*Candidate responses were not modified or altered.

General Election

Candidate Responses

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?

Marsha Berkbigler (Incumbent)

Campaign Website

A1. I have already met with the County Sheriff to discuss possible changes we might need to make to County ordinances or if he needs to update his deputy rules of operations. He is working on providing a staff report pointing out some possible rules strengthening that will come before the Board for a full review.

A2. It is appalling to me that racial injustice still exists in America today. I was responsible for the affordable housing trust fund and continue to find ways to fully fund it. I continue to fight for fair housing rules and believe our social services department has and continues to do a great job in assuring that all citizens are treated fairly. I will continue to oversee these efforts and request changes if I see problems.

A3. At the County level we have approved a budget that set a cap for expenditures in every department except where additional support is needed. Those departments include the Sheriff and Human Services where we added funds for additional deputies and more funding for the Its Our Place homeless center.

A4. One area I’ve asked to have the County and the Cities consider is using some of the CARES money to fund the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. The County has already put in place regulations that support developers who want to build affordable housing. I also chaired the Regional Governing Board when we developed and approved the new Regional Master Plan which includes language supporting and helping the further development of affordable housing in areas where there is transportation.

Alexis Hill

Campaign Website

A1. I fully support the movement for Black lives. I believe that police brutality and killings have to stop. Lethal force should be a last response, not a first response. I think we have to deal with institutional racism. We need to rethink the function of policing – we can do this by not making the police deal with mental illness, drug addiction, and homelessness. Instead, we need to invest in these areas to serve our most vulnerable population. There is also a lot more we can do to ensure accountability and support more deescalation training, and diversifying recruitment.

A2. I will support school construction, repairs, and maintenance through the School Oversight Committee. I will ensure racial justice by prioritizing schools in older and diverse neighborhoods to be rehabilitated. I will also support schools through state level initiatives to protect our students, teachers, families, and the sustainability of our communities.

I will support housing for all by implementing many of the well-thought-out plans that have already been made (such as the Org Code “Enhancing the Homeless Response System in Reno-Sparks-Washoe Leadership and Strategy”, The Truckee Meadows Healthy Communities “Our Housing Our Future – Truckee Meadows Regional Strategy for Affordable Housing” and the Washoe County Health District “Community Health Improvement Plan”). This requires a continued focus of many stakeholders. This problem requires leaders from all of the different jurisdictions and regional boards to coordinate resources – not duplicating or working against each other.

I will support social services justice by finding new avenues for people with mental health issues to get treatment and support. I want to work with the Sheriff’s Office to support projects that help newly released inmates find support for work, mental healthcare, housing support, etc. I also want to work on pursuing opportunities to advocate on the state level for funding and resources for increased access to mental health treatment options. I will work to ensure that the county is a resource to help all community members gain independence and economic freedom.

A3. The County is in a better position than the state to weather this recession since most of the County’s funding comes from property taxes (not gaming taxes, like the state). That isn’t to say that there hasn’t been and won’t be cuts and that there may be further economic fallout. I will prioritize supporting workers and essential services. I will also work very closely with our state legislators to find new funding streams.

A4. I will address housing security issues by working every day to preserve our affordable housing projects and create new affordable housing opportunities through utilizing and funding the Affordable Housing Trust Fund and working on public / private partnerships for housing. Please see my above responses for more detail!

Primary Election

Candidate Responses

Q1. What are your top 2 priorities for Washoe County?

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?

Q6. How would you address the lack of substance abuse treatment options in our community?

Q7. How would you increase access to mental health services?

Marsha Berkbigler (Incumbent)

A1. Fiscal Responsibility with the tax dollars the County receives and addressing the many needs of the constituents including the homeless and those in need of reasonable priced houses.

A2. At this point we need to assure what impact COVID 19 is going to have on the tax dollars received by the County. I believe we need to update some ordinances to incentivise developers to build affordable homes/apartments/condos. Along with this we need to find a way to fund the Affordable Housing fund.

A3. By addressing the need for developers to willing build affordable housing. It is necessary to assue we are addressing all levels of housing and communities of color or low-income should be included as the Regional Governing Board reviews projects throughout the County. Developers should not be allowed to buy up old housing/apartments and not contribute back to aid the lower income residents.

A4. By developing more planned apartment units and communities where people can find affordable housing. This is principally and in-fill situation because these communities need to be located near public transportation.

A5. I don’t see immigrants as any different than any other people who relocate here for a better lifestyle. If they comes here for jobs or better schooling they should be accepted to our community. I don’t think there are any laws or regulations that allow for housing discriminations.

A6. The County has been working on the problem of substance abuse through our human services department. We currently have numerous programs addressing substance abuse and we work with various social welfare groups that address these problems. I would continue to support the financial assistance we provide and work to enhance the programs so more people could participate.

A7. Generally the issue of financial help for mental health services comes from the State government. I would encourage the County to continue working at the Legislature for additional dollars to address this issue. There are already programs in place and what they most need is additional funding.

Alexis Hill

A1. Quality of life and sustainability are my top two priorities for Washoe County. These are umbrella issues in which access to healthcare, affordable housing, homelessness and support for schools fall under.

I’ve been frustrated by the lack of community-centered planning by local government my whole life. I was frustrated walking to school growing up in Sparks by the lack of proper pedestrian safety infrastructure when I was in middle school. This drove me to get into public service. I was a city planner at the City of Sparks during the boom prior to the Great Recession, but grew frustrated and left due to the job being so much about “just approve all developments” and nothing else. I believe that this community has so many opportunities and just needs forward-thinking public officials to help direct better planning to ensure better community outcomes and sustainability. I am running because I keep on seeing this lack of foresight – specifically, my opponent ensured that AB 46 wouldn’t get a vote by the County Commission in 2013. This lack of support for schools and ability to make hard but good decisions lead to a more regressive tax through WC1 in 2016. Although I’m thrilled that WC1 passed and that new schools are being built and old schools are being rehabbed, this initiative was stalled by more than three years due to a lack of political will and proper planning.

I will fight for Washoe County’s quality of life as a county commissioner.

A2. This is a complex question that requires complex solutions. Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet or a one-time solution. This problem requires a continued focus of many stakeholders. This problem requires leaders from all of the different jurisdictions and regional boards to coordinate resources – not duplicating or working against each other.

I agree with the Truckee Meadows Regional Strategy for Affordable Housing study that recommends that the region come together to:
▪ Dedicate funding for the Regional Housing Trust Fund.
▪ Preserve the current affordable housing
▪ Seek out federal funding to support more mixed-income and mixed-use development.
▪ Establish stronger incentives for inclusion of affordable units in market-rate development through permitting processes and development fee structures.

I want to bring all entities to the table to discuss solutions that will work best for our region. I have been bringing diverse constituencies together my whole career. Just what I’ve seen our community do to come together during COVID-19 instills within me the confidence to believe that our region can support diverse affordable housing, because we are better, together.

We don’t exactly know what our funding picture will be in the coming weeks, let alone months and years. Housing will likely still be a problem, but solutions, both those that are necessary and those that are attainable, may be quite different from what they were a month or two ago. Above all, I will look to make best decisions for long-term community, and let the short-term politics of it be what it will be.

A3. First, I would reference my answer above regarding COVID-19 fallout: we don’t know what the future holds, yet.

One of my major issue priorities is to ensure that the government is accountable to all citizens. I want to see that the county supports minority and women-owned businesses through their hiring practices and when doing RFP/RFQs for independent contractors. I want to see the county utilize project labor agreements for contracted labor work to ensure that working families are paid a fair wage.

I want the county to start working with regional partners to support small existing business owners so they can stay in their current location and continue to improve their neighborhoods. This includes supporting businesses and neighborhoods most at-risk in this pandemic fallout.

I want to see that the county supports home and business preservation efforts to ensure that people can afford to stay in their homes while their surrounding area improves – these investments payoff in the long-term and also ensure that the character of a community stays intact.

A4. Again, COVID-19 “disclaimer” applies – we don’t know how this issue may or may not change. There are many reasons that renters cannot find a diverse housing product in our community – one of them is that the current housing product is mainly single-family housing. Our community is missing the middle range of housing types – between single family housing and high density apartments (townhouses, duplexes, etc.). I would support inclusive zoning efforts to ensure that this type of product would be built for all incomes in our community.

My emphasis on sustainability also folds into this issue because the county should make efforts to ensure that housing is incentivized to be in already developed/disturbed areas so that renters can access transportation and resources. The County also has influence on the Regional Transportation Commission and I would work to ensure that there is access to public transportation and pedestrian safety throughout the County.

I also believe that homeownership should be attainable in our community! We need to expand and continue down payment assistance programs and other housing assistance and education efforts through the Washoe County Home Consortium.

I spoke about this earlier in this survey but I believe that the county has a role to play to support community college and all levels of education in the community as well as support working families though unions, job training programs and ensuring that all workers are receiving equal pay for equal work..

A5. Most people who live in Nevada moved from another state/area (except for of course the Paiute, Shoshone and Washoe native people). Many people who were earlier settlers (such as the Basque people) came to Nevada to survive persecution. Nevada has offered incredible opportunities for people to live, work and play. With this in mind the county should be more inclusive with their processes, translation services and partnerships.

When I reformed the City of Reno’s grants to special events and nonprofits I worked to bring new people to the table to obtain special event and arts and culture funding. This was something that I had to make an effort to do by adding diverse individuals to the Arts & Culture Commission and special events sponsorship committees and reaching out to new communities to let them know how the City could serve and partner with them. The county needs to do this on a larger scale and ensure that all new community members are a part of the decision making process.

A6. I would work to ensure that the criminal justice system wasn’t being used to create short term “solutions” (that are politically expedient) by arresting people with substance abuse problems. The county has oversight on the sheriff’s office budget and can make recommendations to do programs outside of the jail to improve the community. This would ensure that people who overcome these addictions wouldn’t have a record and could obtain employment.

The county oversees health and human services and there are ways that they can ensure that these services aren’t predicated on people being “sober” to obtain help.

The county also has opportunities to advocate on the state level for funding and resources for these types of treatment options that I would be in favor of pursuing.

A7. The county oversees health and human services and has a large responsibility to refer and advocate for mental healthcare. Unfortunately, access to mental health services is severely lacking in Washoe County, the per the Washoe Regional Behavioral Health Policy Board 2019 Washoe Regional Behavioral Health Profile:
In 2017, NV had higher rates of suicidal thought and attempts, and mental illness than Washoe County among middle school students. Washoe County expressed higher rates than NV and the US among High School students. Between 2014 and 2016, Washoe County and NV adults had higher rates of mental illness than the US, but expressed lower rates of receiving mental health services. In Washoe County, rates of suicide attempts were over 3.5x higher in 2018 among individuals aged 14-19 compared to individuals 20 and over.

These startling figures require action. I think we need to look for every opportunity to make the county part of the solution. No one thought education funding was the county’s until AB46 came along and the county had a chance to make a difference, but chose not to act out of political fear of raising tax revenue. I promise that, if given an opportunity to involve the county in making positive progress on this issue, I will not pass on my obligations to serve our community.

I would be in favor of pursuing opportunities to advocate on the state level for funding and resources for increased access to mental health treatment options.

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