Local elections: Who’s running for Washoe Commission District 2
Article published in the Reno Gazette Journal
Written by: Anjeanette Damon, firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include responses from Kel Buchanan.
Washoe County Commissioner Bob Lucey faces two primary challengers in his effort to win a second term.
Lucey’s Republican challengers are Bret Delaire, who owns a financial services firm and recently moved to Reno, and Kel Buchanan, the owner of a local engineering firm.
The winner of the June 12 primary will face Democrat Steve Wolgast in the general election contest to represent District 2, which stretches from southeast Reno through Washoe Valley.
Lucey, who owns a local veterinary practice, says he likes his work as a county commissioner.
“I don’t feel that my work is done yet and I still have plenty of projects I’m working on for the benefit of our region,” he said.
Buchanan said he feels his knowledge and experience is a good fit for the commission, and he wants to help the county hammer out the “very, very complicated” public lands bill winding its way through Congress.
“I bring a lot to the table and Washoe County has been good to me,” he said.
Delaire said he’s running because he’s tired of simply venting his frustrations about how things are run.
“I realized that in order to make a difference, I had to jump in. I had to be one of those people making those decisions,” he said.
He’s running on a three-prong platform: requiring developers to hire a “legal workforce,” placing a moratorium on new recreational cannabis businesses and providing a 401 (k)-type retirement plan for county employees instead of a pension.
Delaire moved to Washoe County two years ago from New Jersey, where he was an analyst with the New York Stock Exchange. He ran into brief controversy in 2009, when a brokerage firm his father worked for became embroiled in Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.
Delaire was terminated from his job at the exchange when his estranged wife told a New York Post reporter that Delaire was tipping off his father about regulators looking into Madoff’s activities.
“This is all fake news,” Delaire said. “If there was any amount of truth to it, I would be behind bars.”
Delaire said his ex-wife was “just upset things didn’t work out between us.”
Delaire’s father, Alvin Delaire, also was cleared in subsequent lawsuits, with the courts deciding his firm was duped along with the rest of Madoff’s victims.
The following is a look at where Delaire and Lucey stand on issues facing the county commission.
Family: Wife and two cats.
Occupation: Engineer who owns a local engineering firm.
Education: Master in Business Administration.
Political experience: First run for office.
Family: Married with one child
Occupation: Owner of Downing Street Financial
Education: Bachelor of Business Administration
Political experience: First run for office
Family: Married with two children.
Occupation: Owner of Advanced Pet Care
Education: Bachelor’s degree.
Political experience: One term as county commissioner.
How would you address the homeless issue?
Buchanan said he believes about a quarter of the homeless population could probably be served by an additional youth homeless center. He also would try to facilitate better cooperation between the county commission and Reno City Council.
“We need to work to solve real problems for the people, rather than promote one public entity over the other,” he said.
Delaire said he would focus on making the region less of a draw for the homeless by reducing services to the population.
“People will criticize me for saying it, but if you cut the benefits, the homeless issue will slowly start to disappear,” he said. “If there are charities that want to help the homeless, I think that’s a better way to do it.”
Lucey said he supports the county’s continued funding for the downtown homeless shelter and partnering with the city of Reno to build a second shelter. But he said the focus should be providing better human services, such as mental health and addiction treatment.
“I really believe 80 percent of the homeless out there haven’t had any opportunity, haven’t had a positive situation presented to them,” he said. “Let’s give them that helping hand that would give these individuals a chance.”
Should the cities continue to have the ability to annex county land without county or regional oversight?
Buchanan said he believes the entire framework needs to be redone by the Nevada Legislature. He’s troubled by the fact cities can annex land that is connected by “just a thumbnail” to its jurisdiction, rather than having a true connection such as a sewer line or adequate road system.
“I have a real problem with the cities and their annexation,” he said. “They’re just an amoeba.”
Delaire said he doesn’t think the current system is working well, largely because of the conflict over funding for the fire district. When a city annexes county land, it reduces the tax revenue received by the county’s fire protection district. He said the two fire chiefs should work it out and bring an agreement to the commission for approval.
Lucey said the county commission should be given some authority over the process, such as a way to appeal an annexation decision or the ability to require a financial impact statement be done before an annexation is finalized. He also said the cities should focus on infill and not “spreading out to where the county has already put in infrastructure.”
Should additional development be allowed in floodplains and closed basins such as Lemmon Valley?
Buchanan said any development in a closed basin must be done “very carefully.”
“There’s got to be some serious mitigation before anything can be allowed up there, otherwise those poor people are going to be like the 9th Ward in New Orleans,” he said, referring to the neighborhood decimated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Delaire said future developers should bear flood mitigation costs if their developments harm other property owners.
“Developers will have to pay the cost of pumping out the water or taking care of the problems that their development is going to create,” he said. “What that will do is it will discourage developers from developing in those flooded areas or they will pay a higher price.”
Lucey doesn’t believe development had an effect on the 2017 flooding of Swan Lake and supports continued development in closed basins in a careful manner.
“As we keep moving forward we need to look at smart, sustainable development,” he said. “We just need to make sure the developments aren’t truly going to impact flooding. I’m never going to say put a moratorium or stop development because there may be an impact to flooding.”
Do you support the proposed ballot question to raise property taxes to fund the Truckee River flood mitigation project?
Buchanan said the flood project has already made great progress using the sales tax increase passed in 1998 and so isn’t sure he would favor additional funding.
Delaire said he would look for more efficient ways to spend existing money to free up funds for flood control.
“I don’t support any tax increases,” he said.
Lucey said he does not personally support the ballot question because it would not address significant flooding problems outside of the Truckee River.
“I think it’s a project that’s very expensive to get done and would have a lot of benefit for some specific individuals,” he said. “But a lot of people would be paying for a project that they aren’t going to see any benefit from.”
Do you support proposed property tax reform that would reset a home’s depreciated value upon sale or change the caps on how much bills can increase each year?
Buchanan said low taxes continues to be a great “selling point for Nevada in general and Washoe County in particular.” He’s concerned that resetting the depreciated value when a property is sold would punish middle-income homeowners who want to sell their house.
Delaire said the disparity in taxes between old and new properties is too great and he would look for a way to “level the playing field.”
Lucey said resetting a property’s taxable value upon sale is a “common-sense kind of notion.”
“I constantly hear with the growth in the region is people want more services,” he said. “There’s not enough sheriff’s deputies, not enough firefighters, not enough services to take care of the homeless. But nobody ever wants to raise taxes to adequately take care of that.”