Letters to the Editor

Council needs to be accountable for wasting money for lawsuits

In regard to the Boulder City Review’s May 14 headline article about the final result of the city’s suing private citizens for signing ballot initiatives in 2010. The Boulder City Review’s estimated final cost was about $800,000. Whatever the actual costs of these suits, some facts should be self-evident:

1. The Constitution of the U.S. gives citizens the right to petition their government. The city hopefully will not sue citizens in the future for exercising this right. I say hopefully, because City Attorney (Dave Olsen) has been quoted in the Boulder City Review as stating he would do it all over again. Perhaps the new council and new mayor will not give their approval to sue private citizens for signing petitions.

2. The City Council should encourage and welcome citizen involvement rather than making every effort to discourage it. The city sued us separately for signing petitions (using myself as an example); I was sued three separate times for signing three petitions. This resulted in three separate lawsuits. It took court action to combine these cases. This clearly shows that the city was determined to intimidate private citizens by overwhelming them with potential court costs. Is it any wonder that they has not been any citizen-initiated petitions since 2010, or that there is a demonstrated lack of citizen involvement.

3. The City Council apparently considered citizen-initiated petitions as adversarial in nature taking away some of its power and authority to make decisions. This view has been expressed by the mayor, the city attorney and some council members. The council should welcome these initiatives as a direct expression of the wishes of the voters. It, of course, can and should express its view on any proposal, encourage voters to take one side and engage in active debate. It should not attempt to use taxpayers’ money and an appointed city attorney to prevent voters from expressing their views.

4. There needs to be some recognition by city officials that these suits were wrong. Despite what the city attorney says, it was not the Supreme Court’s fault, the Legislature’s action or the opposing attorneys’ fault the city lost these cases. It does not take a lawyer to understand that the city should not sue private citizens for signing petitions, period.

5. There needs to be some accountability for this extreme waste of taxpayers’ monies. Three present members of the council voted to sue private citizens for exercising their constitutional rights on the advice and recommendation of their appointed city attorney. They authorized spending about $400,000 to hire outside counsel to sue us while employing a city attorney. Voters should take these actions into account (when) deciding on their representatives.

Dan Jensen

Councilmen’s salaries need to consider other benefits

In regard to councilmen’s salaries, what about:

1. Pensions. At what age is one eligible to collect retirement? After how many years of service is one vested? (What is the) formula for calculating dollar amounts? Are there any limits or minimums?

2. Other retirement benefits. (Is there) medical insurance? Dental insurance? Other benefits and perks?

3. Salary formulae. What are they?

In a past issue, your reporter, Steven Slivka, referred to Transparent Nevada for salary comparisons. I want more. The citizens of Boulder City deserve more. I’ve been in government systems whose employees think they should be in a higher percentile of compensation. With exaggeration, they all wanted to be in the top 10 percent or higher.

Items 1 and 2 need to be added to salary information to understand the real costs to the city. Other cities have gone bankrupt because all costs for the future were not seriously considered or ignored in council decisions regarding pay packages. What about an analysis and accounting of current employees and retirees? Yes, that would be hard work.

Thank you for your work, honestly. There was a recent Supreme Court decision in the private sector that frees current administrations from apparently never-ending commitments into the future by past administrations. Examples of compensation packages given to the court are, and probably always were, unreasonable, if not impossible. A lesson and hope for governments of all sizes.

Donald K. Pennelle

Council candidates not candid on naturally occurring asbestos

In response to Steven Slivka’s “Candid Council” questions and answers with the Boulder City Council candidates, I am astonished that Mr. Slivka failed to ask about naturally occurring asbestos. Naturally occurring asbestos is the biggest issue facing Boulder City in decades.

I have contacted the candidates to ask their opinion of naturally occurring asbestos and their action plans if elected. Rich Shuman was the only candidate to respond.

I have contacted Ms. (Peggy) Leavitt regarding naturally occurring asbestos three times since October, as well as Mayor (Roger) Tobler and the other council members twice. I have received no response from any of Boulder City’s elected officials.

The currently available facts about naturally occurring asbestos indicate that we have public health threat that needs to be addressed. I find it incredulous that the Boulder City Council remains silent on the issue. Ignorance is not a virtue, and the continued ignorance displayed by Boulder City officials is astounding.

There is nothing we can do about the existence of naturally occurring asbestos in Boulder City and Eldorado Valley, but there are many things we can do to minimize our risk of exposure. Boulder City is built on rock and soil that contains naturally occurring asbestos. Rock and natural desert soils are relatively stable, but when you disturb rock and soil that contains naturally occurring asbestos, it easily becomes airborne.

Airborne naturally occurring asbestos is toxic and clearly a threat to our health. People are responsible for airborne naturally occurring asbestos, and people can prevent it.

I believe the naturally occurring asbestos problem is manageable, but it requires action by our elected officials. Naturally occurring asbestos should be a top item on the council agenda. Naturally occurring asbestos in Boulder City is not about the Boulder City Bypass, it is about daily 24/7 exposure to all of us from non-Boulder City bypass sources.

I encourage everyone in Boulder City to get educated on the naturally occurring asbestos issue and ask your elected officials why they refuse to address naturally occurring asbestos as a public health threat.

Mark Reischman

City Charter should be changed to reflect need for improvements

I am frankly shocked at the massive push for ballot Question 1 in the upcoming general election. Advertisements in the paper are vague as to the question’s specific wording, pointing out that all expenditures over $1 million will still require voter approval. Bret Runion, in his opinion, states that it’s only “common sense to give our elected city representatives the authority to make these decisions,” clearly without any voter approval.

There is one major issue standing in the way of the desires of supporters of Question 1: Section 143 of the City Charter quite explicitly forbids spending of any capital improvement fund money without a vote of the citizens. Period. No exceptions.

To quote Section 143, “1. All expenditures from the Capital Improvement Fund must be approved by a simple majority of the votes cast by the registered voters of the City on a proposition placed before them in a special election or general Municipal election or general State election.”

If approved, Question 1 would go squarely against the City Charter and be no more valid than any law approved that is unconstitutional. If city leaders want to change the current method of spending capital improvement fund money, then this needs to be done the proper method and change Section 143 of the Charter. That is not an easier method (intentionally and rightly so), but is unquestionably the only proper method to alter how capital improvement fund monies are used.

Frankly, the vague positive nature of advertisements coupled with excluding reference to Section 143 of the City Charter smacks of trying to pull a fast one on the citizens in hopes they will not research what law already exists regarding this issue.

Bruce Thomsen

Charter Commission member

Headlines show ‘remarkable juxtaposition’ on city’s financial affairs

What a remarkable juxtaposition on the front page of the May 14 Boulder City Review: City Council loses $800,000-plus SLAPP lawsuit; City Council considers doubling members’ pay!

Tom O’Farrell

Transparency needed when selecting council members

I recently purchased some blueberries. They came in a clear plastic container so I could inspect the top, the bottom and the sides, and know exactly what I was getting. I only wish we enjoyed the same degree of transparency in selecting our council candidates.

According to her campaign mailer, Peggy Leavitt claims she helped bring back “civility” to our City Council meetings. Limiting free speech and public debate is not civility. Leavitt supported the effort by the city to sue six of our neighbors into silence. That action failed and the taxpayers suffered the consequences.

Leavitt claims she helped “renegotiate” the landfill contract. I suppose this is her way of rationalizing the fact that she accepted large campaign contributions from several companies controlled by the dude who operates the dump during her run for City Council in 2011 and again this year.

Leavitt claims to have “partnered” with the Chamber of Commerce and Economic Vitality Commission, two organizations that would not exist if they did not receive handouts of Redevelopment Agency money. This sounds more like one hand washing the other than a partnership.

Leavitt claims an endorsement from “Mayor-elect” Rod Woodbury. The sorry truth is that Woodbury was not elected. Rodney became mayor by default because he was the only candidate to file for the office. Councilmen (Duncan) McCoy and (Cam) Walker “won” their second terms in exactly the same way.

If Leavitt wants to Photoshop her pictures on her campaign mailer, that is OK so long as she does not whitewash the facts. Transparency is a good thing unless you have something to hide. When I purchased my container of blueberries I looked real close to make sure there were no Woodburys hiding in the bottom.

Dick Farmer

Question 1 OK will allow city to build pool, make improvements

Ballot Question 1 will not impact or delay our opportunity to build a new pool. When I was elected in 2009 I had two goals. First, to pay down debt and the other was to build a new pool. As most of you know the Boulder Creek golf course debt is paid off in July. Our next milestone is in 2017 when we pay off the raw water line debt.

We don’t want to wait 15 or 20 years to build a pool since the capital improvement fund has many other obligations. To build a new pool, I will be requesting a ballot question in 2017 that will allow us to use lease revenue to borrow money for a new pool complex. Lease revenue of $1 million per year will start this year and allow us to fund a new pool with no new or increased taxes. How wonderful is that!

We have many city capital improvement needs that have been put on hold. For example, Parks and Recreation has many needs and renovations like improvements at Whalen Field and the softball field including a new restroom and possibly a small park between the diamonds. City Hall and other older buildings require safety and security measures such as sprinklers.

These reasons and more are why I am voting yes on ballot Question 1. Please join me.

Councilman Cam Walker

Council members should be compensated for responsibilities

While I served on City Council in the 1990s, I was paid $11,000 a year as the mayor of the city. Much has happened in Boulder City since then, including expanding our profile of 31 square miles to over 200 square miles.

Along with those additional real estate responsibilities, we have 8,000 acres of solar leases. The City Council is also responsible for managing an electric utility and an airport. These responsibilities are unique to our city. No other city in Nevada leases 8,000 acres.

I find it difficult to find a reason not to increase the pay of City Council members in the context of their responsibilities.

I recognize some in our city don’t see the responsibilities of City Council as important. I will state from experience that the outcome of those responsibilities is critical to maintaining an unparalleled quality of life here in Boulder City. Without hesitation, I see the council’s function as critical to our city’s future. I have admiration and respect for the City Council in the difficult situations it faces.

We are now guaranteed $8 million in revenues from Eldorado Valley for the foreseeable future. I am proud to have added the valley’s purchase to the city as the standing mayor in 1995. I encourage the City Council as well as the community to begin to recognize our city’s prominence in the context of Nevada, thereby giving us a grand future.

I am speaking about the quality of life. I know that those responsible for the city’s future need be appropriately recompensed.

In the context that Boulder City is the largest physically sized city in Nevada along with it having 8,000 acres of leased land for energy-production purposes, we have placed tremendous responsibilities upon our City Council. I know of no other city in Nevada that has this kind of responsibility. We should be happy to pay our public officials more.

Las Vegas pays its City Council members $85,000 a year while Henderson pays its council members $44,000 a year. Those councils do not manage an airport, a public utility or lease 8,000 acres. Our City Council sits on all the same boards and commissions with the other Clark County city councils making decisions concerning our future.

With this in mind, our city, in the context that we are receiving over $8 million in additional revenue a year from Eldorado Valley, should be willing to pay our council (members) for their time and efforts. In light of all that has changed and their continually expanding responsibilities, more than doubling the council’s salary would be appropriate.

Hopefully Boulder City will understand the importance of compensating its officials fairly.

Eric L. Lundgaard

Mayor and City Council member 1985-1997

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