Carson City Supervisor John McKenna told Republicans at a candidates’ forum he still wants a vote of the people on the question of boosting the city sales tax an eighth of a penny.
McKenna, however, didn’t shy away from his vote earlier this year on the Board of Supervisors to approve the tax. He said the city cannot stand still.
“We’ve got to move forward,” he said. “I still want to put it on the ballot.”
The issue needs to be revisited next month because certification of public notice on the public hearing preceding the board’s vote can’t be found.
McKenna said he didn’t vote for it to help resurrect downtown retailing because retailing is no longer something you should try to build your community on. He said another of the capital projects involved in those targeted for support by the tax hike is a multi-purpose athletic center that has been sought in the community for years.
“We haven’t got it built yet,” he said. “So that’s part of it.” He also said community streets will be torn up over time, so streetscape projects involved under the tax hike plan make sense as part of the capital program.
McKenna said he didn’t think the Board of Supervisors would buy Empire Ranch Golf Course, and also touted his work to fight Southern Nevada inroads to take money and power from the north. Specifically, he cited his work to bolster Western Nevada College in Carson City, which he called “one of the best economic drivers we have in this area.”
Lori Bagwell, McKenna’s challenger for his Ward 3 seat, didn’t criticize her opponent directly for his vote on the sales tax hike, but touted herself as a budget hawk who will use a matrix to establish spending priorities that emphasize public safety and roads. She said she owns a Carson Mall business and worked on state budgets during a career in Nevada state government, so she would require narrative justification for staff budget requests.
“I have to be able to look you in the eye and tell you it was a good expenditure,” she said.
An example she gave was that if a staff position is funded by a grant and the grant money ends, she wouldn’t favor automatically allowing the position to continue. She did, however, agree with McKenna on one matter.
“John was right about one thing: there are more needs than there is money,” she said.
Lisa Helget, who is seeking the Ward 1 supervisor seat held by Karen Abowd, also appeared at the forum Thursday night that followed the local GOP central committee meeting. Unlike Bagwell, she openly criticized her opponent’s support for the city sales tax increase directly. She said she wouldn’t favor what she called special interests.
“We need a new direction for Carson City,” Helget said. About the sales tax hike, she added: “We should have been allowed to vote on that.” She also opposed narrowing Carson Street downtown from two lanes north and two south, attacking plans for one lane each way. She said it would be “a disaster to narrow it.”
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