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Seeking political relevance (opinion)


Submitted by William Puchert

As a 17-year resident of northwest Reno, I am following the appointment process to fill the vacant Ward 5 Reno City Council seat with great interest. That seat was vacated by Neoma Jardon, first elected in 2012, earlier this month because she was hired as the executive director of the Downtown Reno Partnership.

The council chose to fill that seat with an appointment rather than a special election which would cost city taxpayers at least $100,000.

At a special meeting held this past Thursday, the Reno City Council selected three finalists from a pool of three dozen with one notable absence at the dais: Councilwoman Jenny Brekhus, who said she intentionally boycotted the meeting.

In a blog she publishes, Brekhus called the appointment process undemocratic and described the applicants as “foils in an unfair, politically juiced process that does not let their individual attributes and qualifications be recognized.”

Let’s explore her assertion.

The applicant selections of each council member were displayed at the meeting and published in the Reno Gazette-Journal. Applicants and their supporters were allowed time under public comments to make their cases. A few council members invited the applicants who were not considered to consider applying for one of the various city boards and commissions where they would gain more insight on city issues.

The process seemed to be transparent. I believe most would have come up with the same finalists as were selected by the council.

I reviewed the applications and resumes of those seeking the seat and those three applicants were also in my top five due to their experience and their education. Furthermore the three finalists seem to have the connections to constituencies that would make them viable candidates if they had run for the seat. 

If you look at the last two city council appointments the council had made at the time of their respective appointments, incumbent At-Large Councilman Devon Reese (a local attorney who represents police and firefighter unions and a former state senate candidate) and his predecessor, former Councilman David Bobzien (a former state legislator), both of them possessed similar experience and backgrounds that would have made them viable candidates had they run for the seat at the time of their respective selections.

Ironically, Brekhus participated in those past two appointments and according to the Nevada Independent, Reese’s appointment was unanimous. 

I believe what this is really about is a strategy by Brekhus to remain politically relevant after she came in third in June’s Reno mayoral primary behind incumbent Mayor Hillary Schieve and perennial conservative city council candidate Eddie Lorton.

Before her primary loss in June, Brekhus sent out a mailer to Republican citywide voters with images of damage to Reno City Hall and police cars stating she was the true change agent.

A postcard mailed by Jenny Brekhus’ campaign to Republican voters in Reno ahead of the June 2022 primary election.

While Brekhus has become the darling of fellow progressives, the piece was viewed by many as pandering to Lorton’s voters, whom she tried to convince to vote for her instead.

Additionally, campaign disclosure reports reveal that Brekhus contributed to Lorton’s previous city council campaign. Is that the mark of a so-called progressive or a craven politician?

In addition to the three selected applicants being qualified, they also seem to be affable – a quality I am sure is being sought by a majority of the council considering most of the dysfunction of that body has come from Brekhus’s behavior at meetings. 

This was very apparent in a meeting earlier this year when the council reviewed Reno City Manager Doug Thornley performance and Brekhus was accused of defamation and  being a “petty tyrant.” 

According to the RGJ, one local political analyst said most voters were not attuned to the personal squabbles that animate city hall and cited that as a factor in Brekhus’s primary loss.

Brekhus’s true motivation was to demonize the process just as she has demonized her colleagues and city staff while running for mayor. These tactics are out of the Donald Trump playbook. “It’s Jenny Brekhus vs. the world.” 

Whether you agree or not with the decision that the process to fill the vacant council seat should have been by election rather than selection, just because you didn’t get your way doesn’t mean you don’t show up and do your job. That is a disservice to her Ward 1 constituents and to all the city residents.

If “the fix is in” as she asserts, then she should be a scrutinizing voice on the dais throughout the process instead of complaining from the peanut gallery.

This episode seems to have given us a glimpse of how she will likely spend her remaining lame duck years on the council as a means of seeking political relevance.

Brekhus’ actions are motivated by a personal political vendetta in the cloak of populism and in the process she has lost her credibility. 

William Puchert

Brekhus has been a necessary voice on issues such as our area’s over-development. However, her behavior doesn’t serve her cause. Endless drama at city hall may provide for headlines and palace intrigue but it doesn’t get the job done, nor does it serve the interests of those voices she hopes to elevate.  

William Puchert is a graphic designer, former journalist and local progressive.

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