KUNR 2020 Voter Guide: Reno City Council Ward 5

Oct 16, 2020

The race for Ward 5 is between an incumbent seeking her third and final term on the Reno City Council and a political newcomer. Two-term incumbent Neoma Jardon has touted her experience working with the council since 2012. Darla Fink is a retired finance director and small business owner.

Reno’s Ward 5 encompasses most of Downtown and Northwest Reno, including the University of Nevada, Reno, Somersett and areas around Verdi. 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.

Credit KUNR

Name: Darla Fink

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

Credit KUNR

Credit Courtesy of Neoma Jardon

Name: Neoma Jardon
Occupation: Businesswoman

Why Are You Running for Office?

I’m running for office because I believe that there’s still so much for our community to accomplish—and so much that we’ve worked tirelessly for in need of our protection. As someone who has dedicated the majority of their life to public service in this community, I think it is critically important that people stand up and use whatever competencies, resources, relationships and energy they have available to drive positive change for all of the people who live, work and play here.

Not only that, but I understand that our community—and, really, much of the world—is living in a moment where the decisions we make are critically important. The choices we make today for our environment, our budget, and the way we take care of our people and the places that they live will have a significant impact on our future.

I think it’s important that as we navigate the process of making those decisions, we include voices that are experienced, capable of making tough decisions informed by complex factors, collaborative (now is not the time for political gamesmanship—period), and forward-thinking in their approach. I think that I’ve demonstrated these qualities over the years, and I’m hoping that I can continue to serve as an effective ally to the present and future generations of Reno through the actions I take as a council member.

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

The biggest challenges facing the City of Reno today revolve around quality of life/public safety, housing insecurity, and—I think inarguably—our socioeconomic outlook in the years to come.

Well before the COVID-19 pandemic impacted our city and upended much of our way of life, we faced significant challenges where housing and infrastructure to support our growing community are concerned. The simple fact is that our housing mix and inventory is not where it needs to be to support our growth, and this is contributing to major stressors that are having an effect on families, individuals and even businesses in the region—the latter of which end up having significant difficulty with recruitment because their talent pool lacks suitable living conditions. Naturally, issues pertaining to our socioeconomic condition and housing status have a meaningful impact on our quality of life and public safety. I think we can all agree that houselessness, economic insecurity, lost wages and any number related negative outcomes are fairly strong predictors of diminished quality of life and increased challenges to public safety in any community. Now that the pandemic has significantly impacted the national economy, it’s likely that those impacts will be felt to some meaningful degree here—and it will be up to us to rise to the occasion to stem the tide of negative effects so that we can continue Reno’s hard-won march toward sustainable prosperity.

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

I think as we evaluate the performance of the City’s response to the pandemic, it’s important for us to remember that this is a novel situation that all of us—every resident in this community, including the people who work for the City—are navigating to the best of our ability. We’re receiving, processing and acting on rapidly changing information every day.

To that extent, I would say that we’ve generally done a fair job. We’ve responded to threats to public health and the economy as they’ve arrived and—such as when I moved to defer the TMWA rate increase and when all of us worked together to make sure that emergency funding was distributed in a swift, orderly fashion—we’re thinking and working proactively as well.

There’s still a great deal that we don’t know, but I want to assure everyone in our community that I am staunchly committed to listening to and working with the people of our City—business owners, residents new and old, and our most vulnerable houseless population—to ensure that their needs are understood and well-met to every extent that is possible given the unusual circumstances we found ourselves in. I will do everything in my power to collaborate with the incredible people of our community, because I know that doing so is that pathway to getting us back on even footing and well on our way to continued prosperity.

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

1. Recovery. It's no secret that the pandemic has taken a major toll on local businesses, impacted our already touchy housing situation, and deeply impacted the lives of families and individuals. any people are approaching the brink, and they're wondering: "What am I going to do? How am I going to survive?"

I plan to get to work immediately to address these concerns and build out a long-term recovery plan—which must address more than the economic factor alone. I want to work with local groups, businesses, legislators, families and individuals first to mitigate emergency challenges, next to get us back up on our feet, and finally to break back into that positive momentum that's made Reno shine over the last decade. And I'll do all of this with a watchful eye to the future, making sure our investments and cutbacks are strategic and sustainable for the long-haul.

2. Housing. There's no denying that our housing inventory is under the stress of significant demand right now, and that houselessness is a major problem facing our community. Should I be re-elected to City Council, it will be a key priority of mine to continue my work on diversifying our housing inventory and providing a range of options for Reno residents of all walks of life and income levels—whether that's multi-family developments, tiny housing, large parcels, or novel solutions. We've got to explore all of our options to get this right for the people that live here.

3. Safety and quality of life. I've worked diligently to improve the living conditions of our City through projects like the Downtown Reno Partnership, the Village at Sage Street, and the Reno Works program. I've also fought diligently to preserve the unique character of our region even as we pursue critical changes to our infrastructure and real estate inventory to serve the needs of a growing population. Should I be re-elected, I mean to continue this work—because I know there's still so much to be done for our community.

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

Increase and improve the mix of our housing inventory. You can’t house people if there aren’t places for them to go.

Mitigate issues that contribute to homelessness, including income inequality, threats to public safety, and the small business closures which impact our jobs market.

Develop and maintain programs that provide empowering pathways out of homelessness, into employment and eventually into homeownership. Examples of this might be the Tiny Homes Village and The Reno Works program.

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?

As I’ve said elsewhere: I understand that incomes throughout the region have not kept pace with home prices, which are being driven up largely by rapidly increasing demand and diminishing supply. To that end, the supply problem must be mitigated, and there are a number of ways to do that. Financing for homeownership is another factor that must be considered over time. We also need to be thinking about how the market is going to be impacted by the economic fallout of COVID-19, and must be honest with ourselves about the fact that such impacts are likely inevitable.

To begin helping our low and middle-income communities secure affordable housing, the City Council will need to work with state and federal agencies to ensure that policies and programs are put forth which support the development of a more diverse variety of housing options (like multi-family homes, townhouses, duplexes, and courtyard apartments), that better leverage existing programs like the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, and that create efficiencies in financing product usage by the public. Going into my next term, should I be elected, it’s my intention to continue to aggressively pursue solutions along these lines.

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?

It's no secret that we've had to make very difficult decisions about revenue and spending in order to keep our City financially fit. Fortunately, we've been able to remain in pretty decent conditions overall so far, and that's largely thanks to the early action and foresight. Looking at opportunities to defer projects, refinance debt obligations, hold on hiring and collaboration in every department to seek potential savings will be needed. 

All the same, people are hurting, and problems are looming. I know that, going forward, we'll need to look very carefully at the costs and benefits of a variety of economic strategies and tactics, and come up with novel solutions that—again—consider the future of our community while working to address the challenges of the present. Tough decisions will have to be made in order to keep our community afloat now without mortgaging our future. Certainly, cutbacks will be necessary at points—something people don't like to hear, but we must be honest about it. Investments and new revenue streams will also have to be considered when the time is right. In my next term, I'll be working with a broad coalition of individuals to figure out a smart, middle-ground path that keeps us on track for positive growth without leaving our people 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 support collaboration among community members, police agencies, subject matter experts and decision makers to evaluate and institute programs and policies that address needed reforms while maintaining safety in our City. Our growth is explosive, and maintaining appropriate levels of officers to serve that growth is necessary. At the same time, we must seek and secure funding to expand training of our first responders, augment social services and better equip those who interface with our fragile and our most vulnerable residents. 

Learn more about Neoma Jardon at neomaforreno.com.

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