The race for an open seat on the Las Vegas City Council could introduce a dissident voice to a council that, to date, has been unanimous in supporting an oft-criticized proposal for a new City Hall as part of an elaborate downtown redevelopment blueprint.
It's not that the six candidates vying for the Ward 4 seat oppose redevelopment efforts, or even a new City Hall. But most say they're hearing concern, suspicion and outright hostility to the idea of an expensive new municipal building at a time when unemployment is up, and property values and tax revenues are down.
The candidates -- a teacher, a police officer, a county worker, a planning commissioner, a flight attendant and a volunteer health advocate -- also have different ideas to help the city address a budget crisis that threatens to leave the city in the red over the next several years.
Early voting in the race started Saturday and will continue until April 3. The primary election is April 7.
If no one secures a majority of votes on that day, the top two vote-getters will face off on June 2.
Two candidates -- Glenn Trowbridge, vice chairman of the Planning Commission, and Stavros Anthony, a Metropolitan Police Department captain and university system regent -- have higher public profiles than the others and started campaigning earlier.
Trowbridge locked up endorsements from three of the four unions that represent city employees, the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, the city firefighters' union and the Las Vegas City Employees Association, which is the largest of the four.
Anthony found backing from groups like the Downtown Business Operators Council, the Clark County Prosecutors Association and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Managers & Supervisors Association, which is made up of police and corrections sergeants, lieutenants and captains.
"My message has always been that I want to be on the City Council to protect our neighborhoods," Anthony said, adding that "it's really hard to say" how the race is shaping up. "All I can tell you is that I'm working very hard, out there walking door to door."
The two men also are more open to public dings. In 2007, for example, Anthony admitted using his position as an officer to receive a free upgrade on an Air Canada flight, something that's against department policy. He was not punished for the incident, and he has said that the tip leading to the incident being disclosed was politically motivated.
Trowbridge has a voting record on the Planning Commission that can be scrutinized, such as his votes to move forward with the City Hall plans. He says downtown redevelopment is important and the City Hall plan was a good one when it was conceived, but that funding it during a time of economic upheaval is not a good idea.
"On the Planning Commission, we vote on land use decisions," Trowbridge said. "Is that parcel of land appropriately used for that project? That's a different level of question, a different type of vote."
The City Council race is a different kind of vote as well, given the typical low turnout.
"There are almost 95,000 residents in Ward 4. Almost 50,000 registered voters, 40,000 homes," Trowbridge said. "Yet, the person who wins this race will probably get 4,000 votes."
Gary Hosea, a Clark County employee, hopes to attract those votes with criticisms of the two well-known candidates and what he calls a "good ol' boys" system of government.
"I think what it basically involves is honesty and leadership across the board."
Hosea said he's willing to take potentially unpopular positions, such as cutting city jobs or consolidating some Las Vegas and Clark County departments into single entities.
For instance, he asked, with police services joined under the Metropolitan Police Department, why does Las Vegas still have a contingent of city marshals?
Hosea is also critical of high overtime costs for the city's firefighters, something city officials have said is cheaper than hiring more firefighters.
Sam Christos, a teacher who also works as a real estate agent and a casino dealer, also talked about city employee pay as a source for savings.
Cuts in the 2 percent to 3 percent range could be reasonable, especially for those at the upper end of the salary spectrum, he said.
"Definitely emphasize 'within reason,'" he said, a category that would not include the 6 percent teacher salary cuts discussed at the state level, he added. "I think ideas like that are counterproductive," Christos said. "It will hurt Nevada because people will leave."
Yvonne Karim, an international flight attendant, said she's hearing about "basic things" as she campaigns, such as education, foreclosures and job security.
"I'm knocking at the doors of people who were pharmacists. They don't have jobs," she said. "There are other people, who had jobs that you didn't think would be an issue."
Many of the concerns fall outside the jurisdiction of a City Council member, but that doesn't mean the council member doesn't have a role, Karim said. "That's not something I directly would vote on. But if you came to me ... I am going to support you. If I can't effectuate a change, I can be an activist for you."
Teresa Price, a health advocate whose father, Bob Price, was a longtime assemblyman, also wants to be active, and says she's particularly interested in quality-of-life issues such as indoor smoking bans and access to safe bike lanes.
She's also talking about accountability in public spending, especially as money from the federal stimulus bill makes its way to local governments.
"I'm not saying (accountability) isn't there. But if I was elected, I would make sure the money is spent conservatively and where it should be."
Contact reporter Alan Choate at achoate @reviewjournal.com or 702-229-6435.