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For now, he’s driving

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By Optic Editorial Board

Joey Herrera is in a powerful position right now. The newest Las Vegas City Council member is sitting in the driver’s seat as a rift between Mayor Alfonso Ortiz and Councilor Tonita Gurule-Giron only gets wider.

The second newest council member, Vince Howell, has been siding with Ortiz, while councilor David Romero mostly follows Gurule-Giron’s lead. So when Herrera votes with Howell, the council is split 2-2, which of course tips the advantage to Ortiz.

It happened four times at the last City Council meeting.

One of those issues was to advance an Herrera proposal to change the city’s process in approving variances and conditional use and special use permits. 

If approved in its current form, it will essentially address Herrera’s concern, raised during the Ashley and Marvin Salazar variance issue, that a second council vote on the same thing is like “rubbing salt in the wound” (the wound, of course, being that the council denied the Salazars’ variance request). Under the changes being proposed, the council, after deciding on such matters, won’t have to follow up with a resolution explaining its decision; instead, the mayor would be given the authority to sign a document justifying the decision.

The council deadlocked in a 2-2 tie on that proposal, and the mayor cast the deciding “yes” vote.

The mayor also cast the deciding vote on two public works projects — an unbudgeted Cinder Road sewer line project and the “looping” of the controversial Airport Road waterline. Again, Herrera’s votes handed those issues over to Ortiz to decide in favor.

And the mayor cast a tie-breaking vote to reject a Gurule-Giron proposal that a proposed moratorium on permits for oil and gas drilling reference the controversial community rights ordinance, a move that the city attorney said could jeopardize its strength.

So why don’t we say Ortiz is in the driver’s seat, rather than Herrera?

Because without Herrera’s vote, the mayor is locked out; he only gets to vote in a tie. Politically, we suspect a lot going on behind the scenes. We would speculate that both Ortiz and Gurule-Giron are courting Herrera’s support on any number of issues. Both sides have been knee deep in a power struggle since long before the April municipal election when Ortiz beat Gurule-Giron for mayor, and it would be virtually impossible for Herrera to stay out of that feud.

As for Herrera, he’s still new to the council, but he seems to be doing his homework. We’re encouraged by that. The city needs him to be a deliberative and independently-thinking councilor. For the moment at least, Herrera seems to be rising to the occasion.