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Lawmakers must not care about saving millions on municipal elections

A last-ditch effort to change the date of municipal elections (and save $1 million of taxpayers’ money every other year) went phooey in the Assembly Elections Committee on Tuesday.

Two of the four opponents of the proposal explained they didn’t like the idea that some municipal officials — citing Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman and Councilman Gary Reese as the prime examples — would serve longer terms to get everyone on the same schedule.

Wasting millions is preferable?

Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, introduced a bill to move municipal elections to even-numbered years and piggyback them onto state and federal elections. In April, his nose count showed that he had bipartisan support — and bipartisan opposition — so he pulled his bill before it went down in defeat. I wish he’d put it up for a vote so people would know which legislators opposed this practical, common sense idea.

Maybe because the legislators are up in Carson City dealing with the budget, they don’t realize that the sample ballots for the June 2 municipal elections have just been mailed out, and people are being reminded of how wasteful it is to hold municipal elections in the spring of odd-numbered years.

My 12-page sample ballot in English and Spanish (a federal requirement) has just one race to be decided. Count on early voting sites across the valley being lonely places. On Election Day, the polling sites will be void of voters. A line of three at one site will be a crowd.

Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax said the municipal elections cost about $1 million. (The cities reimburse the county for the costs, so the cities are the ultimate losers.)

By my count, dividing the costs for the primary and the general, on a per vote basis, the cost for each of the 48,855 people who actually voted in the primary averaged $10 a head. Let’s call it a poll tax and be done with it.

So yes, I am a proponent of Segerblom’s bill to move the dates of the municipal elections to even-numbered years, because the cost would be minimal. And if that meant Goodman and Reese and some others would serve longer terms, so be it.

Segerblom made another push and on Tuesday tried to amend Assembly Bill 256, into Senate Bill 263. But that also failed in the Assembly Elections Committee.

So, when the following legislators come to your door next year, ask them why they didn’t see the need to save $1 million every other year, especially when there are far better ways to spend that money than in low-turnout municipal elections.

Voting against it were all from Clark County: Democratic Assemblymen William Horne, Harvey Munford and Marcus Conklin and Republican Assemblyman John Hambrick.

To get out of committee, it needed seven votes, and it only got six. The supporters were Segerblom, committee chairwoman Ellen Koivisto, James Ohrenschall, Ruben Kihuen and Harry Mortenson, all Democrats from Clark County, and Ty Cobb, a Washoe County Republican.

Being of a suspicious nature, I wondered if some of the political consultants who helped elect the four opponents might have whispered in their ears that this is a bad idea because they need the income in odd-numbered years.

So I looked through their campaign and expense reports to see who their consultants were in the 2008 election, searching for a pattern. But there really wasn’t one powerful consultant pulling strings.

Horne’s consultant is Gray & Associates.

Conklin listed Christine Dugan and Paladin Advertising.

Hambrick listed Christine Dugan and Nathan Emens.

Munford failed to identify by name anyone he paid in his 2008 contribution and expense forms. However, on Friday he said his consultant was Nathan Jackson and no consultants lobbied him against the bill.

Hambrick and Munford said they didn’t like the idea of longer terms. But what are the options? You can’t shorten someone’s term. Do you create a special 18-month term and have people run for that?

“Constituents didn’t want them to serve longer terms,” Munford said. “Others elected are term limited and don’t have this opportunity and privilege.”

Conklin and Horne couldn’t be reached to find out their reasoning against the bill.

When did $1 million every other year become so inconsequential that elected officials can blow off saving the cities money?

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0275. She also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/morrison/.

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