Turnout Saturday at the Reno City Plaza for what RenoElections.org also known as REO termed “The Biggest Debate in Reno’s History” was light. As Michael S. Graham reports only candidates featured on the website, which has created controversy in local media, showed up.
Looking down on the Reno City Plaza at 10 N. Virginia Street a few minutes before the RenoElections.org event started on Saturday, October 20, 2018. Photo by Michael S. Graham for the Reynolds Sandbox.
Light Crowd and Many No Shows for “Biggest Debate”
Sgt. Laura Conklin, from the Reno Police department, estimated the crowd at around 200. Among those who did not show up were the opposing candidates for each of the Reno and Washoe School Board offices that RenoElections.org has chosen to profile.
The website, which bills itself as “non-partisan”, has been linked in media to the Reno-based Stronghold Institute, and the California-based Scientific Being Research Foundation, which are, according to the reports, largely funded by David E. Griswold, a 90-year-old California industrialist and main financial backer of mayoral challenger Eddie Lorton.
Paul White, who runs the Stronghold Institute and the REO site, and who has lived in Reno for over a year now said that, because the internet site had emerged so late in the election cycle (it appeared just before the Labor Day weekend), they had decided to target just six local elections.
Homelessness has been a key focus of the Reno Elections website. Photo by Michael S. Graham just before the event began.
A Select Field of Candidates
The Reno races which are featured on the website are Lorton against incumbent Hillary Schieve for Mayor; Joe Lawrence versus incumbent Naomi Duerr for Ward 2; and Bonnie Weber versus incumbent Paul McKenzie for Ward 4. Schieve, Duerr and McKenzie did not attend the event, each citing previously scheduled commitments.
Washoe County School Board candidates Dian Vanderwall, District B, Jacqueline Calver, District F, and Debra Feemster, District C, who face REO featured candidates Ellen Minetto, Jeff Church and Andrew Caudill, also did not attend the debate. Vanderwall, Calver and Feemster also said they had previously scheduled commitments.
Eddie Lorton (in white shirt) the mayoral candidate was front and center at the event. Photo by Michael S. Graham.
A Debate Format with No Opponents
Even though there were no opponents, White stuck to a debate format with candidates each being asked a series of questions.
The candidates touched on a familiar slate of REO featured issues: Reno’s crime rate “rising”; local public schools rated as “worst” in the nation; Reno’s homeless “problem”; and the city’s debt load. Lorton has said that he would like to see Washoe County “take over” all homeless population services and move “them” out of downtown. All the REO featured candidates also seemed to think as he said that “Reno should be run like a business” and not “as an art form.”
Reporting by Michael S. Graham for the Reynolds Sandbox