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October 25, 2014

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Candidates talk diversity at Henderson forum

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Stephen Sylvanie / Special to the Sun

Henderson municipal candidates participate in a forum Thursday on diversity issues at the Henderson Convention Center. From left to right: Andy Hafen, Amanda Cyphers, Michael Mayberry, Douglas Hedger, Kathleen Boutin, and Brandon Casutt.

Henderson Municipal Candidates

Henderson Mayoral candidate Amanda Cyphers responds to a question Thursday during a forum on minority issues at the Henderson Convention Center. Launch slideshow »

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Minority issues in a time of economic crisis dominated the discussion at a Thursday evening candidates' forum at the Henderson Convention Center, which attracted few candidates and a sparse audience.

Only six candidates appeared at the forum, even though all Henderson non-partisan municipal candidates were invited to the event, which was sponsored by the Clark County Democratic Black Caucus, the Hispanic Caucus, Asian American Caucus and the Clark County Democratic Party's diversity committee.

Diversity was abundant in the audience of 30, if not on the stage.

Several candidates said they support affirmative action during a time when the unemployment rate has reached 10 percent and many Henderson residents are competing for jobs.

Former City Council member Amanda Cyphers enthusiastically nodded her head after being asked if she supported the equal-rights employment law. She is running for mayor.

Mayoral candidate Michael Mayberry, former Henderson police chief, faced a tough audience in his stance against affirmative action. Mayberry said he took diversity steps in police recruitment because it was a great idea, not because it was a government requirement.

"I believe we already offer equal opportunities for all," Mayberry said. "I worked for the city for 29 years and I don't recall a situation where I saw people discriminated against by race, creed, color or anything."

There was some humor: "I've read the city charter, it's not as entertaining as 'Twilight,'" said City Council Ward 3 candidate Kathleen Boutin, who founded the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth.

She affirmed support of equality programs, and said that it is "ridiculous" that discrimination still hinders society.

Brandon Casutt, a sign company owner and the only other Ward 3 candidate who joined her on stage, said discrimination affects him personally because his wife is of Japanese descent.

"I think one of the best things we can do is not so much rely on the government per se, but influence the community and work together to encourage programs and events that keep us together," he said.

The race for Ward 3 also includes Bruce Cutler, a retired insurance salesman and member of the Whitney Ranch Homeowners Association Board of Directors; Cathy Rosenfield, volunteer chairwoman of the Henderson Parks and Recreation Board; Jason Frayer, a telecommunications consultant and professor at the College of Southern Nevada; and Jim Dunn, a real estate company owner.

When the conversation turned to affordable housing, Mayberry said watching property values plummet isn't funny to Nevada homeowners.

"Housing is becoming more affordable by the day," he said. "And the city can do a better job with affordable housing. And if I'm fortunate enough to be mayor, I will do that."

The only judicial candidate present, incumbent Judge Douglas Hedger, said, "the only housing I have available to me is the jail."

He is running against Henderson Police Sgt. Matthew Zobrist.

The audience reacted positively when Hedger said he doesn't support the death penalty because he believes it's disproportionately levied against minorities. He also said that poverty and lack of education are the largest hindrances to justice.

City Councilman Andy Hafen said Henderson needs to move away from reliance on tourism and gaming. He said he sees the 500 acres of industrial land near the airport as an opportunity.

"Economic development will be out recruiting high-tech business to come to the city of Henderson," he said.

Cyphers said she would like to look at San Francisco's economic model of micro loans to small businesses using the federal stimulus funding.

Also running for mayor to replace Jim Gibson, who reached his term limit, are City Council member Steve Kirk and attorney Richard Sipan. They didn't appear at Thursday's forum.

Early voting for the primary election continues through April 3 at two permanent sites: Henderson City Hall, 240 S. Water St., and the Galleria at Sunset mall, 1300 W. Sunset Road. Several temporary sites also will be available during early voting. A complete list is available on the city's Web site at www.cityofhenderson.com/city_clerk.

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