Let me try to explain. Since 2008, Vermillion's and Sisolak's relationship has been a factor in Henderson politics. Sisolak was elected County Commissioner in November 2008, and Vermillion (then known as Kathleen Boutin) was elected City Council Member in June 2009. They were to be "The Ultimate Power Couple". He was the "fiscally conservative watchdog taking on the firefighters" at the county level, while she was the beloved community leader in Henderson who was doing so much good for local teens in need. Everything seemed perfect...
But obviously behind the scenes, it wasn't. We've already been seeing the details behind the deterioration of their romantic relationship. However, that wasn't the end of it. Perhaps last year's jurisdiction battles and municipal elections were a sign of what's to come. Kathleen Vermillion voiced early support for the controversial plan to concretize part of Pittman Wash, while Steve Sisolak opposed it. And Sisolak backed the challengers to two of Vermillion's colleagues on the Henderson Council (Gerri Schroder in Ward 1, and Debra March in Ward 2) in last year's election. At one point, they were also endorsing opposing candidates in the Ward 4 election. (Vermillion endorsed Mike Mayberry early on before switching to "neutral" just before the runoff, while Sisolak endorsed Sam Bateman.) Honestly, I found it strange hearing him complain about the supposed "fiscal recklessness in Henderson" (which actually has the lowest city worker to resident ratio and the lowest property tax rate in the valley!) when his girlfriend was on the council.
As we had discussed last week, it's crucial for Henderson to move on from this hot mess and get back to governing. Without a doubt, the council members, and especially new Ward 3 Council Member John Marz, face a grueling challenge ahead in rebuilding trust with the community and assuring residents that the Vermillion-Sisolak scandal is one that isn't destined to be repeated in Henderson. How can they prevent this kind of personal drama from infecting all levels of local government in the future?
Of course, Henderson isn't the only city in Southern Nevada facing lurid scandal. In Las Vegas, voters are still casting ballots that may determine not only Steve Ross' political future, but also how effective issues surrounding conflict of interest will be in shaping future campaigns.
Steve Ross has repeatedly been accused of being involved in all sorts of conflict of interest and ethics violations. He obviously hasn't been a model for great public service, and many residents are honestly (and IMHO justifiably) irked by this. However, many of these same residents are also wondering why they're voting on this recall today. Why?
Enter Joe Scala. Apparently Scala is still fuming over being denied a license to keep his car dealership in Centennial Hills open, and he's blaming it on Ross. So now Ross is accusing Byron Goynes, the one candidate who qualified to run against him in this recall election, of being "a puppet for Scala"... And he's even trying to tie Goynes and Scala to Henderson's Vermillion-Sisolak scandal by pointing out the recall committee hiring the same PR strategist (Mark Fierro) who's taken on Kathleen Vermillion as a client! Oh my, and the plot thickens.
Perhaps North Las Vegas' dilemma is the most basic and existential problem of them all. Really, how can North Las Vegas move forward?
Certainly this year, the bulk of the media's attention will be turned to the hot, "sexy", top-of-the-ticket elections. After all, with the G-O-TEA clowns coming to town, there will be plenty of fodder for local newscasts and national cable news shows alike. But after all the hoopla of the caucus and fighting over who really won what, these local problems will remain. And really, the government we most often deal with is the local variety. Whenever we have problems with rowdy neighbors or pesky potholes or dilapidated parks or dangerous sidewalks, we go first to city hall.
And so far in this first month of 2012, we've had plenty of food for thought as personal drama got out of hand in Henderson, a recall election unleashed plenty of chaos in Las Vegas, and still unanswered questions of the city's viability in the not-so-distant future linger in North Las Vegas. How does local government address scandal? How can local government try to prevent scandals from ruining its reputation? And how can local government heal rifts with the community after scandals come and go?
Local government theoretically should be the government that we trust the most and hesitate the least over engaging. Yet for some time, a combination of the public's misperceptions and genuine scandals has tarnished our cities' reputations and made folks ask what's really going on at city hall. Going forward, Henderson, Las Vegas, and North Las Vegas all have to face their own respective challenges in restoring trust and giving the people of Southern Nevada reason to believe that past sordid tales of corruption really are a thing of the past.
I am a student, an activist, and a blogger. I enjoy good books, great music, new adventures... And of course, great FOOD! This blog is for all my fellow foodies and culture vultures who always have a healthy appetite for good times and great eats. :-)