Ray Pezonella and Hillary Schieve talk about Reno’s future

Ray Pezonella and Hillary Schieve

Left, mayoral candidate Ray Pezonella, right, mayoral candidate and current Reno City Council member at large Hillary Shieve. Photos by Mike Higdon.

Reno mayoral candidates come from two different worlds but both are passionate about Reno’s future

This is the first part of a three-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 the below 10 question. Read more about the other 4 candidates and origin of this series here. All answers have been summarized for space, brevity and context. We urge you to listen to the complete interview audio at the bottom of each story.

Hillary Schieve and Ray Pezonella, both candidates for Reno’s 2014 mayoral election, come from two very different perspectives. Ray approaches Northern Nevada from a more holistic and detailed point of view while Hillary focuses more on small businesses and the types of progress made by the Midtown district.

1. What is your vision for Reno? How do you plan to help it get there?

Context: This is a simple establishment question. It sets the tone of the interview.

Ray: Ray’s vision revolves around the current rebranding efforts in Reno, which he called an evolution. More importantly, he stressed that Reno does not stand alone and instead is part of the larger region: Sparks, Virginia City, Lake Tahoe, Carson City, Gardnerville, Washoe County, Douglas County and the Truckee Meadows. It’s important to him that these areas all work together for the greater good rather than competing or ignoring each other. To Ray, the future of the region comes from the University of Nevada, Reno, technology, manufacturing and economic diversification, not gaming and casinos as in the past. He plans to help this larger regional progress by networking with people, government and businesses.

Hillary: Hillary’s main vision looks like Midtown, something she said she was instrumental in creating. She said we need to put Reno on the map with an entrepreneurial culture. She said many of the assets in Reno come from the talented people and their willingness to share and help each other improve the community. Her direction revolves around technology, innovation, small business and a generation of people who seize the opportunities of Reno’s new growth.

2. What is Reno’s current image inwardly and/or outwardly? What should it be in the future?

Context: This question is a concern to many locals since the recession, when we learned that casino gaming will not sustain Nevada and persistent negative stereotypes hurt our reputation.

Both: Ray and Hillary agreed that the inward image of Reno is one that locals appreciate and understand. Reno is a beautiful place full of people who care about the community and realize what the region offers residents. They also understood that the outward image of Reno needs work and is often associated with divorce, prostitution or gaming. Their idea of the future of Reno’s image is where they diverge.

Ray: The future image should be what Ray calls the “Northern Nevada Experience.” He would like to see tourists and locals experience downtown Reno, cultural centers, art, events, gaming, seminars and regional activities connected by massive transit system. “We have the ingredients to make the best cake ever, it’s just up to us to make the best cake ever,” he said. That, he believes, is where Las Vegas has gotten the idea of a cohesive experience right.

Hillary: For Hillary, the future image of Reno is similar in that “we have so much to offer and so much for a new generation” but different that she did not mention the rest of the region. Instead, she focuses on bringing and keeping students here and was less specific about those opportunities.

3. What role, if any, do local brewing and distilling businesses play in Reno’s future identity/image/vision?

Context: Breweries and distilleries represent an artisan business, especially in Nevada, that drive an economic index called discretionary spending. Discretionary spending is the type of money consumers spend on non-essential items after bills and taxes. If locals and tourists can afford alcohol and contribute to this local industry, it demonstrates the overall health of the community. More specifically, these businesses can drive awareness and tourist traffic.

Ray: Ray said breweries and distilleries are another thing that drives people to the downtown area and contributes to the dining experience. To him, these businesses represent technology and “great people learning some great things. For us to have people in that industry is important to us,” he said. As a mayor, he said, it’s one more group to bring to the table, a piece of the puzzle.

Hillary: Hillary said breweries and distilleries are an innovative industry full of entrepreneurs who are passionate about what they do. She loves the role they play in Reno because they educate people and bring a different aspect to entertainment. For a long time, she said, Reno did not have these types of businesses. “I don’t know if people understand the magnitude of what goes into distilling. It’s fascinating. It can be an art and a business.”

4. How does the “University Town” plan to connect and expand the University of Nevada, Reno fit with the more adult themed parts of Reno’s districts?

Context: The “University Town” or Reconnecting Districts concept is an idea to connect the University of Nevada, Reno to downtown Reno with mixed-used zoning, a ban on casino development and a push for transit and parks.

Both: Neither of them saw a problem with the adult-theme parts of Reno’s districts and the college town concept. Instead, they saw these as opportunities.

Ray: Ray’s answer can be summarized best in his quote, “If you don’t have a great downtown, you don’t have a great city, I can guarantee that.” He believes the downtown needs to build synergy with the University of Nevada, Reno by blending businesses such as breweries, distilleries, start-up technology firms, restaurants and others.

Hillary: Hillary referenced several of the recent developers making changes in the downtown area and said she’d like to see more mixed use live-work spaces and small businesses.

5. Would you bring attention to the local brewing/distilling businesses in the city through government supported advertising and/or marketing with City of Reno or Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority?

Context: The RSCVA and the City of Reno promotes many local businesses in its efforts to bring tourists to the area.

Both: They both agreed that the RSCVA and City of Reno absolutely need to continue to showcases businesses that exist already. Hillary said simply, that we need to make sure existing businesses are successful in order to keep growing. Ray gave specific examples of events and tourist attractions in Reno, and used Napa, California as an example of an area synonymous with an experience.

6. Reno and Las Vegas both have loose open container and public intoxication laws. Do you consider those laws good or bad?

Context: This relates to the type of culture in Nevada and many outdoor drinking events that we have in town. Las Vegas recently banned glass containers on Fremont Street because it was becoming a public safety issue. It should be noted that Nevada does not have any laws prohibiting public intoxication (drunk driving not withstanding) and is actually against Nevada state law for any local government to create a law prohibiting it. #becauseNevada However, open alcohol containers outside are prohibited (especially in cars, except limos) and downtown events are allowed because they create a “beer garden” perimeter around the event.

Both: Neither candidate appeared to be fully aware of these laws, which is unfortunate considering how easy it is to find a summary of these laws online with a minor history lesson as to why they changed. A simple conversation with any of the main downtown casinos would’ve informed them of the processes required for outdoor drinking events and what permitting and public safety requirements the city holds over them. That being said, both of them agreed the laws as they appear to work now should remain in place with no changes. Ray added that he would like to talk to the police chief to determine if these laws should continue to be so loose and Hillary said locals should be aware of the image portrayed to tourists if we’re walking around drunk downtown.

7. Does the Economic Development and Redevelopment Agency help or hurt businesses?

Context: This question is about whether or not redevelopment agencies are needed to help the city grow and change.

Both: Both of them agreed that EDAWN is incredibly important. Ray specified that he believes in sustained growth.

8. Do the two redevelopment zones — Downtown and Midtown-Fourth Street zones — help or hurt businesses?

Context: The redevelopment zones in Reno are responsible for many new businesses but is it at the cost of other areas of town?

Both: Both agreed that redevelopment helps but with different motivations.

Ray: Ray said the free enterprise system is the main source of movement while the government is there to guide and direct people. “Government is not the answer to anything,” he said.

Hillary: Hillary said the city must make sure they don’t look at every business the same way because one rule may apply to one business that doesn’t apply to another. “We need to have a yes message that we’re open for business. I hear that it’s difficult for new businesses opening up. It’s important now more than ever that the city holds their hand and walks them through the process to make sure they are as successful as possible,” she said.

9. As casino employment has declined, food and beverage service employment has increased throughout Nevada. How would you deal with this change in the local economy?

Context: According to the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, the casino industry employed 14% fewer people in 2013 than it did in 2000, while the food and drink places employed 65% more. This is a significant change in a tourism and local economic driver.

Ray: Ray spoke very passionately in this answer, saying that this represents the free enterprise system. Ultimately, he believes this change in the industry shows nature’s way of balancing itself and that gaming will make its way back up in the future, although not as high as it once was. “There’s no question we have an opportunity of a lifetime. I just want to go out and hug all the businesses who stayed and paid their taxes and made it through the recession. We talk about bringing in new business, growth is great, but don’t forget the ones who were your base and foundation,” he said.

Hillary: Hillary said casinos are a big part of what makes Reno and thinks gaming will reinvent itself in some way. She also believes competition is good because it encourages businesses to step up their game and improve.

10. Much of the difficulty in establishing liquor production businesses in Nevada comes from local regulations. Some cities and government agencies (including Las Vegas) established programs to help the industry. What regulations, agencies or programs might you propose to change, create or cut as it relates to the liquor production industry?

Context: This question combines everything into one direct question about new liquor businesses and how the candidate can influence that process. Some regulations might include forcing breweries and distilleries to build grease traps, a very expensive and completely irrelevant utility. It can also related to zoning, liquor laws, taxation and distribution.

Both: Both of them admitted that this is not an area they know much about and would plan to reach out to the breweries and distilleries to understand the challenges they face in creating new liquor businesses. Ray said he would look at other cities developing successful connections with their liquor producers instead of reinventing the wheel. Hillary said she personally loves the challenge of working through these types of specific concerns and would also enjoy communicating with the business owners these laws impact.


For the full interview and last comments made by the two candidates, listen to the audio clips below.

Ray Pezonella’s interview

Check out his website for bio information

Hillary Shieve’s Interview

Check out her website for bio information

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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.