WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Tuesday that parts of the federal government will stay closed until Democrats agree to put up more walls along the U.S.-Mexico border to deter criminal elements. He said he’s open to calling the wall something else as long as he ends up with an actual wall.
In a Christmas Day appearance in the Oval Office, Trump issued a lengthy defense of his desire for a wall, saying it’s the only way to stop drugs and human traffickers from entering the country. In a nod to the political stakes he’s facing, Trump said he wants the wall by “election time” in 2020.
The promise of a border wall was a central component of Trump’s presidential campaign.
“I can’t tell you when the government’s going to be open. I can tell you it’s not going to be open until we have a wall or fence, whatever they’d like to call it,” Trump said, referring to Democrats who staunchly oppose walling off the border.
“I’ll call it whatever they want, but it’s all the same thing,” he told reporters after participating in a holiday video conference with representatives from all five branches of the military stationed in Alaska, Bahrain, Guam and Qatar.
Trump argued that drug flows and human trafficking can only be stopped by a wall.
“We can’t do it without a barrier. We can’t do it without a wall,” he said. “The only way you’re going to do it is to have a physical barrier, meaning a wall. And if you don’t have that then we’re just not opening” the government.
Democrats oppose spending money on a wall, preferring instead to pump the dollars into fencing, technology and other means of controlling access to the border. Trump argued that Democrats oppose a wall only because he is for one.
The stalemate over how much to spend and how to spend it caused the partial government shutdown that began Saturday following a lapse in funding for departments and agencies that make up about 25 percent of the government.
About 800,000 government workers are affected. Many are on the job but must wait until after the shutdown to be paid again.
Trump claimed that many of these workers “have said to me and communicated, ‘stay out until you get the funding for the wall.’ These federal workers want the wall. The only one that doesn’t want the wall are the Democrats.”
Trump didn’t say how he’s hearing from federal workers, excluding those he appointed to their jobs or who work with him in the White House. But many rank-and-file workers have gone to social media with stories of the financial hardship they expect to face because of the shutdown, now in its fourth day.
Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York and Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leaders of Congress, said Trump “wanted the shutdown, but he seems not to know how to get himself out it.” Trump had said he’d be “proud” to shut down the government in a fight over the wall.
He also had said Mexico would pay for the wall. Mexico has refused.
Trump followed up on a Monday tweet in which he said he “just gave out a 115 mile long contract for another large section of the Wall in Texas.” Neither the White House nor the Department of Homeland Security responded to follow-up questions, despite repeated requests.
The reference to 115 miles was unclear. Trump may have been referring to 33 miles of construction in the Rio Grande Valley that is set to begin in February, part of a total of 84 miles that Congress funded in March, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Asked who received the contract, Trump replied: “Different people, different people.”
He did say he envisions a wall so tall, “like a three-story building,” that only an Olympic champion would be able to scale it. He also compared Democrats’ treatment of him over the wall to their defense of James Comey after Trump fired him as FBI director.
“It’s a disgrace what’s happening in our country but, other than that, I wish everybody a very merry Christmas,” he said.
ELKO – As 2018 was winding down, Elko officials and local business owners were looking back at the year’s financial finish and viewing 2019 with hopeful thoughts.
It was a big year for business as sales tax revenue posted an increase in the city of Elko. Commercial building projects included a massive 189,000 square foot service center for Komatsu Equipment Co. on 30 acres at the west end of town.
Komatsu broke ground in October. After its expansion the business will employ about 150 people in the area.
“The construction of the facility will generate quite a bit of sales tax due to the purchase of construction materials,” said Elko City Manager Curtis Calder. “That will be ‘one-time’ sales tax revenue that will have a positive impact on our sales tax numbers during the construction phase. A bigger impact will be the ongoing sales tax impact a larger facility like this one will have over time, as Komatsu will be accepting delivery of large pieces of equipment and parts over the life of the facility. At this point, it would be difficult to predict how big of an impact it will have.”
The city’s sales tax revenue has been on the rise, according to Calder.
“For fiscal year 2017/2018 [ending June 2018] consolidated sales taxes were up 5.25 percent over the previous fiscal year,” he said, reaching a total of $13,742,950.
And in the current fiscal year, Calder said the upward trend is continuing.
“With three months having been reported, we are 9.5 percent above the first three months of fiscal year 2017/2018,” he said. “Big commercial projects like Komatsu will only enhance the current trend.”
City licensing technician Debbie Hensler said Elko business license applications have also increased this year. By the end of November, 197 businesses had applied for licenses, up from 161 at the same time last year. Some of the applications are due to new ownership or license renewal; however, a large number of those businesses are brand new.
Three new eateries opened this year in Elko. Garibaldi’s opened in the winter of 2018. Teriyaki Madness and Hunter Ray’s opened this fall. Elkoans love new places to eat and all three businesses saw long lines in the early days after opening.
“I am in the business to feed my neighbors,” Ray, owner of Hunter Ray’s, said. “I haven’t spent much of any daylight not here, and I don’t think I want to spend it anywhere else.”
Billie Crapo, Elko Chamber of Commerce CEO, said, “The chamber had over 80 businesses join in 2018 and we sustain a membership of over 700.”
The chamber fosters growth and change in the community.
“Membership in the chamber is an investment in their community and in Elko County’s future,” Crapo said.
The Downtown Business Association continues to work toward creating new ways to get people into the heart of town to enjoy themselves and shop.
“It has been a very positive year with lots of people attending the events,” DBA vice president and owner of Evergreen Floral Brianne Clark said. “We brought in two new events with the family-friendly local music showcase and the Rides and Rods Car Show. We brought part of the car show down for the wine walk.”
Clark feels there are many visionary business owners downtown.
“Their success is due to the efforts they put into their businesses,” Clark said. “We are already brainstorming for next year.”
Dalling Hall and Modz Arcade opened downtown. Dalling Hall is used primarily for events and other large gatherings. Owner Jeff Dalling also rents out the upstairs to a number of small businesses.
Modz is primarily an entertainment facility but the business also has a small eatery.
While an upward trend in sales tax and increased business license applications sets a tone for a healthy local economy, many locals fretted over the loss of Kmart, one of only two big-box general merchandise stores. After the doors closed, locals were quick to jump on the bandwagon to voice their opinions about what should fill its place.
“A new state-of-the-art swimming pool and recreation space including pickle ball courts, tennis and racquetball would be nice,” Elko resident Lois Ports said.
“A Trader Joe’s and a soup and salad place like Souper Salad would be nice,” Tuscarora resident Gail Rappa said. “An independent bookstore like Sundance Books in Reno would be lovely, too.”
The public will have to wait on what will actually be built inside the space until sometime in January, according to David Fonua, vice president of construction for Meridian Pacific. The building is not in their possession until after the New Year and the company is still in negotiations with a number of national retail chains.
“A bigger impact will be the ongoing sales tax impact a larger facility like this one will have over time, as Komatsu will be accepting delivery of large pieces of equipment and parts over the life of the facility.”
SPRING CREEK – The only thing certain is change, and in the Spring Creek Association change was a big part of 2018.
In the past year, the homeowners association moved forward with growth as it dealt with wildfires, controversies and struggles to improve water and broadband internet for property owners.
Jessie Bahr, general manager and president of the Spring Creek Association, discussed the past year with the Elko Daily Free Press and gave her thoughts as to what 2019 might hold.
Q: After a year that included wildfires, the removal of a director, and continued battles regarding water issues and broadband internet, what do you think the past year accomplished?
A: We have done quite a lot this year to improve on the issues we have faced for many years, including the roads, water issues, internet, fixing amenities, etc. I believe the association staff and board were diligent in listening to the community’s needs, taking a step back at times to reassess and evaluate, then moving forward with the best decisions possible to help improve the community. We understand going into each year things will not be as smooth as we want it to be in our minds, and plan for as much as we can and try to reduce the amount of “firefighting” on a daily basis.
Q: To add to that, what do you think these issues did to help SCA move forward – or set back – in the coming year?
A: SCA is in a unique position as we are the second largest homeowners association in the country but [we] operate a little more like a town than an HOA. We are the voice for the community and have to meet their needs and make sure we are fighting for the Spring Creek area in areas like internet and water issues. Sometimes this is hard as there are conflicting opinions on what residents would like to see but the board and staff does look to try and meet as many needs and solve as many of the issues our community faces.
Q: The past year also saw some changes when Rick Longhurst and Cooks restaurant were added to Spring Creek’s golf course. How will the association move forward to strengthen the golf course amenity in the coming year?
A: There are various needs of each of the amenities that SCA manages. SCA staff and board look at the most pressing needs of each area, which is usually safety, and makes yearly operational plans to update. The golf course has had quite a few additions over the last two years so no major changes will be taking place at the course. Rick Longhurst has given excellent leadership to the golf programs and we look forward to him continuing to build on the past successes.
Q: Looking at the other amenities, particularly the Horse Palace, what is the plan for renovations in the coming year and restoring it as an events hub for various activities such as rodeos, sporting activities and other events?
A: The SCA board commissioned a study in 2016 to review the needs of the Horse Palace as there have been many years of deferred maintenance; a copy of which is available to members at any time. To fix the issues at the Horse Palace, it would cost millions of dollars as noted in the study. The board and staff prioritizes with outside advice what would need to happen first, which led the recent comments by the board to put together a request for proposal for rook, panel, and insulation work at the Horse Palace so we can understand what actual costs would be before a decision is made.
The board will be reviewing a proposal in January to understand what the scope of work would be and to put out these RFPs. These decisions certainly can be hard as these are competing priorities. The board also considers the usage at facilities like the Horse Palace in making their decisions.
Q: Related to that question, the board voted to stop horse boarding this year. How is the Horse Palace accommodating property owners who use the facility for recreational riding and exercise for their animals?
A: Property owners can still use the facility although after doing a cost benefit analysis on different budget line items like horse boarding, it was costing a bit more and the usage was low. Another factor was the liability from our insurance for the staff to be feeding and maintaining these animals. It was a decision made in the best interest of the whole.
Q: When will the shooting range reopen and will there be surveillance added to the amenity in an effort to monitor its use?
A: The shooting range opened a few weeks ago, [and] yes the board will be considering options for surveillance at amenities to help monitor use instead of full-time staff working those areas, again a cost/benefit review.
Q: Do you see family-friendly activities, along with additional communications through Facebook, e-blasts, and Town Hall meetings with each tract representative on the board of directors, as opening communications and showing property owners that the association is committed to improving relations and living conditions in the HOA?
A: The SCA staff and board have worked hard to not only improve on operations but to add additional events like this to help bring the community together. We have grown quite large, and will continue to grow and our hope is to have additional volunteer-led events that will bring joy to many members.
The association has added various communication avenues for the residents to learn what is happening including monthly public meetings, monthly radio communications, monthly e-blast newsletter, various snail mail letters, social media, town halls, kiosk, etc. We are committed to transparency and helping residents understand the plans, where funds go, and addressing their issues. We as staff and the board can meet with residents and time our day to accommodate their needs to help answer their questions, a quick phone call to set up a meeting and we can help.
Q: The coming year will also see some changes on the board with a few of the positions up for election in June as Paddy Legarza is termed out, and Terry Lister, Josh Park and Pat Plaster are eligible for re-election. What kind of individual do you hope will step up to run?
A: There has been quite a bit of interest in running for the board by various members, which is great. Being on the board is a very serious time commitment as it can take hours to review packets, information, do your own research and budget. It is no small task.
My hope is for individuals who are able to look at the whole picture, spend the time to learn and do their own research and be able to make the best decision for the whole. Understanding budgets, open meeting law, and strategic planning is a must as there is a lot to accomplish over the next few years.
Q: Is there anything you think residents should be looking out for in the coming year, or that you would want them to keep in mind this year?
A: As always, we have an open door. We hope those with questions or concerns take a minute to come learn what is happening, ask questions, or maybe even volunteer to help. We as staff and board members are all property owners and want to make Spring Creek a great place for generations to come. We are all here because we care about the future and will work hard for our residents to meet their expectations.
I believe SCA is moving in the right direction and encourage residents to come learn about the past year, the future plans, obstacles and challenges we face and plans to address them. Getting involved is the key.