By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers
Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve said Thursday she is working on a bill for the 2019 Legislature that could change the role of the Reno mayor to mirror that of the mayor of Sparks.
The change — if approved — could give the Reno mayor a role as the city leader or CEO, separate from the city council.
Schieve said on Nevada Newsmakers that the mayor is seen as the leader of Reno, someone who citizens can turn to in a time of crisis.
“I think people look to the mayor in times of disaster and they want to know that the city is going to be OK,” Schieve said. “People perceive the mayor as having different power to change things versus a council member. And so, I think that perception is important. It is very important.”
The bill may also allow former city council members to run for mayor of Reno, which appears to be an end run around a 2014 Nevada Supreme Court decision banning term-limited city council members from becoming Reno’s mayor.
The mayor of Sparks, Geno Martini, also has veto power. Yet Schieve said she didn’t know if mayoral veto power would be in the final bill in 2019.
She prefers term limits for mayors although the Sparks mayor is not subject to term limits.
“I thought we should go to the Sparks model and the reasons being is that it (Sparks) is our closest sister-city for one, and it is a model that we’ve seen that works,” the mayor said. “I haven’t seen any issues in Sparks. I can’t remember a time since I’ve been on this council that Mayor Martini has done a veto, right?”
Schieve said she still disagrees with the 2014 Supreme Court decision. She was a member of the Reno City Council before becoming mayor.
“I’m doing it (working on 2019 bill) because I think it is the right thing to do and I think the Supreme Court decision is wrong,” Schieve said. “And certainly, more than ever, I feel so much conviction about it because I do sit in this position (as mayor) and people perceive it differently (from the city council).”
.Assemblywoman Teresa Benitez-Thompson, D-Reno, is working with Schieve and other mayors on the 2019 proposal, Schieve said.
“I would tell you this: Because I am the mayor, I know the difference in that position (as a city council position),” said Schieve. “And I would tell you I still feel very strongly about it. Teresa Benitez-Thompson is going to help out on a bill. There are other mayors, like the Elko mayor (Chris Johnson), who are interested in defining the mayor’s role.
“I don’t know if it would include veto power or what it would look like,” Schieve said. “There are different forms of government. It is still too early to tell. Again, let’s define what the mayor’s role is.”
Schieve proposed a similar plan with a late amendment during the 2017 Legislature but backed off, “based on feedback,” according to a story by Anjeanette Damon of the Reno Gazette-Journal.
Schieve’s proposal to allow termed-out council members to run for mayor has already caused controversy.
Washoe County Commissioner Marsha Berkbigler said recently on Nevada Newsmakers that Schieve might have been doing a friend a favor when proposing a similar idea with her late amendment in the 2017 Legislature.
“Look, there is no question, (former councilwoman) Jessica Sferrazza would like to run,” Berkbigler said on Newsmakers. “But she is doing financially very, very well where she is at (as a lobbyist). So why would she give up her good business, a very powerful business, to run to be the city mayor? But I think there are some other people who were thinking about that.”
Sferrazza, daughter of former Reno Mayor Pete Sferrazza, was pushed out of the 2014 election by a Nevada Supreme Court ruling barring termed-out Reno council members from running for mayor. Jessica Sferrazza was considered a heavy favorite to win the mayor’s race before the ruling.
Responding to Berkbigler, Schieve said, “With Marsha Berkbigler, I think that Jessica Sferrazza’s time in politics is probably gone. It had nothing to do with that at all.”
Later in the interview, Schieve added, “I don’t know what her (Sferrazza’s) future looks like but I would never do it to help her advance her career in any way.”
Schieve said her 2017 late-session legislative amendment, however, was seen as a “power grab” by some.
“For me, it wasn’t a power grab, even though that is what it was perceived as in the paper, (RGJ),” Schieve said. “It absolutely wasn’t that. It was to define, ‘What role does the mayor serve?’ “