Obstructionism seems to be in vogue these days. In Washington, D.C., it nearly caused a financial collapse last summer when Republicans blocked, until the 11th hour, an action to raise the debt ceiling. And now, as the clock ticks down on a tax break for working Americans, Congress is at it again.
Here in Las Vegas, we have our own version of obstructionist government, only here the mayor gets to break ties, so seldom does the City Council actually find itself deadlocked. Even though 2-2 votes are commonplace at council meetings, that fifth vote from the mayor keeps the roadblocks at a minimum.
Last week, however, obstructionism won the day. Or, more precisely, the weekend, since a special meeting was called for Monday morning and, as expected, the mayor dislodged the impasse.
Last Thursday’s issue had to do with city staff seeking the OK to apply for a couple of grants for water projects. Councilor Tonita Gurule-Giron raised a number of concerns about the application, among them that the city was applying for the money before it has laid out its plan to increase water rates.
City Manager Timothy Dodge explained that his staff was just seeking permission to apply for the grants and would have to come back for approval to accept the money if the grants come through. Moreover, if the city does accept the grants, Dodge said matching funds required by the city could be covered with existing water revenues.
That makes sense to us, as it did to councilors Diane Moore and Andrew Feldman, but Mayor Alfonso Ortiz wasn’t there, and Moore, sensing that councilor David Romero would vote with Gurule-Giron, moved instead to continue the matter. It passed unanimously.
So the council met, again, on Monday morning, and a vote was taken, again, only this time to approve the staff’s request to apply for the funding. Not surprisingly, Gurule-Giron and Romero voted against it and the mayor broke the tie and it passed 3-2.
Perhaps Gurule-Giron was concerned about Dodge slipping something past her — her distrust in this administration is evident. Or, maybe it’s a politically calculated move, to position herself against any sort of water rate hike, even if that’s really not the issue at the moment. Though she has not formally announced it, Gurule-Giron is widely considered to be in the running for mayor in the upcoming municipal election.
The fact is, Las Vegas needs all the money it can get to create a long-term solution to its water problems. The city has inadequate storage, a leaking dam, an aging infrastructure that leaks more than the dam, and many more problems. The city’s future hinges on whether we can come up with the millions of dollars needed to fix these problems, so if there’s grant money out there, we need to go after it.
What we don’t need, especially when it comes to an aggressive effort to address our future water needs, is obstructionism.