Of 144 applicants (LIST), Devon Reese was appointed to the Reno City Council to fill the remainder of David Bobzien’s term. Bobzien was appointed to a position in Governor Sisolak’s administration. The vacancy is an “at large” position, so the candidate can reside anywhere in the City rather than in a specific ward.
The City Council decided on appointing a replacement rather than holding an election for the single seat. Councilwoman Brekhus advocated for a mail-in only ballot for the position rather than appointment. She argued that it was important for a candidate to face the voters and promote their candidacy. The rest of the council members voted for appointment.
The list of applicants was first reduced to 139 when 5 of them did not meet the residency requirements.
At the February 13 meeting, each council member made a list of their 5 favorites from the list of 139 potential candidates. The council members (including the mayor) submitted their lists and the results were tallied.
The top four on this list were selected to be interviewed in an open forum.
Devon Reese, lawyer, apparently worked on labor cases with Reno police officers.
Britton Griffith, manager in the family’s civil engineering firm
Nathan Dupree, Pastor at the Living Stones Church, involved with homeless programs.
Krystal Minera, bakery owner, manages two radio stations, youngest at 28
At a special meeting in council chambers on February 14, the four candidates took seats in the dais facing the audience. The forum was skillfully moderated by City Clerk Ashley Turney.
Opening statement: 2 minutes for each candidate.
Questions (each candidate gets 2 minutes to answer)
- Question #1 “What do you believe are the most important issues facing Reno and what should be done about them?”
- Question #2 “What are your thoughts on equity and diversity in Reno”
- Question #3 “What should Reno be doing for affordable housing and housing in general?”
- Question #4 “What do you think of the Lime Bikes?”
- Question #5 “What is the one city code of policy you’d like to see changed.
Closing Statement (each candidate gets 1 minute)
Thursday’s performances didn’t show any of the candidates in a good light. None could give a compelling reason as to why they were running and why voters should support them. All wanted to convince the audience that they were “nice people” and advocated for more love and compassion in Reno. They all made poor use of their limited time; a sign of being unprepared. None had a burning issue that was compelling them to run. I was asking myself “How many of these individuals would have run a campaign for this vacant position if there were an election instead of an appointment?” Reese is the only one with campaign experience having run for the Nevada Senate in 2016.
Selected points made by the candidates: (Note; everyone likes the Lime Bikes, but thinks the program could be improved)
- The mental illness problem is growing in Reno.
- We need to do more to address public safety including Fire Dept. and Police Dept. issues.
- He has seen discrimination: you have to truly want to diversify to be able to do it.
- We need a safe and vibrant downtown.
- We need more ‘attainable’ housing for people who are working.
- Growth should occur in areas with supporting infrastructure consistent with the master plan.
- The at-large council member should make a determined effort to reach out to constituents.
- The parking codes should be changed to make better use of the available spaces.
- We need to be doing more to protect victims in the workplace and also protecting victims of domestic violence.
- We need ‘smart growth’ where there is supporting infrastructure.
- We should do more to encourage home ownership.
- We need more emphasis on health services for police and firefighters.
- She wants to see more of the University in the downtown.
- Reno has had a lot of success paying down its debt and supporting the housing boom.
- He likes the Re-leaf Program to plant street trees.
- He wants to see some kind of Community Center in the North Valleys.
- Reno should be building all types of housing.
More on Friday … There was a special City Council meeting at 2:00 PM to interview the candidates by the council members. The session ended at 7:00 PM. The agenda opened with public comment drawing 21 people to advocate for their preferred candidate. This interview process had the following format:
- Opening Statement (2 minutes)
- Questions from the Dais (24 minutes)
- Closing Statement (2 minutes)
The candidates were sequestered in a conference room without their cell phones so they could not see the performances of the other candidates. Councilwoman Brekhus asked one question of each candidate tailored to that candidate. Council members Delgado, Jardon, Duerr, Weber, and Mayor Schieve asked all the candidates the same questions.
Councilwoman Brekhus asked Reese whether his experience defending Reno public employee unions against the city would make him biased on the City Council. He answered “no” that he could adapt to the new role and that he had defended corporate and government entities on occasion as well.
Mayor Schieve asked Reese about his knowledge regarding the functions of city government. He answered “7 or 8”.
Councilwoman Brekhus asked Minera about the difference between the roles of the council members and the role of the city manager. Minera gave a rambling answer revealing her limited understanding.
Minera told Mayor Schieve that her knowledge of city government was “a 9”. Mayor Schieve asked Minera to discuss some issue facing the council. Minera rambled something about budgets.
Councilwoman Brekhus asked Griffith about her experience on the Reno Planning Commission. “What was your most difficult moment, and what was your most rewarding moment?” Griffith said that the most rewarding was when constituents stayed late before Thanksgiving and thanked the planning commissioners for their work. The most difficult was to consider flooding in the North Valleys because the impact was so personal.
Griffith told Mayor Schieve that her knowledge of city government was a “7” because she spends a lot of time in the building relating to her civil engineering firm and contacts she has made in the city government.
Councilwoman Brekhus asked Dupree how he would respond to a constituent’s concern when he could not satisfy them as a council member. He answered that he would need to understand the constituent’s concern and make it clear that they were heard. He would need to take a structured approach as to what could be done practically.
Councilman Delgado asked all the candidates if they approved of the requirement that police use body cameras. All the candidates approved.
Councilwoman Jardon made the point that national partisan divisions have no place in the City Council. She asked all the candidates if they had ever supported a candidate from an opposing party. None gave a satisfactory answer. Do these candidates even vote?
Councilwoman Duerr asked whether the candidates believed in Climate Change and what the City should be doing for better sustainability. Griffith said she had campaigned against the use of plastic straws in some downtown restaurants. All the others gave generic answers.
Mayor Schieve asked all the candidates if the city charter should be changed to differentiate the mayor’s role from that of the council members. All the candidates agreed that the mayor’s role should be distinct.
Following brief deliberations, the council voted unanimously to appoint Devon Reese to the vacant position.
I was left with the impression that these candidates were all bright, articulate, and well-meaning. It was a nice group. Britton Griffith presented herself the best with considered answers and clear logic. Her role in her family’s civil engineering firm does raise concerns that she will favor developers as new projects are considered.