Final thoughts on Reno’s city council candidate race

city council candidates

If you don’t vote, it’s your fault. Clockwise from top left: Hillary Schieve, Elisa Cafferata, Paul McKenzie, Bonnie Weber, Naomi Duerr, Ray Pezonella. Photos by Mike Higdon, except Bonnie Weber’s picture.

A final comparison of all six Reno City Council candidates for ward 2, 4 and mayor

This is the final part of a four-part series of Reno city council and mayoral candidate interviews. We asked fans what they wanted to know about the candidates and came up with 10 question. Read more about the six candidates and origin of this series here. Now it’s time to summarize our findings.

Endorsing candidates for Reno mayor and city council seems in some ways, rather irrelevant for a website writing about booze. I’m not a political reporter, I’m just a journalist who likes to drink and wants to see Reno continue to grow. Like most of you, I’m a Nevadan, and I’ve lived in Reno for 10 years after moving up here from Las Vegas where I grew up. Politics seem complicated but important in a somewhat nebulous way a lot of the time. But voting is important, because it’s one of the easiest ways to tell politicians what I want. It’s not unlike voting for tap handles with my dollar, although even easier, I just have to show up and poke at a screen for 10 minutes.

So instead of endorsing the candidates outright, I’m going to discuss what I learned while interviewing them, although it’ll probably sound like an endorsement for some of them. I hope that my experience can serve as a surrogate for you to look at these six candidates in a way that may not have been available to you before.

Bonnie Weber vs. Paul McKenzie, ward 4

Check out the original Q&A here.

Ultimately, Bonnie appeared to have a more collaborative attitude about growing Reno businesses. She admitted to areas where she lacked knowledge but wanted to seek out that knowledge and people. Her position in the Washoe County Commissioner’s office puts her in a place to understand planning and business development as well as the difficulties people face in doing so. She is also on the board of the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority which could be very useful for bringing notice to larger events and businesses in Reno.

Paul had a very “do-it-yourself” approach to new businesses. The opinions expressed by several brewery owners, including Tom Young of Great Basin Brewing Co. tells me that’s not what the liquor industry needs or wants. Tom sees other businesses, such as Tesla, receiving enormous hand outs from the government while he struggles to make a profit because of poor regulations in the city, county and state.

In some ways, Bonnie seemed out of touch with Reno’s image but her positive outlook was refreshing. Paul’s focus on employing local companies is important to the growth of our businesses and employment, but there was very little focus on tourism. As much as Bonnie seemed a bit out of touch with Reno, Paul’s flagrantly inaccurate statements about STAR bonds shows a good deal of negative bias.

Elisa Cafferata vs. Naomi Duerr, ward 2

Check out the original Q&A here.

These two candidates are incredibly smart and resourceful. Naomi’s vision of the area is very large in scope while Elisa’s vision focuses more narrowly on start-ups and technology. Both of these visions can be incredibly valuable to the city for different reasons. I wouldn’t mind seeing someone with a more narrow focus help balance out the city council and represent that start-up and technology scene in Reno but I also wonder if that would inhibit Elisa’s flexibility in other areas. Naomi, however, seemed very open to multiple levels of collaboration with a lot of varying people and projects.

Elisa is a very direct, no-bullshit kind of person. That’s refreshing to see in anyone, especially someone running for a political position, provided you don’t like bullshit (if you do, then, well there’s that). Similarly to Bonnie and Paul, Elisa and Naomi differ on who they think should be moving small businesses forward. Elisa said it’s the hard work of business owners taking those steps alone. Naomi wanted to make Reno a foodie destination because that’s what often dictates travel arrangements to other cities.

One thing that stands out above the rest is that Elisa did her research, more than any other candidate, she knew what she was talking about every step of the way and even called me out on a few myths in my questions. Elisa is very practical and doesn’t make up platitudes or tell people what they want to hear just for the sake of making herself sound good, which is the feeling I get from every other candidate ever in America.

It should be noted that Naomi has grape vines that she makes wine out of  in her backyard as well as other fruit baring plants. Whether that makes her qualified to talk about the liquor industry is up for debate but it was kinda neat. Elisa works out of the Reno Collective and that puts her in direct contact with technology start-ups every single day.

Hillary Schieve vs. Ray Pezonella, Reno mayor

Check out the original Q&A here.

This was probably the most disappointing two interviews of the six. As I noted in some of the questions, they did not seem to do their research and kind of bullshitted their way through an answer to something that was very easy to look up with a Google search (all candidates had more than a week to prepare). Getting an interview scheduled with Ray was difficult because he uses a calendar book that his assistant couldn’t find, which I know I shouldn’t judge him on, but really, paper calendar, and you want to run a city? On the other hand, Hillary’s answers lacked specificity or larger vision and focused heavily on repeating the successes of Midtown and throwing out random buzz words that didn’t directly answer the questions or tie them back to how she would do something as mayor.

Ray got very passionate in some of his answers, so much that he began bouncing out of his chair and raising his voice. His love of Reno and need to see it succeed was very obvious and his large-scope vision of Reno showed the type of ideas and ball-busting attitude that might force the city forward. I would describe Hillary as “excited” about Reno, which is a form of passion but is not as loud or bouncy, and she appears more open to a good deal of collaboration and discovery. This could be viewed as her not having all the answers, which is in many ways, a positive or a negative depending how you view the mayor’s job.

Many have said that Ray would be more of Mayor Bob Cashell and I would agree with that. Ray pointed out that if we elected him, we’d get him and Hillary and he’d love to collaborate with her, etc. But then he goes and sends out a mailer shit-talking Hillary about liberal Las Vegas special interests and well, y’know, that’s pretty douchey, so it brings into question tactics he would use to get his way when he perceives himself as losing something he wants.

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Mike Higdon

Editor & Publisher at Drinkable Reno
Mike Higdon is a journalist passionate about beer and cocktails. He started the site because no one else covered Reno's growing craft scene at the level of detail required to stay in the know about all things drinkable in Reno.

9 thoughts on “Final thoughts on Reno’s city council candidate race

  1. Thanks, Mike! Great write up …

    And I’m sure a lot of folks appreciate getting info on a wider range of issues than the standard city debt & public safety issues.

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