Summer is time to vote in Sparks

A new law will move Sparks’ general election to November in 2004, but for now, June’s still voting time in the Rail City

While the Century Sparks 14 theater has been a success, Sparks has had problems luring other businesses to Victorian Square, a problem new councilmembers will face.

While the Century Sparks 14 theater has been a success, Sparks has had problems luring other businesses to Victorian Square, a problem new councilmembers will face.

Photo by Deidre Pike

The city of Sparks’general election is June 5, but residents can vote early at Sparks City Hall.

Unless you’re a politics junkie, you probably weren’t watching. In fact, only about 15 percent of eligible voters in Sparks cast ballots in the April 3 primary election, which sent the top two finishers in the Ward 3 and Ward 5 City Council races on to the general election.

By 2004, Sparks’ elections will be held in November along with other federal and state elections, thanks to the passage of Senate Bill 312. Lawmakers hope this change will increase participation. But for now, half a dozen hopefuls—including two candidates for Sparks Municipal Judge—are seeking elected office June 5 for four-year terms in the Rail City.

Here are condensed interviews with the Sparks candidates:

Ward 3 incumbent Geno Martini, 55
Born Saint Mary’s Hospital, moved to Sparks two days later. Sparks High 1964, UNR 1972, B.S., education. Loan manager at Great Basin Federal Credit Union. President, Sparks Chamber of Commerce, 1999. One daughter. “I can get very emotional sometimes. I love to cook any kind of pasta. I’m pretty easy to read.”

Platform: “In the past, we were only budgeting one year out. Now we’re doing five-year budgets and putting together a business plan. We will get financial stability once we get the budget process in effect, because we’ll have a very good idea where we’ll be five years from now. Redevelopment downtown: If we can’t get something in the next two months, two anchor stores, we need to shift gears. Maybe an outlet mall.”

Sparks as “East Reno": “Sparks is now known as the events place. Nobody else has the marina like we have. People I talk to would rather come to Sparks for Hot August Nights, because Victorian Square is the perfect place. All the places where the cars are parked are easy to get to. We’re right in the middle of some great hotel restaurants.”

Your opponent: “I just don’t think he’s as qualified as I am. I have no problem with him. He’s not been abusive.”

Saturday nights: “I’m probably home. My daughter lives in Reno, and she’s single, so she’s out and about.”

Out-of-town guests: “We go right to the marina. Then we go downtown, Victorian Square. Next would be the golf courses, D’Andrea Ranch and Red Hawk.”

Ward 3 challenger Jim Hinen, 39
Born Moses Lake, Wash. Reed High 1980. U.S. Naval Academy 1984. Marine Corps, flew Harrier Jump Jet. Desert Storm. Left Corps in 1997 as captain; left Nevada Air Guard 2000 as major. Owns a 7-Eleven on North McCarran Boulevard in Reno. Three daughters. Coaches daughter’s basketball team. Builds Web pages.

Platform: “The council is spending more money than it’s receiving. The proposed tax increase for residential property should be a last resort. With respect to fourth-quarter spending, we should have incentives for saving. Whatever departments save, you take 25 percent of the surplus and give it to the people as a bonus, and put the remainder back in the general fund. What we have to do is direct the city manager to tell each department to turn in a budget that spends 10 percent less than the previous year. If you’ve got to cut, what is going to go first? The things that aren’t as necessary.”

Sparks as “East Reno": “Sparks is like a small hometown community. I’d rather come to Sparks for Hot August Nights than downtown Reno. … The marina park is a gold mine. Two of my daughters and I took windsurfing lessons there. Sparks tends to do things better than Reno. A lot of our new developments are beautiful. We need to bring in businesses that will bring in higher-paying jobs.”

Your opponent: “He’s probably a really nice guy. When I watch council meetings, he doesn’t always seem to ask many questions, really get too involved. He was appointed by the mayor.”

Saturday nights: “Could be a ballet performance by one daughter. It could be a basketball tournament or gymnastics meet for another daughter.”

Out-of-town guests: “Most of the people who visit me are military pilots or airline pilots. Sometimes I’ll take them to dinner at a local restaurant. Sometimes they want to see a show. If there’s a local event going on, for example, Farmer’s Market or Hot August Nights, I take people downtown.”

Ward 5 candidate Ken Farr, 59
Born Tennessee. Sparks High 1959. In banking 1963-82. Owner, RCM Realty Construction Management. Three daughters, 10 grandchildren, one great-grandchild. Brother, Larry, is Reno fire marshal. Father, Bill, was Sparks fire chief, state senator. “I’ve been around here long enough. I think I’ve met just about everybody.”

Platform: “We need to strike a balance between residential and commercial and bring our tax base back into balance. Our residential development seems to be ahead of our commercial, and that’s causing our financial shortfalls. The residential has outstripped our services. … We need an improved highway system. We need to expand the Pyramid corridor and other expressways to funnel that traffic.”

Sparks as “East Reno": “Never has been. Sparks is very proud of itself and should be. The experiences I’ve had growing up and as an adult, I want to make sure they’re passed on to my children and grandchildren. When I go out and talk to the constituents, they’re all very proud of the progress we made as a city. We’ve got a new marina. Victorian Square, we’ve managed to bring special events in there that everyone loves. It’s more of a hometown atmosphere. People seem to be a little closer.”

Your opponent: “I’m not running against anyone. I’m running for the seat.”

Saturday nights: “I’m normally home. I’m reading. I’m on the planning commission for Sparks. I’m on the advisory committee for the Airport Authority of Washoe County. I’m on the technical review committee for the Washoe County Home Consortium. A good portion of my time is taken up in research and reading the agendas.”

Out-of-town guests: “I take them down to the marina, I show off Victorian Square, and I take them back home. Normally, out-of-town folks like to go to the casinos. I allow them to do the tourist thing.”

Ward 5 candidate Ron Schmitt, 43
Born Hahira, Ga. High school, Lancaster, Calif. Antelope Valley Community College, A.A., business. Two children. Vice president, Reno Construction Inc. Ordained Catholic minister and chaplain with the Truckee Meadows Law Enforcement Chaplaincy, on call to provide counseling and crisis intervention to victims, citizens, police. Could be called in for major car crashes, plane crashes, suicides, murders. “I’ve lived in Sparks 10 years now. We’re at a crossroads from growing from a small community to a medium-sized community. And we need leadership to help with that transition.”

Platform: “We need to be able to live within our means and appropriate taxes for the community that will allow services to pay for themselves. We need proper growth in a community, where there’s the right mix of commercial and residential. I am not in favor of the tax increase, which the voters rejected in November. It can be approved by the City Council because it is in the limits of the increase allowed by state law.”

Sparks as “East Reno": “We have established very strongly our identity in the local governments statewide as a community that can make things happen. We have made a success of downtown redevelopment. Our parks and recreation system, even the residents of the city of Reno like to use our softball fields and other facilities. The marina was an idea to take an eyesore in the community and make it something very positive.”

Your opponent: “I know very little about my opponent. I’m concerned about his commitment to the citizens of Sparks as a representative of the city of Sparks.”

Saturday nights: “My son’s in college. I never see him anymore. My daughter’s probably with her girlfriends at one of the games at Reed High School or a school activity. My wife and I are resting up from a long week or at church or a community social event.”

Out-of-town guests: “I take them downtown to Victorian Avenue and the marina area. I like driving them through Wingfield Springs and all the new development in Sparks, and to the theater downtown. We even go driving through some of the old neighborhoods, to see some of the houses north of downtown that have been well-maintained.”

Sparks Municipal Court incumbent Andy Cray, 45
Born Klamath Falls, Ore. B.A., social services, California State University at Chico. One of few municipal court judges without a law degree. Has worked in court system 22 years, including 14 as muni judge. Seeking fifth term. Drummer in local bar bands.

Platform: “I want to continue this court. We’re the first court in the state to use video arraignments and house arrest, and to start a drug and alcohol court for misdemeanors. At least 80 percent of the non-traffic related cases in this court are drug- or alcohol-related. Also, I’m very pro-victims’ rights. I chase people to the ends of the Earth if they crash into you and don’t have insurance.”

Court order: “We handled about 20,000 cases last year, which turned into 250,000 transactions (arraignments, trial, monitoring, and so on.) Transactions have gone up 75 percent since 1994. Staffing is our biggest issue. And we’re out of space. The courthouse was built for a town that wasn’t expecting a population boom. I support a larger courthouse if moved, as long as it is self-sufficient. Whoever uses the court should be paying for it. Our budget in 2000 was $1.4 million and the court brought in $1.4 million from fines.”

Your opponent: “I like her. I don’t think she’s qualified to take my position. In order to take out a 14-year incumbent, you need to have more specifics than, ‘I want his job.’ I’ve never been sued. I have one of the lowest reversal rates in the state. My last three elections have been uncontested.”

Saturday nights: “I’m usually home. I’m a single dad, raising my son.”

Out-of-town-guests: “I take them to the Nugget, for a pan roast at the Oyster Bar.”

Sparks Municipal Court candidate Barbara McCarthy, 43
Born Buffalo, N.Y. State University of New York, Buffalo, B.S., speech pathology and audiology, 1983. University of Toledo (Ohio) College of Law, 1985. Court reporter six years before college. Washoe District Court family court hearing master. Three children. “I’m a pretty good pool player. That’s my husband’s and my favorite date.”

Platform: “The court deserves a full-time judge. There is a direct cost of a substitute judge coming in. The indirect cost is when the judge cancels dockets for people. I would eliminate the practice of vacating dockets. That’s an inconvenience to the public. Plan ahead, and if you want to take a vacation, don’t set trials. When my opponent first ran, there were about 14,000 registered voters. There are now about 35,000. There was a time when the judge could treat the job part-time.”

Court order: “The courthouse needs more physical space, and looking at increasing the staff is imminent. I’d like to see the alcohol and other drug court grow. My expertise in [Washoe District Court] family drug court and juvenile drug court would be a great asset. I hear about 50 domestic violence cases a week, and about 75 percent of domestic violence cases are drugs- and alcohol-related.”

Your opponent: “My experience working in the legal community during the time my opponent has sat on the bench, as well as talking to people who utilize that court, and being a taxpayer, has brought me to the decision that it’s time for a change.”

Saturday nights: “We are home. Weekends are family time.”

Out-of-town visitors: "I take them to John Ascuaga’s Nugget for the buffet: the best food in town."