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Editor's Note: The water board forums

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By Tom McDonald

The Las Vegas Community Water Board held two candidate forums last week to exclusively address — you guessed it — water issues.

They did so for good reason. The city’s water system has long been a No. 1 concern because of what could happen and what’s already happening.

What could happen is a wildfire, an earthquake or a prolonged drought. Since 90 percent of our water system comes out of the Gallinas River, ash from a major fire in the canyon could make it too polluted to use.

Or, an earthquake could cause an already leaking Peterson Dam to give way at the city’s main reservoir, which would cause serious flooding and take away much of our stored water.

Plus, the long-range forecast for heavy snowpacks in the Gallinas Canyon is bleak. We can expect less water flowing down the Gallinas River, not more.

As for what’s already in place, there are several problems we need to address. The city’s water infrastructure — including, of course, Peterson Dam, and a whole lot of leaky waterlines — is in serious need of repair, and it’s going to cost a lot of money to fix it. And the longer we wait the worse it’s going to get.

And let’s not forget that water is a bread-and-butter issue. The city’s economy will always have a tough time growing as long as our water supply is as limited as it is. So, no matter how much we might want the candidates for mayor and council to discuss other matters, just about every issue in this town circles back to water.

This time around, there’s another reason to place water at the top of our municipal concerns. Last year, the city spent $600,000 on an engineering report about how best to tackle our water needs over the long run. The study laid out a blueprint to fix and stabilize our water system over 40 years, at a cost of about $123 million.

Not surprisingly, the report and its recommendations became a centerpiece at the water board forums, with the candidates being asked what they’re willing to support in the plan. Mostly, they agreed with the project recommendations, but of course the whole thing begs the question: How will the city pay for it?

Obviously the city would want to pursue state and federal funding to accomplish this, but it’s an unavoidable reality that the city needs to consider raising its rates — both to offset its costs and to increase its chances of getting assistance, since funding sources like to help those who help themselves.

Most of the candidates get it — paying for a long-term solution will have to come from every source we can tap into, including our own pockets. Although some candidates wavered somewhat on the issue, only Carlos Perea, a candidate for the Ward 3 council seat, was adamant that we shouldn’t raise our water rates; he argued that low-income residents can’t take the hit. (One mayoral candidate, Chris Lopez, didn’t answer the question. He seems to view the city’s water situation as little more than a public relations problem, basing his views on “facts” he pulls out of thin air.)

I don’t know about you, but I like to hear candidates speaking hard truths. And raising the city’s water rate is a difficult, but necessary, reality to face.

• • •

I have two sets of questions about the city charter issue:

The first is this: If councilor Andrew Feldman and the city decide to challenge the charter in court, wouldn’t they essentially be seeking an advisory opinion? If so, wouldn’t a judge dismiss the case on the grounds that there’s no actual controversy that needs to be resolved?

And my second inquiry: If the charter is challenged after the election — in an actual controversy, such as a candidate contesting the election results — wouldn’t a judge take extenuating circumstances into consideration? Such extenuating circumstances would include the fact that the litigant had two years to challenge the validity of the charter but didn’t, and that the March 6 election was held under the assumption that the charter is indeed valid.

And if those circumstances were indeed taken into consideration, might the judge decide to defer to “the will on the people” and let the charter stand?

• • •

It seems we have a presidential candidate in our midst — if you consider a self-promoting satirist who’s filed in one state primary as a real candidate.

Las Vegas resident Jim Terr is on the Arizona ballot for the Republican primary. His name is included on a long list of 23 candidates who filed for the nomination.

Terr’s name is second on the ballot, directly under Donald Benjamin, who wants to send Congress home for two years and replace them with a fifth-grade civics class.

Terr, in a campaign video, touts himself as the candidate who can’t get anything done — “and maybe that’s just what we need right now.” He has sprinkled into his YouTube-type candidacy a collection of lies, half-truths and appeals for money — all of which should help him blend right in.

Tom McDonald is editor and publisher of the Optic. He may be reached at 505-425-6796, ext. 237, or tmcdonald@lasvegasoptic.com.