*Candidate responses were not modified or altered.
Q1. The resurgence of Black Lives Matter has shined a spotlight on the failure of police departments throughout the country to truly ensure public safety. What would you do to address policing concerns impacting the black and immigrant communities and reimagine public safety in our community?
Q2. In addition to policing, how would you address racial injustice in education, housing, and social services?
Q3. COVID-19 has devastated local budgets. What would you do to address budget shortfalls?
Q4. COVID-19 has further worsened an already severe housing crisis in Nevada. How would you address housing security issues?
Q5. How can the city council listen to and be guided by people from different experiences, including people living in poverty?
A1. My plan boils down to a two-pronged approach: (1) Improve relations between our police department and disaffected subsets of our community; and (2) Better equip our first responders in mental health and other noncriminal situations.
Our Sparks Police Department has done a good job overall, but we know that we can continue to do better for our community. Police Chief Krall has held conversations/roundtables based around myriad policing items. A first step in helping here is supporting Chief Krall’s initiative to get a Police Advisory Board to help bring in previously overlooked voices so we can make policy change that benefits us all.
SPD has reviewed and updated nine different policies including Emergency Driving (Pursuits), Internal Affairs Policy and Body Worn and Fleet Cameras. The Use of Force Policy is in its final stages of review and will be published soon. The major changes there will bring us into compliance with AB3 and will include language on “Duty to Intervene.” SPD have taught that in their Defensive Tactics classes for years and will now have it incorporated in policy. MOST (Mobile Outreach Safety Team) is a great resource that we are currently using in Sparks to help with Mental Health resources. We have a limited amount of team members on MOST. However, a conversation worth having is about hiring people on our payroll with the skillset of MOST to increase the number of individuals we have to help our community members when they are in a mental health crisis.
A2. While, as a Sparks City Council member, I do not have direct influence on the education system here in Washoe County, I do have the ability to visit the schools in my Ward and build relationships with the Parents, Teachers and Principals. I may not be in a position to directly vote on policy set by the school district, or make policy change at the state level, but I can advocate for our community on these issues through working with my constituents and other stakeholders, and bringing our concerns to the School Board.
Regarding racial injustice regarding housing, as a council member, I aim to protect and pass city ordinances that foster and enhance racial equality in housing. I will also work with officials at other levels of government and all stakeholders in the community to coordinate our efforts to implement policy that will achieve this goal.
Now, Social Services here in Washoe County are handled through the Washoe County Commissioners. However, the hiring of a MOST team at the city level would be a benefit to our community by getting people with a Social Work tool kit on the front line paired with our officers. This will allow us to provide a social worker in incidents where one is needed and allow us to provide this support to our most vulnerable community members at times when a police presence by itself may be considered intimidating or hostile.
A3. COVID-19 has thrown us a large curveball in reference to our city budgets as well as many other things. After Quarantine began and we knew our revenue into the city was going to be diminished, we started having conversations about what to cut and how much in reference to priorities of the city. Personally, I took a 5% pay cut when upper management took theirs. My cut wasn’t going to save the budget, but it was more done on principle because if we are asking city staff to take a cut, I should be one of the first ones to do so. As we are still working on getting out of this, there is no doubt that the CARES Act money has been extremely helpful in helping to fill some of our financial gaps and allowing us to keep the city fully staffed and across the board. Due to CARES Act money coming in we haven’t had to talk about pay cuts with staff and we were able to reverse the 5% reduction some of us took too. We have had to delay certain Capital Improvement and freeze some positions that are open as well to help with our current budget situation. Looking forward into the rest of the year we need to be sure we are prioritizing projects and funds that are coming into the city that have the cities best and residents’ best interests.
A4. Currently through the CARES Act money we have dedicated $2,000,000 through Reno Housing Authority (RHA) to help with rental assistance for citizens in Sparks. Money was available through the State in that same fund, and I made sure to share it through all my social medias, E-Newsletter and reached out to residents directly who I know could benefit from applying. These $2,000,000 are also going to be supplemented with $402,633.00 from a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to allow for more assistance to our residents here in Sparks to ensure people have a safe place to call home.
A5. I actively seek the input and feedback from our community members, from the rich to the impoverished. I will continue to be accessible to all residents year-round. My cell phone and email are on all of my business cards, campaign pieces, and website. I’m always open for a phone call or a coffee to talk with someone about what is going on. I may not always have the right tools in my current toolbox to help but usually can find someone with the right tools to help. Over the last 4 years since being elected. I’ve taken countless phone calls, social media messages/comments, text messages, emails and even letters mailed to me from residents who are looking to express their opinions or are looking for resources and aren’t sure where to go.
I realize I do not have a monopoly of good ideas, and I value the opportunity to hear others’ ideas on the issues facing the City. I like to listen to others and take their first-hand knowledge of something that has happened or is happening and see how we can learn from it, to not only make circumstances better for the individual, but for other residents as well. As much as I try to stay involved in the community there is no way I’ll know everything. I’m always available to have a conversation and learn about others experiences in our community and ideas that others have to help our city.
A1. I’ve always said that our funding reflects our priorities. Here in Sparks, 42% of our general fund budget goes to our police department, and 24% goes to our fire department. Washoe County funds social services. Over the past few years, we’ve dealt with a number of mental health crises where Sparks Police have been the responders – and the consequences have been tragic.
Any public safety our community provides must first do no harm. There is currently a rift in trust between our police officers and the public. We recently had a police officer – George Forbush – who fantasized publicly on Twitter about shooting BLM protesters in the face and running them over with a truck. This is fundamentally inappropriate for a profession that is meant to “serve and protect.” Also, very few of our police officers are fluent in Spanish, even though many residents here only speak Spanish.
I’d like to implement an independent review board for officer-involved shootings, end qualified immunity, and ensure that we have a dedicated, 24-hour mental health emergency services response team. MOST is a good start, but parallels in other cities (like Eugene’s CAHOOTS program, or Denver’s STAR) don’t ride along with police – I like that model better. We should stretch our City Charter and see how we can work with the state and County to provide services like these to our residents. I also support ending any City agreements with ICE and working to ensure that we keep families together.
A2. Sparks still suffers from racial disparities in home ownership, education, access to health care, equal wages, and more. The challenges that our Black, Hispanic, and AAPI communities face are intersectional – access to a good job impacts ability to afford child care and health care, for instance, which then have long-term implications for upward mobility and even personal safety (for example, Miciah Lee’s long-term challenges accessing mental health care and the consequences of that lack of access for him and his family).
It’s not enough to have an “open door” for discussion on these issues – we must actively seek out the ways people in our community are struggling, hear them, and act on them. For example, our Council meetings and website are only in English even though Sparks is around 30% Hispanic. When Council is making budget, policy, or land use decisions that critically impact people of color, they should be involved from the beginning, not looped in as an afterthought. All City outreach must be multilingual and sensitive to the needs of working families. We should also encourage participation in Council meetings by providing childcare and holding the meetings at a time when more people are able to attend (not midday on weekdays).
I also strongly support a municipal minimum wage ordinance and revising our zoning in accordance with principles of housing justice. I would work for inclusionary zoning and zoning reform which prioritizes dense in-fill development and guard against gentrification which whitewashes our neighborhoods.
A3. Every local government should know by now that we’re facing serious budgetary shortfalls in the next several years. There are short- and long-term solutions. In the short term, we should be aggressively lobbying our federal partners for additional support. The HEROES Act needs to be passed as soon as possible to ensure that our state and municipalities can remain sustainably funded. We should also pursue grant funding wherever we can – our fire department, for example, was at the final stages for a SAFER grant to improve staffing levels, but it was not approved by the City government at the final hurdle. I believe we should revisit that decision.
Longer-term, we need to reshape Nevada’s tax base by working with the Legislature. Ensuring sustainable municipal funding means we will need to revisit property tax reform. I wish Senator Ratti’s property tax reform proposal had crossed the final hurdle in 2019. I also believe we should remove deductions for mining companies and ensure that big corporations here pay their fair share. We shouldn’t give million-dollar parking garages to developers when we have so many residents hanging on by their fingernails.
When our city does have to make budget cuts, we should preserve the services that directly affect the most vulnerable as much as possible. I will fight to protect the quality and delivery of our essential city services, but also to preserve our public spaces. When a park is all you have, it should be beautiful.
A4. No amount of rental assistance is going to be sufficient to answer the depth of need we’re facing, though I applaud both Reno and Sparks for doing what they can with CARES funding. Since I believe that housing is a human right, my preferred solution would be widespread rent and mortgage forgiveness for the duration of the pandemic. We should also get ahead of what is likely to be a spike in evictions once the eviction moratorium expires and ensure that we have enough winter shelter capacity to protect the growing number of outdoor neighbors we’re likely to see. Our regional capacity is already insufficient. Trying to provide safe social distancing with an increasing number of unsheltered residents is a potential catastrophe on the horizon.
The structural solution to our housing crisis is dramatically increasing our supply of housing through both conventional and unconventional means. As I mentioned, I’m a strong supporter of inclusionary zoning and building more affordable housing. We should also revisit why certain areas of our City were zoned SFO in the past and consider upzoning the city, as Minneapolis and Oregon have successfully, to address their housing crises.
I also want to see an end to the sweeps – it’s inhumane, expensive, and unsustainable to simply push people from Reno to Sparks and back again. We could be spending that money investing in housing-first solutions and establishing at least one regional safe campground, like RISE’s Governor’s Bowl proposal.
A5. Step one is ensuring that our Council itself is ideologically and demographically diverse enough to hear a wider range of voices. Step two is more direct and thoughtful outreach. Secretary Julián Castro said, “Listen for the silences.” I have spent my campaign trying to live up to that advice, having a series of conversations with community stakeholders. Our City is full of people who are never heard at Council.
To improve outreach, I think that (at least monthly) bi- or tri-lingual Community Roundtables in Ward 1 would be very valuable. We should ensure that childcare is provided and they’re held at a time of day that working people may actually be able to attend. I’d also like to see the Council meetings (and – this is so basic – the website!) be available in Spanish. Reno.gov is – so why not CityOfSparks.us?
I’d like to see the city try to implement Participatory Budgeting to give our community a direct say in how our City spends our money. Participatory budgeting is a democratic process in which community members decide how to spend part of a public budget.
PB started in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in 1989, as an anti-poverty measure that helped reduce child mortality by nearly 20%. Since then, it’s spread to over 7000 cities around the world. If we want to hear (and lift) those in poverty, we should consider it here in Sparks, too.
Q1. What are your top 2 priorities for Sparks?
Q2. How would you increase local funding and incentives to develop affordable housing for low and middle-income communities?
Q3. How would you address the displacement of low-income communities and communities of color due to gentrification?
Q4. How would you support the growing number of renters in our community?
Q5. How would you create a welcoming and supportive community for immigrants and their families?
A1. A city that works for everyone, if you’ve lived here for 30 years or 30 days this city will be a city where anyone can call home. The City of Sparks consists of many moving parts and it’s my job to set policy & the budget to allow staff to keep the city running as efficiently as possible to serve all the people of Sparks. From public works, to parks, sewer and permitting it is monumental that what staff does for everyone and what the city does exceedingly well every day is promote a healthy environment that not only benefits the residents of Sparks but also creates a working system for other municipalities like county and school district so that they can thrive in the services and duties they perform for our community.
All generations of our city are important, but an often-overlooked population is our Senior population. One of my campaign promises of 2016 was to look into getting a Sparks Senior Citizen Advisory Committee up and running. Reno and Washoe County have one, but Sparks had not had one for just about a decade. The board is now up and running and has regular meetings as well as regularly scheduled concurrent meetings with Reno & Washoe County. One of the main goals is getting good information and passing it along to Seniors of all walks of life. This has been a priority from my day 1 and will continue to be one of mine.
A2. By continuing to support staff to work with the Washoe County HOME Consortium (WCHC) which is a program that makes loans available for the development of affordable housing units. The primary goal is to assist lower income families and individuals, including homeless and special needs groups, to obtain affordable housing in not only Sparks but Washoe County as a whole. The WCHC also allocates funds to housing assistance programs, including down payment assistance to first time homebuyers, monthly rental assistance, rental and utility deposit assistance, and homeowner rehabilitation assistance. The most recent project built in Sparks using these monies is the Alpine Haven project located on Oddie Blvd near Grocery Outlet. This project is made possible by good cooperation between jurisdictions from staff to elected level to ensure that quality projects are built in our region. I’m proud to say that I’m able to cooperate with others so we can get projects like Alpine Haven built that our community desperately need. I have a proven track record based off my votes casted in support of maintaining this program in operation in our city.
Working with our State Legislators and our public to build support for additional tools for our tool chest at a local level to help with this concern. This problem will not be fixed overnight but with good people doing the right thing we can make progress.
A3. Ward one is the most diverse wards in Sparks, and I am proud of that, our landlords & business owners are diverse in age, ethnicity, and their family backgrounds. I know many of the small business owners and a few of the landlords of the area and many live & work in Ward 1 and/or have rentals in the ward too. There are often services available that an individual may not know is available. The most important way to help is by continuing to do outreach so residents know that you can call me, and we can work together to find solutions the current issue that they are facing. I’ve been doing outreach since 2018 with residents in Ward 1 by passing out my cell phone and email with the intentions of them reaching out when they have a question or need help somehow. Ward 1 is the “Melting Pot” of Sparks and are diverse in many aspects that makes this part of Sparks a special place. A place that is welcoming to all.
A4. By continuing to do reach out to those populations and being accessible to help find solutions to their problems that I can help them with. The end goal for many who are renters is to become homeowners and helping to connect them with programs and people who are able to assist in achieving this goal is important. If we have more homes than people that will help with the price to buy a home as well as the cost of renting as well will be more accessible by a larger population of people in the area. There are also many people of our community that do not want to be homeowner and are alright with budgeting their monthly bills and not having to worry about how to come up with the money when a new roof or heater is needed. They also may only be planning to be here for short term but being a homeowner or not doesn’t affect their ability to reach out to their current City Council member and ask questions on how I can help set policy or look into something that would support their quality of life.
A5. By being accessible to them and hearing their problems as well as solutions that they may have that would benefit the city. Parks, potholes, traffic lights & sidewalks are used by everyone and end of the day none of those things care if you have lived here in Sparks for 1 week, a year or your whole life. None of those things care what language you speak or what your background is. WE as a community care that we have quality Parks for our families, Minimal potholes, traffic lights that are well timed and sidewalks that are well maintained to prevent a trip hazard for our younger generations all the way up to our elders. Another important factor for a community is ease of communication with Government. It is important for us to continue hiring staff across the city that are bilingual to allow for smooth conversations and interactions between citizens and the city. I may not be able to speak a second language, but I find it important to have my campaign website in both English & Spanish and a dedicated email to reply to emails that come in that are in Spanish. Just because I can’t speak Spanish fluently doesn’t mean we need to let that prevent us from communicating for the benefit of our community as a whole.
A1. – Housing: Rent has increased by more than 50% over the past five years in many parts of Sparks. Wages have not. Promoting affordable housing, fighting for zoning reform that would bring down the cost of housing more broadly, and implementing a tenants’ advisory board are essential to ensure that housing remains accessible.
– Equity and Inclusion: Every resident of the city, regardless of their nation of origin, identity, or orientation, deserves to be served equally. The Council must not promote or tolerate bigotry or discrimination – and we must reach out to silent communities, meet them where they are, and listen to ensure that their needs are heard and served. I will fight to ensure that all residents’ interests are considered in City business.
A2. – Develop and provide a city library of approved, pre-permitted plans for townhouses, multi-unit, and ADU housing, reducing development costs.
– Aggressively pursue federal funding for affordable housing (including working with the state to lobby for additional Housing Authority funding in the region).
– Follow Minneapolis’s and Oregon’s lead: Upzone all single-family-only areas to also allow multi-unit development (duplexes, quadplexes, townhouses).
– Offer fee abatements to developers of affordable housing.
– On the less likely end in terms of actual implementation: At some point, we do need to consider property tax reform in the state if we want a sustainable source of municipal funding. One possibility is implementing a Land Value Tax. The City of Sparks should also consider inclusionary zoning requirements for new market-rate housing developments in the area.
A3. Gentrification gains a foothold in neighborhoods that become too expensive for long-term residents to stay. The biggest contributor to this sort of de facto segregation is increasingly restrictive zoning designed to keep wealthy communities wealthy (and keep out those who can’t afford to live there). Wealthy, majority-white areas are generally downzoned to single-family-only (and fight to keep things that way). Upzoning citywide would prevent older neighborhoods from being the only ones getting developed.
One option is developing programs that improve the rates of property ownership and homeownership for long-term residents and people of color.
However, the best way to address displacement is to prevent it before it starts. The best way to prevent it is to keep housing affordable for low-income communities and fight to strengthen tenant protections in order to prevent modern-day redlining.
A4. I’m a renter, too, so this question hits close to home. The first thing I’d like to do is establish a Tenants’ Advisory Board in Sparks parallel to Reno’s. It’s very important that tenants have the opportunity to be heard and to seek recourse.
Other potential policy prescriptions I’d like to consider include:
– Rental assistance – Tenant counseling
– Proactive code enforcement
– Just Cause eviction policy
– Tenant right to purchase laws
Upzoning and incentivizing affordable housing are also helpful for renters, as more units being available gives them us more choices should we need to seek alternative housing.
A5. I believe that families belong together and that human beings have an essential, inalienable right to freedom of movement. I don’t think that the City of Sparks should do business with ICE – I would fight to end any such agreements. I would also promote an equity and inclusion campaign within the City. Sparks is a thriving, diverse community that is made stronger by its unique character.
City services should be offered in English, Spanish, and any other language spoken by a significant minority of Sparks’s population. I’d also like to see an increase in the number and locations available for community assistance for our newest residents. I’d also like to offer Welcome to Sparks packets to new move-ins in the area – a mailed package of documents with information about the City, available services, a letter of welcome, and contact information for questions.
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