Commentary - June 6, 2017 - by Ray Hagar

By Ray Hagar
Nevada Newsmakers

Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve was reportedly behind an amendment in the waning days of the Nevada Legislature -- when sneaky people try to push stuff past overwhelmed lawmakers -- that would have changed the rules that govern Reno's top elected executive.

The amendment would have given Schieve veto power and would have freed her from term limits that apply to council members, according to Anjeanette Damon, lead reporter at the RGJ.

The amendment also would have allowed termed-out council members to run for Reno mayor, Damon reported.

Schieve's move was audacious. Troubling, too.

It stomped on a yearlong process of blood, sweat and tears by the Reno Charter Committee. All it's work in publicly reviewing, debating and suggesting stuff for the the Legislature was apparently tossed aside.

The amendment, despite shepherding by progressive Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-LV, failed at the Legislature.

But it didn't stop people in Washoe County from talking about this bold ninth-inning move that would have changed the Supreme-Court-mandated dynamics of Reno politics.

Washoe Commissioner Marsha Berkbigler, who is free to speak her mind because she is not running for re-election, questions Schieve's move this week on Nevada Newsmakers.

She said the mayor might have been doing a friend a favor by proposing an amendment. Ultimately, it may haunt Schieve because of it's failure.

Berkbigler said on Nevada Newsmakers on Monday that Schieve pushed the amendment, "so that other people who were term-limited members of the former (Reno city) council could run for mayor."

Wait ... what!?

Asked for specifics, Berkbigler said, "I would just rather not go down that road but, let's just say I have my suspicions who two of them are."

Berkbigler relented. She went "down that road."

"Look, there is no question, (former councilwoman) Jessica Sferrazza would like to run," Berkbigler said. "But she is doing financially very, very well where she is at (as a lobbyist). So why would she give up her good business, a very powerful business, to run to be the city mayor? But I think there are some other people who were thinking about that."

Does Berkbigler think Scheive brought the amendment to help Sferrazza?

"No I am not saying that," Berkbigler said.

Instead, she said Schieve's last-minute end run was "trying to define" that the Reno mayor's job is different from that of a person on the city council.

A 2014 Nevada Supreme Court ruling, however, prevents term-limited Reno city council members from running for mayor. It knocked Sferrazza out of the race in 2014. Schieve, then a council member, only ran for mayor after Sferrazza was denied.

"According to the (Supreme) Court statement, the mayor is no different than any other member of the council," Berkbigler said. "And she (Schieve) was trying to define that the mayor is, in fact, different.

"She (Schieve) served in both positions," Berkbigler said. "She knows the mayor is vastly different than an everyday council member. Not that the council members don't work hard. They do. They represent the city incredibly well. But the mayor has an incredibly different position. I really think that is what she was after."

Schieve's pinch-hitting for former council members was not the main motive for Schieve's amendment, Berkbigler said.

"I think it was a side effect," Berkbigler said, later adding, "Let's just say I'm not an Eddie Lorton-person who is out there saying that they are doing this deliberately to try and skirt around the law. I think that was a side effect."

Berkbigler, however, is no fan of the Reno City Council. The ill will between the Washoe Commission and Reno City Council is long standing. A few years ago, it caused the home of the father-in-law of state Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, to burn down before fire fighters responded. That's how historically bad it is.

"There has always been an open war at the Reno City Council," she said. "I didn't say that, did I? Goodness sakes."