Last Thursday, five of the six candidates for the Mesquite City Council answered a series of soft-ball questions tossed at them by Stephen Waite, acting for the sponsor the Virgin Valley Community Alliance at Mesquites Rising Star Sports Ranch.
For the record, Sandra Ramaker wishes to unseat 10-year councilman Geno Withelder. George Gault hopes to replace incumbent Dave Ballweg, Karen Fielding is running against Annie Black for Richard Green’s open seat. Ms. Black had a business appointment and did not participate.
This event, like so many others, offers very little for a voter to consider. To some degree the questions and answers are prescriptive. Affordable house. We all agree. Better education, of course. Who would not support funding for child care or hospital improvements?
It is not about what they say. It is about what the candidates have or are likely to do that counts.
Ms. Ramaker served 6 years on the Virgin Valley Water Board and remains actively involved in that activity, along with the chamber, city council activities, and she is the only candidate with a medical background and who volunteers her time at the hospital. On the water board she constantly fought for improvements in infrastructure planning and funding and along with then board member Karl Gustaveson, vehemently objected to the arbitrary and capricious firing of Ken Rock, the popular and effective water district manager, by the three-member majority.
Incumbent Withelder sells Mesquite both literally and figuratively. Withelder ran for the city council 10 years ago and has been their ever since. He once said the council’s job was, among other things, “Real-Estate.”
On September 31, 2012, Withelder, voted with fellow councilmen Al Litman (now Mayor), former councilman Kraig Hafen and current councilman George Rapson to fund the Mesquite Regional Business Inc., (MRBI) as a tax exempt organization. As of March, that brainstorm has cost local taxpayers $732,615.83 with an implied consent to continue to give away $15,833.33 per month into the foreseeable future. For the record, such tax-exempt activities are supposed to be a member, not the taxpayer, supported.
Once formed the MRBI collaborated to bring a Pilot Flying J Truck-stop to the community. On October 27, 2015, Withelder announced that he, as a Broker for Premier Reality, would be involved in the sale of city-owned land for the truck stops development on below market value land sold to the truck stop operators by the city. He recused himself from voting on that issue. Rapson, also a real-estate salesman for Premier Reality voted for the sale and Withelder’s involvement in the deal. Without Rapson’s vote the deal would have failed since councilman Hafen had also recused himself.
Ballweg, before he took a seat on the council, was the brain behind the use of tax-payer dollars to privatize the city’s economic develop. He came to Mesquite ten-years ago and put $8 million into homes and the land for his Loadtec test equipment company located in Mesquites small commercial center. While he employs 35 people, he exports his product internationally.
Nevada is flush with both sunshine and geothermal energy. In 2016, Nevada ranked second in the nation in utility-scale net electricity generation from geothermal energy and fourth in utility-scale net generation from solar energy.
The International Energy Agency reports that renewable power could surpass natural gas as the second most prevalent source of electricity generation globally in the next three years.
Instead of advancing alternative energy, Ballweg and Withelder want to industrialize the community with natural gas delivered by Southwest Gas Corporation [i]from out-of-state gas fields.
If Question 6 passes on November 6th, it will increase the state’s renewable portfolio standards (RPS) from 25 percent by 2025 to 50 percent by 2030.[ii] If question 3 passes, it will declare that Nevada’s “electricity markets be open and competitive so that all electricity customers are afforded meaningful choices among different providers, in an environment of minimal power regulations.
Gault did collaborate with Ballweg to privatize the cities economic development actives and remains a strong supporter of the MRBI. There are differences between the candidates. Ballweg seems to feel that the private market is the solution to every government service.[iii] Gault has spent many years in economic development activities and recognizes the need for tax credits and assistance grants to help low-income housing. He advocates the use of redevelopment funds to improve parks, ball-fields and other amenities that support population growth. He actively works on the work-fair individuals to match unfilled jobs with qualified candidates. He also recognizes that bringing in low-paying business activities like Pilot Flying J without a labor pool is problematic.
Real-estate agent Karen Fielding is, if nothing else, energetic in here desire to provide a new and “strong” voice for residents and businesses. However, her actual accomplishments are sketchy. She primarily represents low income sellers (her average sale price $169K) in her real-estate business. She did serve as the part time interim director of the local Chamber of Commerce. Nonetheless, her 23-years in the community does put her ahead of Annie Black in an understanding of the communities needs.
Black, is a newly relocated real-estate agent. She lists her hometown on Facebook as Mesquite. However, she was born and raised in Las Vegas. In 2010, she ran in the Republican primary for Nevada State Assembly District 2, located in Las Vegas. She lost (60%-30%) to incumbent John Hambrick. He has held the seat since 2008.
To some degree, the local election comes down to how many real-estate agents do the voters want on the City Council. Either Ms. Fielding or Ms. Black will take one seat. If Withelder retains his seat that is two. They will join Rapson, also a real estate agent. That would make it 3 of the 5 members arguably pushing real-estate deals along with Ballweg pushing to industrialize the community with natural gas. Brian Wursten, the golf course manager for Mesquite gaming, holds the fifth seat.
Ms. Ramaker and Gault, both retired, are the only two candidates without economic incentives to be on the council. Each of these two individuals are active in the community and involved in numerous community ventures. Ms. Ramaker gets additional credits for her political experience on the water board and here historical involvement in hospital activities.
Ms. Fielding has been in the community for 23-years compared to Ms. Black a recent addition to the area. More importantly, Ms. Blacks’ political history suggests an interest in higher office. Maybe a run for Mesquite’s Assembly District 19 which is held unopposed by Chris Edwards.
My three picks: Ramaker, Gault, and Fielding.
[i] In 2016 the Nevada utility regulators approved a $300,000 civil penalty against the Southwest Gas Corp. for two natural gas breaks in Southern Nevada in 2016. PUC staff said one reason for the high fine is that the utility previously had similar incidents when lower penalties were assessed. The high fine is expected to be an incentive for the utility to correct problems that led to the incidents.
[ii] The initiative would define renewable energy to include sources such as solar, geothermal, wind, biomass, and hydroelectric
[iii] The most recent move is to privatize ambulance services. That move would allow the city to spend on something else, while passing the costs for ambulance services to the public. Thus residents would pay the same for city services while paying addition for ambulance services when needed.