Outspent but Undettered
"I really just wanted to take the advocacy that I've always had, and practiced, and bring it to the city," Mantle says explaining his motivation to run, even if he knows he might be a long shot to make it to a second round general election finish when results are counted after June 12th. "Think people first and absolutely be a voice of reason and scientific, evidence-based rationalization for our development projects and our future here."
Mantle says he feels he's up against the odds in terms of fundraising and name recognition, but that his campaign is still worth a shot.
"This is my first go into local politics ... It's not that I haven't been in the community doing things, I mean being an advocate is certainly, important work, but it's not very visible work because I do it at like 3 AM sometimes or 5 AM or 11 PM, you know, when there's a need for service and that doesn't get you the visibility, nor do I seek it. That's not why you do that stuff. The sheer amount of money that is in contention with some of these candidates .... I looked at all of the filing reports and it's already been $126,000 spent collectively between the candidates. (Three candidates) have spent over $40,000 each. So that's a lot. That's a lot. And I don't have that kind of funding or backing, but there's no reason to not try and put yourself out there because I still believe that we can do better. And I don't think that the other candidates are as people-focused as I think they should be."
A Q and A on Affordable Housing, Anti-Vagrancy Laws, Strip Clubs, Homeless Services and Grading the Current City Council on These Issues
Question: The City Council we have keeps saying affordable housing is the most urgent issue facing Reno. Given this awareness, what kind of grade would you give them on what's actually been accomplished over the last term?
William Mantle: "I would grade them a D. I would grade them a D because when I first started my campaign I went online to all of our various news organizations in the area and I looked for every article I could find on the Fountain district, the tearing down of the weeklies, anything from the City Council saying publicly what we're going to do and what we're planning to do. And what I've found is since an awesome article came out in The Atlantic (in early 2016), that was really like, 'hey, northern Nevada has this amazing issue that it's going to have to deal with.' And that was affordable housing and people spoke to that. And I don't think anything has happened. I've heard things, I've seen quotes, but from everything I can see, there hasn't been an ordinance put in place to prevent the tearing down of structures that are still usable... There hasn't been an ordinance put in place for a percentage of affordable housing as part of a development project, meaning that either you have to commit a certain number of units to being affordable housing for say individuals or families making under 40,000 or have special statuses like senior citizens or veterans or they have to pay monies into a pot that then, the city would use that money to do its own public housing, maybe in coordination with the Reno Housing Authority, which is federally mandated."
Question: What about the idea of rent control or a version of that? Should the City Council be pushing for that? Can we learn from recent initiatives in other cities?
William Mantle: "I haven't seen any ordinance be put in place for any kind of semblance of rent control and I know that's a very complicated issue because rent control has been shown to not work in certain ways in Chicago, in New York, but I think that we could easily put an ordinance in place or ordinances that give a little bit more rights and security to the renters and limit to some degree the landlord's ability to just bump up the rents. When I hear stories of individuals getting up a 25 percent rent increase month to month, that's not a thing most people can just adapt to."
"What I've seen in other cities is absolutely the emphasis on percent affordable housing. What I've seen is that, okay, you want to develop here, great, we love, we love your investment and your desire to be a part of this community and building in this community, but we need you to ensure that if you're going to build this project, you're going to build either another project that can be dedicated to (affordable housing). Or you'll have a part of that project be put towards it, or you can collaborate with other developers who are also building the area to do something together."
"This isn't a Reno-only crisis. The whole nation is facing a rental crisis... Wages are a major part of this. A lot of cities have confronted this by also raising wages because if the rental prices go up, okay, that means the inventory is still the same in the area and that's an ongoing crisis for Reno especially. But if people can afford more, maybe they can live farther out, they can commute more easily... "
Question: What do you think of the anti-vagrancy proposals which are slowing making progress towards implementation despite opposition from many quarters?
William Mantle: "Telling somebody that they can't sleep where, where they don't want to sleep anyways. It's not that somebody is like, I would really love to just cut up some cement and lay down on that. That's not where somebody wants to go to bed, but if you're that tired or just that out of sorts, you may need to rest. And if you would be thrown into jail at cost to the public for that just doesn't make sense in terms of an economical impact that we want to be putting our money towards. That's just more costs to jail and to the Washoe County sheriff's office or RPD that we don't need. So I'm not a fan of those vagrancy laws. I think they're very misguided."
Question: The strip clubs also seem to be taking a lot of the City Council's attention. What do you think about that?
William Mantle: "I've been a supporter for the strip clubs' rights, to stay where they are. I think that it's actually incredibly silly that this is a discussion that needs to be had.... The city is risking a rather hefty lawsuit of 50 million dollars that's probably going to be brought up again. It got dropped when the city council started making some overtures saying, 'hey, you know, maybe we can work this out, find a compromise.' Then they reversed direction .... saying, 'no, we're going forward with seeking not only your relocation, but also further enforcement'.... I don't think that's a good idea. I don't think think it's appropriate. I think that we're talking about individuals who are autonomous, have their own agency, they have their own money and they're deciding to go to that establishment and enjoy those services, whatever those are. What I'm more concerned about are the rights of the contractors, aka the dancers. They're being appropriate and proper .... I'm very concerned why we're making it more difficult for people to get jobs that they're seeking. And these clubs pay a lot in taxes, tens of thousands of dollars per month to the city coffers...."
Question: What about helping the homeless community? What should the City Council be doing better?
William Mantle: "We need better mental health services... We need to make sure we have adequate resources for mental health. We don't... We need to make sure that people get off their substances and can transition off of those without being afraid of being thrown in prison or jail for their addiction. And that's a disease, that's not a choice. People aren't like, 'oh yeah, I chose to be addicted.'If they don't have a place to live, maybe they're going to use substances or maybe you get them a place to live, but they're hooked on a substance. They're not going to be able to control their finances. Oh wait, what if they don't have a job, they can't afford where they're supposed to live and they still have an addiction. So all their money they would have is going to that. It's a hydra of a problem. It has so many heads and I feel like for some reason we're always trying just one approach, one approach, one approach. It takes a collectivist approach to solve these issues and talking with people. I'm for far more social workers and case managers to get out there."
Question: There are also concerns about more and more of what's being built is luxury high priced housing, including for students. What are your thoughts on that front?
William Mantle: "It is worrisome. Last I checked the majority of students aren't affluent....
They may have affluent parents but ... if we don't start creating affordable housing options, there will not be people who will support the economic livelihood of this city and you're just going to not have people who can afford to live here, (to be a student,) to be a grocer, to be a shelf stocker, to be a librarian, to be even an EMT personnel."
"We're going to lose our services because people are like, 'I'm just going to move somewhere I can afford or I can make better wages because Reno is not doing anything to increase that either. And we have extremely high taxes in comparison to the rest of the state. We have super high gas taxes, high property taxes. But we still don't have enough, unfortunately, for all that we need... The solution isn't easy."
Note: Some of the questions and answers were trimmed for clarity and conciseness.
Interview by Our Town Reno in May 2018 at the downtown library