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Politics and Policy

KUNR 2020 Voter Guide: Reno City Council Ward 3

KUNR 2020 voter guide for Reno City Council Ward 3. Illustration of a ballot being placed into a box. A pencil and a roll of stickers are in front of the box.
Crystal Willis

The race for Reno’s Ward 3 pits two-term incumbent Oscar Delgado against political activist and first-time challenger Rudy Leon. Delgado, who also serves as the CEO of Community Health Alliance, is often quiet during council meetings but active in the community. Leon is a librarian by trade but currently works as an editor. She says she wants to take a more proactive approach to address the city’s needs.

Reno’s Ward 3 stretches across most of eastern Reno from North McCarran to Hidden Valley and includes Renown Regional Medical Center and the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. Municipal races in Nevada are non-partisan.

For information on other races, visit our KUNR 2020 Voter Guide home page.

As a note: All responses in KUNR's 2020 Voter Guide have been submitted by the candidates. KUNR has not changed the answers other than to provide fact-checking as needed, indicated in the text with italics and parentheses.

Oscar Delgado. Decorative header with a patriotic color scheme.
Credit KUNR

Name: Oscar Delgado

Oscar Delgado has not yet responded to KUNR’s request to participate in this voter guide. We will post the response if it becomes available.

Rudy Leon. Decorative header with a patriotic color scheme.
Credit KUNR

Headshot of Rudy Leon. Woman with glasses, smiling.
Credit Courtesy of Rudy Leon

Name: Rudy Leon
Occupation: editor, librarian

Why are you running for office?

I have this notion that everyone should be able to live in this city that I love, without  worry that they won’t be able to pay rent or afford a home, or might be displaced because of the development going on.  Because I beleive careful planning by the city, that strategizes with all Reno residents’ interests in mind makes Reno a better place for us all.  I am running for City Council Ward 3 because I believe I can push our Council in that direction.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges facing the city of Reno?

Workforce housing. Housing the unhoused. Better jobs and a more diversified economy. Processes and priorities to allow us to navigate the economic crisis we are facing

How would you rate the city’s response to the pandemic thus far?

We were doing very well April, May, June. Since then, it feels like the City has thrown up its hands and is asking us all to take our chances

As a City Councilmember, what would be your top three priorities?

There are priorities for my term, and there are priorities for getting through this crisis. For the crisis, my top priority has to be setting goals and priorities as a Council. We cannot make a budget without thoughtful adopting these and then shaping the budget to match. 

We need to make better use of the tools and levers at our disposal to fund workforce housing and to house the unhoused. Permits, variances, use of city-owned properties, and careful and granular budget analysis to locate money being poorly spent.

Working to bring in the missing swathe of management and office jobs--often requiring advanced degrees-- companies leave behind when they relocate their manufacturing, warehouse and data storage facilities here. 

It’s no secret Reno has issues with housing insecurity. What steps should the city take to address homelessness?

Those are two separate issues. Housing insecurity requires we build more housing, and PDQ. I propose we advance this through permitting processes and by negotiating with developers who want to buy City-owned land below market value. 

Homelessness is multiple issues. One, yes, is intervening so people are unlikely to lose their homes. But with over 3000 people living on the streets in Reno, we also have to invest in getting people into housing, real housing, not tent shelters. We must commit to Housing First and use the land the city owns to negotiate the building of mid-rise and perhaps high-rise supportive housing for these communities, as their needs demand. An unfortunate percent of the homeless in Reno are mentally ill, and need housing support which addresses their ongoing mental health. Seniors and veterans need solutions specific to their needs and in partnership with appropriate groups. 

Ultimately, we must keep front-of-mind that these people are residents, and are in crisis, and deserve dignity, respect, and aid. Not warehousing. If we don't commit to that, nothing else can work.  

In that same vein, housing costs in Northern Nevada continue to climb — pricing many families out of the area. What should the city council do to increase the supply of affordable housing in Reno?

Many on City Council, including my opponent, like to say that we can't really tell people what to do with property they own. In fact, we not only can but are obligated to do so. The City Master Plan is a document telling people what they can and cannot do with their property. The permitting process is by definition the city telling people what they can and cannot do with their property. 

City Council is -- in no small part-- elected to determine what the city should be like. It is an obligation of the job and what we owe the electorate. We need to use the permitting processes to demand that developers meet the City's needs as well as their own. We need to start sunsetting unactivated permits. And we need to stop selling city property below market value and use our assets to fund our needs. There are so many options for how we can use this property to fund housing-- both workforce and supportive. All that's lacking is the will and the creativity. 

Like nearly every municipality, Reno’s financial situation amid the pandemic is precarious, at best. Where would you look to balance the city’s budget if cuts are needed in the future?

We only have one real mechanism, and that's being very clear about goals and priorities and building a budget that funds those and makes the very difficult choices about what not to fund for a little while. We simply have no real ability to increase revenue flow, but must make the money we have do the essential work. 

The few revenue options the city has at its disposal are too targeted and painful to designated groups, and could do more harm than good if leveraged. 

The other option is to use one or both of our allocated BDRs to request permission from the legislature for a measure which will bring in immediate revenue. But that should be done in cooperation with other municipalities, after looking at all the options many minds can imagine, and submitting a BDR that more than just Reno can lobby behind. 

Since the killing of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis who died after a white police officer pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes, activists around the country have demanded police reform. That includes some calls to dramatically shift money away from police departments toward social services. Do you support such reforms?

I have spent much of the last two years wondering what the police are for. After each of the eight or so calls I have made to the police which never produced a police officer. After a score of casual conversation which revealed a lack of regard for the mission "to serve and protect the people of Reno." After more than a half dozen upsetting and downright horrifying comments from Reno police officers about sexual assault. All that before George Floyd and Miciah Lee met their deaths at the hands of police and before I learned that 62 people have died at the hands of the Reno police since 2000. (Fact check: KUNR could not find data supporting Leon's claim.)  Before I saw the racism bleeding out of the bookings numbers at the jail. (The Washoe County jail is operated by the Sheriff's Office. Everyone arrested in Washoe County is booked at the jail.)

I do not see how the RPD meets the needs of the people of Reno. We deserve a protective community response division which meets our needs. I look forward to crafting such a division, built for Reno and the needs of our residents. And I think it's imperative that we do so during this time of budget crisis.

Learn more about Rudy Leon at rudyforreno.com.

For information on other races, visit our KUNR 2020 Voter Guide home page.

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