Reno City Councilmember Jenny Brekhus is difficult. We're sure this is true. We've heard off-the-record complaints about her from City of Reno staffers for years. She's obstinate. She doesn't always abide by proper procedures. She asks inappropriate questions at inopportune times.
But that's why we need her. She's a human monkey wrench, a glitch in the matrix. She's often the lone nay vote on development projects and other expenditures that come before a Reno City Council that mostly seems happy to bend over—backwards or otherwise—for flashy developers with big plans. We know where that gets us: a housing crisis where renters and first-time home-buyers are getting squeezed out, and the city's poor population is fast becoming the city's homeless population.
Brekhus had two pieces of bad news in recent weeks. First was the widely reported news that Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve was publicly campaigning for Reno Engineering executive Britton Griffith, who's challenging Brekhus for the Ward 1 seat in next year's election.
Second was the news, first reported by KRNV's Joe Hart, that City Manager Sabra Newby earlier this year formally reprimanded Brekhus and took action to limit her contact with city staff. Newby claims she has received several complaints regarding Brekhus' “combative nature towards staff.” The city manager isn't allowing Brekhus to meet with staffers for agenda briefings prior to full council meetings.
A “combative nature” is, of course, just what we want from a public official who needs to stand up to special interest lobbyists and developers—not to mention a council that does sometimes seem to gang up against her. Still, it's probably not what's needed for dealing with lowly city employees behind closed doors. So, yes, Brekhus should probably learn to play nice with city staffers.
But we're glad she doesn't just go with the flow of Mayor Schieve's developer-friendly agenda. And we've found her to be among the more accessible councilmembers to the public at large and to the news media. She responds promptly to calls and emails.
And we don't have anything against Griffith, who seems affable and capable—if a bit in the I-hope-everybody-likes-me mold, not unlike Mayor Schieve herself. We don't really need another Schieve on the Reno City Council.
We need somebody on the council who's willing to be unlikable, somebody who doesn't mind irritating city staff or pissing off big money developers. We need somebody difficult.