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Politics and Policy

KUNR 2020 Voter Guide: Sparks City Council Ward 3

KUNR 2020 voter guide for Sparks 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

In the race for Sparks Ward 3, incumbent Paul Anderson faces a challenge from Quentin Smith. Anderson has served on the Sparks City Council since 2018 when he was appointed to the seat after Ron Smith was elected mayor. He has recently faced criticism from community members alleging he used racist tactics in a campaign mailer that appears to show a darkened photo of his opponent’s face, according to the Reno Gazette Journal. According to Quentin Smith’s campaign website, he is a faculty member at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Spark’s Ward 3 covers much of eastern Sparks, including the marina. Municipal races in Nevada are nonpartisan.

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.

Paul Anderson. Decorative header with a patriotic color scheme.
Credit KUNR
Headshot of Paul Anderson. He is looking toward the camera and smiling.
Credit Courtesy of Paul Anderson

Name: Paul Anderson
Occupation: Account Manager for Pilot Thomas Logistics

Why are you running for office?

Most of my life has been spent living, working, and raising a family here in Sparks. I love this community! Over the past 30 years, I have been volunteering to make Sparks a better city. Several years ago, I determined that I could make a more significant difference in our community by serving in public office.

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

As Sparks City Councilman, one of the biggest challenges facing us is the COVID Pandemic. It has had a catastrophic impact on families, businesses, and our local government. The epidemic has increased fear and anxiety, strained relationships, and brought about a jump in domestic violence, addiction, and suicide. The long-term financial impact on the city will result in multi-million-dollar budget shortfalls, making responsible budgeting essential for us leaders.

Another challenge I am facing as a Councilman is ensuring that the voice of every citizen is heard. Whether the voices are of the minority community, the disenfranchised, or homeowners and businesses, everyone deserves to be heard and understood. During these turbulent times, listening by leaders has become of the utmost importance. That is why I have attended numerous meetings representing the Sparks City Council, and with other Community Leaders, met with our citizens to discuss tough subjects that confront all of us.

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

In my first two years of office, experiencing a pandemic has helped me appreciate our city staff’s value. During the pandemic, I have witnessed our incredible public employees serving the Sparks community, while under extreme conditions.

The staff immediately prepared for sweeping changes within each department. The initial budget shortfall was estimated to be close to $12 Million. Expecting the worst, the City Council, City Manager, and department heads voluntarily took pay cuts while calmly analyzing other cost reductions.

Within a month, we identified $8 ½ Million in cutbacks. These measures were then implemented, with little impact on our citizens.

At the same time, we were able to support the community through an Emergency Response Team, additional resources for first responders, social distancing facilities for the homeless, extra medical beds for COVID patients and $3.5 Million in rental and business assistance. Thankfully, many of these expenses were covered by CARES Act funds.

We still face budget issues over the coming years, but thus far, I rate our response to the pandemic as EXCELLENT.

As a member of the city council, what would be your top three priorities?

My top priorities as a Sparks Councilman have been to provide the highest level of public health and safety. These issues are more important than ever during these turbulent times. We usually think of public health and safety as our Police and Fire Departments. Our first responders ARE vital to our health and safety, but they are only two components of the solution.

By this is I mean that public health and safety are in danger without a robust infrastructure. Think of it this way, if you flush your toilet and it empties into your home, due to a faulty sewer system, your health and safety are in jeopardy. If you cannot drive our roadways without swerving to avoid potholes, your health and safety are in danger. These are only a couple of examples of the numerous areas that infrastructure affects our health and safety.

Another critical component for public health and safety is a responsible budget. During the budgeting process, whether it is in a business or government, there are always more needs and wants than money to cover them. It is paramount that you have leaders who set aside their agendas and focus on what is best for the entire community. 

Now comes the hard part, deciding how we can best serve the community with limited available funds. As a Sparks City Councilman, I have been making those tough decisions, and will continue to do so.

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

Over the past two years, my fellow Sparks City Councilmembers and I have implemented steps to address homelessness. One step we recently took was to assign three full-time Officers to the new Homeless Outreach Proactive Engagement (HOPE) Team.

The main mission of the HOPE team is to offer services and assistance to those experiencing homelessness. The team works with various local organizations and charities to help those in need with: affordable housing, shelter space, food, clothing, identification, and social security cards. The Team recently assisted a homeless veteran apply for, benefits to help him get into a home. Other projects will soon be announced to further aid the homeless and those suffering from mental health issues.

Sparks has also worked with Reno and Washoe County and local faith-based groups to start the Our Place Homeless Housing Project. This Sparks’ campus provides safe shelter to local women, children, and families experiencing homelessness.

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 Sparks?

Long-term housing solutions include advancing multi-family housing projects that offer cost-effective homes. The city needs to continue approving smart growth, especially for “missing middle” projects that assist lower-income citizens.

Developers can be encouraged to build projects by the city deferring building fees until the of the end of the project.

Another way to increase the supply of affordable housing is to promote co-op facilities. Sparks is home to two of the three low-cost condominium co-ops in Nevada. I propose the city encourage co-op facilities, by providing incentives to multi-family housing owners and builders to turn projects into co-op condos.

Like nearly every municipality, Sparks' 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 at the City of Sparks have been facing a massive budget shortfall of almost $12 Million. However, over the past several months, the Sparks City Council has already taken extensive measures to reduce our budget. These cuts are saving the city over $8 Million.

Certainly, we will need to make further budget cuts. Thus far, the cuts that have been made, have had little impact on the citizens of Sparks or the city's employees. Other cuts that may be required would be in areas like the Parks and Recreation Department, such as postponing the $800,000 turf replacement at Golden Eagle Regional Park. We can also suspend purchases of new vehicles, delay filling employee vacancies, and lastly, impose pay reductions. The absolute last choice would be to lay off employees.

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?

A city's leadership should routinely review each of the departments, making reforms to improve policies and procedures, to include our Police Department.

Daily, the Sparks Police Department's men and women serve our community by fighting against horrible crimes like child abuse, domestic violence, sex trafficking, assault, and murder. At the same time, our officers also respond to motorist assists, well checks, disturbance calls, robberies, and domestic disputes. These daily routines, performed without error, do not make it to the spotlight. The media coverage most certainly takes place at those infrequent times when something goes wrong. 

We, the citizens, have called on these men and women to stand guard between our city's sheep and wolves, putting their lives in jeopardy to carry out the task. The officers routinely perform duties that most of us cannot or will not do ourselves. Then we expect them to complete the job flawlessly, all while under extreme pressures.

Can our police department do better? Yes. Can we reimagine public safety? Yes.

By the time you read this, I will have brought to the City of Sparks a plan to implement a Citizen’s Police Advisory Committee (CPAC). We have many highly intelligent people in our community, and we need to have conversations on how to best move forward. These CPAC meetings will consist of officers, citizens (to include our Black, Latino and Immigrant communities), and City Leaders. The CPAC's mission is to solve departmental issues and build a more robust community-oriented police department. 

A major concern of mine is police officers interacting with individuals suffering from mental health problems. Some have suggested replacing our police with social workers. That is not the answer. A good alternative is to expand the Mobil Outreach Safety Team (MOST), by adding mental health clinicians to ride with our officers. These additional MOST teams will be utilized to assist our police officers with calls involving mental health issues.

Another helpful step is to encourage Black, Latino and Immigrant community members to join our Citizen’s Police Academy. Attending the Academy allows citizens to interact with all levels of the Police Department. It will also build stronger relationships, understanding, and trust between our Police Department and community. For some minority attendees, the Citizen’s Police Academy can open a career path that they might not have otherwise been considered.

Learn more about Paul Anderson at PaulAnderson4Sparks.org.

Quentin Smith. Decorative header with a patriotic color scheme.
Credit KUNR

Name: Quentin Smith

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

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

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