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Hopefuls divided on city charter

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By Don Pace

Candidates running for mayor and City Council in the March 2 election agreed water should be the city’s top priority.

They also said city streets were a problem and need work.

Their solutions on how to get there were often different, but they were civil during a two-hour forum Thursday night, sponsored by the Las Vegas Optic and the Committee for the People. Nearly 100 people attended.

The 10 candidates — three for mayor and seven for City Council in Wards 1 and 4 — answered written questions from audience members, who asked about everything from the possible privatization of city utilities to whether to keep the city manager.  

The first question out of the box was where they stood on the proposed new charter. The 35-page document includes provisions for four-year mayoral terms, compared with the current two, and runoff elections to ensure that majority winners are on the council.

The charter would serve as the city’s constitution, replacing the one that has been in existence for four decades.

Alfonso Ortiz, the only mayoral candidate on the ballot, said he was for a new charter. The two write-in candidates, Daniel Holguin and Patrick Romero, said they were not.

Holguin said, “I don’t support the charter. I agree with 90 percent of it, but there are certain parts in the charter that I don’t feel would be good for Las Vegas.” 

Romero said, “The reason I say no is the people I’ve talked to are concerned about it. Are we going to have runoff elections every time we have an election, unless you’re lucky enough to have 51 percent?

“To win in Albuquerque, you need 40 percent to win. Why do we want 50 plus-1 percent to win? Our race is a good example, we all are within 30 to 40 percent. The same goes for the council races. We will all have to have runoff elections, and runoff elections are very expensive.”

Ortiz said, “I don’t support 100 percent of the charter, but we have to have a beginning. Once we pass this charter, rest assured we will have to revisit it in a couple of years. Then we can begin to modify it and improve it.”              

Ward 4 candidates all said they would vote yes.

Michael Roybal said, “This is what the people wanted. It’s time that we as a city, including candidates, do the right thing and vote for the charter.”

David Romero said he didn’t agree with everything in the new charter, “but there are some things from the 1970s that need to be changed. It’s about time we started moving forward.”

Joseph Baca said he thought the charter contained some positive changes. “It will be left up to the people.”

Two Ward 1 candidates said they were for the charter; two said they were not sure. 

Roland Medrano said, “I’m for it, we need it, but I want to know where the money will come from, assuming there is a runoff. Other than that, I’m for it.”

Bruce McAllister said he was for the charter.

“It’s been 40 years since we have touched the charter. No longer will you have representatives representing you that received 18 percent of the vote. It’s also critical to have a four-year term for the mayor.”

Tonita Gurule-Giron said, “I’d like to see the mayor serve a four-year term, but the final decision will be made by the voters.”

Macario Gonzalez said his hesitation on supporting the charter hinges on a four-year term for the mayor. “I have some real concerns with that.”

QUESTION: Are you in favor of audits for the Economic Development Corporation, the Chamber of Commerce and MainStreet? 

Ward 4

Baca: Yes, we need to watch how money is spent and in the best way possible. Money spent to promote Las Vegas needs to be spent the right way.”

Romero: “I’m in favor of these organizations and believe they can move this city forward, but I encourage them to focus on local businesses first.”

Roybal: “I would like to see them get more money so they can support this city.”

Ward 1

Gonzalez: “Yes, we need to audit every program in this city, but the city has to provide resources to the people responsible for economic  development.”

Gurule-Jiron: “Audits are what give citizens a clear representation of what is occurring in a community with each dollar that is being spent. Accountability is critical to every program in a community. If we don’t have audits, we don’t know where your money is going.”

McAllister: “There should be a vetting process to receive the city’s money, and we should make sure the city gets the most value for every dollar spent. An audit should be part of doing business.” 

Medrano: “When public money is spent there should be an audit. We also need to work with these different groups to see how we can work with small business, and at the same time promote the city.”

Mayor

Ortiz: “I’m a firm believer in audits, especially if it’s taxpayers’ money. We have to account for each and every dollar, not only how the money was spent or invested, but what was the benefit was it to the community.”

Romero: “The Chamber of Commerce is on Sixth Street, EDC is in a small office on Eighth Street and MainStreet is some place in Old Town. All these entities should be under one roof, in a place where people have easy access. As far as an audit goes, I would hope that would be standard operating procedure.

Holguin: “There needs to be accountability, there needs to be checks and balances put in place to account for these funds. As Mr. Ortiz said, so we can see the benefits of that money, where it went, so we can continue to invest in projects that are worthwhile to this city.”

• Editor’s note: Wednesday’s Optic will feature candidates’ views on other issues.