Reno City Council candidate Bernie Carter says he’s unaccustomed to the modeling part of campaigning, but he poses like an old pro.
Reno City Council candidate Bernie Carter says he’s unaccustomed to the modeling part of campaigning, but he poses like an old pro.

At this point, most of us wouldn’t want to explain why the city of Reno should be doing more road repairs. Not so for Bernie Carter. He and other local business owners were happy to field questions from councilmembers on the cost and potential inconvenience of a meter-less parking proposal at City Hall earlier this month.

As a first-time City Council candidate, Carter can expect to be directing the city’s questions, not fielding them, if he takes Ward 1’s seat this November. He is cofounder and president of Reno investment firm Dacole LLC, which has a substantial development stake in the “efficient monitoring” of parking spaces just south of downtown.

The 61-year-old Nevada native owns or co-owns several key properties in the “Midtown” area, including apartment buildings along Thoma Street and an Ace Hardware store managed by his brother, though he credits local start-ups like Junkee for the branding that has contributed to much of Midtown’s early success.

“We’re attracting young professionals who want a vibrant downtown,” Carter said, “no national chains, not even a Starbucks. We’re going to have small entrepreneurs to try and establish that sense of community that we think is so critical for attracting young professionals to our area.”

If building political caché comes as easy to Carter as developing Midtown real estate, Ward 1 can expect a conservative approach from its would-be councilman. Carter said the city’s numerous tax incentives speak for themselves, but only “to a certain extent.” He added that he would push for further cuts to business permit fees and work toward a “more conservative view” of structuring the city’s debt obligations.

“The city of Reno will spend over $20 million this year in interest on their debt,” Carter said. “I don’t criticize the people who made the decision at the time, but with the way these bonds were structured there was a time where we were in default and paying 18 percent interest on these bonds.”

The city of Reno recently joined two other municipalities in suing Goldman Sachs for allegedly misleading city officials into buying auction-rate securities they didn’t understand. Reno is also far from the only city to restructure its long-term debt under the favorable short-term rates once offered by Goldman.

“They went into it with their eyes open and the market turned against them,” Carter said of Reno’s agreement with Goldman. “I would have, and I have, in other instances where that’s occurred, taken the more conservative route.” Carter wouldn’t speak to any specific examples, explaining only that experience in “similar situations” is “something he brings to the table.”

Carter, who sits on the board at Renown and was founding chair of Artown, took issue with any proposed increases on nonprofit licensing fees. “The city could always use the money,” Carter said of revenue that might be raised. “Their budget’s been cut in half. But does that mean you’re going to fee the Boy Scouts? The Girl Scouts? The soccer club? Where do you draw the line? … Explain to me why it is more important to have dollars go to the city to use for whatever they choose as opposed to having those dollars go to the healthcare community, to the PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit) at Renown?”

Of course, if elected Carter might have to give variants of that explanation himself.

Truckee Meadows Community College political scientist Fred Lokken thinks there’s a good chance that could happen. He said the obvious political advantage of Carter’s business acumen is his fundraising ability.

“Given his connections and given his background, money will probably be much less of an issue for him,” Lokken said of Carter’s chances in Ward 1. He added that financing can become even more important in a race like Carter’s, one without an established name in which “there is a real connection, a real cause-and-effect between those candidates who win and those candidates who can spend.”

Carter ran unsuccessfully for the Legislature in 2010 and has served on the Nevada Standing Committee on Judicial Ethics and Election Practices.

“I worked hard for what I’m able to provide to our community and I’ll continue to work hard for the City Council. That’s my objective,” Carter said.

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