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Shake-up in Reno: Two city council members resign, one replaced so far

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It’s election season, and soon, voters across the state will determine who will represent them at all levels of government.  

That is, except for the residents of Reno’s Ward 5. That’s because earlier this month, the city leaders appointed a new member to fill a vacancy on the council. 

Kathleen Taylor, a businesswoman and planning commissioner, was unanimously chosen among 36 applicants on Sept. 7 and will fill the remainder of former Councilmember Neoma Jardon’s term.  

Jardon left to become the new executive director of the Downtown Reno Partnership. 

Taylor comes to the job with critics who say she’s too cozy with developers; Taylor has said she is an advocate for affordable housing, which is at a crisis point in Reno. 

KNPR’s producer in Northern Nevada, Paul Boger, sat down with Taylor to discuss her new role as a city council member and how she envisions sustainable growth in Reno. 

Days after this interview was recorded, Ward 3 Councilmember Oscar Delgado resigned to focus on his position with Community Health Alliance. 

"It would be difficult to find anyone who loves this community more than Oscar," said Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve in a media release. "It has been a joy serving with him over the past 10 years, and I know that he will continue to do great work in his role as chief executive officer at Community Health Alliance."

On housing in Reno

In Taylor's role, she voted for a controversial downtown plan that enabled developer Jeff Jacobs to tear down weekly motels that house some of the city's poorest residents to make way for new construction. So far, Reno hasn't seen a lot of development there yet. 

“I'm fortunate enough to live downtown and I see the progress right now. The last four months, I've seen a building gone up, they've broken ground on four or five. There's definitely things going on. I don't necessarily know why it's up for debate, but those motels were not suitable for living,” Taylor said. “Affordable housing is a totally different discussion, which we absolutely need to work on as a community at the state level, local and federal level.“

She said the city needs to bring in housing of all types, including in-fill and rural housing. But her critics say she hasn’t done enough to incentivize affordable housing.

“I think when you're looking at a project through the eyes of the planning commission, we have policies, codes that we have to work through. And if a developer meets those criteria, we have to be able to make the findings … we're not allowed to say, ‘You have to make affordable housing.’ So if we need it, if there was a finding, ‘Is this affordable housing?’ That would be a totally different story.”

As a result of housing issues in the past few years, Reno has seen an uptick in homelessness. The number has doubled in the past year, and at the same time, Washoe County has taken over the administration of the Nevada Cares campus –the main shelter in town– where there’s been a big shift in who was going to be responsible for the shelter.

“The city of Reno, along with our partners, are working to make sure that those people get the services they need. And you know, it's probably not just a house, right? It's probably not just food. It's probably a lot more than that. But I am so excited and positive about the way that we're moving,” Taylor said. 

On police use of force

Law enforcement has faced scrutiny over the last several years over force and use of tactics. What are your thoughts on recent efforts to reform police? 

“I'm not going to talk about, you know, I don't really know much about that. I will say that I support our police, fire, EMS, 100%. Every day. I recently had the opportunity to go out and do a ride along. … I couldn't comprehend the job that they do. In the end, they do it with grace, professionalism, and compassion. And that's what I saw firsthand. I didn't see anything beyond that. I saw an officer go in and purchase something to drink for somebody that we were taking up to par. The jail, dignity, respect, that's exactly what I saw. So every single day, I'll support that.”

On her relationship with the city council

“I think I have a great working relationship. And I think one of the things that is key, that I think I can bring to the table, is when we build a project, you have all these different personality types. We have engineers, we have planners, we have landscape architects, we're working with all sorts of competing interests in priorities in what we do at the beginning of the project as we set what the goals are for the project, sort of like the strategic planning for the city. The city council and leadership have set goals for the city. And we need to work towards those. And we need to work together to do that. So that's the most important thing we need to work towards the goals for the city and for our community.”

Kathleen Taylor, councilwoman, City of Reno

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Paul serves as KNPR's producer and reporter in Northern Nevada. Based in Reno, Paul specializes in covering state government and the legislature.
Kristen DeSilva (she/her) is the online editor for Nevada Public Radio. She oversees and writes State of Nevada’s online and social media content.