COLUMN: Who are the insiders?

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By David Giuliani

I’ve come to at least one conclusion about Tony Marquez after his first nine months as Las Vegas’ mayor: He’s not giving anyone any special inside tracks to city government.

Marquez’s critics have plenty to say: The mayor has yet to bring any of the real changes he promised in the campaign, and the city remains in a holding pattern because the mayor’s administration has yet to fill six vacant director positions.

They also say he’s too worried about publicity at the expense of action.

But no one’s charging that Marquez is caving in to those with influence in this town. There are no developers or high-powered business people getting undue attention. And Marquez is apparently trying to keep the local political top dogs at arm’s length.

That’s in contrast to previous mayors. In fact, Marquez’s immediate predecessor, Henry Sanchez, had breakfast each morning at Hillcrest with a group of Democratic Party insiders. As much as people loved Sanchez, they couldn’t help but wonder what type of influence these breakfast mates had over city government -- whether fair or not.

Not so with Marquez. What close political friends does he have? One of his biggest supporters in the campaign was local mechanic David Romero, but as far as I can tell, Romero doesn’t carry any special influence in the city or anywhere else.

On his day job, Marquez is one of the top officials in the state Corrections Department, so he has to commute to Santa Fe daily. That doesn’t give him lots of time for political socializing.

The city has made just one big hire since Marquez took office in March — City Manager Sharon Caballero. As far as I can tell, these two weren’t close friends beforehand. They probably hardly knew each other.

Other mayors have picked close supporters as their city managers and department directors.

Indeed, a resident who supported Marquez and Andrew Feldman, one of the mayor’s political allies, applied for one of the vacant director’s positions. Indeed, this resident even seemed qualified for the position — more so than some of the other applicants.

But this guy didn’t get the job. In fact, the city decided to conduct another search.

Many mayors would have jumped at the chance of installing a loyalist, but Marquez apparently didn’t even want the hint of picking a supporter for a top city position.

At the state level, Gov. Bill Richardson has always needed the security of a big entourage wherever he goes. He has dinner with celebrities and feels most comfortable with political power players.

It’s not surprising that nearly every major state contract ends up with Richardson’s political contributors. His spokesmen always argue that contracts aren’t handed out based on their donations. But after six years of these amazing coincidences, one has to wonder.

Marquez is a Richardson appointee, so he could ill afford to criticize the governor publicly. But his style is far different. As of yet, Marquez refuses to let any insiders rule the city.

David Giuliani is managing editor of the Las Vegas Optic. He may be reached at 505-425-6796 or dgiuliani@lasvegasoptic.com.