Washoe County Assessor and candidate for Washoe County Commissioner (District 2) Mike Clark and I sat down for a one-on-one interview at the Reno Convention Center after a business networking meeting featuring Jon Ralston, CEO of the Nevada Independent. Who knew businesses networking meetings could be divisive and political, yet Ralston’s hyperbolic diatribe provided the perfect backdrop on how politics in the Silver State has become quite divisive, especially in the down ballot races for County Commissioners.
Mike Clark, Washoe County Assessor for eight years, decidedly beat Republican incumbent Bob Lucey in a contentious primary for Washoe County Commissioner, and is no stranger at beating incumbents or smear campaigns.
Clark told the Globe: “I still don’ have a political bug. I ran for assessor as a self-defense mechanism. After I moved to Nevada from Southern California, our property values plummeted 60 percent, but my property taxes didn’t go down. I shared by analysis with my neighbors and we fought to have our property taxes reduced in accordance with the reduction in our property values. My neighbors didn’t prevail, but I won. The county tried for the next three years to raise my property values in a down market, and after I prevailed the third time I told the Assessor I was going to run and replace him. The county assessor was there for 26 years and I ending up winning. I have been the county assessor for eight years because I treat tax payers fairly,” Clark said. “I know what it is like to be on the receiving end of the heavy hand of government. The public doesn’t understand the rules and laws and tax implications, so I am their voice.”
One of Clark’s biggest wins for the tax payer was a $100 million settlement for the homeowners in Incline Village and Crystal Bay, NV. The County was over-assessing their properties for years and in 2003 a citizen’s group sued for the overvaluation. In 2019, a judge ruled that Washoe County must repay millions of dollars of unconstitutional assessments from 2003-2006 to the residents.
Clark told the Globe, “$50 million of that settlement was in interest because the county was stubborn. I have fought for the wealthiest and the poorest of tax payers. I fight for all tax payers. My next fight with the county is for a group of homeowners whose property values have been impacted by over-development and a stench that is making their home values plummet. These are hard-working or retired people who have lived in their homes for 20 years and now are impacted due to the county’s actions.”
Clark noted that he is an “outsider”, but after being an insider in Washoe County as the Assessor, “he see’s the mischief taking place” and boasts, “I am proud to stand up for the tax payer. I am not a team player with the county. The City of Reno never consulted my office for purchases of land. This is an example of mischief.”
Other examples of mischief, Clark notes, is the Public Safety Building in Reno and the purchase of 5.5 acres of land next to the CARES center. “They jammed the purchase of additional acreage next to the CARES center within two weeks. I thought the property was overvalued. They paid $1 million an acre. It was probably worth $100,000 an acre because of its location. They admitted there are five to seven fuel tanks under the ground. As an assessor, I know that 100 percent of fuel tanks leak. Yet, the county didn’t do the environmental diligence or impact study before they bought it. Why the rush?” Clark asked.
“In 2019, I spoke out against the Public Safety Building. It wasn’t the best use of tax payers dollars. This was and is not a good idea. I wanted the building, or the land, to be in private hands, like a hotel. Or, the land could have been zoned for a linear greenbelt. But, again, I wasn’t consulted and another rush decision was made. Now the city has doubled the budget to $70 million. As long as there are tax payers, the county will never be broke and the current leadership takes advantage of the tax payers. I have not and I will not.”
His run for Commissioner, Clark says, is to “make sure the public has a voice and be a champion for the tax payer.” Clark added, “We have situations in this county that are out of control. We have approximately 2,000 homeless people and the county spent $70-80 million. I have empathy for those who are down on their luck, but I don’t think the money is flowing to the people who need it. That needs to be looked at. Nothing gets better, it only gets worse. We have 100,000-120,000 seniors. The county only spends $9 million on senior services. Animal control has a budget of $14 million. Why are we spending more money on animals than seniors? As the Commissioner, I will make sure seniors are treated equitably and fairly,” Clark said.
“So many things I see don’t make logical sense,” Clark added. I worked as a market analyst for 22 years for Coldwell Banker. I know what to look for and the City of Reno is dead, they just haven’t held the funeral yet. Reno business fronts have a 60 percent vacancy. Downtown is not a good place to go. The locals don’t want to go downtown and neither do tourists. The Commissioners need to work with the City of Reno because it is the heartbeat of the county. Sparks and Reno need to work with the county to get the tourists here. Who in their right mind wants to come to Reno when the crime rate is through the roof? All this needs to be addressed, but currently there is a lack of leadership to clean up this county. I hope to change that.”
Clark refers to the Truckee River as the “jewel of this state.” “It is one of the most fantastic features we have, yet it has been treated as an open sewer”, Clark lamented. “Many other thriving cities utilize and protect rivers, but we are not. The City of Reno parks their dump trucks on the river bank. Trash trucks are parked on the river. Why does the county allow this activity? This is not the highest and best use of this precious resource. We need better zoning for prime riverfront property. We should have walking paths, bike paths, and hotels. Instead, we have homeless encampments, needles and trash. The river should be a priority. We need to insist the river cleaned up and should not be used as an industrial parking lot,” Clark added.
For Clark, another cleaning priority are the county voter rolls, “At end of day, our foundational basis should be an accurate voter roll. As assessor, under penalty of perjury, I have to sign and affidavit on my documents and they are pristine. The registrar of voters doesn’t have accuracy. My old roommate moved out of state over eight years ago, but we are still getting ballots”, Clark noted. “The insanity of what is taking place right now is absurd. They printed up ballots with incorrect information and mailed them out. A candidate who lost in the primary, appeared on the ballot. Another candidate’s name was spelled wrong. There are a great number of people who haven’t received their ballots. The Registrar, County Manager, and Commissioner hate to be questioned when they make a mistake. Some one needs to be charged with incompetency or sloppiness,” Clark charged.
When elected as Commission in District 2, Clark has promised “total and utter transparency.” Clark told The Globe, “The public has the right to see what the county does. Public records will be handled quickly and openly. The County’s business is the public’s business. I guarantee nothing but transparency. The County tells the county employees they have no money, then they raise taxes. It is one big lying machine. They cry wolf and always have reasons. There are allegations that the county has hidden bank accounts and I will demand an audit of the counties finances. When is the last time the county was audited?
“I am an outspoken outsider and a whistleblower. It goes back to self defense,” Clark added. “Now I see the shenanigans and mischief going on. Where I am from, this is a one-horse town, but these people in charge think this is the Beverly Hills or Manhattan. It is incestuous with the crap that is going on around here,” Clark said.
“Some of these battles aren’t even worth winning, like the laughable smear campaigns against me. I know it’s not true. I haven’t done anything wrong,” Clark claimed. “I think the public has seen through the smear campaigns. I give the public credit for seeing through this kabuki theatre. The county, and my opponent, must have something to hide because they don’t want me to uncover what they are hiding. They picked on the wrong guy.”
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