The future of Carson City came into sharp focus Monday night as Board of Supervisors candidates debated the issues at the Brewery Arts Center. Roads, marijuana dispensaries, and the capital city’s homelessness plan were some of the main topics discussed.
Incumbent Ward 1 Supervisor Stacey Giomi and challenger Wade Bradshaw shared the stage with candidates Curtis Horton and James Wells, who are both running for Ward 3.
The event was hosted by the League of Women Voters of Northern Nevada in partnership with Sierra Nevada Forums and AAUW Capital (NV) Branch. The Nevada Appeal cosponsored the forums.
“I hope they realize the importance of it, pass it, but ultimately it’s their decision,” Giomi said about Carson City ballot question no. 1. “There is no local tax on diesel fuel other than that tax.”
The ballot question asks voters if an existing 5-cent excise tax on diesel fuel (per gallon) should be continued to fund roads in Carson City. In 2020, the Board of Supervisors approved the tax for two years. It will automatically expire after Dec. 31 if not approved by voters. To date, the tax has raised about half a million dollars each year, a roughly 10 percent increase in road funding.
Even with the tax revenue, the current gap between revenue and maintenance needs is estimated to be $21 million per year, according to Carson City Transportation Manager Chris Martinovich. City staff is currently looking at other revenue sources to bridge that gap, such as a sales tax or special assessments on properties.
“It’s critically important we maintain this tax,” said Horton, who retired after 30 years in the Public Works department. “I think the existing Board of Supervisors and staff have tried very hard with the funding available to them to keep the roads alive.”
Wells said the diesel tax is unlikely to pass. Later, he proposed a property tax dedicated to road funding.
“It (the diesel tax) is only a part of what we need to fix roads in Carson City,” he said.
Bradshaw said the timing for the tax is terrible as residents are struggling with increased costs of goods. He questioned how the money raised so far has been spent.
“We as a local governing body need to be transparent,” he said.
In a previous interview with the Appeal, Martinovich said fuel taxes have recently funded pavement preservation projects on Center Drive, Saliman Road, Curry Street, and Silver Sage Drive, with plans for Winnie Lane, Mountain Street, and Medical Parkway.
Another forum question asked how each candidate would address homelessness and affordable housing.
Giomi pointed to the board’s new homelessness plan.
“We’re not talking about building a shelter. It’s a program,” he said, emphasizing participants must “buy in.”
On Sept. 15, Giomi and other supervisors approved a letter of intent to begin a competitive grant process that could award up to $1.1 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding to qualified organizations. The city’s plan calls for new street outreach teams and temporary housing for unsheltered individuals to help them transition to independent living. Total available funding is approximately $4.4 million that could cover four years of the new program. The current grant process focuses on the first two years only with the ARPA funding.
Horton was more skeptical of using tax dollars to address the issue. He emphasized relying on existing community services.
“If you build it, they will come,” he said, echoing a concern among some residents that the city’s plan might exacerbate the problem.
Wells said the city can help match services to those in need of transitioning, but he likewise pointed to existing services.
“The city can take advantage of those without reinventing the wheel,” he said.
Bradshaw shared a personal story of being homeless with his mother while growing up in Carson City. He said partnering with nonprofits is one solution.
“I don’t believe the government should be the provider of all,” he said.
The forum also focused on marijuana dispensaries. On Sept. 15, supervisors approved a new ordinance changing the number of marijuana retail stores allowed in the city from two to four as allowed by state law.
Horton said law enforcement hasn’t reported issues with existing dispensaries and that it’s appropriate for the city to follow state law.
Wells and Bradshaw said the impacts of recreational marijuana are still unknown, adding that there is no good measure for driving under the influence of marijuana.
Giomi, one of two supervisors who voted against the expansion of retail marijuana, agreed there are too many unknowns.
“For me, it’s too new an issue,” he said. “I didn’t see the need for it, still don’t see the need for it (increased dispensaries).”
Candidates also discussed water use, future growth, and better ways to support small businesses. The latter topic created common ground as each candidate said they’d like to see ordinances that are business friendly. Wells said city regulations should be simple, fair, and stable.
“People don’t want to come into an environment where they don’t know if they’ll pay a different set of fees from one year to the next,” he said.
Oct. 17 will close out the forum series with clerk-recorder candidates William Scott Hoen and Stacie Wilkie-McCulloch. The general election is Nov. 8, and in-person early voting is Oct. 22- Nov. 4.