North Las Vegas candidate for mayor Pat Spearman sat next to an empty table last Oct. 13 when her opponent, Councilwoman Pamela Goynes-Brown, failed to show up. (Photo: MIchael Lyle).
In a debate that was supposed to feature two candidates running for North Las Vegas Mayor, current City Councilwoman Pamela Goynes-Brown didn’t show and state Sen. Pat Spearman used her time to chastise the city for blocking a rent cap ballot initiative and question the absence of her opponent.
The ACLU of Nevada, Clark County Black Caucus and NAACP Las Vegas, which hosted a candidate forum Oct. 13, invited both candidates, each competing to become the first Black mayor in North Las Vegas.
In a statement to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Goynes-Brown’s campaign said she was unable to attend, questioned why the debate went forward and said “we are sure the voters will see through this stunt.”
With the lack of housing units along with skyrocketing rents hurting tenants across Nevada, numerous questions centered around ways to address the affordable housing crisis.
Spearman, who was asked if she would support rent stabilization, said she was “on board” and that she would support “looking at some kind of control to make sure people can stay in their homes.”
“The rent is too darn high,” she said. “If we don’t do something, we are going to see more and more people who are not just housing insecure, but we are going to see more and more people who are homeless.”
She also pushed back against claims, which have been promoted by the realtor groups and the Nevada Apartment Association, that proposals to cap rents would hurt “mom and pop” landlords.
“No it won’t,” she said. “More than half the houses and apartment and rental units that are here in Nevada and in Clark County are owned by corporations that don’t even live here in the state. That is wrong.”
When asked during a candidate forum in March if she would support rent stabilization, Goynes-Brown said she “didn’t have a problem with that.”
Spearman questioned whether Goynes-Brown was committed, referencing her recent vote to prevent a ballot question that would have authorized a rent cap.
The Culinary Union launched its “neighborhood stability” initiative in May trying to qualify a ballot question to cap yearly rent increases at 5%.
The proposal excluded units owned by the government, units owned by landlords who only own a single unit in North Las Vegas, rentals where the landlord provides reduced rent as part of a federal, state or local program, and residential properties divided into four units with one occupied by the landlord.
Nevada law says that in order for an initiative petition to qualify it must receive signatures of at least 15% “of the voters who voted at the last preceding general county or municipal election.”
Organizers submitted 3,396 signatures to the City of North Las Vegas June 30, arguing they met the signature requirement based on the 2019 municipal election.
However, the city clerk determined that 15% should have been based on the June 14 primary and determined not enough signatures were collected for the ballot initiative to proceed.
Goynes-Brown, along with three other council members, voted 4-1 to uphold the clerk’s decision and reject the ballot initiative. North Las Vegas City Councilman Richard Cherchio voting no.
“I do support rent control,” she said ahead of her vote. “I do agree something needs to be done to help the folks struggling in our state just because of inflation and the lack of affordability. It’s just not right so many residents work so hard and you still can’t make ends meet.”
However, she said her vote wasn’t about “the merit of rent control” but rather the process being followed for the ballot initiative.
“As much as it pains me to say, the proper process wasn’t followed,” she said.
Spearman said if Goynes-Brown was committed to rent stabilization, she would have let the initiative go forward.
“The only thing it said was the rent prices were out of control, let the people decide,” Spearman said. “If you didn’t agree with things said in that initiative, then vote no. You should have let it go forward because people need an opportunity to talk about what their needs are and help address this issue. If the city is not going to do it, then the people should have an opportunity to come up with a plan to do it.”
This year, North Las Vegas has announced several developments including the NLV Gateway, a master-planned project that includes national retailers, restaurants and multifamily housing slated to open in 2024.
Spearman said the city needs to “pull back right now and focus on affordable housing.”
“If people don’t have a place to stay, I promise you they are not going to go out and buy a Michel Kors purse,” she said, referencing a potential retail store coming to the project.
Mayor John Lee has said the project will bring in close to 1,000 jobs. But Spearman argued those jobs will be entry level and their wages won’t be “enough for people to support housing right now.”
As far as developing affordable housing projects, Spearman said she wants to “assemble a team of people who will look at this issue.”
“I intend to make sure we make a dent in this affordable housing crisis within six months of me taking office,” she said. “That’s my promise to you.”
Lawyers, grudges & money
Spearman called for a forensic audit into the city budget to see how dollars have been spent the past few years.
When asked about spending priorities, she said, the city has to “make sure our policies are not influenced by politics and personal grudges.” Spearman didn’t elaborate on the comment.
“We need to stop getting ourselves into lawsuits because we are wasting money,” she said.
Spearman referenced two specific lawsuits.
First, North Las Vegas police were sued in 2021 for a traffic stop involving a woman who is deaf.
The woman was forced to use her 11-year-old twin daughters as interpreters and the department is accused of using excessive force, violating her rights under the Americans with Disability Act and mocking her use of American Sign Language.
In the same year, the ACLU of Nevada filed a lawsuit after the city appointed a judge to a vacant seat rather than holding an election.
“We told the city, the state legislators said you cannot put someone in the judges seat and have them there for six years because our constitution says they have to be elected by the people,” Spearman said. “We said that very clearly. They did it anyway. When they did it, they opened themselves up to a lawsuit.”
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