Jostling at the front of the race for the Las Vegas Ward 2 City Council seat just got feistier, with one leading candidate questioning the appropriateness of another’s right to serve on the city Planning Commission.
Conservative former state legislator Bob Beers touched off the spat with Ric Truesdell over the weekend by saying developers should be banned from serving on the Planning Commission.
Truesdell, through a spokesman, fired back, calling Beers "a partisan hack" with political views "far outside the mainstream."
The kerfuffle is the thorniest to date in the truncated, nine-person scramble to replace former Councilman Steve Wolfson, who is Clark County’s new district attorney. The special election campaign began Feb. 21 when candidate filing opened and is scheduled to conclude March 20 on election day.
It started Saturday with a news release in which Beers said, "It’s not fair to put people in the position of having to vote up or down, or abstain from, decisions that might make them hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of dollars. This seems an easily avoided opportunity for conflicts of interest."
Beers also wrote that a developer debate would "move the collective discussion back toward pertinence," referring to coverage of candidate Kristine Kuzemka’s statement that Mayor Carolyn Goodman’s refusal to sign a nonbinding pledge in support of same-sex marriage could hurt Las Vegas tourism.
Proposing to ban developers from the Planning Commission seemed a direct shot at Truesdell, who was appointed by Goodman and, previously, by her husband, Oscar Goodman, when he was mayor.
Truesdell is president, principal and broker for Cornerstone Company, a real estate and development firm with dozens of office, retail and government clients.
Beers, however, said his assertion could apply to other people on the Planning Commission.
Commissioner Trinity Schlottman is also a developer, and Chairwoman Vicki Quinn is married to Stephen Quinn, a construction company owner and former member of the commission.
In an interview, Beers said he knows of no specific instances in which Truesdell, or anyone else on the commission, voted despite a conflict.
But he said the perception of a commission stacked with members with financial stakes in the outcome of decisions could scare off new business.
"This is as much about the outside perception of conflicts of interest driving city business as it is about actual conflicts of business," Beers said. "Surely we can find people who aren’t in the real estate development business and don’t have interest in zoning variances."
The Planning Commission makes recommendations to the City Council on master plan, zoning and land use issues. It also makes final decisions on subdivision maps.
The council considers commission recommendations on everything from carports to casinos, making it an influential voice in the development of Las Vegas.
While acknowledging Nevada government offices from the Legislature down to local boards and commissions are filled by part-time officeholders who maintain day jobs, Beers said the potential for conflicts on the Planning Commission is greater and more direct than most other appointments.
"This one seems so big and giant and gaping and injurious to the perception of us by outsiders, it seems a case above and beyond the routine cases," Beers said.
The implication that Truesdell and others like him shouldn’t serve on the Planning Commission didn’t sit well with Truesdell campaign spokesman Steve Redlinger, who lashed back at Beers.
Redlinger characterized it as another in a string of controversial statements by Beers dating to at least 2003.
"Bob Beers has made a living out of being a partisan hack and making controversial statements," Redlinger said. "He has decided to go down that path here."
Citing news articles from the past, Redlinger criticized Beers for a 2003 email in which he stated that casino workers’ children are "prone to dropping out of school, reproducing illegitimate children, often while little more than children themselves, abusing drugs and alcohol more frequently, and even killing themselves more often than people who do value education."
News coverage at the time said that Beers subsequently apologized, saying the statement didn’t reflect his personal feelings and was part of an attempt to engage the recipient of the note in a political discussion.
Redlinger said the call to ban developers from the Planning Commission is in the same vein as Beers’ controversial casino worker statement.
"This is just the latest string of comments and accusations far outside the mainstream," Redlinger said.
The council position has an annual salary of $72,742.
Ward 2 covers the southwest part of the city roughly from U.S. Highway 95 in the north to Sahara Avenue in the south and Las Vegas Boulevard in the east to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in the west. The winner will serve until June 2013, which is the end of what was Wolfson’s term.
Early voting will be March 15-16.
Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at email@example.com or 702-229-6435.