Ward 4 candidates answer to Republican women

Frank Sharp thinks Carson City needs a bigger retail sales base, more than even a new Costco will provide.

Vern Horton and Richard Staub don't think so. They'd rather save money by managing what revenues Carson does have in a more cost-efficient way.

Making the city run more effectively was a constant theme for the three candidates vying for the Ward 4 supervisor's seat at a Republican Women's Club luncheon Tuesday.

Whether it was the status of the city's swimming pool, or how to upgrade Eagle Valley Golf Course, or what Fuji Park's future could hold, all three candidates gave impromptu answers to questions written in advance by the Republicans.

Sharp, a marketing consultant, addressed the question of city revenue shortfalls.

"Retail sales tax is the engine that runs this city," he said, saying that property taxes should be left alone.

Horton, an 18-year-resident, said now is the time to think strategically.

"Carson City is basically built in a bowl - in the next 20 years, the city will be built out," he said. "Then our tax base will be set. We have to become as efficient now as we possibly can."

Staub, a 48-year-old attorney, said his solution for shortfalls was to evaluate each tax source for maximum efficiency.

"The remedy is to project our needs, not raise taxes," he said.

Such frugality spilled over to the candidates' views on public safety. Both Horton and Staub said they believe the city would be better served by examining how effectively the sheriff's department is run rather than adding staff.

"I'm not going to make any promises about public safety until I can look at how we're doing in the sheriff's office," Staub said. "First, we need to make sure we're spending our money correctly."

Sharp did not agree, reiterating his proposal to hire more deputies.

"Carson City is not a safe town," he said, describing a recent ride he took with a sheriff's deputy. "We don't have enough deputies on the street. I would add two new deputies a year for the next five years."

Both views drew applause from the audience.

Whether the city government needed an independent audit also came down to whether each candidate believes it is worth the money.

"The city doesn't need a comprehensive audit - we already have a city auditor," said Sharp. "It would cost a quarter million, just to start. It's totally irresponsible to do it."

Staub demurred, pointing out that self-examination is not a bad thing.

"I'm talking about an audit we'd do once every 10 years," he said. "Why can't we look at the way we do things in government? I think it doesn't hurt to take a look at ourselves every so often to make sure taxpayers are getting what they pay for."

Horton fell in the middle on the issue. He agreed that an external audit would duplicate the city's own efforts. Instead, he favored a zero-based budgeting system every five years that would act as a self-check on each city program.

When it came to city projects that incurred overruns and delays, all three agreed that proper planning and penalties were in order.

"You need to plan, plan, plan," said Staub, stating that it was too easy to blame the Board of Supervisors. "We need projects brought to us properly planned. And we need to realize that overruns are going to be part of the package."

Horton agreed, saying that good project management is the key.

"The whole area of project management needs to be looked at," he said, noting that the current process of choosing construction bids has not worked well for the city. All three candidates cited the city swimming pool, which was closed much of the summer due to construction delays.

Sharp advocated flexing some muscle to ensure compliance from contractors.

"We drag our feet," he said. "Take the roundabout. It should have taken 30 days. It took a year. The Board of Supervisors doesn't use their power to get things done properly."

Restoring Eagle Valley Golf Course drew differing opinions, with Horton in favor of letting the users decide its future rather than the city. Sharp said the city may have to take a Band-Aid approach, funding it as the budget allows, but saving it at all costs.

Another landmark discussed was Fuji Park.

Horton said another location may be more cost-effective.

"The property it sits on is economically sensitive," he said. "Maybe a less sensitive area would be more effective." If elected, however, Horton said he would proceed carefully, relocating the park before deciding what to do with the land.

Staub mentioned the possibility of moving the park to the site of the Stewart Indian School. Short also was in favor of either enhancing or relocating the park.

All three, however, agreed on maintaining open space and neighborhood parks to preserve Carson's charm.

"We all should take more personal responsibility for our parks, even if that means bringing a trash bag along," said Horton.

If you go

What: State Assembly District 40 candidate forum

When: Today at noon

Where: Carson Nugget

Details: 882-1565

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