Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2009 | 12:20 a.m.
A town hall forum put on Monday by local elected officials was a humble beginning for something they hope will become much bigger.
Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak, Clark County School Board Trustee Deanna Wright and Henderson City Councilwomen Kathleen Boutin and Debra March met at Coronado High School for the open forum, which drew about 25 residents.
Some concerns were relatively localized: budgets, redevelopment projects and a low water pressure problem that has plagued a Henderson neighborhood in several years.
Other concerns raised – high foreclosure rates and illegal immigration among them – require action at levels beyond the control of local government bodies. While the four said they could do little in those areas, they said they hope their town hall events will eventually swell to include representatives from all levels of government.
Boutin said she plans to hold the event every six months and that she intends to invite the rest of the Henderson City Council and Clark County Board of Commissioners, as well as city department heads, representatives of regional government entities and Nevada’s congressional delegation.
“Political collaboration should be a new term that we start here and continue to build on throughout our terms,” Boutin said.
Though she acknowledged that there was little she or the other officials could do regarding some of the concerns raised, she said she hopes future town halls, with more levels of government represented, would begin to stir change.
Boutin said she was particularly touched by residents who said they were hundreds of thousands of dollars upside down in their home’s value or in danger of losing their home and looking for help.
“To hear the depth of the concern and some of the problems that were raised was saddening,” she said. “You feel helpless, because you know that there’s nothing you can do to help, and that hurts.”
March said the best advice she could give for now would be for residents to hang on.
“If you’ve got a job and can continue to pay your mortgage, do it,” she said. “The value may take several years to come back, but it will. … We’ve kind of gotten into this culture of flipping and moving, flipping and moving, and I think we need to get back to a culture of creating stable communities.”
Henderson resident Michael Ware said he attended the town hall because he wanted to meet Sisolak and ask him for advice on how to deal with an upside-down mortgage.
Sisolak suggested that Ware work with his lender and keep at it until he finds someone who can make a decision, then ask that person to work with him on restructuring the loan.
Finding that person who can make the decision and speaking directly to them is the key, Sisolak said.
“I think I’m about as satisfied as I could get, because (Sisolak) said what I was thinking,” Ware said. “It gives me a little leverage, a little traction to say, ‘Let’s work something out.’”
Sisolak said he hoped residents would go away believing they could contact their elected officials and expect something to come of it.
“If you hear of something in your neighborhood that gets your attention, please call us,” he said. “You are our eyes and ears. … We’ll deal with every single problem; we’re really good about calling back.”