The centerpiece of Reno’s future

What makes Reno, Nevada unique? Here are some of the wrong answers:

  • Mountains – Plenty of cities the size of Reno are next to, or in mountains.
  • Outdoor Recreation — Again, there are no shortages of cities near outdoor recreation.
  • Arts — Many cities have art festivals, and most art festivals have more professional (paid) artists, but Reno relies mostly on artists working for free.
  • Gaming — Absolutely the most non-unique thing about Reno

Reno is Dying
The question about Reno’s uniqueness is critical to the survival of Reno. Over fifty years ago Reno discovered tourism and that vaulted a small desert town into easy money and big growth. The city learned that when people make their money elsewhere and spend it in Reno, the economy of Reno booms.

But for the last decade Reno has lost its uniqueness. Gaming is something you can do at the nearest Indian Casino. If you want to party and see gaudy construction lit up like game show on LSD, then go to Las Vegas. Reno is nothing when it comes to gaming.

Reno’s is Unique
The one thing that Reno has that no other city has is hotel room per capita. Nevada has one hotel room for every 14 residents, and Reno’s ratio equals or exceeds that average. Reno is a city designed for conventions. The problem is how to get convention organizers to consider Reno as a great convention town.

What won’t work is to keep gaming as the attraction. That industry is poison. It demands that the convention goer stay on the property and gamble, which defeats all the other great attractions that might attract repeat business, and American business people do not want to pay for their employees to go and party. The best thing that could happen in Reno is for gaming to be made illegal.

The other challenge is to get all the properties to work as one. That doesn’t happen that often. One property can shoot the city’s bid for a convention down by not cooperating.

However, if Reno can let go of gaming and focus on the big picture, it could be made into the premier convention town.

That’s a big ‘If.’

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Filed under About Reno, Branding, Business, Crime, Customer Relations, Customer Service, Government, Management Practices, Opinion, Politics, Pride, Public Image, Public Relations, Re-Imagine!, Recreation, The Tipping Point, Travel

Image by Paul Kiser

Image by Paul Kiser

Rock Wall on Sierra Street in Reno, Nee-va-da

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February 10, 2014 · 11:05 PM

Starbucks Menu Makeover Launches in Reno

Following the successful introduction of San Francisco’s La Boulange pastries in other cities, the Reno-area Starbucks will introduce the new menu on Tuesday, January 28, 2014.

The upper pastry case is where the most visible changes will occur

The upper pastry case is where the most visible changes will occur  (Starbucks at 7th & Keystone in Reno, NV, USA)

The food items are a continuation of Starbucks effort to expand its product offerings beyond coffee and tea beverages. Many of the pastries currently offered can still be found, although some have been transformed into mini-loaves (A.K.A. Loaf Cakes) rather than slices of large loaves.

The introduction of Savory Squares combines the lightness of a pastry around a omelet-type center (Ham & Cheese, Tomato & Cheese, and Wheat Spinach.) Starbucks will continue to offer the Breakfast Sandwiches, oatmeal, and items found below the pastry case, but this partnership with La Boulange will take the next step in offering specialty food to compliment its speciality beverages.

For more information on the new menu, click here to visit the Starbucks website.

(This article was not solicited, nor was any compensation offered in payment for it.)

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Nevada Middle School Shooting Made Worse By Absent and Inept Public Relations Management

On October 21st a 12 year-old Nevada boy brought a gun to his school, killed a teacher, shot two other students, then killed himself. The shooting left families devastated in a continuing saga of gun-related school incidents. Sadly, the crisis was intensified and prolonged by the failure of the local authorities to use standard and best practices in managing public relations. At times it seemed that there was a vacuum in media management. At other times it seemed that government officials from China had been employed to handle community relations.

Sparks Middle School - A tragedy made worse

Sparks Middle School – A tragedy made worse

In any crisis situation there is panic followed by confusion, rumors, and fear. The first goal is to resolve the immediate crisis. In most situations this will involve turning over control of the facilities and situation to law enforcement and other first responders.

However, the second goal of an organization in a crisis is to reduce the confusion, rumors, and fears. This process must start as quickly as possible, and sometimes it must be done before the crisis is under control by first responders.

In the Nevada incident, parents throughout the Reno community¹ were aware of an active shooter on a local school campus within minutes of the 7:15 AM shooting incident. There were 20 to 30 eyewitnesses when the teenager shot a teacher, who then reportedly went into the school and killed himself . It was all over within a few minutes. 

(¹The shooting occurred in Sparks, Nevada, a suburb of Reno.)

In the first hours following the shooting some rumors persisted that police were looking for the suspect; however, it is likely that law enforcement on the scene knew within ten to fifteen minutes that shooter was dead. With the suspect dead, the priorities of the first responders were to render assistance to the wounded, secure the students and school, secure the crime scene, and gather information.

Children became the official source of the shooting

Children became the official information source of the shooting

At least eight different sources were quoted in the first few hours after the shooting. This would indicate that the Washoe County School District and the various law enforcement agencies responding did not select a skilled spokesperson to manage the post-shooting situation. At 7:42 AM, less than 30 minutes after the shooting, the Reno Gazette Journal reported the following:

  • A shooting had occurred at Sparks Middle School
  • A police spokesperson had confirmed that the shooter was ‘neutralized’
  • Police were looking for the suspect
  • The school was on lockdown
  • The students had been evacuated

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the information coming from the crime scene in the first hour of the incident will be in conflict; however, the role of the primary spokesperson is to rapidly identify rumors and incorrect facts and address them. Two hours after the shooting a press conference was held. This was the opportunity for local authorities to reduce anxiety, confusion, and fear by detailing critical information. By answering as many of the basic questions (who, what, where, when, why, how) as possible the public could be reassured that despite the tragedy, authorities knew what happened and had the situation under control. After the press conference the Reno Gazette Journal reported:

“Authorities released few details about a shooting at about 7:15 a.m. at Sparks Middle School during a 9:15 a.m. press conference.”

If the families of the dead and wounded had not been notified then it would not have been appropriate to release the names; however, authorities wouldn’t even confirm whether teachers or students had been shot. Students began reporting what happened to the media and with no cooperation from local authorities, the families were contacted. That is the symptom of absent or inept media management.

Forcing Children To Be Spokespeople
Within minutes after the shooting word spread, not just within the local community, but around the world. Instantly parents, grandparents, relatives, and friends of school-age children began asking questions. What school? Was anyone killed? How many were shot? Who was killed or injured? Was it over? Why did it happen? Is my child/grandchild safe?

By withholding the details the local authorities did not withhold the story they just lost management of it. Without an official source for information the witnesses, in this case, mostly children, became the official spokesperson. To make the blunders of the first day worse, suburban police and city officials refused to release the name of the shooter for three days, citing that his name did not appear on any ‘report.’ 

The Public’s Right To Know Not the Correct Issue
Local media was incensed by the stonewalling of the authorities to release the name; however, this was more than an issue of the public’s Right to Know. The stated reason by authorities to withhold the shooter’s name was to protect the family, the failure to release this information put more focus on the shooter’s family to confirm or deny the rumors that were rampant within the community.

A skilled spokesperson would have understood this and worked to ensure that the information was appropriately released while also urging the media to respect the family’s need to grieve. 

Who Owns Information?
In the 20th century mass communication came with a catch. Access to information could be controlled. The public knew what the government, public relations staff, editors, and news directors wanted us to know. That changed with the Internet and Social Media. Information is fluid and it will flow through any conduit it can find. Information desired by the public will find the quickest path and anyone who believes they can stop the flow of it is only diverting it through another source. A spokesperson can and should be the quickest path for facts and information because it will reduce the fear, confusion and rumors.

The mishandling of the crisis in Nevada should serve as a lesson as to why a skilled, experienced crisis manager and spokesperson should be a part of every organization. No tragedy should be made worse by inept local authorities.

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Filed under About Reno, Communication, Crime, Crisis Management, Ethics, Government, Information Technology, Internet, Management Practices, Opinion, Print Media, Public Relations, Social Interactive Media (SIM), Social Media Relations, Traditional Media, Violence in the Workplace

Standardized Testing is Not the Solution in American Education

Most of the political discussions about America’s failing education system do two things. First, they blame someone, usually the teachers, and second, they seek simple-minded solutions that assume all children are developmentally equal and live in the same socioeconomic environment.

If education were only about what can be scored on a test, then we don’t need teachers, we need mind programmers

No Child Left Behind was based on the belief that a standard test would be the ultimate measure of a student’s success or failure. The assumption was that if student’s scores on a standardized test failed to achieve established goals then we could all blame the teachers and administrative staff, then punish them. The concept assumed that a student’s base level abilities, and parental support was irrelevant. No Child Left Behind was an idea that applied a corporate-like measurement system, which often fails in a business environment, and forced public schools to leave education behind in pursuit of goals that reduced students to do or die numbers.

The failure of No Child Left Behind is so spectacular that after a decade the program began, over two-thirds of the States are ranked at a “D” or “F” in the quality of education by StudentsFirst.org Report Card

Standardized tests assume that every child is an X, but in reality they are A to Z

Standardized tests assume that every child is an X, but in reality they can be A to Z

One of the major failures of the program was the institutionalizing of testing standards that encouraged teachers to focus on teaching their students how to successfully take the tests, but not to understand the material. The program ultimately forced out many excellent teachers that rejected the absurdity of No Child Left Behind, which is ironic because the goal was to force out less effective teachers. The result has been that school after school has failed to produce the results desired leaving America with a generation of students who are even less prepared for adult life.

Nevada’s Washoe County School District (WCSD) is typical of many school districts across the United States. For the 2010-11 school year the standardized tests indicated that an average of 85% of the high school students (9th-12th grades) met or exceeded the established standards for reading, writing, and math. Those scores would indicate that 85% of the students are prepared to move on from high school.

However, of the 1,600 Washoe County School District graduates that attended Nevada state-run universities, almost half (48%) of them required remedial classes to bring them up to college entrance-level work. The standardized tests are designed to measure competency; however, even though the scores indicate the students are prepared, almost 1 out of 2 need to take classes to address educational deficiencies.

Some might say this just confirms the inadequacy of public schools; however, if that were true the standardized tests should reflect those failures and they do not. It is the inadequacy of the standardized test to measure educational performance or lack of performance.  

Standardized tests can be an effective tool in education, but they are just one tool. If we truly want to improve the educational performance of America’s students we must stop holding a knife to the throat of teachers and schools and stop using simple-minded measurements of academic performance to determine whether they live or die. A teacher can’t be held accountable for a parent that doesn’t believe in homework, therefore causing the student to be behind the rest of her/his class. It’s time we began supporting the teachers who have years of training and experience in education, rather than applying failed business models that destroy public education.

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Why Job Creators Aren’t

Job Creators in Nevada

Willard Mitt Romney and other conservatives try to promote the idea that private businesses are desperate to create jobs if only the government will let them; however, in May Romney gave a wink to the idea that Job Creators might be holding back millions of jobs to artificially stifle job growth to favor conservative candidates in the upcoming election. At the same time conservative businessmen are threatening their employees with layoffs if President Obama is elected.

Are Job Creators the victim of the federal government, or are conservatives trying to manipulate the citizens in order to make themselves wealthier?

Protest outside The Venetian during Republican debates

Nevada has led the country in high unemployment during this recession and has been increasing in July and August (now 12.1%.) Reno, Nevada was ranked the worst city in the nation to find a job. Yet, last week the conservative TaxFoundation.org ranked the Silver State #3 in its 2013 Business Tax Climate for the second year in a row because of its business friendly tax structure.

Since taxes are not holding business back from creating jobs, why is Nevada the Rodney Dangerfield of American employment?

PROFITS, ALWAYS PROFITS
The answer lies with the problems low unemployment cause for businesses. Low unemployment pressures employers (Job Creators) to offer higher wages and better benefits to attract and keep employees. High unemployment means employers can control the job market, which means higher profits. There is no reason for major Nevada employers like casinos to desire a change in the current employment environment.

This is probably why Nevada ‘Job Creators’ like Sheldon Adelson of The Venetian in Las Vegas are spending millions of dollars in support of conservative candidates who will make them wealthier rather than spend the money creating jobs.

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David Ward: Mr. Reno

David Ward

If a person represented all that is good and positive in Reno, Nevada, David Ward would be among the top candidates to be called Mr. Reno.

Native and long-term residents are unusual in Nevada where only 24% of the citizens were born here; however, Ward is one of those unusual people who has lived in the Truckee Meadows area for over 50 years. He raised a family and built a business in Reno.

David, a University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) graduate, married Shannon, his college sweetheart, 39 years ago and founded E Media Ad Group 12 years ago, where he is a trusted media consultant for several local businesses.

David at his desk at E Media Ad Group

He has consistently contributed time, money, and/or energy toward maintaining and improving the quality of life in the Truckee Meadows. Ward has served as a Nevada Commissioner for Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities, Vice Chair on the Disabilities Resource Board, a board member of W.A.R.C. (Washoe Ability Resource Center), an advocacy committee member of the Historic Reno Preservation Society, and President of Reno Central Rotary, Executive’s Association of Reno, and the Reno Ad Club.

David Ward stepping up his commitment to Reno

Campaign For The Community
Ward is now stepping up his pubic service commitment by campaigning for more effective local governmental structure as a key element in his run for Reno City Council At-Large seat. If he is successful his plan could help the area meet the needs of its citizens with less bureaucracy and at a lower cost. Primary to Ward’s plan is to lay ground work for consolidation the Truckee Meadows communities under one entity.

Consolidation
Currently the valley contains three major governments (Reno, Sparks, and Washoe County) with duplicate councils, committees, and services as well as several quasi-government entities and boards for other essential public services. The cost of multiple governments is only part of the issue as a citizen’s or business person’s interaction may vary significantly depending on which entity is involved.

Ward notes that the recent failure of the consolidation of the Reno and Washoe County fire services was due to a poor implementation plan that failed to create a fair and equitable Joint Power Agreement (JPA) for the combined fires services. He also suggested that an independent fire services board consisting of people with expertise in the field was needed to make the fire services consolidation successful.

The result of the ‘divorce’ of the Reno and Washoe Country fire services is that Washoe County residents now pay more for fewer services. Reno residents would be in a similar situation if the city had not won a two-year federal grant to supplement the cost of its fire services and there is no guarantee that the federal grant will be renewed at the end of two years.

Ward intends to meet with every key government representative to open a dialogue about consolidating all government functions under one entity that will be equitable for all citizens. He is realistic about the challenges and resistance to the idea, but consolidation has never been more necessary for the future of the area.

Trouble in the Biggest Little City: Vacant Store Fronts

Improving Reno’s Public Image
In addition to consolidation, Ward sees multiple challenges for Reno, both now and in the future. Unemployment and homelessness are high, while government and gaming revenues are declining.

Residents have complained that they don’t feel safe in the downtown area because of panhandling and other aggressive activities of homeless people. Ward recognizes that many of Reno’s panhandlers may have mental and/or financial issues that need to be addressed. He cites one casino owner who told him about a patron who panhandles downtown until he has $50, then goes to the casino to gamble. Ward suggests an “effective and compassionate” solution to the issue is needed.

The Montage Solution: Dress up the windows with quality murals

He has several ideas to improve the attractiveness and safety in the downtown area, including addressing the issue of vacant store fronts that magnify Nevada’s business and unemployment woes to visitors and citizens.

Ward suggests following the lead of The Montage upscale condo development in downtown Reno. The former casino underwent a massive renovation in 2006-08. The bottom dropped out of the Nevada real estate market just as The Montage was opening. They have faced many challenges during this economic downturn, but rather than have empty space visible to people walking by, they covered the windows of vacant ground floor space with murals. The Montage’s retains its upscale look and the street level view feels friendly, not abandoned.

Rebuilding Reno’s Tourism
Ward feels that the city must rebuild its tourism base with a more diverse marketing effort on a national and international level with less dependence on traditional gaming marketing. He is confident that Reno can continue to be a dynamic community and he is impressed by Reno’s new City Manager, Andrew Clingerwho is a Nevada resident that understands the needs of the local citizens and businesses.

Regardless of the outcome of the upcoming election, David Ward will continue to love and serve his community, which is why he can rightfully be called, Mr. Reno.

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