North Las Vegas

Politically and economically, the city of North Las Vegas is a mess.

It’s not the fault of any current office holder that when the housing bubble collapsed, North Las Vegas — a bedroom community heavily dependent on residential property taxes — was hit harder than the rest of the valley. The total assessed taxable value of land within city limits plunged by more than 56 percent. Tax revenue dropped by 28.5 percent, from a peak of $53.7 million in 2006 to an estimated $38.4 million in 2012.

Consolidation, concessions and cutbacks — never designed to make office holders popular, especially with police and firefighter unions — would have been necessary, no matter who was in office.

But current North Las Vegas officials also chose the worst possible time to build a half-empty City Hall and a new sewage treatment plant — the latter without signed agreements either for wastewater discharge or to treat waste from Nellis Air Force Base, a customer without which the project makes little economic sense. And the city’s relationship with its bargaining units is beyond toxic.

Mayor Shari Buck and City Councilwoman Anita Wood — both standing for re-election this spring — mean well and have done their best. But North Las Vegas needs new direction, new energy and new leadership. It needs champions and cheerleaders.

Fortunately, three candidates who can provide that have stepped forward.

John Lee, 58, owns a plumbing supply company and served 14 years in the state Legislature before losing a low-turnout Democratic Senate primary to ultra-leftist Patricia Spearman last year. He has energy and enthusiasm to spare.

“You need vision on top,” Mr. Lee says. “Las Vegas is out of land, but North Las Vegas is asset rich. Fifty-seven percent of our land hasn’t been built on.” North Las Vegas needs to develop its open land, and in the meantime can trade access to its parks and ball fields for help with economic development, he urges.

Builders and developers can be attracted to that vacant land if the bureaucracy they face is streamlined and standardized, Mr. Lee says. For starters, permits should be available for a flat fee, he says, rather than a percentage of the estimated value of the job — a unique North Las Vegas requirement that leaves prospective builders pulling out their calculators and scratching their heads.

The police and firefighter unions?

“They’ll sit down and talk to me,” Mr. Lee says. “They won’t talk to her (Ms. Buck).”

John Lee, who attended Bridger Junior High and Rancho High School, denies he sees the mayor’s office as a political stepping stone. “Being mayor of North Las Vegas is not going to get you to Congress or (the governor’s mansion),” he says. What he does offer is vision, integrity, fresh ideas and enthusiasm. North Las Vegas needs John Lee for mayor.

In the sole competitive race for North Las Vegas City Council, Ms. Wood has drawn one viable challenger in Ward 3, substitute teacher and small businessman Tony Gales.

We don’t agree with Mr. Gales on every issue, including his opposition to allowing concealed-weapon permit holders to bear arms on college campuses, and his belief that money can be saved by having city firefighters handle all medical transports. But Mr. Gales, who has a master’s degree in business administration from UNLV, says he wants to streamline the process for opening businesses in the city. “They can’t understand the forms, the paperwork,” he says. “I want to volunteer my time to help them get their business license.”

Mr. Gales was planning a run for Assembly District 17 last year, but was elbowed aside by Democratic Party leaders to make room for Steven Brooks, whose mental-health meltdown has left thousands of North Las Vegas residents without a voice in Carson City. North Las Vegans finally have a chance to vote for him. The energetic Tony Gales is the best choice in Ward 3.

Finally, four candidates are running for the Ward 1 seat being vacated by North Las Vegas Councilman Robert Eliason, but only one — Issac Barron, a Rancho High graduate who now teaches there — is running an active, well-funded campaign. He has built an impressive base of support.

“I’m not a businessman, I’m not a developer, but I have a pretty good idea of what their needs are,” says Mr. Barron, who advocates streamlining regulations and vows to help heal rifts within the council and the rest of city government. “I want to be the one who asks the tough questions.” The Review-Journal endorses Isaac Barron in Ward 1.

Early voting in North Las Vegas started Wednesday. Primary election day is April 2.

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