City Elections: The Review-Journal’s endorsements

Rejoice, discouraged voters. If you think voting is a waste of time, and your ballot can’t possibly make a difference in any race, you can prove precisely the opposite Tuesday.

Tuesday is municipal primary election day. Based on early voting totals from March, the valley’s cities could set a new standard for low turnout. As of Thursday, 8,366 Henderson voters had cast ballots, for a 6.2 percent turnout; 4,324 North Las Vegas voters — 5.1 percent — had been to the polls, and 6,283 Las Vegas voters — 4.3 percent — had pushed the button.

Two years ago, North Las Vegas had a tie in one City Council race; another council campaign was decided by a single vote. In 2009, Las Vegas had a council race settled by 10 votes. Low turnout, as disgraceful as it is, makes every vote count even more.

Low turnout also amplifies the importance of informed votes. For those who wish to learn about candidates and select capable stewards of our municipalities, the Review-Journal offers the following endorsements:

As mayor of Henderson, Andy Hafen has put a premium on small-town politics in the state’s second largest city — and not in a good way. Mr. Hafen makes sure his friends and allies get high-paying jobs, as evidenced by the way he juiced Josh Reid, son of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, into the position of city attorney when Josh Reid didn’t meet Henderson’s initial qualification standards. And under Mr. Hafen’s watch, the city was snookered by smooth-talking developer Christopher Milam into an impossible stadium deal (since ended) that had Henderson insiders lined up to profit.

Mr. Hafen’s first term as mayor has been a long string of embarrassments. Of his six challengers, only Rick Workman, the Henderson Police Department’s accreditation coordinator and a retired 20-year U.S. Air Force officer, has the skill and desire to improve the culture of City Hall.

Farther north, it’s not the fault of any current office-holder that North Las Vegas was the hardest-hit local municipality when the housing bubble collapsed. But current North Las Vegas officials, including Mayor Shari Buck, also chose the worst possible time to build a half-empty City Hall and an ill-advised new sewage treatment plant.

North Las Vegas needs new leadership, and John Lee, who owns a plumbing supply company and served 14 years in the state Legislature, has the necessary energy, enthusiasm and expertise.

In Las Vegas City Council Ward 6, incumbent Steve Ross went to the state Ethics Commission after his business failed and asked if he could take a union job that presented potential conflicts with his elected duties.

He was warned conflicts would abound but 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 also wants to raise property taxes in the midst of hard economic times.

Such antics have drawn Mr. Ross an articulate and well-funded challenger, commercial real estate broker Suzette LaGrange. Ms. LaGrange, a pro-business Republican, opposes tax hikes and proposes other ways to save millions of dollars, including on local ambulance service.

Instead of defending his own costly positions on real issues, an apparently desperate Mr. Ross has dug up a long-dead legislative proposal that would have allowed highway toll lanes. Mr. Ross says Ms. LaGrange backed the 2009 proposal — sort of.

Actually, the incumbent charges Ms. LaGrange sat on the board of a real estate trade group that supported the concept. That’s pretty thin porridge, especially when Ms. LaGrange vehemently denies supporting the toll proposal.

In Ward 6, Suzette LaGrange is the better choice.

In other races, the Review-Journal endorses Bob Beers for Las Vegas City Council Ward 2; Stavros Anthony for Las Vegas City Council Ward 4; John Marz for Henderson City Council Ward 3; Sandy Allred DiGiacomo for Henderson Municipal Court, Department 1; Isaac Barron for North Las Vegas City Council Ward 1; and Tony Gales for North Las Vegas City Council Ward 3.

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