Just days after the candidate filing period closed, Washoe County Commission District 4 candidates faced off in the first of a number of anticipated forums prior to Nevada’s June Primary.
Sparks Republican Women hosted a Question and Answer forum for incumbent Vaughn Hartung and challenger Maurice Washington, both Republicans. Moderated by First Vice President Judy Moss, questions were submitted in advance by the membership for the dinner meeting at the Sparks Nugget.
District 4 encompasses most of Sparks and Spanish Springs and stretches east to the Lyon and Storey county lines.
Each introduced themselves to the full house.
Hartung said he’s held the office for more than three years, has lived in the area for 35 years, and lived in the same Spanish Springs home for 29 years. “I became involved in my valley, and I’ve seen a lot occur.” His community involvement began in the early 1990s serving on the Spanish Springs Citizen Advisory Board, Planning Commission and was elected commissioner in 2012.
Hartung said he was concerned with growth in the valley, concerned with infrastructure planning. Other concerns include human services, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson Disease, and more. “The commission deals with all types of problems. It’s a complex job.”
Washington gave his background as an Assemblyman and a State Senator. He served in the Nevada Legislature for 16 years but was “termed out.” He pointed out his serving with the late Bill Raggio, Randolph Townsend and others and stated he learned about statesmanship and leadership.
Following the legislative service, Washington worked for Northern Nevada Development Authority starting in 2010 and was named a deputy director in mid-2012. He talked about regional growth, the importance of airports and the related fields.
Question for Hartung: What policy or laws were you responsible for?
He said he backed policy that had to do with storm water facilities in Spanish Springs, the water going down to the Truckee River
Question for Washington: Why did you decide to run against an incumbent?
He said there was not much difference between the two men regarding their policies; both are conservative. Washington said he was encouraged to run for the office, and if the commission had done a good or great job, he wouldn’t have been encouraged to run. He said leadership takes consensus building.
Question for Hartung: What are the pressing issues for the area? He responded that major issues include effluent and sewer, treatment plant capacity, the water supply. Those issues will limit growth. He said presently, effluent is used to water golf courses.
Washington also answered the question saying he would not disagree. He cited Tesla and Switch and other companies in the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center and how that growth will impact education, air quality and transportation.
Question for Hartung: What are we going to do with that water? He answered that Truckee Meadows Water Authority treats that water to a Class B standard. Southwest Truckee Meadows Water treats to a Class A standard. He said if all the waters were treated to a Class A+ standard, the water can be re-injected into the aquifer. He said the effluent must be looked at as an asset and not a liability.
Question for Washington: Name two policies that you got passed (in the Legislature) that impact us. He replied that one deals with education and that parents have the ability to make choices such as allowing a student to go to a school with a smaller class sizes. The second law allows a small-business pizza maker not be taxed on a product that would be taken home, baked and eaten there.
Regarding the education law, Hartung said there was a problem with charter schools being mismanaged, that there’s an issue with the management process.
Both candidates were asked their positions on police and fire consolidation.
Hartung said consolidation could save a lot of money. With Washoe County and Reno, they had a contractual agreement, and it was never a consolidation. While Reno wanted four-man crews, the county realized it needed flexible staffing. Ninety percent of calls are for medical emergencies. He continued that as a county commissioner, he doesn’t deal with Sparks Fire or Police. Automatic and mutual aid agreements are in place and it’s a good relationship. If there is a decision to consolidate, the leadership would need to be independent of the commission and the city council.
Washington answered that the jail facilities were consolidated (Note: a resolution for the jail facility was passed in 1997) and that collaboration has been beneficial. He said all three police agencies do a yeoman’s job, and consolidation does not make sense. Regarding the fire agencies, he said each are handling it very well.
Question for Hartung: Projects in the pipeline a decade ago: are they abandoned or will they be revisited?
He said the county does not oversee development in Sparks. Cities are autonomous, but he does know about growth in the Spanish Springs area. He cited transportation as a concern and that people need to get in and out of the valley. He doesn’t see improvements to Pyramid Highway for more than a decade.
Washington said the area continues to face growth with the issues of moderate-to-higher income housing, transportation, water, sewer and septic tanks.
Both answered a question about the RTC not being accountable to the public.
Hartung said Pyramid Highway is not a RTC right-of-way but a NDOT right-of-way. He stated Clark County receives more than 80 percent of state funding with less than 20 percent being divided up for the other 16 counties. While he thought RTC has done a pretty good job, he said he never questioned audits, they are always good.
Washington said he wished RTC would reach out and be transparent and that projects are based on priorities.
Hartung’s final question was about the Department of Alternative Sentencing. He said its work is to keep people out of the system, put people in “Crossroads,” and to monitor them regarding drinking or drug use. It takes space and work to keep recidivism at a low rate.
Washington’s final question dealt with a commissioner’s role as in workforce development. He said workforce development is crucial for employers in relocating to the area. Skilled labor must be found.
In summation, Hartung said he’d worked on numerous projects from flood projects to the southeast connector. He cited the need for the community to be safe, secure, healthy. He continued that there are a lot of challenges ahead in order to sustain lifestyle and quality of life.
In summation, Washington said there was a dicadomy between the two men. He said he thought “it” boils down to experience and leadership with his 16 years in the Nevada Legislature and the experience he gained in NNDA. He cited collaboration on housing, workforce training, certification, and maintaining a vision that can find solutions.