Tuesday is a big day for Las Vegas. It’s filing day for mayor and two city council seats. And judging by an undercurrent social media and “coffeeshop” talk around town, there will be a full slate of candidates running.
Of course, there are new rules being created by the city’s new charter — if it remains intact. In 2010, voters approved a new city charter with a 56 percent majority, but some people have argued — not with any courthouse filings, but via the “court of public opinion” — that a 60 percent supermajority was needed to place the new charter into effect.
However, lacking a legal challenge, the city will be running its next election based on the new charter, and that changes the complexion of the March election. First and foremost, the new charter imposes a runoff system.
Throughout this city’s history, a plurality (not a majority, just the most votes) was all that was needed to win. But with the runoff system, the top two vote-getters will turn and face each other in a runoff election three weeks later. That changes the rules for the better. No longer can a candidate win with, say, a third of the votes cast; now he or she must win by a 50 percent plus margin. So, if most voters really want a change in leadership, they’ll get it.
That’s good news, especially for the upcoming election. This year, the city will likely select a new mayor and two new council members, since Mayor Alfonso Ortiz and councilors Diane Moore and Andrew Feldman have all said they don’t intend to seek re-election. That means the balance of power will shift.
Ortiz, Moore and Feldman have more often than not been in lockstep with one another on issues such as water and the city manager.
They’ve been supportive of long-term planning when it comes to the city’s water needs, and they’ve generally backed City Manager Timothy Dodge and his management team. A shift in mayor-council power may mean that the city’s resources — including local taxpayer money as well as bond issues and grant applications — may move in different directions, all according to the will of the new majority.
Moreover, Dodge himself could find himself in or out as the city’s top administrator.
Those who decide to run for mayor or council need to do more than simply file their candidacy. They need to assess the direction the city has been going over the past two years. Has the city moved in the right direction to address its water system needs? Are illegal water taps being properly addressed? Has the lodger’s tax money been spent wisely? Should the “gateway” project move forward? These are just a few of the many questions candidates should be prepared to answer — after doing the proper homework.
We will welcome a long list of candidates, but we’ll be disappointed if they enter the race unprepared. Las Vegas has a lot of complex challenges. We don’t need knee-jerk reactions. If you’re going to run, do so armed with an informed viewpoint.