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Politics and Policy

Reno City Council Candidates On How They Would Address Homelessness, Police Reform

A black building with white letters that say, “Reno City Hall.”
Lucia Starbuck
KUNR Public Radio
Reno City Hall.

There are four seats open on the Reno City Council this election. This Is Reno recently held a forum where the candidates expressed how they would address the issues facing the city, including homelessness and housing, along with police reform. KUNR’s Lucia Starbuck checked in with Bob Conrad, the publisher of This Is Reno, to hear what the candidates had to say.

Lucia Starbuck: There are eight people running for the four open seats for Reno City Council. Tell us about those races.

Bob Conrad: Reno City Council is a very interesting race in that there's a lot of stiff competition there. You have some very strong incumbents and they, of course, are fighting to retain their seats and they do have some challengers. It’s going to be a tough race I think for those challengers.

Starbuck: One of the biggest issues facing the city is concerns related to housing. Before the pandemic, officials estimated there were 1,000 unsheltered individuals in Washoe County, and that number has grown since March. Many encampments along the Truckee River in Reno reside in Ward 1. How do those candidates propose to address homelessness?

Conrad: Jenny Brekhus says she’s done a lot for the homeless issue and will continue that if she is reelected and J.D. Drakulich is citing his experience as [president of] the Eddy House board, as well as his ability to work with people to address this issue. Here’s what Drakulich said when he was asked about homelessness in the Reno area:

“I want to push to get our grant writer back and that person will be focused on helping with our shelter services, enhancing those capabilities, and then also transitional and permanent supportive housing.”

Here’s what Brekhus said when she was asked about that question:

“The encampments are very important and if they cause public safety risk, health risk, and they often become biohazard sites that need remediation afterward, my policy is calling for them to be removed.”

Starbuck: Housing costs in northern Nevada are continuing to climb, pricing many families out of the area. What do the candidates for the at-large seat suggest to do to increase affordable housing?

Conrad: I can’t answer that, neither Eddie Lorton nor Devon Reese participated in our forum. I’m not sure we really have a clear picture of how to deal with the price of housing in the area. I think what you will be seeing is, obviously, attempts to increase the housing stock in the Reno area, and I believe both candidates see that as a need and a potential solution.

Starbuck: I also want to address that Lorton recently came under fire for an attack ad against Reese. Can you break down the controversy with that ad?

Conrad: Lorton was running ads on local radio stations that called out Reese’s sexuality. This is generally considered highly inappropriate. Lorton obviously faced pretty strong criticism for that, and most people that I’ve seen have called upon Lorton to rescind that approach and, basically, considered it highly inappropriate if not homophobic.

Starbuck: Much like the rest of the nation, there have been civil protests denouncing police brutality in Reno. Many residents in Reno have called for changes within local law enforcement and for government officials to address racism. The candidates for Ward 3 have very different ideas on how to address these issues. What are they?

Conrad: The Kenny Guinn Center for Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan think tank in Nevada, put out a number of recommendations for law enforcement. Councilmember Oscar Delgado really wanted to see the Kenny Quinn Center report’s recommendations adopted, and that did not happen. He did hold a forum sort of advocating for that and discussing those issues.

I would say that candidate, Rudy Leon, is obviously very concerned about these issues. So more specific to Leon, since she did attend the forum and Delgado did not, here’s what she said specifically about these issues:

“I personally very much support a complete revisioning from zero of what we want a community protective services unit to look like, and in my mind, there’s a group that are the armed emergency response team, and there are groups that are unarmed emergency response team.”

Conrad: What can be done in the long term? I do not know, other than perhaps some legislative changes at the state level. I have a feeling we will continue to see law enforcement under the microscope, and it will be interesting to see what either candidate does should they get elected, or in the case of Delgado, reelected.

This Is Reno held a candidate forum for the Reno City Council candidates, you can find it here.

Lucia Starbuck is a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project.

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

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