Monday, February 28, 2011

So Why Are These People Running?

In today's Sun, Delen Goldberg tried looking for distinction among Las Vegas' mayoral candidates (and eerily spouting off NPRI anti-worker talking points).

One interesting flash point developing is on local government consolidation.

Consolidating Las Vegas with Clark County has been debated for years as a possible way to cut costs by reducing duplicate services and management.

“Be careful what you ask for,” Brown said. “It’s not the panacea.”

Brown praised regional efforts, such as the Regional Transportation Commission and Clark County Regional Flood Control District, as common sense. Floods don’t care about city boundaries, he said.

But he warned against consolidating to disguise cuts. Rather, he said, officials should focus on combining only parts of government that are complementary and could be made more efficient.

Goodman argued that consolidation doesn’t always save money and could negatively affect constituents. Interestingly, her husband has long agitated for combining the city and county.

“Bigger isn’t always better,” she said. “A larger body doesn’t necessarily mean better services or saving money.”

Ross said he would vote for consolidation only if it saves money. He said he’s more in favor of shared services.

Giunchigliani is the only candidate to come out strongly for consolidation. She said she has been working to streamline government agencies and functions for more than a decade. She led the charge to consolidate the valley’s housing authorities and authored a regional spay/neuter law.

Giunchigliani argued that consolidation could improve services. Fewer agencies offering more services would result in people waiting in fewer lines and going through less red tape, she said.

Now this can be a touchy issue throughout the valley. Here in Henderson, the city often prides itself in NOT being like Las Vegas. And here, the city council candidates are arguing over who can best preserve the public services and amenities that residents have come to enjoy and expect.

But in Las Vegas, it's different. There's now a history of Las Vegas and Clark County consolidating certain services, such as police protection. And for so many who live in the stretch of the valley between Sunset and Lake Mead, they don't realize they may be living either in the city or unincorporated county territory. It's all just "Las Vegas" to them...

But is bigger really better? And might less actually be more?

[Chris] Giunchigliani proposes a streamlined “one fee, one form” process. Instead of businesses paying both the state and municipalities piecemeal fees for licenses, inspections, work cards and the like, Giunchigliani said she’d like to debate implementation of one fee charged by all governments and implement it. Giunchigliani fought for similar legislation several years ago, and it passed, but the city and other municipalities have since added fees, permit requirements and paperwork, so the legislation hasn’t kept pace with its intent.

Giunchigliani suggested working with Secretary of State Ross Miller, who is developing a “one-stop shop” computer program for businesses.

Las Vegas first lady Carolyn Goodman, County Commissioner Larry Brown and City Councilman Steve Ross all say they oppose tax hikes.

“It’s not going to jump-start the economy,” Ross said. “What you need to do is give businesses incentives and tax rebates for hiring and putting people back to work.”

Ross suggested that the city suspend all business license and building permit fees for a year to offset the contracted lending market.

Several candidates opposed to tax increases argued that families and employers are struggling in the down economy and increasing the cost of doing business will push them further underwater.

“You cannot get taxes from a turnip,” Goodman said.

You know, it's easy for a candidate to say, "I oppose tax hikes." It's all too often more difficult to just speak the truth on revenue and getting what we pay for. We're certainly learning that lesson the hard way at the state level. So even though the conversation may be difficult to start, Las Vegas may ultimately need to have one on taxes and revenue in order to properly fund the essential services the city so desperately needs. And perhaps by streamlining a number of fees, ordinary people won't be hit all that much.

At a recent radio forum last week, the candidates went into further detail on where they stand and why they're running.

Again, it's easy to get on the bully pulpit, attack public workers, and throw out general platitudes on "job creation". It's much more difficult, however, to actually propose a workable budget and implement sound policy that will actually put people back to work.

So why are these candidates running? Why do they want to be Mayor? And what are their real plans to make Las Vegas work? It's easy to play politics in campaigns, but we elect local government leaders to implement good policy that will make the most difference here at home.

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