Voters in Las Vegas Ward 6 can’t be blamed for choosing small businessman Steve Ross as their councilman back in 2005. Mr. Ross was running against a secretary for the police union who would have been out of her depth at City Hall.
But Mr. Ross’ performance over the past eight years has been headache-inducing. During his 2009 re-election bid, Councilman Ross promised he’d refuse a salary increase scheduled to go into effect. He took the raise. After his business failed, Mr. Ross asked the state Ethics Commission if he could take a union job that presented potential conflicts with his elected duties. Commissioners told him no law prevented him from taking the job, but warned him conflicts would abound.
Mr. Ross took the job anyway, then cast a vote to use union labor to build a new City Hall — a vote the commission later found violated state ethics laws. Mr. Ross managed to avoid a fine because the violation was not considered “willful,” since the city attorney advised him it wasn’t technically illegal for him to vote. Give us a break.
Then there have been the zoning disputes, and the closed businesses. One such closure led to Mr. Ross facing a recall last year.
Car dealer Joe Scala said Mr. Ross refused to give him a zoning waiver to allow his high-end used car dealership to operate in a northwest auto mall. Jobs were lost. Mr. Scala underwrote the recall, in which Mr. Ross retained his seat against an underfunded Byron Goynes ($9,000 to Mr. Ross’ $106,000.)
Then, after last fall’s elections, when Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins bellowed at a local government summit that it was time to “raise the damn property tax,” Mr. Ross agreed. “Collins is right,” he said, adding that he wants home rule so the council can raise taxes without the OK of the Legislature.
Now Mr. Ross faces an articulate and well-funded challenger, commercial real estate broker Suzette LaGrange, a pro-business, low-tax Republican.
Ms. LaGrange is a native Southern Nevadan whose grandparents founded Ahern Rentals — she’s the niece of current chief Don Ahern. She and her husband, a retired cop, also run a small mixed martial arts gym. The mother of two says she’ll quit her current job if elected to avoid potential conflicts.
Raise taxes? “I disagree,” says Ms. LaGrange. “The last thing people say they want is a property tax hike. The proposed tax hike for schools was defeated overwhelmingly.”
Instead, Ms. LaGrange favors such efficiencies as outsourcing maintenance on city parks and buildings to private-sector landscapers. During times of the year when there’s no grass to cut, she says, city parks employees today keep busy pulling our perfectly good shrubs and planting new ones.
Ms. LaGrange wants to lobby the Legislature to fix collective bargaining by giving arbitrators more flexibility to choose a settlement between the high and low offers. And she wants private-sector American Medical Response ambulances to keep transporting city patients to hospitals, instead of beefing up the city Fire Department to take over the job — a step she says would cost millions of additional dollars.
Ward 6 voters deserve fresh and thoughtful leadership. Suzette LaGrange is the better choice.
Two other Las Vegas City Council incumbents are seeking re-election this spring. In Ward 2, Councilman (and former state Assemblyman and Senator) Bob Beers is challenged by real estate investor Fayyaz Raja, who received slightly more than 1 percent of the vote in 2012.
Mr. Beers — an accountant by trade who has provided a refreshing voice of fiscal sanity — agrees the city doesn’t have the vehicles or the staff to take over all medical transports. Bob Beers is the clear choice over Mr. Raja, who has lots of enthusiasm but few ideas for improving city government.
In Ward 4, Councilman (and retired Las Vegas police captain) Stavros Anthony seeks a second term, challenged by former Las Vegas Review-Journal investigative reporter Frank Geary.
Mr. Geary is sincere about helping his neighborhood, and is also right to criticize the way city officials “play favorites,” pouring money and support into high-profile projects while doing less for lower-profile endeavors.
But Mr. Anthony, a former regent, was the sole vote against the Mob Museum and new City Hall projects. “I ran on no new taxes and fees, and that’s the way I’ve voted,” he says. “In the last four years we’ve cut about $100 million. We took a strong stand with the unions. They wouldn’t work with us the first time around. But after we laid off about 270, they got the message.” Ward 4 voters can safely retain Stavros Anthony.
Early voting starts March 16. Primary election day is April 2.