Las Vegas Sun

December 29, 2014

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LAS VEGAS CITY HALL:

Woman’s mission: Get Ross unseated

Councilman, ‘neighborhood activist’ have clashed for years

Taylor

Taylor

Ross

Ross

The reelection race of Ward 6 Las Vegas City Councilman Steve Ross has become personal.

But the clash appears not to be between Ross and his sole opponent, attorney and political novice Jennifer Taylor. It’s between Ross and his political nemesis, prominent northwest community activist Lisa Mayo-DeRiso.

Ever since Ross was elected four years ago, he’s clashed with Mayo-DeRiso over a number of matters.

Whether a locals casino should be placed in the ward. Whether other developments were being pushed through the council with sufficient attention to neighborhood opposition. Whether Ross’ alleged conflicts of interest with his union job have hurt his City Council performance.

Now it’s reelection time, and Mayo-DeRiso is backing Taylor. What’s more, Mayo-DeRiso appears to have played a role in pushing out the other challenger, Scott Anderson, whom she considered to be a weaker candidate.

“I don’t like Ross at all,” said Mayo-DeRiso, a self-described neighborhood activist, recreational soccer player and mother of five. “Maybe I’m a little outspoken, but my neighbors and friends, they don’t think he’s doing a good job, either.”

Ross says he isn’t concerned about Mayo-DeRiso or her behind-the-scenes machinations.

Just as she has questioned whether Ross has been more loyal to his constituents or to his higher-paying job as secretary-treasurer of the Southern Nevada Building and Construction Trades Council, Ross said Mayo-DeRiso — a business development consultant who represents developers — is the one with murky motives.

“She’s representing developers on one side of town, and representing her neighbors on the other side of town,” Ross said. “Sounds kind of wishy-washy to me.”

Ross’ campaign consultant, Gary Gray, was more blunt: “That civic activist stuff” is a sham, he said.

Though Mayo-DeRiso’s role in the Ward 6 council race became apparent recently, she and Ross have been tangling for years.

According its Web site, her group, North West Residents for Responsible Growth seeks to educate and empower residents, and to “be engaged in the land use and zoning process, from the election of our government representatives at both local and state levels, to productive dialogue with developers.”

That has meant opposing projects ranging from Providence Square, a 200,000-square-foot commercial project on 26 acres to a multi-use retail development on the corner of Grand Teton Drive and Durango Drive to the now-stalled casino development in the Kyle Canyon Gateway project — all of which were in Ross’ district.

Occasionally, the two have seen eye to eye. During the multi-use retail development debate, the developer, who had Ross’ initial support, backed down after Mayo-DeRiso and her group rose in opposition.

But more often than not, they’ve remained at loggerheads. Though Mayo-DeRiso couldn’t recall the remark, Gray said that at one heated neighborhood meeting she told Ross: “I’m gonna get you for this.”

Fast forward to this year. Initially, the only candidate to come forward to challenge Ross was Anderson, a Realtor.

As his incipient campaign progressed, Anderson sought the backing of Mayo-DeRiso’s group, as well as that of the powerful Culinary Union, which has opposed Ross’ stance on several projects, including the new Las Vegas city hall proposal.

Anderson and his campaign manager, Marc Newman, both declined to comment. But according to Mayo-DeRiso, she told Anderson during a meeting that the consensus was he couldn’t beat Ross.

She said Anderson became furious with her and then decided to back Ross — despite his and Ross’ significant differences on downtown redevelopment issues.

Mayo-DeRiso said she didn’t recruit Taylor, but that she now fully supports her candidacy.

When he withdrew last week, Anderson said in a statement that he had intended to run a clean campaign, and that “I will not compromise my integrity, and my supporters’ integrity, by involving my campaign in ‘Dirty Politics.’ ”

He said he had learned that an ethics complaint was to be filed against Ross “as a political weapon,” and that he would not support such a ploy. He did not say who would file the complaint, or what it would charge.

(Taylor, who has said she would not file such a complaint, declined to comment further. Culinary research director Chris Bohner also declined to talk about the race.)

Mayo-DeRiso partially cleared up the mystery. Though she wouldn’t say she was behind the idea, she said she knows “a lot of people who have talked about filing a complaint.

“Let’s file it, let’s get it out in the open,” she said of the complaint, which could involve concerns about Ross’ “yes” vote for the new city hall during a council meeting in November — despite the repeatedly stated notion that the construction unions he represents might benefit.

It was a “slap in the face” to Ward 6 constituents who expect Ross to represent them without considering his union job, Mayo-DeRiso said.

In 2007 Ross asked the Nevada Ethics Commission for advice on whether the building and trades council post he was thinking of seeking, and which he eventually won, would conflict with his role as a councilman. The agency warned him that wearing both hats opened him to potential conflicts.

Mayo-DeRiso denied the claims by Ross and Gray that she’s the one acting under false pretenses because of her development work. There have been no conflicts between any of her clients, such as the World Market Center, and Ross, she said.

Despite her fervent opposition to Ross, Mayo-DeRiso said that it has never crossed her mind to run herself.

Instead, she said she jokingly told Taylor that “I’m gonna be your Rev. Wright,” referring to the pastor who got Barack Obama in so much hot water during his presidential run.

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