Cliff Young and Oscar Delgado survived the primary election to become the candidates for Reno City Council in Ward Three.
Young comes to the race with a well known name—his father, also Cliff Young, was U.S. House member and state supreme court justice. The Council candidate ran for office once before, in an unsuccessful race in Assembly District 27. He has been identified with bicycling and issues like bike paths in Reno for decades.
It’s Delgado’s first run for office. He sits on the Neighborhood Advisory Board f0r ward three and City of Reno Charter Committee and is also a member of the West of Wells Neighborhood Group.
Both candidates are rooted in the community, born in Nevada and raised in Reno. They seek a job that may not be all that pleasant. A city councilmember serving in hard times with little expectation for economic recovery anytime soon, could end up being very unpopular. Both candidates speak of the limitations on the city, of not losing any more ground.
“I’d certainly like to try to maintain the status quo as far as employment,” Young said. “I mean, you know, 85 percent of the budget is in salaries. We have a declining tax revenue so maintaining strong police and fire department is not going to be easy.”
It shouldn’t be surprising that neither candidate speaks of launching new programs. Young speaks wistfully of flood projects but also of less expensive goals: “I think we can do more with volunteers and neighborhood advisory boards … trying to beautify parks and the town … I think coordinating the volunteers for beautification projects would be one outreach that we might be able to [accomplish].”
Delgado said job creation is high on his list, and he too thinks it is important to try to keep as many city employees as possible. “Making sure that we keep our general funds up for our general uses and making sure cops on the street and firefighters are working,” he said. “You know, [that] parks are up to safety standards for our residents and our community.”
The candidates haven’t been critical of each other, in part because they have encountered each other in public forums only once. The closest thing to conflict involved education. Young heard Delgado link education to the Council race. “I’m not sure what the City Council does on that,” Young said.
Delgado: “We need to understand that as a region, we all need to work collaboratively together, working with the school district a lot more closely and seeing how we can be more supportive, working with our university to see how we can be more supportive.” He said he would want to do that not just with education but with the county and Sparks governments.
Young has been something of a lightning rod for criticism. He practices family law—divorces—which always generates anger (nearly all courthouse violence involves family court) and until recently there was a website attacking him over such cases.
He has also been attacked by some of the tenants at rental properties he inherited in low-income areas. But his critics have not been good at delivering promised documentation, and examination of some of the charges tend to make him look as much like a victim as a villain, as when his properties are marked with graffiti. He said that he has had problems with tenants and drugs and has evicted half a dozen tenants because of it.
By contrast, Delgado tends to be “notorious for his affability,” as one observer put it. He is regarded as easy-going and able to work cooperatively with people of different viewpoints.
The public images of both candidates could be marketable. In Young’s case, a candidate who keeps things stirred up could appeal to voters who think government doesn’t work. In Delgado’s case, affability could be seen by voters as a trait of someone who gets things done.
Political analyst Fred Lokken said that in this particular race, the Reno City Council’s history will probably be a factor in Delgado’s favor.
“The Reno Council, especially, has had a history of problems in working together,” Lokken said. “And you can be a great lone wolf in the process, but if you can’t convince the others sitting on the Council or the mayor to go along … then your leadership is less than inspired, whereas someone who’s more affable, willing to advocate and support compromise and not be about personality or having to be out in front of the pack frankly tends to be of a greater value on the [Council].”
And he said the residents who vote in Council races are those who would likely remember that history.
“[W]e have outrageously low voter turnout for local elections, and so it’s only a small percentage of the voters in Reno that are engaged. They tend to be the repeat participants and … more aware of the problems we’ve had when we have a council of personalities instead of a team.”