North Las Vegas mayoral candidates (L-R) Jesse Addison III, Gary Bouchard, Pat Spearman and Nathan Atkins speak at a candidate forum. (Photo: Michael Lyle)
While making a case on why they would be best fit to serve as next mayor of North Las Vegas, several candidates have united in a similar message: Voters cannot afford to keep electing the same old leadership.
Seven people are running to replace North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee, who is now running for governor. They are: Councilwoman Pamela Goynes-Brown, state Sen. Pat Spearman, Nevada System of Higher Education Regent Laura Perkins, businessman Nathan Atkins, business owner Robert “Twixx” Taylor, former mayoral candidate and frequent city council public commenter Gary Bouchard, and Navy veteran Jesse Addison III. The crowded field will face off during the June 14 primary election.
The candidates running have levied criticism toward Lee for what they see as mismanagement of the city. Several also bemoaned current Goynes-Brown for enabling bad governance as a sitting councilwoman.
Spearman, Atkins, Addison and Bouchard attended a North Las Vegas candidate panel Saturday at Nehemiah Ministries in North Las Vegas.
All four pitched a new path forward with new leadership.
“I want to make sure it’s not just the same, stagnant North Las Vegas,” Spearman said. “I want to make sure it becomes more vibrant.”
If any candidate earns more than 50% of the vote during next month’s primary, they will win the seat outright. If no one does, the top two candidates who earn the most votes will advance to the November general election.
With multiple Black candidates, including three Black women, running for the seat, the city may see its first Black mayor.
At Saturday’s forum, Spearman downplayed the notion of the first Black mayor.
“There is a lot of talk about being the first Black,” Spearman said. “I aint interested in that. I’m interested in becoming the next best mayor of North Las Vegas who happens to be Black, who happens to be a woman.”
At an earlier candidate forum by the ACLU of Nevada, Clark County Black Caucus and NAACP on March 3, Goynes-Brown noted that her father served as mayor pro tem.
“I want to extend my family’s legacy by becoming the first African-American mayor of North Las Vegas,” she added.
At that forum, Goynes-Brown, who was first elected to the council in 2011, pitched herself as a continuation of the work North Las Vegas has accomplished.
“When I was sworn in as councilwoman, North Las Vegas was on the brink of financial ruin,” she said. “We were literally days from insolvency, but we accepted the challenge. Over the past decade, we’ve gone from worst to first. Our bond rating has risen all the way from junk to A plus.”
She added that, if elected, her first 100 days would be about looking at “systems that are working and systems that may need revision.”
“As far as our economic plan, I want to make sure we continue our economic diversity by attracting businesses – Fortune 500 companies, restaurants, our residential communities,” she said.
The legacy under Mayor Lee, who was first elected to the nonpartisan office in 2013, was called into question by candidates on Saturday.
Spearman, who is leaning on her ten years serving in the state legislature, lambasted the city for the process used to award community development block grants, which are federal funds that can help cities develop affordable housing or respond to homelessness.
She added that instead of awarding local nonprofits in the community grant money from those federal funds the city leans on the same larger organizations.
Atkins said in the 10 years he’s lived in North Las Vegas, he has viewed the city as lacking vision and leadership.
“We have an entire town that’s a tale of two cities,” he said. “We have six-figure zip codes and five other zip codes that are woefully neglected. If you have leadership that’s developing the city, that wouldn’t happen.”
If North Las Vegas had better leadership, he added, it would not only attract businesses with good-paying jobs but also would ensure in negotiations led to more North Las Vegans receiving those jobs.
Atkins said that, if elected, in his first 100 days he would do a systematic audit of every department from the city manager’s office to economic development to “go through everything the city is doing.”
“One of the biggest departments is economic development because that’s how our city gets tax revenue,” he said. “That’s how we grow. Do we have a competent staff in economic development? I have lots of questions.”
Bouchard said this election should be about “cleaning house,” adding that any candidate on stage was better than the current mayor.
Lee is running as a Republican in a bloated primary for governor. Prior to announcing his gubernatorial run in a campaign video where he declared “socialism is a cancer,” Lee was a registered Democrat who served in the state assembly from from 1997 to 2001 and the state senate from 2004 to 2012. He was ousted by Spearman in the 2012 Democratic primary.
“If we listen to the mayor we have now, if you ever heard him speak, it’s ‘I fixed this city, I made North Las Vegas better, I have done everything, and I am now going to fix the state,’” Atkins said. “The mayor has always said, ‘I have done’ and ‘I am the one.’ He has never, ever once said ‘my team, my council, my anything.’ That is not a leader. That’s a bully.”
In addition to frustration for the current leadership, candidates Saturday agreed more needs to be done to address housing insecurity and rising rents.
“We have a huge homeless population, and it’s growing because we have a lot of people who can’t afford their rent,” said Jesse Addison III, the Navy veteran who works as a civilian for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.
Addison specifically highlighted ways to help seniors, those disabled and veterans stay housed.
“Those are the people being thrown out of their places and becoming homeless, adding to the homeless count,” he said.
When asked about her first 100 days in office, Spearman said “we have to get the housing situation in check.”
“We can’t wait two or three years when something else is built,” she said. “We must do something right now about the escalating rent costs because there are families, there are seniors who are being put out of their homes because they can’t afford the rent.”
If elected, she said would look at directing some of the funds provided by the American Rescue Plan Act – a federal relief package that allocated $47 million to North Las Vegas – toward rent relief.
She also advocated for leading “the city council in a unanimous vote to just put a moratorium on the rent.”
“Let’s stop the escalation and stop the bleeding,” she said. “We need to at the same time be meeting to talk about affordable housing.”
Atkins agreed with Spearman on the moratorium, saying “we know people are being evicted right away and that is something that has to be put in place immediately.”
“That’s a temporary stop gap,” he said. “That’s not permanent. You can put that in place to try to help people.”
Nevada is a Dillion’s Rule state, a governance principle to which Nevada adheres that limits local powers to those expressly granted by the state. It’s unclear what actions the council can take on implementing rent control without legislative action.
The Culinary Union recently launched a ballot initiative to cap year-to-year rents at 5% in North Las Vegas.
Candidates were also asked at the March 3 forum if they would commit to enact rent control if the state legislature were to allow it.
Goynes-Brown said she “didn’t have a problem with that.”
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