They’re the mayor
After the overwhelming number of choices for mayor of Reno in the primary election, it almost seems anti-climatic to have just two candidates on the ballot in November.
And they’re an odd couple.
Democrat Ray Pezonella was quick to proclaim his bewilderment at his party affiliation last spring, telling a Democratic Women’s Club he really didn’t know why he was a Democrat since he didn’t agree with much of the party’s agenda. He didn’t stay for lunch that day, claiming another engagement, and few of the Democratic ladies were sorry to see him go.
Non-partisan Hillary Schieve routinely attends Democratic events where she is warmly greeted by the party faithful. She graciously engages in conversation with whoever approaches, posing for photos and listening more than she talks, always a winning combination.
Pezonella started the campaign season as the establishment’s candidate, although the developers, casinos and Chamber businesses were not bubbling with enthusiasm. Current Mayor Bob Cashell endorsed him but then grumbled a few months later that Pezonella wasn’t campaigning hard enough.
By the beginning of October, the establishment folks changed course, apparently deciding Schieve was the better bet. They began cultivating their relationship with her through numerous fundraisers hosted by casino owners, mining executives and top-of-the-line business lobbyists.
Progressives, who were content to back Schieve when the alternative was a good-old-boy with a mantra of “all growth is good,” are now wondering if she’s sold her soul by cozying up to the big boy advertising and political machinery. The moneyed interests will no doubt be expecting a return on their investment at some point in the near future.
In a recent televised debate, the candidates offered mostly platitudes and non-answers to key questions. Pezonella insisted Tesla will not cost taxpayers “anything,” a gross mischaracterization considering the hundreds of millions in tax credits they’ll get, along with free electricity, and a brand new multi-million dollar road, all subsidized by us. “We need to try to be proactive and reactive because that’s what it’s all about,” he said, whatever that means.
Schieve’s answer wasn’t much better. She simply promised: “We will be ready for Tesla!” ignoring the serious problems of how to get our schools, roads and infrastructure prepared to handle the influx of people, all with dwindling resources as we continue to subsidize the private sector.
It was the question on growth that really set the two candidates apart. Schieve enthusiastically promoted infill development, citing the Midtown district as the wave of Reno’s future, building in modern amenities such as bike lanes to attract residents and tourists alike. Pezonella stuck to his pro-growth roots by advocating sprawl, saying he wants to make sure the free enterprise system works. “Each and every developer” needs to decide what they want to do.
Pezonella personifies the historical image of Reno where one could easily imagine the all male city leaders in a smoky cigar bar, toasting their elite status, confident in their ability to enrich their personal fortunes while leading the city toward its destiny. Schieve presents a more modern and inclusive vision of a progressive city, while also demonstrating sincere concern for the people who already live here.
My favorite moment of the televised debate was the “opportunity of a lifetime,” presented by Pezonella as his closing argument which exploited the fact that Schieve will retain her City Council seat if she loses the mayor’s race. He told voters they would never have this opportunity again: “Two people who care tremendously … you have an opportunity to vote for me, and you’re gonna get both of us working for you every day at the City Council. Take that opportunity.”
In essence, he argued, by doubling down on your vote for him, you get a two-for-one deal.
Only in Reno, to be sure.