Mona Shield Payne, left, and Stephen Sylvanie, right/Photos special to the Sun
Thursday, May 14, 2009 | 1:59 a.m.
For the two candidates seeking the Ward III seat on the Henderson City Council, the race isn't a question of how much experience their opponent has, but rather what kind.
Kathleen Boutin, a former businesswoman-turned-community activist (she founded the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth) and Cathy Rosenfield, a vacation rental manager who is the volunteer chairwoman of the Henderson Parks and Recreation Board, argue that their background separates them from their opponent and uniquely suits them for the task.
The winner of the June 2 general election will succeed Jack Clark on the council, who faces term limits. Though the seat represents a defined area of the city, its occupant is chosen at-large.
Boutin said her background, coming from the professional and nonprofit sectors, has given her a better perspective on budgeting and spending.
"Though we're both Democrats, I feel my previous business management and ownership experience and my fiscal ideals are what sets me apart," Boutin said. "Of the two of us, I'm probably the more experienced in issues of fiduciary responsibility."
Rosenfield, meanwhile, said her time on the Parks and Recreation Board and involvement in other organizations, such as the city's APPLE youth literacy program and parent-teacher associations, have given her more knowledge of the city's inner workings and left her better prepared to hit the ground running.
"I think I have a lot more master planning experience and budgeting experience from Parks and Recreation," Rosenfield said. "I think my experience serving the city of Henderson all these years gives me much broader understanding of how the city operates."
The winning candidate could immediately be asked to make some difficult decisions. Henderson has trimmed nearly $60 million from its current budget, and in preparation for further cuts that could become necessary in the event that tax revenues continue to decline, the council has asked each city department to submit a three-part plan for how it would cut 5 percent, 10 percent and 15 percent of its budget.
When the reports come in, the City Council will be asked to prioritize the proposed cuts.
Boutin said there are still some expenses that could be cut, but said the city should look at adjusting its payroll before cutting programs.
"Balancing the budget doesn't just mean making cuts and more cuts, because eventually it will begin to impact our quality of life," she said.
Boutin said she has the endorsement of all four major Henderson unions — the Henderson Police Officers Association, Henderson Police Supervisors Association, Henderson Professional Firefighters Association and Teamsters Local 14 — and said all of them are willing to work with the city if it means avoiding layoffs.
"I feel very confident in saying they are willing to come to the table and negotiate," she said.
Rosenfield said she thinks the city has done the right thing by allowing city staff to evaluate their operations and recommend possible cuts.
"I don't think there's a lot of fat left, but it's bringing out a lot of creative thinking," she said.
If elected, Rosenfield said the last thing she would consider would be layoffs.
"Cutting staff would be the worst thing we could do," she said. "Losing our trained, knowledgeable staff would hurt us in the long run, so I think that would be at the bottom of my list."
Both candidates agree that Henderson has the potential to help diversify the Nevada economy and must do so, though they differ in how they would go about it.
Rosenfield said the city has created a strong learning environment by establishing a home for Nevada State College and encouraging independent universities to set up in Henderson, and the time has come to capitalize on that investment by using it to lure companies to Henderson.
"I think California is a good place to look for businesses," she said. "The economic climate is similar there and the tax structure is much more favorable here."
Boutin said the city should continue to invest in its educational institutions. Specifically, she said she wants to try to land federal stimulus dollars to create an engineering program at Nevada State College that would train students to work in renewable energy technologies.
"Hopefully, we can start producing those engineers right out of our own backyard," she said.