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October 31, 2014

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Q&A: Sisolak on police arbitration dispute, assault weapons ban and running for governor

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L.E. Baskow

Commissioner Steve Sisolak (center) with Larry Brown (left) and James Hammer (right) are set to begin their fiscal affairs committee meeting at the Metro Police headquarters Monday, Oct. 28, 2013. L.E. Baskow

Metro Police Fiscal Meeting

(From left) Commissioners Steve Sisolak and James Hammer with Sheriff Doug Gillespie listen to the details of a lawsuit settlement during a fiscal affairs committee meeting at the Metro Police headquarters Monday, Oct. 28, 2013. L.E. Baskow Launch slideshow »

Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak knows how to make a splash.

The chairman of the county commission has made headlines recently for calling out Metro Police and the police officers union, saying they broke the law when they negotiated a new contract. He’s also led the charge against two tax increases, one that passed this year to raise the county gasoline tax and another under consideration to hike the sales tax with revenues going to Metro.

To boot, he’s been the talk of the political world in Nevada for months because he appears to be the only high-profile Democrat mulling a challenge to the popular Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval.

The Sun chatted with Sisolak this week on its Neon Eden podcast, a joint venture between the Sun and KUNV 91.5 FM:

What’re the biggest differences between you and Sandoval?

We need to do something so that we are not on the bottom of every good list and on the top of every bad list. He can keep saying that things are great, things are terrific — and pundits are calling him Sunny — but things aren’t so great for the everyday family. Families are struggling; unemployment is still at a high; our citizens are dealing with foreclosures — and I don’t think that is getting enough attention.

Where is the governor vulnerable? Where do you see him as having weaknesses?

He’s got several areas that appear that people brought up (in focus groups). One is in the area of background checks with gun sales. One is in the area of education funding; resources dedicated to mental health is another area. Those are just a few of the several that we have come up with through our focus groups, and people have brought to our attention.

What would be appropriate to change in state law in terms of gun sales and background checks? What should people have to do to sell a gun either privately or at a show?

Something needs to be done in terms of some type of a background check. We’ve got people who are convicted felons or have mental health issues who are capable of buying firearms at a gun show or in a private sale, and that’s a problem. I think that a reasonable person would believe that some sort of background check that is not too invasive or not too onerous is, in my opinion, reasonable.

What do you think about an assault weapons ban?

Personally, I see no purpose for anyone to have to own an assault weapon. I don’t believe that people really necessarily collect machine guns and assault weapons. I think that’s kind of a stretch. I think people want to own them simply because they can. You don’t use an assault weapon to go duck hunting or deer hunting, so I don’t think there’s a need. It’s not really an issue of protection. I just don’t think there’s a need for people to own assault weapons.

So a ban like that is something you’d be in favor of?

I would.

You recently challenged the process by which the union representing Metro police and Metro administration reached a labor contract agreement, saying that the process skirted state law. What are you hoping to accomplish by bringing this to light?

I’m not attempting to wind back the decisions. I think that ship has already sailed, quite frankly. I do want to have both parties acknowledge that, "Hey, look, in hindsight, we probably didn’t follow, we clearly didn’t follow what the statute called for."

I think the parties need to acknowledge that, "Look, we made some mistakes and we’re going to be extra vigilant that it won’t happen again."

The governor sits on the transportation board and has a big say in where this money goes, and (to paraphrase) he’s saying next year, "OK, you guys down in Southern Nevada are getting a little bit more," but it’s still in your eyes not enough?

It’s not enough. It’s absolutely not enough.

I mean, the fuel tax, every county hasn’t even implemented what is allowable in terms of the 9 cents (per gallon fuel tax) they can have for their own county fuel tax, and yet we’re using state money to subsidize them when they’re not taxing their own gasoline.

There’s been some chatter about a medical school possibly run through UNLV. What should be done about that?

I would like to see one in Southern Nevada and that need is clearly here. To establish a medical school and move forward, there has to be a commitment of funding, and I’m just not seeing that coming out of the state Legislature, either. ... But the partnership of UNR expanding their medical school in UNLV’s area is going to be difficult. There’s a big distance there. The proximity to UNLV is a much better fit than the distance that exists between UMC (University Medical Center) and UNR versus UNLV.

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