Las Vegas Councilman Bob Beers squared off with his general election challenger Steve Seroka in a Nevada Public Radio debate Thursday.
The pair faced each other two days before early voting starts in the Ward 2 race, the most closely watched election contest in Nevada this year.
Seroka said he is running because Beers failed to fight plans to turn the closed Badlands golf course into a residential development, which angered some nearby homeowners.
During the debate, Seroka said the Badlands golf course issue is larger than just those homeowners on the former course.
"The Badlands issues is just a symptom of the disease of our incumbent," Seroka said. "This and some of the other decisions you've heard show that we have an incumbent that is influenced by the developer and the super lobbyist dollars that have been contributed to him and his campaign."
He accused Beers of being on the side of the developers instead of the side of the homeowners and he questioned why the city council didn't make some of the usual requests it makes of developers in this case.
Beers defended his position on the issue. He has long maintained that the owner of the course, which is in Ward 2, has zoning law on his side and can build a mix of single- and multi-family units on the site. Beers again said if the city council had said 'no' to the developer the city could have been sued and would have lost.
"This seems confusing because my opponent is confused," Beers said, "The law is what we do here. We follow the law."
Seroka countered that he had a plan, which he says was deemed "viable" by the developers and financial experts say wouldn't cost any taxpayer dollars, that would have solved the issue. However, Beers also said that plan was "deemed illegal" by the city a year ago.
If Beers is not re-elected, he will be a lame duck councilman until his term ends. If that happens, Beers said he will not refrain from voting on the Badlands issue.
"Because state law does not provide for recusal on an item unless one has a conflict of interest," he said.
Beers, an accountant, served in the Legislature before winning his council seat in 2012. Seroka is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel making his first bid for office. During the debate, he said his work in the military directly translates to working on the city council.
Beers, on the other hand, said working in government requires people to build consensus not to dictate like in the military.
Seroka said Beers condescends to constituents and is a career politician. Beers denied being a “career politician” and said he’s never been accused of being condescending to the people he represents.
The candidates also discussed the trash pickup contract with Republic Services.
Seroka thinks the city should have put the contract out for bid.
“The incumbent led the effort and was part of the effort and negotiated the effort to extend that contract another decade,” he said.
He said the contract does not give Southern Nevada the best trash pickup price in the West, and he argued, if Republic Services can offer the best price then a bidding process would have shown that.
Beers said the problem is the city can't break from what the county is doing right now.
“The cost of disruption of not going along with the other 1.6 million residents in the Valley and going off on our own would be huge," he said, "Where would we put our trash since Republic owns the dump.”
They also discussed the best way to handle homelessness in the city, new regulations for short-term home rentals and recreation marijuana social clubs in the downtown area.
In lieu of opening statements in the debate, the candidates provided short biographies. You can read them here.
Bob Beers, Las Vegas councilman; Steve Seroka, election challenger
You won’t find a paywall here. Come as often as you like — we’re not counting. You’ve found a like-minded tribe that cherishes what a free press stands for. If you can spend another couple of minutes making a pledge of as little as $5, you’ll feel like a superhero defending democracy for less than the cost of a month of Netflix.