Las Vegas Sun

November 26, 2014

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Local Elections:

Three challengers seek to unseat NLV Mayor Shari Buck

As the foreclosure crisis and recession battered North Las Vegas, Mayor Shari Buck stood at the helm as the City Council was forced to make tough cuts to staff and services, all with a potential state takeover of the city government looming.

Buck defends controversial decisions to continue expensive projects to build a new city hall and a water reclamation plant as moves that have positioned the city well for future growth.

“We’ve gone in and cut government waste, made programs more lean, took out programs government maybe shouldn’t have been doing in the first place,” she said. “My focus on recovery has led to tangible progress that came through making some tough decisions.”

But Buck’s actions as mayor have alienated and angered some residents, prompting three candidates to challenge her for her seat in Tuesday’s primary election.

Her fiercest competition comes from former state Sen. John Lee, who said Buck ignored good advice when moving forward with the city hall and sewer plant projects, preventing a quicker recovery.

“They drove the city into a financial vortex,” Lee said. “Our image problem is as bad as it can get. Even the people who live in our town question if they want to live here anymore.”

The battle between Buck, 52, and Lee, 57, has grown fierce, with several negative mailers criticizing Buck being distributed by outside groups.

Lee said he isn’t responsible for those attacks and accused Buck of spreading erroneous information about him.

Both candidates have spent more than $100,000 on their campaigns, although campaign finance reports show Lee has raised nearly twice as much money as Buck.

Two first-time candidates, Sharon Belger, 41, and Mike Hunter, 51, are also running for mayor.

Belger, a self-employed marketing consultant, said she’s concerned about the city’s “nonstop spending” and that she’d use her experience as a small business owner to help balance the city’s books.

“I’m not a career politician. I’m not an expert on everything, but I understand when it comes to the line on spending. If you don’t have any more money, you’ve got to stop,” she said. “I know how to balance a book. I know how to say no to certain things.”

Hunter, a Clark County School District high school teacher, said he’s angry with the direction the city he’s lived in for 10 years is heading.

“If Shari Buck was doing a good job I wouldn’t run,” Hunter said. “I don’t think she’s the one to get us out of this. ... I don’t think she has the solutions.”

Buck points to increased business activity, including the recent opening of companies such as the ViaWest data storage center as a sign things are getting better in North Las Vegas.

“We’ve seen some good recovery, some momentum going forward,” she said. “Foreclosures have slowed down, there’s a lot more stability in neighborhoods, the crime rate has gone down. These are all signs of not only stability but growth.”

She says she wants to promote more industrial and manufacturing uses on unused land in the city. She also wants to fight to adjust the consolidated tax distribution formula, which she says has shorted North Las Vegas to the tune of millions of dollars over the years.

Lee said he studied the consolidated tax issue while serving as a legislator and thinks the city is getting its fair share. He said the city needs to increase revenue by being an easy and attractive place for businesses to open.

“When people look at a community, they figure out the temperament of the mayor, the vision of the mayor, and decide, ‘Is it a business-friendly community?’ Right now the answer is no,” he said. “We’re going to make changes in local government that make people proud of our community again. We’re going to repair the damage that has been done.”

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  1. The mayor of North Las Vegas can change or stay the same, but the problems will be a slow turn around. I think Shari Buck was handed a hot mess, and she stuck through it. It's easy to criticize, I'm sure whomever is in office next or continues to be in office will be criticized for whatever their moves are. It's a high stress situation, just like our school district positions which are showing to have high turn over.

  2. Buck is trouble no matter how you look at it. The inablility to raise money for her campaign and the loss of Police and Chamber of Commerce endorsements shows that the race for mayor is all about the lack of confidence constituents and employees are having in Shari "the buck stops here" Buck. Her inability to not only identify but deal with the problems of our city has created serious lack of confidence. Her continued statements about how everything is alright in NLV shows her rose colored glasses approach to running the city. Maybe if she doesn't acknowledge it the problem will go away. $43 million doesn't just go away. The loss of the ability to raise money to run a campaign and loss of endoresments don't just happen there is cause and effect...........Cause=lack of leadership; Effect=no money and no endorsements loss of office. I could mention waste treatment, new city hall, building new park that can't be sustained after it's opening, but we already know all that. This mayor has never had a plan and lest we forget she was a member of the city council for many years prior to her run for mayor. This mayor never made it to the level of her competency.

  3. Mr. Hamilton,

    I will give you credit, you show up to run for any office and in any party.

    Problem is you just seem to distract with no chance of ever winning anything. None of the above beats you most every time.

    I guess you have nothing else to do but get on ballots. Wish you a great life in the future but you know you won't be mayor or anything else that requires you being elected.

  4. I'm more worried about how the city manages future development than past mistakes. Of particular interest will be if property taxes are held as low as possible despite pressure for increases. Also of interest will be if the city can control developers and prevent the lack of control that has resulted in residential and commercial properties on top of one another and streets that meander from two to eight lanes and back again with front lawns sticking our into traffic lanes, all without apparent reason.

    One more concern today is the seeming lack of effort in attracting businesses from other cities and states. The news is full of announced business relocations and while North Las Vegas is said to have more than 50% of the available land in the valley, one hears nothing about efforts to bring in these businesses. Thousands of manufacturing and other jobs are on the line; Texas, Utah, Arizona and others are constantly in the news for aggressively pursuing them but one can only hope someone here is doing something.

  5. I would have loved to see a Debate between Buck and Lee on Ralston Reports. Unfortunately John Lee is already in hiding form his potential future constituents counting on his election win. I guess he'll think we'll forget that he is a Blue Dog Democrat in the Pockets of Developers. Look at his website http://www.votejohnlee.com/ to see a litany of items of what he stands for, yet when he was in the State House did he accomplish any of these for the benefit of North Las Vegas - or is this just a place holder until he can run for better things again?

  6. The North Las Vegas story is one that needs to be told. This city is no "North Town" shanty town any longer, with large land annexations to its boundaries in recent years. It is now the third-largest city in the state. At one time it was the fastest-growing city in America. It has great potential and deserves much better than the image it now has as a poorly run political battlefield that is broke and ready for state financial over sight.

    The crux of the current mess emerged from the offices of former Mayor Mike Montandon, whose over-inflated strategy and deal cutting with investor-laden developers turned new and hopeful developments into blighted neighborhoods.

    Also to blame is the current mayor, Shari Buck, who rode to her current position on the support of the firefighters' and police unions she now opposes but whose wage and benefit contracts she strongly supported in the beginning when she needed their political support. Buck cannot be trusted, has created turmoil on the City Council and must leave if the c ity is to recover and prosper under more able leadership than Buck is capable of providing. While Buck talks a good game, she cannot be trusted to govern with integrity and leadership skill.
    My wife and I voted for candidate John Lee because we believe he has the vision and leadership ability to move North Las Vegas forward.