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August 19, 2017

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Mayoral candidates similar, even compliment each other

Henderson mayor hopefuls want to see city through recession; then they’ll plan

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Henderson City Councilman and mayoral candidate Steve Kirk speaks to resident Bob Tank in an Anthem neighborhood. Kirk, a Republican, says he will never vote to increase taxes and that he opposed taxes that built the Las Vegas Beltway.

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Henderson City Councilman and mayoral candidate Andy Hafen speaks to volunteers May 9 before heading out to canvass. Hafen, a Democrat, says although voting to raise taxes is something he can't imagine doing, he would never rule it out.

Henderson Mayor Debate

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Henderson mayoral campaign

Henderson City Councilman Steve Kirk uses a Segway as he canvasses an Anthem neighborhood on Thursday in his bid for mayor. Launch slideshow »

In deciding which of the two Henderson mayoral candidates has the best vision for the city’s future, there’s one place Henderson voters need not look: at the candidates themselves.

As the June 2 election nears, neither Andy Hafen nor Steve Kirk is discussing the city’s long-term future.

For now, they’re in the City Hall bunker, saying they just want to ride out the recession.

Planning for the future? That can wait, they say, until the storm passes.

If the city budget needs to be further cut, Hafen and Kirk say it will be time to lay off workers. Kirk would also consider further cutbacks in parks and recreation. Hafen doesn’t speculate beyond layoffs, saying he’d want to get ideas from residents and department heads.

The only thing that’s safe, they both say, are police and fire services.

And so it goes: two mayoral candidates so similar that they struggle to spark debate at campaign forums.

Hafen has been on City Council for 22 years, Kirk for 10.

Hafen, 54, is the churchgoing father of six children. Kirk, 50, the churchgoing father of five.

Hafen grew up in Henderson. So did Kirk.

Both voted to fire City Manager Mary Kay Peck. Both are opposed to a proposed rock mining and crushing operation at Sloan Canyon. Each favors a technology museum off U.S. 95, if the economy turns around.

Hafen says the city would be in fine hands if Kirk is elected mayor. Kirk returns the compliment.

Neither one oozes charisma.

Oh, for some mud to throw, a wedge to drive the men apart.

About the only things that separate the two are their political affiliations (Hafen is a Democrat, Kirk a Republican) and their professional backgrounds.

Kirk brags that he’s a businessman. Hafen brags that he used to license businesses.

Kirk has had five employers in the past six years, Hafen one employer in 22 years.

Kirk’s resume since 2003 includes supervising 20 workers at Lason Systems Inc., which converted paperwork to CD format; consulting on real estate deals for RMI LLC, a locally owned real estate development and management firm; selling title insurance for Stewart Title of Nevada; overseeing real estate acquisitions for RMI Investment Services, and acquiring investment properties for ShawJones LLC, a real estate development, management and investment company owned by the founder of RMI.

Kirk and Dan Shaw say Kirk is on leave from that last job to allow him to run for mayor. Kirk did not list the company as an employer on his 2008 financial disclosure form — an oversight, Kirk said, because when he completed the income disclosure part of the form, he was not working for the company and forgot to write it down.

Hafen’s resume is easier to follow: He worked as a business license inspector for Metro Police for 22 years, retiring in 2002.

His primary job was to conduct personnel and financial background investigations for businesses applying for liquor and gaming licenses.

In an election void of fork-in-the-road issues, Kirk has tried to create one. Adopting Gov. Jim Gibbons’ philosophy, Kirk says he will never vote to increase taxes.

Kirk said he didn’t support the voter approved tax ballot issues in 1990 and 2002 that paid for the Las Vegas Beltway.

If there were no beltway, Kirk was asked, how would the Las Vegas Valley cope with traffic congestion today?

He shrugged. That’s a theoretical question, he said.

For his part, Hafen says he can’t imagine raising taxes, either — but he would never rule it out because he is not sure what the future will bring.

In fact, taxes are a nonissue in Henderson. The city’s property tax hasn’t been increased in 19 years.

Kirk takes pleasure in noting that Hafen voted for a 35 percent property tax increase in 1990. It raised property taxes on a $200,000 house by about $115 a year.

Of that increase of about 19 cents per $100 assessed valuation, about 8 cents was earmarked by voters for public safety.

The city has dodged the need for tax increases since then, relying on revenue streams fed by growth.

Hafen’s campaign points out that Kirk hasn’t always been so anti-tax.

In 2001, Kirk donated $4,500 from his campaign fund to a political action committee working on behalf of passing a voter initiative for a public safety tax.

Kirk said the donation was only to put the measure before voters — not in favor of a tax increase.

The donations were made to Citizens for a Safer Henderson, a group that backed the tax and was run by Jim Ferrence, now Kirk’s campaign manager.

The measure, which would have cost the owner of a $300,000 home about $250 per year, was defeated.

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