Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2008 | 2 a.m.
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The seven-member Clark County Commission is the most important elected local government in the state, largely because the economic engine of the state, the Strip, sits in the heart of its jurisdiction.
Four seats are up for election in November. Two are held by incumbents who are expected to be reelected. In the other two, the incumbents are not seeking reelection, leaving those seats up for grabs.
To help voters get past the barrage of campaign mailers and door-hangers, Sun columnist Jon Ralston moderated two half-hour debates between the leading candidates during a special edition of “Face to Face With Jon Ralston” on Friday. The following is one of two stories that recap those debates.
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The biggest shoes to fill on the County Commission are Bruce Woodbury’s. The longest-serving commissioner has held his seat since 1981, unscathed by numerous political scandals, including some that sent some of his former colleagues to prison.
Because of term limits, Steve Sisolak and Brian Scroggins now have a shot at representing far-flung District A, which not only includes portions of Henderson, Las Vegas and Mesquite but also stretches out to Boulder City and Laughlin. Woodbury is supporting Scroggins, his fellow Republican.
During their debate, Sisolak, a Democrat and two-term member of the Nevada Board of Regents, and Scroggins, a former chairman of the Clark County Republican Party who owns a sign-making company, talked about campaign donations, garbage collection and whether they support a proposed 3 percent room tax increase to boost teachers’ pay.
In July, the commission approved the placement of an advisory question on the November ballot asking voters whether they favor the room tax increase. It has been estimated the hike could increase tax collections by $150 million a year.
Scroggins said he’s “against raising taxes” but would likely honor the will of voters. He would not reveal how he will cast his ballot on the issue, saying, “What I do behind the closed drape is my business.”
Sisolak said he supports the advisory question and will vote for it.
“Tourism is the lifeblood of our economy, and those are out-of-state people” typically paying the room tax, added Sisolak, a business consultant who sold his marketing businesses in 2005.
The two were also asked how they would vote on Republic Services’ request that the county approve rate increases for garbage collection to help the company pay for cleaning up a landfill. In a 1999 deal with the county, however, Republic agreed to handle the closure of the landfill in exchange for a 15-year extension of its lucrative monopoly in the Las Vegas Valley.
Scroggins said he had not read the contract between the county and the garbage hauler, but he believed in looking at it to determine “what did Republic agree to do ... they should be held to the agreement that was stated.”
Sisolak said he had read the contract. He advocated working more on getting an agreement and that “there should be some common ground” between Republic Services and Clark County.
Scroggins was asked about an issue that arose in 2006 when he ran for secretary of state. Scroggins had received campaign contributions from building contractors while he sat on the Nevada Contractor’s Board, which regulates building contractors. Scroggins later asked the state Ethics Commission for an opinion on the matter. Even though the Ethics Commission gave him permission to raise money from those he regulated, Scroggins resigned from the board.
Asked whether he had made a mistake, Scroggins replied, “No.”
Noting that Sisolak has put $500,000 of his own money into his run for the seat, the debate moderator, Jon Ralston, asked him why he is spending so much money to try to win a position that pays relatively little. Commissioner salaries range from about $68,000 to more than $80,000, based on longevity.
“I don’t get paid at all on the Board of Regents,” Sisolak replied. “I think I have something valuable to contribute ... I have a lot to give back to the community.”
As for putting his own money into the campaign, Sisolak used that to take a shot at Scroggins: “I don’t have a special interest or sitting commissioner raising money for me.” Ralston asked Scroggins about the support he is getting from contractors and builders and whether that means he’d be part of the “grow, grow, grow” mentality and would do “whatever developers want.”
Scroggins said he lives in a rural preservation area and is “about protecting neighborhoods ... I’m about working to get good development.”