Submitted by Meghan Simons
On May 4, the day the 34th and 35th COVID-19 deaths in Washoe County occurred, Reno City Council at-large candidate Eddie Lorton posted an ask for the votes of Renoites on his official campaign Facebook page, as candidates are wont to do.
Lorton closed the evening “feeling levity” by sharing a kicky murder hornets meme he captioned, “We must act.” The meme mocks models showing the risks of doing nothing versus flattening the curve. Lorton claims Reno’s citizens should vote for him over current City Councilmember and Reno Vice Mayor Devon Reese because “[i]t’s time to elect those that know what they are doing.”
Okay, I’ll bite.
Bizarrely, Uncle Eddie’s most recent contributions and expenses report lists the office he’s seeking as “Mayor, Reno” as opposed to City Council, Reno, At-Large. And one would think if he can afford to loan himself a cool $100k, he could afford for someone to revamp his online presence since his two past Sisyphean runs for mayor instead of sloppily recycling previous endorsements, code, and content. Maybe Lorton’s decided that’s good enough, but to paraphrase Frank Robinson, good enough only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.
Back to May 4. That day, Reese was posting updates for residents of Washoe County on COVID-19 with instructions on getting tested for the virus, and preliminary instructions for businesses looking to develop their re-opening plans. His page is filled with information, resources, and assistance for Renoites looking to weather COVID-19 with the least possible damage.
To date, Reese has organized and participated in several digital town halls for constituents, while Lorton held a virtual town hall with all the charm of a proof of life video. Reese also managed to list the proper office title in his C&E Report.
Perhaps most telling is a lesson imparted to me by my parents: You can tell a lot about a person by what they support, their actions, and with whom they associate. Lorton patronizingly claims the Record Street shelter must be moved out of downtown to become the county’s responsibility because, in downtown Reno, one finds “alcohol, drugs, prostitution, gaming (which many spend substantial amounts of their checks on these vices) and other unhealthy distractions…”
This echoes a sentiment from Reno Hope Bus founder Tim Doss. Reno Hope Bus suspended operations on March 9, citing “mass hysteria” with COVID-19. Reached by phone this past Wednesday, Doss reiterated Lorton’s belief that having a downtown shelter does not work.
“Eddie wants to get the homeless away from all the casinos downtown. They’re getting their check on the first of the month and drinking it all away… I believe in getting them away from downtown, away from the river, and into support services so we can clean up the area, and Eddie does too,” said Doss.
Doss said he endorsed Lorton because he brings “pepper to the game,” and stated the police department needs more power when dealing with people experiencing a lack of shelter, citing safety concerns.
“We’ve had our own events with Hope Bus and people will fight, they’re throwing their trash on the ground… I’m not talking bad about the homeless here, don’t say this, but sometimes at Hope Bus and other places, they act entitled, like they’re entitled to something. Like rude,” said Doss. He added, “Eddie sees the police department has no power at all with these people. I feel bad for the police, I really do.”
Doss did not mention whether he feels the same about the people Lorton seeks to bus out of Reno.
Once upon a time, I worked as a communications director for several political candidates. Part of that job was casting the candidate in the most favorable light possible by demonstrating they actively help their community, and further, that they simply give a damn. If Lorton was my boss, I’d quit.
Since early March, Lorton’s largely been a ghost haunting Reno via a plethora of campaign signs. Instead of using his network to, say, stuff a bus, he’s posting memes on Facebook, paying lip service to essential workers, and, when he’s not hanging signs, he’s getting cited for them.
In a spectacularly tone-deaf post, Lorton disingenuously expressed concern over Reese’s own COVID-19 scare, writing, “Four days ago, [Reese] spent his morning with Councilmember Bonnie Weber delivering food to people, many of them seniors, in one of the Reno Housing Authority’s communities…Do you think non-elected Councilman Reese’s decision to ignore the stay at home order was irresponsible?”
Reese is out there doing the work. He’s delivered supplies to people in need – whether or not they reside in the city limits – on his own time, advocated for hand-washing stations and better accommodations for Renoites living outside, investigated complaints of unwarranted shelter evictions, participated in community fundraising and organizing, gave his personal cell phone number to people experiencing food insecurity in order to coordinate drop-offs of boxes of food, and yes, aided with stuffing a bus. Reese has repeatedly said he’s only doing his job.
That’s just it. A primary is a job interview in front of thousands of people hiring you to represent them. And this primary is like no other – it’s an opportunity to demonstrate that when the chips are down, and your constituents are facing a once-in-lifetime crisis, you’ll step up. Like any other job, it’s not enough to say you know what you’re doing. You have to show it.
Eddie Lorton showed up to interview with Renoites so unprepared, it’s insulting. I implore Renoites to bar Lorton from advancing past the first round and genuinely hope I’m not the only one saying, “You’re hired!” to Devon Reese this June 9.
Meghan Simons lives in Reno and is a professional specializing in the treatment of substance use disorders. Previously, she worked for political candidates as a communications consultant and field operative. She is a single mom of twins and has written on politics for over a decade. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her kids, wandering Reno, and hiking on Mt. Rose from a respective social distance. Any opinions expressed here are her own and are not to be taken as those of any employers, groups, or professional boards with whom she is affiliated.
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