Henderson Council candidates debate sports subsidies
The City of Henderson has allocated large amounts of taxpayer money to sports franchises in recent years to locate their facilities within the Henderson city limits.
The city even agreed to enter confidential negotiations with the teams and sign a non-disclosure agreement with Major League Baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks when trying to get the team to move in 2018.
When candidates in Henderson’s upcoming Ward 1 special election were asked if they would provide taxpayer money, land or other subsidies to sports or entertainment companies to locate facilities in Henderson, most of them supported the idea, with some reservations.
Candidates Melissa Woodbury, Tim Cox and Ali Nilson each said their support would come with evidence of clear economic benefits for the city.
“I would have a hard time using taxpayers’ money to build private facilities,” Nilson said, “unless there was a financial benefit for the City of Henderson.”
The type of economic benefit Nilson would like to see would be profits for the city on top of regular tax revenues.
Economic gain wasn’t the only condition Cox mentioned in order to win his support for using taxpayers’ money. He also said that any facilities in Henderson must also benefit the surrounding community in more than just monetary terms, such as: B. Providing resources to help with community issues such as housing insecurity.
Community gains beyond money were also a requirement for candidates Alex Kleytman and Jim Seebock, with Seebock saying every facility must be “right for the community.”
Focusing on the cultural impact these projects could have, Kleytman said the community lost an important cultural center for music when the Silver Knights’ Dollar Loan Center replaced the storm-damaged Henderson Pavilion.
In addition to his call for community benefits, Seebock also said that local people’s opinions must be “strongly taken into account” in negotiations.
Aaron Johnson’s only stipulation was that the local community be involved. He said neighbors should voice their stance on all deals “before we ever start spending any of the people’s taxpayers’ money on private business.”
Eddie Hamilton was the only candidate who said he would not support the use of public funds for sports or entertainment facilities. Although community development is one of his top campaign priorities, Hamilton said he was opposed to using public money for private facilities coming to the city.
When asked whether the city should ever enter confidential negotiations or sign non-disclosure agreements using public funds, Johnson and Seebock said they support full transparency as long as it doesn’t get the city into legal trouble. Both candidates said they would ultimately rely on the city attorney’s advice in handling the situations.
Nilson said she understands that sports or entertainment companies benefit from confidential negotiations, but said the city should be open with its residents about those negotiations, at least so residents of affected neighborhoods can be informed and have their say on the projects.
Hamilton and Cox said confidential negotiations made business sense, with Cox calling secrecy “inevitable” in certain situations. However, both candidates said the city should be open when any final decisions are made.
Kleytman said he understands both the corporate mindset for transparency and the arguments against it when dealing with public money. He finally said his judgments about confidential hearings would have to be decided on a case-by-case basis.
Thanks to a bylaw change approved last year, only residents of Henderson’s Ward 1 can vote in the special election. Early voting begins March 28 and runs through March 30 at City Hall, and Election Day is April 3 at City Hall.
Contact Mark Credico at mc[email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MarkCredicoII.