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Berkley, Seaman tackle public safety, housing in Las Vegas mayoral debate

Updated May 9, 2024 - 10:17 pm

Homelessness, affordable housing, public safety, law and order, promoting businesses and making sure to finally convince most of the Las Vegas City Council to settle the long-standing Badlands lawsuit.

Those were major issues identified by mayoral primary candidates former U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley and Ward 2 Councilwoman Victoria Seaman, chosen to spar in a live radio broadcast debate Thursday after they finished as the front-runners in a recent voter preference poll.

About 75 people attended in the showroom of the Plaza hotel-casino downtown, featured supporters of both candidates who cheered for their candidate — and often jeered the other — as the evening wore on, including members of labor unions who shouted loudly for Berkley.

KXNT-AM 840 radio talk show host Sam Mirejovsky, who moderated the debate with broadcaster colleague Alan Stock, asked the pair what they would prioritize in their first 100 days as mayor.

“No. 1 public safety,” Berkley said, “even though — and this is so ironic — even though major crime is down in the city of Las Vegas, people have that sense of insecurity, and they’re worried they wanna make sure that their children can go to the park down the street and come back safe and sound.”

“Homelessness,” Berkley added. “It is an issue that we simply must deal with because it is not gonna go away by itself. And in addition to that, and in conjunction with that, it’s affordable housing. People want to be able to afford a home or an apartment or a condo that they could raise their family in. And we have a tremendous housing shortage in this community.”

“And then you concentrate on economic growth and development, where do we want this city to be a decade from now?” Berkley added. “What is our vision for the future? And you roll up your sleeves, I’m ready.”

Seaman touted her council work tackling homelessness and affordable housing issues and making it easier to do business with the city.

“The good thing is,” Seaman said, “is that I’ve been in the council for five years, so I don’t have to learn on the job.

“I’m actually gonna go in on the first day and streamline how we’re doing business in Las Vegas,” she said. “The biggest complaint that I get almost every day is how difficult it is for builders, architects. But it shouldn’t be like that. We need to streamline it, because that is the bread and butter and the job creators of our economy.”

Seaman called herself the “law and order” candidate.

“I will continue working with law enforcement. And I’m proud to say that I am the only candidate for mayor that law enforcement in Nevada has endorsed.”

Seaman also boasted about her efforts on the city’s ban on homeless encampments.

Berkley, a Democrat in the nonpartisan race, went out of her way a few times to praise termed-out Mayor Carolyn Goodman and her predecessor, Mayor Oscar Goodman, while Seaman, a Republican, mentioned her work on homelessness with Gov. Joe Lombardo.

Both candidates observed that Las Vegas is running out of land to develop for affordable housing and that the city must make deals with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to open up more of its land so the city can expand.

They also discussed a wide range of topics, from the traffic problems caused by constant road improvement projects to pot salons, illegal animal breeders and the state’s response to the COVID pandemic.

Perhaps the most contentious moments came when the two discussed the city’s attitude toward the controversial Badlands lawsuit.

Berkley put Seaman on the defensive about the City Council’s inability to obtain a majority of votes to settle the contentious Badlands legal dispute over a company’s wish to develop a 250-acre golf course in the Queensridge area of northwest Las Vegas. Settling the dispute could cost the city upward of $200 million after a previous proposal to settle it for $64 million fell through.

Berkley insisted that had Seaman been more forceful with council members, they might have settled the Badlands lawsuits. Seaman said she favored the settlement but had to contend with five rigid council members who were convinced the city would win in the courts.

The candidates were selected by KXNT to debate because they were the first and second finishers in a survey of Las Vegas voters taken April 1-2, with Berkley garnering 16 percent and Seaman 12 percent and 56 percent undecided, according to a poll by Emerson College Polling/KLAS-TV/The Hill.

They are among the 14 candidates who filed for office by the March 15 deadline to appear on the ballot for the mayoral primary on June 11, with early voting to run from May 25 to June 7.

Mayor Carolyn Goodman is leaving this year having reached the legal limit of three terms. Her husband, former Mayor Oscar Goodman, served in that role from 1999 to 2011.

Contact Jeff Burbank at jburbank@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0382. Follow him @JeffBurbank2 on X.

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