Kozlowski, a Sparks resident of 61 years, was one of the more than 20 senior citizens who attended the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute’s government class Wednesday.
Larry Wilson and Julia Ratti, candidates for Sparks City Council ward one, were joined by Neil Grad, candidate for Sparks city attorney, as guest lecturers at the institute.
“This is an intelligent group of people,” said former OLLI president Kozlowski. “They really want to know what is going on.”
Wednesday’s class was the third in a series of classes on American government. Each of the candidates for any Sparks office were invited by the institute to talk about city government – and hand out a few campaign fliers.
At the class, the candidates were each given time to discuss the issues that mattered to them, as well as address the questions of the class.
In response to Kozlowski’s question on growth, Wilson said he was concerned with the development at the Sparks Marina.
“I’m concerned that the people in Sparks are going to lose whatever grass they have on that (the marina park) because of the casino,” Wilson said.
His answer to unchecked growth was developing a better plan.
“Let’s get a real big master plan going and follow it,” he said.
As Wilson handed off the microphone to Ratti, his fellow ward one candidate, who agreed that growth needed to be better managed.
“I believe the solution is one that allows for growth but it has to be done in a way that we can afford and supports infrastructure,” Ratti said.
In addition to growth, both candidates discussed redevelopment needs in Victorian Square, agreeing that past planning for the area was bungled.
“When there is not a special event, you can shoot a cannon down there and not hit anyone,” Ratti said. “I don’t disagree with Larry that the past could have been handled differently.”
Wilson added that he believed a solution for Victorian Square redevelopment lies in developing and sticking to a more concrete plan.
“We need to have a plan of action,” Wilson said. “I think we have studied everything way too much. Let’s get it going.”
In addition to the city council candidates, the class heard a presentation from Grad, who is running against incumbent Sparks city attorney Chet Adams.
Grad began his presentation by explaining to the class how city law can be changed, discussing both changes to the city charter and the municipal code.
“If you want a new law, talk to your council person,” Grad told the class.
In his presentation, Grad discussed recent council decisions regarding garbage franchise agreements, Charter cable’s proposition to move public, education and government channels to paid cable subscriptions and the different ways Reno and Sparks have handled similar legal situations.
Grad said that he was not opposed to a shorter franchise period for services contracted by the city, such as garbage collection. He also added that he would provide free legal services in order to keep public education and government channels free to those with analog TVs.
“I am doing this for free because councilman (John) Mayer asked for it,” Grad said. “That and extra money per month (for a cable subscription to view the channels) could mean the difference between one thing or another for someone living on a fixed income.”
Grad told the group that there were many differences between the ways the cities of Reno and Sparks have handled recent financial pinches.
“We have the same economic circumstances,” Grad said. “But they have managed it better.”
Grad also gave the city of Reno credit for its handling of a fall 2007 lawsuit regarding the First Amendment rights of a street artist. The artist attempted to sell his paintings without a city use permit and was cited for the infraction. However, the artist claimed that his paintings were equivalent to free speech and as such did not need any special permits.
“Whoever drafted that ordinance was wrong,” Grad said.
The city of Reno settled the case, paying about $30,000. The same artist sued Sparks and the city lost the case this spring, paying $250,000.
After Grad finished his presentation, institute member Betty Lou Marquardt took the microphone and thanked the candidates for their participation.
“I get personal satisfaction knowing that we offered something to people to learn,” Marquardt said. “I feel passionately about government and I don’t want ‘politics’ to be a dirty word for these people.”
The institute’s mission is to bring educational and social opportunities to older adults, according to its course catalog. The institute is a part of the University of Nevada, Reno’s extended studies program and is funded through a grant from Bernard Osher. The Osher foundation has funded more than 120 other institutes nationwide that are committed to senior citizen education.
According to Marquardt, the classes are generally led by members of the institute who have a specific skill or community members who can contribute their knowledge to the class.