Mayoral hopefuls clash on safety initiative

Campaigns for Carson City mayoral candidates debated a public safety ballot question Thursday night with one speaker warning of the danger of big government and another warning of the danger of inaction.

The debate was part of a series of forums for candidates hosted by Sheriff Kenny Furlong and Fire Chief Stacey Giomi as they try to gain support for a plan that would raise about $2.5 million with a 12.6 cent tax on every $100 of assessed property if approved by voters Nov. 4.

The money would fund a new ambulance team, a seasonal wildfire fire crew, a gang unit, more jail officers and additional dispatchers.

But mayoral candidates Bob Crowell, an attorney, and Ken Haskins, a pastor, disagree on the plan.

Crowell told about a dozen people who were at the debate in the sheriff's building that he was initially skeptical of raising taxes, especially in a slow economy, but said as a member of a city citizens' committee that studied public safety last year, he saw the funding was critical for what departments wanted.

He said the issue should be looked as like this: "Pay now or deal with a heck of a problem later."

His vote for the ballot question will be a personal decision, he said, but, as mayor, he would review the funding every year to make sure the money is needed and being wisely spent.

Ron Knecht, Haskins' campaign manager, said his candidate supports public safety, but does not think this year is a good time to raise taxes.

Federal, state and local governments have expanded during the last century, he said, and need to learn to do more with less.

"I think you all deserve the respect of someone not hiding behind platitudes and bromides but telling you direct," said Knecht, who told the crowd. Haskins had another meeting to be at that night.

Knecht also pointed out that even though gang-related vandalism has gone up recently, overall crime and violent crime in particular has been dropping for years.

The crowd seemed generally supportive of the ballot question, however, which Furlong and Giomi talked about before the candidates spoke.

John Rowett, who was in the crowd and would pay an additional $190 in property taxes a year under the plan, said people who oppose the ballot initiative are "living in a fool's paradise."

Most people who in areas where crime is low don't know what crime in the rest of the city is really like, he said, and don't realize how bad it can get.

- Contact reporter Dave Frank at dfrank@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1212.

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