If you follow any of the conversations in the Facebook comments about local politics, you know his name.
The exchanges usually have some person making an angry, flippant response about a news article on local government or WCSD. And then you’ll see Richard Jay responding with thoughtful research and real numbers, taking the conversation away from the emotional and moving it towards more constructive learning.
Richard first hit my radar as I was helping advocate for WC-1, which was a tax to fund the building of new schools in Washoe County School District. As people adamantly would oppose additional funding for the school district, Richard’s responses were always factual and even tempered.
This made me think — I’m probably not the only mom in town wondering who is this Richard Jay, and how does he always have the answers to the questions that arise on social media about local politics? I reached out to him to get some answers on how he became an unofficial advocate for WCSD.
Q: How did you get involved in advocating for Washoe County School District?
A: I have always been an advocate for the school district and our youth. I have served on several committees for them, PTO, Cub Scouts, School Sports and Pedro Martinez appointed me to one of the Capital Expenditures committees. In 1997 I volunteered for the original SOS, Save Our School initiative. This was the last bond approved by voters. I delivered yard signs and other tasks. Abbi Whittaker of the Abbi Agency and I have been friends and when she received the bid to run WC1 she asked me to be the Chair of the Business Advisory Committee for WC1. Of course I said yes, after all who says no to Abbi. She immediately set up a meeting with Alex Bybee and from there we developed our strategy. Our strategy was clear, present vetted facts, show our data and present verified facts. It was a social media blitz and we new were staring off in minority, 43% of the people supported this new tax initiative. We won with a overwhelmingly 57% approval, one of largest in the history of Washoe County.
Q: How do you approach finding the answers to questions that arise on social media?
A: My research is pretty basic, I read and use the internet for research. I would start is a pretty basic question. For example I was looking up how the funding issue started. I looked at the Nevada legislature website and found a great deal of information from 1967 talking about the Nevada Plan for funding. I looked at research reports from groups such as the Guinn Center, EKAY Consultants and Center for Tax Priorities. I downloaded the reports and read every one them. I would take key parts from those reports and add them to my overall data base. My research now contains over 500 charts or graphs, 113 articles and 58 presentations ranging from current funding methods for Capital Expenditures to in-depth analysis school of construction costs for the west schools. The Guinn Center continues to publish great reports regarding education in our state. EKAY has great information about our broken property tax system and SJR14 looks like a good remedy. Upon graduation from college in 1984 I started volunteering for various organization in our community. When my son started school I decided to focus my efforts towards our education system and other youth organizations.
Q: Does your job relate to local politics?
A: My day job varies and never are two days the same. I have been a financial advisor for 24 years. I have always had a knack for numbers and accounting. I see the financial issues and I feel this helped me send the message to the public. I can see the numbers and see how they relate, property tax issues, budget numbers and more. My company supports me and giving back to our community. We all contribute to our community in our own fashion, I had a lot of opportunities as a student in the school district and I felt it was time to give back to our kids, our future.
Q: What is your opinion of the current usage of WC1 funds?
A: I am very excited about how WC1 is going so far. Several factors. Damonte Ranch was the first project and it will be done soon, best of all $7 million under budget. The first bond issue of $200 million actually sold at a premium of roughly $12 million, that’s additional funds for the district. Due to a strong economy the initial funds are running ahead of schedule. This will help as construction inflation is running higher than initial planned.
I think one issue that has me concerned is the false advertising from car dealerships outside of Washoe County. The claim of “always cheaper taxes” is wrong. When you lease a car the sales tax is assessed on each payment and is taxed based on where the person lives not where the car was leased from. I do plan to file a complaint with the state.
The recent ground breaking for Sky Ranch Middle School and Sun Valley Middle School is just the beginning of many such projects. I thought we had the negativity behind us however with the recent WildCreek issue its clear, people are still more concerned with their personal needs rather than the future of our students. We rally once again as a community and won this most recent quest. WCSD has several projects slated for 2018; Arrowcreek, elementary school in south Reno and Wildcreek on top of the continued repairs of existing schools. The repairs during the summer were nothing short of epic proportions.
Q: When you’re not working or advocating for WCSD, what do you do?
A: Fun fact, l enjoy learning about wines, reds in particular. I am a clothes and shoe horse. Hmmm, funny story. I am proud of my diverse heritage, Irish, Dutch Welsh from my fathers side, Navajo, Mexican, Spanish, and Basque from my mothers side. Many years ago I broke my nose and needed surgery to repair the damage. My ENT asked if I was “happy with my nose, if not he could reshape it”. I clearly stated “do not change the figure of my nose, its a Navajo shaped nose”, he kept it the same.