Las Vegas Sun

May 27, 2015

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Local Elections:

Three challengers seek to unseat NLV Mayor Shari Buck

As the foreclosure crisis and recession battered North Las Vegas, Mayor Shari Buck stood at the helm as the City Council was forced to make tough cuts to staff and services, all with a potential state takeover of the city government looming.

Buck defends controversial decisions to continue expensive projects to build a new city hall and a water reclamation plant as moves that have positioned the city well for future growth.

“We’ve gone in and cut government waste, made programs more lean, took out programs government maybe shouldn’t have been doing in the first place,” she said. “My focus on recovery has led to tangible progress that came through making some tough decisions.”

But Buck’s actions as mayor have alienated and angered some residents, prompting three candidates to challenge her for her seat in Tuesday’s primary election.

Her fiercest competition comes from former state Sen. John Lee, who said Buck ignored good advice when moving forward with the city hall and sewer plant projects, preventing a quicker recovery.

“They drove the city into a financial vortex,” Lee said. “Our image problem is as bad as it can get. Even the people who live in our town question if they want to live here anymore.”

The battle between Buck, 52, and Lee, 57, has grown fierce, with several negative mailers criticizing Buck being distributed by outside groups.

Lee said he isn’t responsible for those attacks and accused Buck of spreading erroneous information about him.

Both candidates have spent more than $100,000 on their campaigns, although campaign finance reports show Lee has raised nearly twice as much money as Buck.

Two first-time candidates, Sharon Belger, 41, and Mike Hunter, 51, are also running for mayor.

Belger, a self-employed marketing consultant, said she’s concerned about the city’s “nonstop spending” and that she’d use her experience as a small business owner to help balance the city’s books.

“I’m not a career politician. I’m not an expert on everything, but I understand when it comes to the line on spending. If you don’t have any more money, you’ve got to stop,” she said. “I know how to balance a book. I know how to say no to certain things.”

Hunter, a Clark County School District high school teacher, said he’s angry with the direction the city he’s lived in for 10 years is heading.

“If Shari Buck was doing a good job I wouldn’t run,” Hunter said. “I don’t think she’s the one to get us out of this. ... I don’t think she has the solutions.”

Buck points to increased business activity, including the recent opening of companies such as the ViaWest data storage center as a sign things are getting better in North Las Vegas.

“We’ve seen some good recovery, some momentum going forward,” she said. “Foreclosures have slowed down, there’s a lot more stability in neighborhoods, the crime rate has gone down. These are all signs of not only stability but growth.”

She says she wants to promote more industrial and manufacturing uses on unused land in the city. She also wants to fight to adjust the consolidated tax distribution formula, which she says has shorted North Las Vegas to the tune of millions of dollars over the years.

Lee said he studied the consolidated tax issue while serving as a legislator and thinks the city is getting its fair share. He said the city needs to increase revenue by being an easy and attractive place for businesses to open.

“When people look at a community, they figure out the temperament of the mayor, the vision of the mayor, and decide, ‘Is it a business-friendly community?’ Right now the answer is no,” he said. “We’re going to make changes in local government that make people proud of our community again. We’re going to repair the damage that has been done.”

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