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Bob Coffin, Post City Council: Sleeping In, Wearing Shorts, Fighting For The Homeless

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Name a local government seat, and Bob Coffin has probably had it.

He’s served Nevada for 36 years, first as a state assemblyman, then as a state senator and most recently on the Las Vegas City Council.

That job has come to an end. Coffin decided not to run for the Ward 3 seat again, and it was filled by teacher and former Assemblywoman Olivia Diaz.

Coffin told KNPR's State of Nevada he decided not to run again because an old back injury was reinjured four years ago when a drunk driver crashed into his car. 

“Life has never been the same,” he said.

The crash has left him with balance problems that doctors have so far been unable to help him with. Besides that, he said he was often out of energy and the job of a councilman is all day, every day.

“I decided it’s a good age to retire and it’s a nice time to look back,” he said.

But during his eight years on the council, Coffin oversaw many changes in his ward.

“The ward is still behind but it is catching up," he said. "My main goal was to get the city staff to focus on the east side of town."

The former councilman said he was particularly proud of the effort to bring a library to the east side of the city.

One issue he wasn't able to fully address is homelessness. 

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“We have not finished the homeless issue. I don’t know if it will ever be finished, but I gave it the college try and I’m not through. I’m pushing again for money to take care of the homeless situation,” he said.

He said homelessness is a public safety issue that everyone needs to pay attention to. Coffin said it is short-sighted of people to see homeless adults as lesser-than. 

He was frustrated that Legislature didn't give the city the tools to raise money to better address the homeless problem.

Huntridge Circle Park at Charleston and Maryland Parkway has been a particular concern of his. The park has been closed and re-opened several times over the years. Neighbors want it open but don't necessarily want homeless people to hanging out there all the time. 

One proposal is to turn it into an art park and charge admission.

“I feel we should continue to keep it public," Coffin said. "I don’t believe in charging admission."

The problem with an art park is that it would need to be monitored all the time, which Coffin said the city could not afford to do.

The issue of the park is now in the hands of his replacement, Councilwoman Olivia Diaz. Coffin said her time in the Legislature will serve her well in the city council.

Coffin says his eight years on the council taught him how to work with others. He said there are no permanent enemies and no permanent friends in politics.

“There’s no bad part to the job, first of al, or I wouldn’t have continued to do it,” he said.

While there wasn't a bad part of the job, he admitted there was a lot of pressure.

“You’re under pressure, unbelievable pressure compared to the Legislature because hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake in some of these decisions relating to land use,” he said.

Coffin said people who wanted to get something done and had a lot of money to do it, thought the millions they had would carry the day — and it didn't. 

“The difference is really the partisanship in the Legislature. I worry about it now because what I see is a move by Republicans to take over the city council and I think they’re looking at the county commission thinking, ‘well that’s all Democrats,’ because it is a partisan body. I can’t help that that’s just how the voters are. But to try to take over a nonpartisan body, I think is a big mistake.”

As for his future, Coffin is looking forward to not worrying about his image every day, including not brushing his hair and wearing shorts when he goes out.

When longtime politicians leave their positions, the question of legacy is often on their minds, but for Coffin it is not about a project finished or a building completed.

“I hoped that I set a good example because one should never try to claim total ownership of a good thing because its always a team,” he said.

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Bob Coffin, Nevada politician

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