Despite the Reno City Council’s troubling year of sexual misconduct investigations and debt creation, Mayor Hillary Schieve went into little detail about the past year’s chaos in her State of the City address last Thursday evening. Instead of addressing past City Council issues head-on, Schieve said she was dedicated to creating “a new culture to lift Reno up for years.”
Last September, former Reno City Manager Andrew Clinger was terminated due to several misconduct complaints against him. In a five-month investigation following Clinger’s termination, retired Clark County judge David Wall found there was not enough evidence to support the claim that Clinger had sexually inappropriate relationships in his workplace. However, the investigation did find that Clinger headed an unprofessional work environment that had harmed one of the women who had come forward to file a complaint against him.
Schieve was vague in her speech when discussing Clinger’s termination; she said the city had “hit some turbulence,” which she compared to a kidney disease she had when she was younger that resulted in her having to give up her dream of participating in Olympic figure skating.
“Thanks to my loving mother, and incredible sister who donated her kidney to save my life and put me on a new path,” Schieve said, “I hung up my skates, but not my competitive spirit. I took that passion for competition and rechanneled it into other endeavors.
That’s what our city must do now. When things get tough, you must take decisive action to fix it. It may hurt at first, but it’s an opportunity to take a new approach.”
Schieve also alluded to the huge amount of debt the City Council has accumulated over the last two years.
“While we are still recovering from the recession,” Schieve said, “our Council remains committed to fiscal stability. For one, the city’s total debt has decreased by more than $150 million, and our fund balance totals more than $19 million under the leadership of this City Council.”
In a report from the Reno Gazette-Journal, the previous city council went through a period where it borrowed a large amount of money and racked up more debt than the city could afford to pay back.
While the city has significantly decreased their debt, Reno is still ranked 113 out of 116 cities for financial stability, according to the Fiscal Times. Reno ranked below North Las Vegas which, according to the RGJ, has almost had to declare bankruptcy for several years. Reno ranked above New York City and Chicago.
The City of Reno has also come under fire from many homeless and community advocacy groups for their redevelopment plans that include the destruction of low-income housing and weekly motels.
ACTIONN, a community advocacy group, has been committed to bringing awareness to the displacement of homeless and low-income residents. Back in September, ACTIONN hosted a “Week of ACTIONN Against Gentrification,” where community members discussed personal stories of displacement and shared ideas about how to bring the issue to the attention of the City Council.
“When we say we’re against gentrification, we’re talking about outdated, unjust community development policies and projects,” said Mike Thornton, the executive director of ACTIONN. “[We are] calling for a 21st-century community development agenda that focuses on creating jobs, justice inclusion and affordable housing. It is about saying yes to creating a sustainable city that meets the needs of all its current and future residents.”
In her State of the City Address, Schieve addressed the issue of displaced residents and homelessness by discussing the Reno Works program. The program recruits individuals from homeless shelters and trains them for ten weeks. During the ten-week period, they are taught life skills, given education opportunities and full-time employment. After the program, people are often working full-time positions. The program was spearheaded by Ward 5 Reno City Council Member Neoma Jardon.
Schieve also announced the City of Reno will allocate $160,000 to the program over the next two years.
“I’ve also enlisted the help of a working group called Operation Downtown,” Schieve said. “This group is made up of business owners, developers, City of Reno staff, and others who want downtown Reno to rise. But in order to do so, we need more affordable housing options. That’s why Operation Downtown and the City held a recent affordable housing workshop to identify ways Reno can take action. We are looking for ways to incentivize more affordable housing projects by participating in public-private partnerships, such as building affordable housing projects on city-owned land.”
Operation Downtown works with the Reno Housing Authority and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to help provide low-income housing to individuals and families in need by supplying rent vouchers to individuals and building affordable housing complexes.
Schieve identified one of the city’s affordable housing projects called Vintage at the Crossings by developer Dane Hillyard. She also said there would be more affordable housing projects coming to the city in the next year.