*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?
A1. Daily, the men and women of the Sparks Police Department serve our community by fighting against horrible crimes like child abuse, sex trafficking, and murder. In the same day, the officers also respond to well checks, motorist assists, disturbance calls, robberies, and domestic disputes. These daily routines are completed without flaw while under extreme pressures.
Can our police department do better? Yes. Can we reimagine public safety? Yes.
By the time you read this, I will have introduced a plan to implement a Citizen Police Advisory Committee. We have many highly intelligent people in our community, and we need to have conversations on how to best move forward. These meetings will consist of officers, citizens (to include our Black and Immigrant community), and City Leaders. The mission of the group is to solve the issues facing the department and build a stronger community police department.
Interactions between police officers and individuals suffering from mental health issues is a concern of mine. Replacing our police with social workers is not the answer. A good alternative is to expand the Mobil Outreach Safety Team (MOST), by adding mental health clinicians to ride with our officers. Those teams will be utilized to assist with calls involving mental health issues.
Another helpful step is to invite the Black and Immigrant community members to join our Citizens Police Academy. This would give attendees an opportunity to interact with all levels of the department, building stronger relationships and greater trust within our community.
A2. Providing for education, housing, and social services programs, for all, is vital for a strong community.
When it comes to setting policy and budget for K-12 education, it is the responsibility of the Washoe County School District Board of Trustees. Higher education policy making is assigned to the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents.
NRS 428 states that “every county shall provide care, support and relief to the poor indigent, incompetent and those incapacitated by age, disease, accident or motor vehicle crash.” You and I pay taxes to Washoe County specifically for housing and social services. We as City Council Members can occasionally influence a decision, but the setting of policy and budgets for housing and social services fall under the authority of the Washoe County Commissioners.
With that being said, the City of Sparks does receive some federal funds to assist in low income projects, to include housing. At the time that these funds are received, staff and councilmembers discuss the most effective ways to allocate those funds and then council votes to implement the plan. Over the last several years, we chose to split those funds between two groups that provide low income projects within our region.
A3. Many of the ideas for dealing with budget shortfalls have already been addressed by all of us on the Sparks City Council. These measures have included city leadership taking voluntary pay cuts, moving funds from contingency accounts, suspending debt payments, utilizing automobile replacement funds, and postponing lower priority capital investment projects. The decisions we have made saved the city millions of dollars, all with little to no negative impact on our community.
The city must remain fiscally responsible, to include these turbulent times. Not knowing how long or deep the budget shortfall will go, we cannot take any options off the table. Should conditions remain the same or worsen, the next round of cutbacks will no doubt effect our staff, as well as, the citizens and businesses of the city. I hope and pray that our economy will rebound quickly to avoid those measures.
A4. We have already taken several steps to address housing security issues within the City of Sparks. After multiple meetings with staff and community members, as your Councilman, I requested and voted to implement rental assistance programs. Over $2 million is being provided to cover rental expenses during the pandemic.
We have also provided $3.3M for the following community assistance programs.
SARS-COV-2 Detection = $1.8M <– Lowering the impact of future pandemics.
Business Economic Hardship Assistance = $1M <– Getting citizens back to work.
Homeless Social Distancing Assistance = $0.4M <– Homeless shelter Family Food Assistance = $0.1M <– Nevada Dept. of Agriculture provides millions of dollars through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)
As a result of the COVID pandemic, I have realized another opportunity to provide low cost housing within our community. As the dust settles, I will begin discussions with city staff and community members to introduce a new long-term direction in assisting our elderly and low-income citizens.
A1. I personally believe not 1 single individual or group of individuals are above the law. I believe what we are seeing in our country today is the moral outcry of an American community that has been historically disenfranchised based on bias views due to the color of their skin and their socio-economic background. The Scales of Justice starts out equal for most Americans, in theory. The symbolism of Lady Justice suggest that justice is equal, fair, pure, and without prejudices. If we look at history, quantitative and qualitative data in regard to “justice” for its citizens, a reasonable person would suggest that she is none of the latter for a particular population in America. She is not blind, equal, fair, and pure. Some may argue that the qualitative data suggest, Black and Latino folks start with a 50lbs weight on the Scales of Justice before any crime has ever been committed. This is concerning.
This will not be fixed overnight or solved by 1 person. I believe most people in our public safety communities are not bad people. I do believe, as the City of Sparks continues to grow, we need to make sure we are creating a diverse public safety force that mirrors the ever-evolving community in which we live. I will make it a top priority to recruit more native Spanish speakers, people of color, and women to be public safety officers, supervisors, and serve in active senior leadership decision making roles in the Sparks PD.
A2. First, we must call out injustice when we see, but, call it out in the name of love. I agree with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, “ If you are neutral in the situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor”. Archbishop Tutu goes further and says, “If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” We must stand up and address it.
I believe education is the great equalizer in our modern society. A good education will open more doors and give an individual more economic power and opportunities. I am a product of this belief. That is why I have proposed a Nevada System of Higher Education Institution (campus, training center, satellite, or research park) to be built in the City of Sparks. We must increase the supply of single-family housing and multi-family units to lower overall housing cost. This is a supply and demand issue. If we do not build, it will directly affect people of colors’ ability to purchase or rent property in the Truckee Meadows. I have encouraged responsible growth.
We must make sure that county and city social services information/forms be communicated in Spanish and Tagalog. And, remove red-tape barriers that hinder under-represented groups.
A3. We will not lay-off municipal employees. I would work with City Departments to encourage offices to develop short and long term virtual operations. I would recommend limiting the amount of hours municipal buildings are “physically” open to save general operational funds, excluding public safety/first responder facilities. We would do an energy and water audit on municipal owned properties. I would increase sustainable retrofitting of older municipal properties. I personally will take a 10-20% salary reduction, minimize travel, and re-evaluate per diems. I would review all city debt, work with Finance and Legal Departments to re-negotiate city debt. I would reassess and prioritize municipal projects and defer non-essential maintenance.
A4. I believe any funds distributed from the county, state, and federal government to the city should be prioritized towards renters and land-landlords whose primary resident is in the City of Sparks.
I would work with our Finance Department to develop incentives for larger multi-unit apartment complexes that protect tenants.
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. The top priority for me is to provide our community with the highest level of public health and safety. This includes fire and police protection, as well as, a solid infrastructure that supports public health and safety.
The second priority is that our city remains fiscally strong. During these unprecedented times, it would be easy to falter and be unable to provide the most vital services within the city, let alone others that are important to our citizens and businesses. We must be diligent in our budgeting.
Although you asked for my top 2 priorities, I do want to make it clear that without the first 2 being in place, nothing else will matter within our city. For us to be a socially supportive community we must provide the above services.
On the social services side, there are 2 top priorities for me. One is my passion to end youth homelessness in our region. The other is to continue my work on suicide prevention among our veterans, service members, their families; as well as, our community’s elderly and youth.
A2. A city within Nevada has few options to fund or incentivize affordable housing. Most of those types of options are at the federal, state and county government levels. What I do see within the city’s ability is to provide quick and efficient processing of building permits for those projects focused on the low to middle-income levels. There’s also the potential to defer fees until the end of the construction project, thus incentivizing growth in this area.
A3. Within the city of Sparks, I have not seen a displacement of low-income communities or communities of color due to gentrification. If you are aware of cases where this has happened, please let me know.
A4. The answer to this question is in the answer to Question 2. As a city, we must remain diligent in quickly and efficiently processing building permits to allow for lower cost living. The city has seen a fantastic growth in multifamily developments and as each one of these comes online, it will continue to drive the market lower.
A5. To create a welcoming and supportive community for immigrants and their families, we need to look beyond government. It is my belief that the best resources to solve this concern is through our faith based and service organizations. These groups are specifically built to support our community, to include immigrants. We must call on the leadership of these organizations to be vigilant in attending to all populations within our city
A1. Thank you for allowing me to take the time, and share my vision on what will make a Better Sparks. My top 2 priorities are the expansion of Post-Secondary Education to the city and Smart Growth. I believe by bringing a Nevada System of Higher Education Institution (Branch, Satellite or Research Park) will help fuel our municipal economy by creating diverse high paying jobs, training for post-recession careers, and increase local Start-up businesses. My Second Priority will be to address growth. Growth is good, when it is done properly. I would assemble a citizen and expert led Ad Hoc Smart Growth Initiative Committee to tackle specific issues pertaining to Ward 3. Our specific issues would address: affordable senior housing development, wildfire risk in the D’Andrea/ Los Altos Hills Area, jobs, and long term infrastructure.
A2. If elected, I will be your champion for affordable housing. I would lobby our State Senate, State Assembly, and Nevada Housing Division to increase 1st Time Homeownership programs with funding. By expanding new home ownership in the City of Sparks, I would propose a “one time” premium of .5%-.8% on all home sells (Single Family, Townhomes, Condominiums, Multi-Units, Manufactured). This premium cost would be shared among sellers and buyers. The premium funds collected would go into a City of Sparks 1st Time Homebuying program account. I would recommend 10-15% of the total funds be placed in secure investments for the city. The other 85-90% will be used to assist 1st Time Homebuyers to purchase single Family/Townhomes/Condominiums/Multi-Units/Manufactured. So, how would this work? If Maria bought a house for $300,000, she and the seller would pay a combined .5% into the City of Sparks 1st Time Homebuying Program account. The total amount would be $1,500 (Maria and the seller’s total contribution). If the City of Sparks had 150 home sales in January (Hypothetically Speaking), that would equal $225,000 for the month of January. If 150 houses sold for each month for 12 months, that would be $2.7 million dollars of new revenues to add into the City of Sparks 1st Time Homebuying Program. The City of Sparks could give participant residents $5,000-$10,000 to off-set closing or down payment cost.
A3. First, I would build a diverse working committee (of residents, faith-based organizations, non-profits, activist, and business owners) to identify a minimum of 3 areas in Sparks that have the highest number of displaced low income residents and residents of color due to gentrification. I believe we need to address affordable housing and community based businesses. Short term: I would immediately support financial incentives for motel property owners to convert their properties into studio and 1 Bedroom apartments with income restrictions. Also, I would encourage them to include units specifically for people ages 55+ . On day 1, I would work with local community banks, partner banks, credit unions, and the Lt. Governor’s Office to secure small business loans for “community businesses”. These would be businesses that directly support the needs of the residents in a given community. Long term: I would use the same working committee, the planning department, and projection economist to develop goals to make sure these communities become economically sustainable. Also, I would support new trades/vocational training and higher education locations within close proximity to areas for residents. And, I would work with the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) to evaluate bus route, pick-up and drop-off times in all areas to make sure residents have access to adequate transportation needs.
A4. I believe it is important to identify an accurate number of renters in our community. I recommend we have residential rental occupancy licenses in the City of Sparks. So, each year, a landlord must submit a rental occupancy license application to the city. This will allow the City of Sparks to do a “renters census”. The city could do yearly follow-up surveys via email with current renters ( the survey respondents would be 100% self-reported, non-mandatory) . I would collaborate with renter advocate and legal counsel to develop “Know Your Renter’s Rights” Workshops. These workshop would address basic renters legal rights and address common renter questions. I highly recommend workshops be recorded and performed in English and Spanish.
A5. I would increase more City of Sparks informational documents and common forms to be formatted in English and Spanish. Also, I would advocate for more Spanish speaking liaisons to assist with constituent relations. Last but not least, I would secure funds for public cultural art displays throughout the city that represent our diverse community.
ACTIONN is a 501(c)(3) non-partisan organization. We do not endorse any candidate or party.