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September 2, 2014

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NLV mayoral candidates cordial in only debate

Robinson, Buck looking to lead city amid economic challenges

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Richard Brian / Special to the Sun

North Las Vegas mayoral candidates Shari Buck, left, and William Robinson, right, answer questions during a debate sponsored by the NLV Alliance of HOAs and Concerned Citizens and moderated by Andrew Martin, center, at the Silver Mesa Community Center on Wednesday.

North Las Vegas mayoral debate

North Las Vegas mayoral candidate William Robinson, right, answers questions during a debate with Shari Buck, left, and moderated by Andrew Martin, center, at the Silver Mesa Community Center on Wednesday. Launch slideshow »

North Las Vegas mayoral candidates were cordial, respectful and professional to each other during a debate Wednesday night showing none of the political enmity seen in their campaign fliers.

North Las Vegas Council members Shari Buck and William Robinson emerged from a crowded field in the primary to run head to head for mayor in the June 2 general election.

The contest projects to be a close one. Both candidates received about 30 percent of the vote in the primary (Buck garnered 35 more votes than Robinson) and voter turnout is historically low. Fewer than 12 percent of registered voters cast a ballot in the primary.

The hour-long debate, set up by the North Las Vegas Alliance of Homeowners Associations and Concerned Citizens, was the only scheduled debate between the two candidates.

Robinson quipped that from the day Buck joined the council, “we’ve agreed to disagree.”

Later he would say that they don’t disagree on many things.

Robinson and Buck found common ground on the city’s economic struggles. Whichever candidate wins the election will govern a city with declining tax revenues and one of the nation’s hardest hit by foreclosures.

“Having grown up in North Las Vegas my whole life, I’m really happy with where we are today compared with where we came from,” said Buck, a 10-year member of the city council. “I think we’re doing pretty well. We have some tough challenges here … but I know as a city and as we work together we can meet those challenges.”

Robinson, a 26-year veteran of the city council, said he was less optimistic but said the city will survive.

“We will get through this as a city. We’ll get through this as the people of this city,” he said. “It’s a golden opportunity to bring industry, to bring jobs, etc., to the city of North Las Vegas.”

Both said they would be dogged in seeking out new businesses from regional retail malls to manufacturing at the Apex/Kapex industrial area.

To be successful, the city would have to offer incentives on top of the state’s already favorable business tax system, Robinson said.

Buck said she would lower taxes to attract business and that the loss in that revenue would be offset by an expanded and diverse city economy.

Both also disapprove of the proposed Sheep Mountain Parkway, a multi-lane highway north of the northern 215 Beltway, and disapprove of allowing more casinos along the beltway.

But they disagreed on some items the city has spent money on in recent years.

Robinson said the city paid $1 million more than it should have for land to build a wastewater treatment plant. The city purchased about 20 acres on Frehner Road near Losee Road for $12.5 million in 2006. The city later made a deal with the military to locate the facility to Nellis Air Force Base.

Buck countered that the city paid the appraised value of the land and will resell it when the market improves.

Along with the land, the city purchased a building that is being renovated for new fire department administrative offices. Robinson said those $1.2 million renovations could wait.

Neither candidate raised issues that have dominated the campaign fliers.

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Buck has kept the FBI’s probe of Robinson in the mid-1990s a topic in her mailers.

No charges were filed against Robinson and he has denied any wrongdoing.

The latest flier from Buck claims Robinson is at the center of a federal investigation into the city’s housing authority.

The U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department has charged the city with misusing federal funds and is investigating just how much.

Robinson chairs the authority that also includes two other council members and current mayor Michael Montandon.

Robinson responded with fliers, saying Buck is slinging mud – “a sign that a politician has run out of options.”

Both candidates are spending hundreds of thousands on their campaigns, including those fliers.

Campaign forms were filed Tuesday showing Buck raising about $297,000 and spending roughly $440,600.

Robinson has raised a little more than $405,000 and has spent about $374,000.

About 35 people attended the debate, including former state Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas, Councilman Robert Eliason and County Commissioner Tom Collins.

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