Thursday, December 15, 2011

City Gives The Finger To Citizens

A few weeks ago, we posted an op-ed about the Mesquite city government slipping back into their old, secretive, behind-closed-doors ways.
We had hoped that a literary shot across the bow might wake up those purportedly in control of the city and remind them why the council has so many new faces, and why voters have been so angry for the last few years.
On Tuesday, the Mesquite city government basically told the voters "fuck you."
Longtime good old boy Kurt Sawyer, the acting City Manager, recently manufactured one of the city's classic back room moves, elevating Bryan Dangerfield from his job as Economic Development Director to fill the job of Leisure Services Director being vacated by Rich Bohne.
A lot of people believe that Bryan Dangerfield has been completely incompetent in his previous role, particularly his questionable activities involving the Desert Falls debacle.  Yet instead of doing what most reasonable entities would do, terminating what appears to be a sub-par employee, he is given a promotion.  He will go from supervising one person to supervising a department of dozens.
Coincidentally, the Economic Development Department may possibly be disbanded in the coming year, a department that even Sawyer admitted has "provided very few things."
Of course, it has to be another coincidence that Sawyer and Dangerfield traveled to Wyoming for a few days recently, allegedly on an invite to talk business with NCS, another company that is the latest big dreamer scheming to capitalize on the huge and valuable plot of Desert Falls land. 
So Sawyer makes the call to give Dangerfield the plum position, without ever opening the position to job applicants.  The job isn't posted publicly, so nobody gets a chance to apply, including some people who might actually be qualified for the gig.
Sawyer also didn't bother to involve the city council in his decision, despite the fact that he's only an "acting" city manger.  Why would anyone temporarily filling a job make such a huge decision without involving his bosses?
Also, while online polls aren't very scientific or particularly accurate, last week's poll on this site asked the public whether Dangerfield should be made the new Leisure Services Director.  In that poll, 24 out of the 25 respondents said "no."
It gets better.
Last week, the council rightfully decided to include an item on Tuesday's agenda regarding Dangerfield's appointment.
At Tuesday's City Council meeting, that agenda item was nowhere to be found.
So who's responsible for the item's disappearing act?
Mesquite's City Attorney.
City Attorney Cheryl Hunt once again did what she does best: finding obscure Nevada statutes to justify hiding decisions and actions from the public.
Hunt claims she found a law that says the appointment of a high ranking city official is not allowed to be on the agenda.
Huh?
It's inconceivable that any state would book a law that prohibits a city government from discussing the hiring of a key position.  And if they did, an aggrieved city government should fight such lunacy.
Instead of doing what a good city attorney would do, finding a way to make sure the citizens are involved in every city process whenever possible, she once again succeeded in making sure that the citizens get ostracized and screwed.
What makes this even more bizarre is the fact that, by law, the mayor must sign off on all city contracts.  But according to Hunt's claim, the mayor will have to do this one in secret, and not allow it to be discussed in an open forum.
Sounds pretty unlikely, but when your mission appears to be locating arcane rules to continuously exclude the public, you can always find a way.
Oddly, giving the finger to the public isn't the city council's fault this time.  The collection of well meaning but procedurally inexperienced neophytes is being abused and taken advantage of by the more seasoned staff that they are supposed to be supervising.
Now we'll get to see what this council is made of. 
There are some very real and concrete steps that must be taken.
For starters, and this has been brought up before, the current position of City Manager needs to be eliminated.  It has been this city's Achilles heel for nearly a decade.  The hard decisions about a city's future must be made by elected officials, not paper-pushing bureaucrats and hired hands filled with their own self-importance.  In a democracy, there must be accountability.
In place of a City Manager, the city should create and appoint a City Administrator, someone who handles the day-to-day operations, but must kick all important decisions upstairs.  It's not as fast or efficient a model, but is better reflective of a PUBLIC agency.
Until then, Sawyer should be removed as interim City Manager.  In a perfect world, he should be fired and removed from the city's employ altogether for running this back room game, but Hunt will surely be able to find some laws to protect and justify his actions.  Also, he has given Mesquite 21 years of service, and that has to count for something.
The council also needs to dramatically change the city's operational ordinances.  All department directors must be approved by the city council.  It will make the process more transparent, and will return the power and responsibility for the running of this city back to those who were elected to run it.
Another long overdue change is the firing of Cheryl Hunt as City Manager.  She has shown repeatedly that she is not working in the best interests of transparency for the people of Mesquite.  It's not all her fault.  In the past she has been bullied by some powerful people at City Hall.  But Mesquite needs a City Attorney who will scour the underbrush to find ways to make sure the people of this city are involved in the process, not someone skilled in finding rules to exclude them.  If that means we have to make the City Attorney's position an elected one specifically aimed at protecting the peoples' interests over the bureaucrats, then so be it.
Finally, the council should find a rule or law that allows them to overturn Sawyer's decision and return Dangerfield to his previous position.  Technically Dangerfield hasn't done anything to warrant being fired (although a deeper investigation into the Desert Falls deals might possibly unearth a few); and unlike the City Attorney position, he doesn't serve at the will of the council.  However, he should be allowed to go down with his ship.  He hasn't done a very good job running the Economic Development department.  He would be legitimately eliminated once the council decides next year to euthanize this failed agency.
In Bohne's place, longtime loyal Mesquite Leisure Department employee Nick Montoya should be considered for the interim head.  He has worked hard for this city, has given back to the community on his own time as a football coach, and knows the inner workings of the Rec Center and Leisure Services Department better than anyone else, including possibly Bohne himself.  The position should then be opened for applicants, and a hiring process begun.  If Montoya comes up anywhere near the top of that pile, he should be given the job.
So while it's tough to blame the new city council for this mess, they will be held accountable if they prove unwilling or unable to take the steps necessary to clean it up and keep it from happening again.
As was proven dramatically in the spring of 2011...the people of Mesquite really are watching, and they have shown that they are willing to make the hard decisions and take action at the polls when their elected officials will not.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Economic Development Department Needs To Go

The Economic Development Department is one of those feel-good bureaucracies that have exploded in municipal popularity over the last decade.  Somehow, city and state governments got along just fine without such high-sounding agencies for centuries, but now the departments have risen in importance to where you're more likely to find a town without a head of street repair than without an Economic Development Director.
It was a cushy job back when the economy was booming.  It was easy to claim economic success when someone could spill a drink, incorporate, then start earning a profit in the thrilling new drink-spilling industry. 
In 2006, Mesquite was seeing about two new business ribbon-cuttings every week.
Around that same time, the city saw its three biggest non-casino employers come to town: the Do It Best distribution center, Mesa View Regional Hospital, and Sun City.  Former mayor Bill Nicholes could be thanked for Do It Best and Sun City, while a collection of dedicated private citizens were mostly responsible for wooing the hospital here.
Then the bottom fell out of the national economy.
Suddenly, communities were depending on their Economic Development Departments to put on their red capes with the big "S" on the back and come to the rescue.
From coast to coast, those bogus bureaucracies were exposed for what they were - useless patronage positions filled with unqualified pencil pushers who had less business sense than your average salad bowl.
It isn't really the fault of the bureaucrat who happened to be sitting in the EDD seat when the music stopped.  It's a department that, like most things which start out as a good idea by a government, is simply an incompatible concept.
Governments by nature and design are charged with providing certain community services like roads, and protecting the public.  Throughout the centuries, most governments knew that their job occasionally included protecting the citizens from businesses, which is why they formulated so many laws and rules inhibiting commerce.
Then, in the last decade, governments started reversing engines and appointing EDD heads to help promote business in their communities.  Aside from the gearbox damage caused by slamming such a large institution into reverse, it also provided comedic irony that only the governments failed to see - hiring bureaucrats who are gifted at developing forms in triplicate, who excel at the minutiae of policy and procedure, who have spent entire careers in the field of "No!", and who have zero experience in creating a business from scratch or fathoming the personal risks of entrepreneurship, now tasked with helping lure and start new businesses.
It would be like hiring me to serve as a city's chief surgeon.  The skill set simply isn't there.
Today there is a move afoot by a group of local private citizens to try something different.  The group is suggesting that the city eliminate the department and outsource the duties of enticing news businesses and assisting existing businesses to a private agency like the Mesquite Community Development Corporation.  The MCDC is a group that was formed a couple of years ago by local business people, folks who actually know how to start and run a business.
This idea warrants some attention.
In most communities, the Chamber of Commerce would also be a likely candidate for helping bring in new business.  Unfortunately, in Mesquite that organization has been little more than a dysfunctional social club.  In fact, even the biggest business and employer in the city, the former Black gaming, quit the Chamber this year.
Mesquite's current EDD is a train wreck, and has been for some time.
Aside from the fact that it has been completely impotent in bringing new industry to town, it has also been involved in some of the city's biggest scandals.
The head of the EDD was elbow deep in the Desert Falls debacle, a failure which would have resulted in someone losing their job had they worked for a real business.  In fact, after it was discovered that someone in the city allowed the Desert Falls developers to pay a large deposit with a post-dated and unfunded check, some might even say a criminal investigation was warranted.  Instead, the EDD was expanded and the head of the department was given more power and authority.  They also took one of the brightest stars in the city government stable, Aaron Baker, and made him the EDD head's underling.  It's a waste of great talent.
Mesquite's Economic Development Department has also been a waste of time and money.  Their big claim to fame?  The "Mesquite Means Business" website.  The city been overpaying thousands of dollars for the site's design and hosting.  Also, there are pinatas that get more hits than this pitiful little slice of the internet. 
For a while, the city claimed it was going to jump on the alternative energy bandwagon and bring in purveyors of solar power, solar panels, and wind technology.  Today, Mesquite is trailing such mega-municipalities as Boulder City and Ivanpah.  Once again our inability to become a player in this realm, despite Mesquite's perfect climate and geography for such facilities, is a failure of the EDD.
Also, for years the city has had the well-earned reputation of being anti-business, with increases to its business license fees, its rigorous licensing process with 13-page applications, and its business-unfriendly sign ordinances and zoning.  Where was the EDD in all that?
The one good thing to come out of that department was an impressive video about Mesquite's golf facilities, and to a lesser degree, our casinos.  However, the behind-the-scenes truth is that the video was the brainchild of a group of forward-thinking golfers and businessmen who brought the idea to the city, and also helped fund it.  Which is more evidence that a privatized EDD makes sense.  Also, that video has been squandered because the city's EDD simply doesn't know how to market and promote it, or the city.  The proof?  Where is the latest Do It Best or Sun City?  The city owns a ton of land, and has even given it away in the past.  How incompetent is an agency that can't even bring a new industry to town with free land to offer?
The Mesquite Economic Development Department needs to be disbanded.  In these lean times of cutbacks, layoffs, and budget shortfalls, the last thing a small municipality needs is an expensive, underperforming agency.  Especially when the duties could better be handled by people who actually know what they're doing.

Editor's Note - After this story was written, MesquiteCitizen.com broke the story that Economic Development Director Bryan Dangerfield will be taking over for Rich Bohne, who is leaving as the head of the city's Athletic and Leisure Department.  Moving a lousy director with questionable competence from one city department to another isn't exactly what we had in mind.  It also begs the question - how does the city make that decision without opening the position to a hiring process?  It appears good old boy, backroom dealing is back at City Hall.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mesquite Witch Trials For Smokers

The City of Mesquite continues to wander unguided around the apocalyptic economic plain, desperately but aimlessly in search of an idea or identity to help resurrect its former greatness and recapture its glory as a growing, vibrant tourist destination and retirement Mecca.  Those in and out of power continue seeking the mythical Holy Grail that will magically bring the throngs back to the city.
"We don't have a lot of kids or young people here, but let's build a youth sports complex, because young people LOVE flocking to places where old people live."  "We don't have any transmission lines, facilities, or a technically enhanced labor pool, but let's become a player in the alternative energy game."  "We don't have a majority of soccer players or fans here, and we don't have any money, but let's use $5 million worth of taxpayer money to buy a used, plastic soccer tent so thousands of those wealthy, cash-heavy, money-spending pre-teens will race to our otherwise empty sports complex."
Since we're continuing to entertain folly, here are a few more ideas for Mesquite to try:
The amphitheater in front of City Hall is rarely used other than for the annual Christmas, er, Holiday Tree lighting ceremony.  In its place, let's erect some stocks.  You know, those wooden contraptions from the days of the Pilgrims, where citizens' heads and hands are publicly imprisoned and subjected to target practice with rotten vegetables.
Or, still at City Hall, we can deepen the small fountain that rarely gets used anymore because of worries about the political incorrectness of an open spigot in the middle of a desert.  Once we finish that municipal project, we can start selling tickets to rigged trials and public drownings.  It was a successful means of ensuring the tiny town of Salem, Massachusetts remains forever in the history books, and is still a major tourism draw to this day.
And a collection of local zealots have already designated the perfect iteration of 21st century witches:
Cigarette smokers.
There is a new campaign going around town insisting that the answer to all our tourism troubles is to make Mesquite "smoke-free." 
That's right, in a remarkably insightful reversal, they claim that the way to get people to come to our town is by telling a large segment of tobacco-using residents and visitors that they're not welcome here.
Brilliant.
Apparently, according to these folks (some of whom are good friends of mine), the problem with Mesquite and its casinos is that there are just too many smokers. 
I don't mean to be overly dramatic or Glenn Beck-ish here, but I seem to recall a certain European country deciding that all of their economic and cultural woes could be cured with the eradication of one particular kind of citizen back in the 1930's, and if I remember correctly, that didn't turn out so well.
For the record, I am not now nor have I ever been a smoker (just in case some Marlboro McCarthy is out there checking into un-Mesquitian activities).  However, my wife is a smoker, and my father was a lifetime smoker, so maybe I'm guilty by association - a smoker-in-law.
I'm sure that my dad's nicotine habit contributed to his death.  But the bigger culprit was diabetes.  Yet I don't see a lot of these "we're gonna tell you how to live" activists marching around with "Ban Twinkies" or "Secondhand Creme Filling Is A Killer" signs.
I also don't have any patience with people who claim employees at casinos, bars, and (used to be) restaurants shouldn't be subjected to secondhand smoke.
For starters, I believe secondhand smoke is about as real as global warming, vampires, and the heterosexuality of Ryan Seacrest. 
But more importantly, we've forgotten an important truth in a capitalistic society: customers don't gather in a place simply to create jobs for employees; employees are hired to serve customers who gather.  Customers should be welcomed and served, not discriminated and dictated.  There isn't a single waitress, bartender, roulette roller, or blackjack dealer in Nevada who took a job not knowing that some of those customers will be smokers.
Personally, I'm beginning to feel like Martin Niemoller, the guy who coined the famous phrase that includes the line "then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew."  I'm not a smoker, but I'm sick and tired of watching smokers being used as political pinatas by an arrogant collective who wants to impose their will on other people who are simply minding their own business and trying to get on with their lives.  Smokers have been kicked out of the workplace, kicked out of the sports arenas, kicked out of the restaurants, and basically kicked out of all public places for purchasing and using a legal, highly-taxed substance; a commodity which was essential to this country's founding and early economic success, and continues to fill state and federal coffers with plenty of coin.
But that's not enough for this new crop of zealots.  Now they want to run these people completely out of our town, like lepers whose waterfront colony has become too valuable.  "Give up smoking or relocate."
Mesquite already has the undeserved national reputation of being a "mean town."
Is this really the message we want to send out to people seeking a good time?  That if they smoke, they are a scourge and should avoid our town?  That we are such a judgmental collection of people that we would really parse out the smokers and exclude them from our gaming and drinking establishments?
I pray not.  I don't think I could live in such a city.
But if this is truly the track that Mesquite wants to follow, at least it gives City Hall one more new event that would be a sure draw for the soon-to-be-erected plastic tent.
All the zealots need to do is round up a few smokers every week and take them to the spectator-filled tent (which would have a sign hanging on the flap that says "Coliseum").
Then, just add lions.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

City Council Report Card

The new Mesquite City Council has been in place for nearly five months.  In that time, a lot of their effort has been spent undoing the mischief and mess left behind by the previous regime.  For the most part, they've made sound decisions.  More importantly, with one glaring exception, they've been doing an exceptional job at providing the much-needed transparency for which citizens have been clamoring, and appear to be more willing to listen to the people.
As a unit, the council appears to be very functional, without the suspicious trend of 5-0 votes that marred the previous council with the stench of back-room deal making.
One of their most noble votes was the approval of the election cycle change which will move the city elections from June of odd years to November of even years.  Most of the new council members campaigned against the move, but voted in favor of it after the citizens expressed their desire during June's non-binding referendum, indicating their preference that the dates be changed.  The council voted the will of the people instead of insisting "we know what's best for you."
With the end of the year fast approaching, here is our "report card" on the Mesquite City Council.

Councilman Kraig Hafen - A+
The best thing about Hafen is the fact that he has done exactly what he promised to do when elected.  He has asked hard questions, done his homework on issues, and applied the kind of almost unnatural common sense that is completely absent from nearly every level of government.  He has also put his money where his mouth is.  He dug into his own pocket to pay for a bus so Mesquite residents could go to and be heard at the Regional Transportation Commission meeting regarding local bus service.  He doesn't open his microphone unless he has something to say, and he says it in a passionate, concise, well-thought-out fashion.  Best of all, he has managed to maintain a careful balance between representing the citizens and representing the businesses, an almost impossible dance to maintain.

Councilman George Rapson - A
Rapson is easily the biggest and most welcome surprise on the council.  He is usually first to talk about an agendized issue, lets everyone know what he is thinking on an issue and why, and offers broad spectrum analysis that shows he has researched the issues and asked questions.  A lot of people said he ran for office just because he needed a job.  If that's true, we should be thankful we were able to get someone with his energy, wisdom, intelligence, and courage for the pittance we actually pay him.  The only area of concern is his connection to the Solstice liars, and his friendliness with the NCS crew.  So far, he has abstained when necessary, and continued to represent the people first.  Citizens need to remain vigilant, particularly on his stance defending NCS and their pet projects, as well as the proposed "sports tent" that would benefit them.  But he has shown himself to be something special, welcome, and needed on the council.

Councilman Al Litman - C+
Litman is Mesquite City Council's Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde.  Away from the council chambers, Al is outspoken, talkative, passionate, and ready to take on the world in his crusades.  On the council, he's the lamb that rarely offers an opinion; is timid and sometimes confused when he does; and doesn't always seem to have a grasp on the issues.  Occasionally it seems as if the first time he has bothered to open his council packet is when he arrived at the dais that night.  He has also shown little leadership up there.  However, to his credit, he continues to be a principled man and advocate looking out for the best interest of the citizens.  As time goes on, he will be an important counterweight to the overwhelmingly pro-developer lineup currently on the council.  Hopefully, as he gains more comfort and confidence in his seat, he'll become more vocal and better prepared.

Councilman Geno Withelder - D
If there's a golf tournament to be held, Geno is your man.  Also, as you would expect from a Realtor and broker representing one of the most successful development and real estate agencies in the city, he is very pro-developer.  That's not necessarily a bad thing in a city that still has a lot of growing to do.  But while Rapson favors some of the developers, it's clear that Withelder is deeply in the pocket of the development community.  That's not to say he's been bought off - he hasn't.  It's simply in his nature and job description to champion any and every project and move favored by big developers.  People also need to keep a very close eye on his relationship with NCS.  The bad news is that if it comes down between what's best for businesses/developers and what's best for the people of Mesquite, Withelder will likely side with the developers every time.  The good news is that, unless the discussion involves a golf tournament, he rarely bothers to participate or speak up.  If the developers are going to have a friend on the council, the people are lucky that it's the quiet guy.

Councilman Karl Gustaveson - F+
No surprise here.  Gustaveson is the last vestige remaining from one of the worst regimes this city has ever seen.  He is an arrogant, opinionated blowhard who thinks more of his own opinion than anyone else's on the planet, and leaves no room for perspective or input from anyone outside his circle.  And his circle continues to include former mayor Susan Holecheck.  Worse, his position on the Virgin Valley Water District board is downright dangerous to the people of Mesquite.  The smartest move the city could make would be to remove Gustaveson as the city's representative on the VVWD board and replace him with former VVWD president Kraig Hafen.  That said, Gustaveson still serves an important purpose on the Mesquite City Council.  He is the fly in the ointment that guarantees fewer 5-0 votes.  And that's a good thing.  He has been and will continue to be the lone opposition on a lot of issues.  It's extremely important and healthy for an elected government to have someone who consistently says "yeah, but..."  One other positive about Gustaveson is the fact that, while he is usually way wrong-headed on the issues, he is honest in his opinions.  He is virtually incorruptible.  When he votes, he is doing it from an anti-business, anti-freedom agenda steeped in the firm belief that "I know what's best for you."  But it's never about what's in it for him, or what he has to gain.  He won't bend, he refuses to "go along to get along," and that's an admirable trait.  It's just a shame that all that ferocity and courage is spent on trying to control the people instead of trying to serve them.

Mayor Mark Wier - B
Wier has been the same somewhat shy guy who campaigned quietly and gave the city a dramatic change from the egocentric leadership that previously dominated the mayor's office.  He does not have a forceful personality, although he used to be a lot more passionate and opinionated before he earned the title "mayor."  One thing he still does behind the scenes is deep research, particularly of the Nevada Revised Statutes.  The guy knows his state law, often better than Mesquite's City Attorney.  His quieter approach is also a welcome relief from the back room gamesmanship that previously defined the city council.  He is more of an arbitrator than a leader.  During the first six months, that's probably exactly what this city and this council needed.  However, he needs to step up his game in the next year.  Mesquite continues to founder in the economic storm.  To hope that the ship will right itself is naive.  It will take leadership and vision.  The jury is still out on whether Wier possesses either, or can muster support and lead the charge in any particular direction.  We need him to stand up and say "here's where we're going, here's why, and here's how we're going to get there."  Hopefully that will come in January's State of the CIty Address.  Knowing Wier, he will put a lot of thought and research into that speech, and will seek input from a wide variety of people and sources.  There have been complaints that he is less than diligent in returning calls and e-mails to inquisitive citizens.  However, voters knew this would be a weakness when they elected someone who works for a living instead of selecting someone who would take on the mayor's position full time.  It's not really his fault.  He has a stressful, demanding full time job, a wife and children, and all the obligations that real people must face.  The upside is that, under his administration, the volume of contacts and complaints is probably much lower than before, because he has eradicated most of the controversy and causes for people to be angry enough to contact City Hall.  To his credit, Wier has done more to promote transparency and openness in the Mesquite government in his short time than any mayor before him.  He has opened the technical reviews to the public, always allows citizens to have their say at council meetings (even if those comments go longer than three minutes), and has worked hard and successfully at changing the title of his board from "the" city council to "our" city council.  For that reason alone, he is to be applauded and commended.  He is a very good mayor so far.  The fact that he has room for a little bit of improvement means his future may be even better. 

Overall Mesquite City Council - B+
The funny thing is, this mix of unique characters and opposing viewpoints actually works extremely well.  The long, unbroken chain of 5-0 votes is gone.  Discussion and debate takes place openly on the dais (with the notable and shameful exception of the Nov. 8 meeting in which the council went behind closed doors with the City Attorney before rendering an abrupt and unexplained decision on the ill-advised Solstice debt).  They have gone a long way toward undoing the harmful folly of their predecessors, including the opening of the technical reviews to the public, the elimination of the restrictive and manipulative "Code of Conduct" that was previously used to go after a former councilwoman, and the recent change that allows the Boy Scouts to resume their annual door-to-door food drive after being banned for the last three years.  This council actually listens to the people, even if it doesn't always vote accordingly.  They don't appear to have an unstated agenda or back room consensus when they show up, and they don't display any signs of being manipulated or smacked into line.  It's odd to say about a group that has no women and no minorities among its number, but it is a very diverse collection.  That diversity and independence is a terrific thing for the people of this community.  While we disagree with the council on a number of issues, including the handling of Solstice; the forward movement on an indoor sports facility we can't afford; the continuing cowardice in refusing to stand up to the feds regarding the Habitat Conservation and Rehabilitation Plan extortion; and the retention of at least four high-ranking city staff members who are ineffective, incompetent, and in way over their heads, we believe strongly in this council and its approach.  Mesquite finally has what it wanted and deserves - a council that listens to and represents the people.  We once again have a council we can be proud of.  A great big round of applause and pat on the back goes to the Mesquite City Council.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Water District Board Must Be Overhauled

Every once in a while, whining and whisperings begin over the way the Virgin Valley Water District is formulated.
Specifically, the call occasionally goes out insisting on changes in the way the five members of the governing board are selected.
Currently, the people of Mesquite elect two board members, while the people of Bunkerville elect one member.
Another Mesquite board member is selected and appointed by the Mesquite City Council, usually choosing one of the council members to fill the slot. 
The final spot is filled by the Clark County Commissioners, after recommendations from the Bunkerville Town Advisory Board.
The problem with that arrangement is that 40% of the board is not directly answerable to the people.
That reality was highlighted again on Tuesday night.
The contentious issue of adding another surcharge to the LONG list of permit fees, impact fees, connection fees, and various other costs involved in signing up for water was the topic.  This one wasn't exactly the water district's idea.  It was a pure and simple case of extortion by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other federal agencies to hammerlock builders and newcomers to the valley into paying a fee for a nebulous, undefined program for "endangered species."
Unfortunately, the only species endangered in this scenario is the "Overtaxed Overburdened Cost-Dissuaded Homeowning Newbie," a genre of new resident moving into Mesquite that will become all but extinct thanks to the new $166 fee approved on Tuesday that will be added to the City's $500 fee for new homes and businesses.  All of the money is supposedly for the Habitat Conservation and Rehabilitation Plan, a government slush fund for a program that currently isn't even finished and that doesn't begin to specify where and how the money will ultimately be spent.
On Tuesday, the feds again explained that without that fee, they would make it almost impossible to develop future construction projects in Mesquite.  No matter how you slice it, as Bunkerville water board member Kenyon Leavitt reiterated, it's a criminal practice of extortion that would lead to jailtime if it were attempted by anyone except Uncle Sam.
For the last few months, Leavitt and heroic board member Ted Miller have courageous fought against the fee. 
On Tuesday, mostly because of the citizen-unfriendly makeup of the board, the fee finally passed.
In the final 3-2 vote, Miller and Leavitt did their job, representing and defending the people of this valley.
Unfortunately, current VVWD board president and Mesquite city councilman Karl Gustaveson led the charge in pushing this fee through.  The City of Mesquite made no secret of the fact they desperately wanted the water district to impose this fee, and the G-man is THEIR man.  Gustaveson, who it seems never met an anti-development fee he didn't like, could make that vote because he does not have to face the wrath of the voters in order to keep his seat on the Virgin Valley Water District board. 
He does have to face the voters to stay on the Mesquite City Council in 2013, but he has about as much chance of being re-elected as a desert tortoise does of winning the Daytona 500.  In fact, rumors are swirling that he won't even bother to face the embarrassment of running for re-election.  It's a smart move, judging from the way his best political friend (former Mesquite Mayor Susan Holecheck) got humiliated after gaining only about 20% of the vote in her 2011 re-election bid.
The other untouchable board member is Mark McEwen, who was picked by the Clark County Commission to replace Cecil Leavitt.  He doesn't have to pay a price for Tuesday's bad decision, because he isn't accountable to the voters.
The third member actually is accountable.  However, since her election last year, board member Sandra Ramaker has shown that if board president Karl Gustaveson takes a crap, she'll be the one there to wipe.  (And that's exactly what the two of them did on Tuesday - took a big dump on the people of this valley).  Whatever Gustaveson wants done, it appears she is his sycophant. 
We can only hope the people of Mesquite won't pull our famous amnesia act and forget harmful actions like this when her name reappears on the ballot in 2014.  Hopefully, the board will also show better sense and not appoint this power-hungry seat seeker (she is next in line to head the Mesquite Chamber of Commerce, despite the fact that she doesn't own a business here) as the board president when Gustaveson is ousted in 2013.
But this is bigger than one 3-2 vote on one case of federal extortion.
It's really a question of whether democracy has a place here.
There is no way that the second most powerful governmental agency in the Virgin Valley should be structured with appointed officials.  This agency has the power to essentially levy taxes with their fees and rates, and controls the most important and valuable resource in the desert - water.  Any body with that kind of power must be answerable to the people.  That means all of the board members, not just a little over half of them, should be elected.
This will take an action from the Nevada State Legislature, which originally created the VVWD. 
With the next session of the legislature not scheduled until 2013, we have time to start petitioning and requesting that this issue be put on the senate and assembly agendas.  Unfortunately, because of redistricting, we don't even know who our representatives will be in the legislature until after the 2012 election.  The good news is, this should be an important campaign issue in that 2012 run-up.  The people of this valley should make sure that every time one of the senate or assembly wannabes show up for a fund raiser or campaign stop, the question of changing the makeup of the Virgin Valley Water District gets pressed. 
The hard part will be keeping old arguments from festering to the surface and killing this initiative, particularly the question of who gets to vote for whom.  There is a good argument to be made for making all five board members "at large" candidates, meaning they all get voted on by everyone in Mesquite and Bunkerville instead of the current setup where the people of Bunkerville vote for one board member, and the people of Mesquite vote for two other board members.  With an "at large" setting, it's possible that Bunkerville could wind up without anyone from their town on the board, which is unacceptable.
For now at least, the best approach would be to simply change the rules so two of the board members are elected by Bunkerville, and three are elected by Mesquite.
No matter how the final balance comes out, it's time to fix this abomination to thinking and voting people in the Virgin Valley.  We need to be able to hold all of these board members accountable.  It's our destiny, it should be up to us to decide whose hands rest on that tiller.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

City Council Takes First Step Down Same Old Secret Path In Solstice Debacle

The site of the promised Solstice hotel and casino at
Falcon Ridge and Pioneer remains as unbuilt today as it did
when this photo was taken in 2008. 
Just when it looked like the Mesquite City Council was showing itself to be something special, something the people of this city could be proud of, the council returned to the old, secret, behind-closed-doors practice of making decisions away from the public's eyes.
On Tuesday, the council tackled just one more remnant of the failed Susan Holecheck administration when it discussed the ill-advised $2.5 million loan to Solstice during the Redevelopment Agency board meeting which preceded the regular city council meeting.
The loan was a horrendous idea when the previous council voted to take the huge chunk of money out of the city's RDA fund.
The fund, created by an act of the state legislature specifically for Mesquite, was originally intended to renovate and improve the city's downtown business district.
In 2009, the city initially tried to just give the money directly to Solstice to build a road to their high-end trailer park just past the Mesa View Regional Hospital. 
Of all the things Solstice and their owners Barcelona Partners promised to build when they bought city-owned land for a fraction of its value back in 2006, the trailer park is the only thing they've actually built.  The 20-story hotel, casino, shopping plaza, and housing development originally touted by Solstice back when they were playing Pied Piper at civic clubs and public gatherings to gain the support of the community were never even begun.
Some of the land obtained by Barcelona Partners for the project has since been foreclosed on by lenders after the company ran up debts that were higher than the original purchase price of the property.
The land where the luxury motor home park is located is still owned by Solstice and Barcelona.  For now. 
In 2009, when the city figured out they couldn't give away RDA money to a private entity for a project that was nowhere near the city's downtown business district, the administration figured out how to use some loopholes and get around the RDA rules by making the $2.5 million a "loan" to build the road that was supposed to be the responsibility of Solstice, according to their own development deal with the city.
It was a galactically stupid decision, particularly considering Solstice was already showing signs of economic trouble, in addition to the fact that they hadn't built any of the hotel or casino projects they had promised when the city sold its rodeo arena to the company.  Now we have no rodeo in Mesquite, a longtime tradition that pre-dates the city's founding, and we don't have the stores or entertainment venues the company promised.
On Tuesday, the council considered Barcelona's request to "restructure" the loan, now that they've missed the last two semi-annual payments.
At first, the council debated whether foreclosure would be an option, but quickly figured out just how stupid they had been in floating a loan on property that already had two lenders ahead of us (another red flag that was ignored in 2009). 
Then the city asked for more information on Barcelona's financial situation.  The company refused to release the numbers, claiming it was "proprietary information."
Sound familiar?
Throughout the catastrophically flawed Desert Falls fiasco, that term was thrown out every time the citizens asked for more info on their funding (which, it turned out, didn't exist).
Can you imagine any bank accepting the "we can't tell you our financial situation because it's proprietary information" stall when deciding whether to renegotiate a defaulted loan?  Not hardly.
So instead of pushing through with foreclosure or a restructured payment schedule, the council took a "time out" on Tuesday to meet behind closed doors with the city attorney.
Just like the most insidious days of the former mayor's regime, the council then returned and quickly voted to "use any reasonable, available remedies in consultation with outside counsel to satisfy the debt that is owed to the City of Mesquite," without further explanation.
The first problem is they made a decision outside the public arena.  That $2.5 million is OUR money, so our government needs to be very open in how they plan to get it back.
Second, the motion is so vague that it allows a ton of wiggle room and negotiations that will be done quietly in the back rooms of city offices instead of on the council floor, where it belongs.
Sadly, this is what lawyers like to call the "slippery slope."  Once a government starts going down this secretive road, it is almost impossible for it to break the habit.
The people of Mesquite should be angry and disappointed that once again, their elected officials are saying "trust us, we know what's best" instead of doing their job of representing the people, in front of the people.
At some point, we can only hope that state investigators get off their duffs and start looking at the details of this shady deal, going all the way back to 2006, with special emphasis on the use of RDA money for a project outside the RDA area.  It's unlikely that the state would take kindly to the city thumbing its nose at their rules.
About the only thing that's funny or ironic is the fact that, months after Holecheck, most of her council cronies, and her ringleader Tim Hacker are gone, that administration has posthumously found a way to do what they couldn't do in 2009 - find a way to give RDA money to that private entity without the city ever getting paid back.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Gas Prices Better In Mesquite

Prices have gone down even further in Mesquite since
Friday, dropping to $3.25 as of Wednesday morning.
While traveling to Las Vegas last week, something I am loathe to do, I received a pleasant and very welcome surprise.
Sometimes along the way on I-15, I will stop at the new Love's truck stop for fuel.
Last week, I noticed the price of regular gas was $3.69 a gallon. 
Fortunately, I didn't need gas, so I was able to pass up this price.
Once into North Las Vegas, I checked the sign on Craig Road for the Pilot truck stop, a fueling station that I use almost every time I visit Sin City.
Their posted price for regular gasoline was $3.49 a gallon.
That was a much better deal.
However, I didn't need gas, so I didn't partake.
The reason I didn't need gas is because I filled up at the Smith's in Mesquite on the corner of Sandhill Boulevard and Hillside Drive.
There, gasoline on Friday was $3.26 a gallon.
That's not a typo.
It's hard to believe that after all these years of growling and grumbling about the price of gas in our little microwaved slice of Heaven, fuel fees are finally becoming competitive.
The Smith price was even less than the Pilot truck stop in St. George, which is usually the bellwether for gas prices in the area.  Pilot's price was $3.45 per gallon.
It's a gratifying change.
While working in the newspaper business in Mesquite over the last eight years, I frequently did stories on runaway gas prices in our town.  Most of those stories required a quick stop at the gas station on the corner of Sandhill and Hillside for a photo, because the sign at what was then a Chevron station usually boasted one of the highest prices in town.  The price gouging wasn't just a reflection of this big oil participant, although Chevron is usually among the most expensive gas in Mesquite.  I always believed the ripoff factor was elevated because of the station's close proximity to the interstate exit.  The price at Sandhill and Hillside was regularly the highest among the three Chevron stations in town.
Now, that same corner under the Smith's banner consistently boasts the lowest price in the 89027 zip code. 
Prior to Smith's arrival, the low-price battle was usually between the Maverik just down the street and the Terrible's at the corner of Mesquite Boulevard and Riverside Road.
These days, it's hard to know which of the three stations is the catalyst for the price drop, because as soon as the price goes down at Smith's, Maverik is quick to follow.  Or perhaps it's vice versa, with Smith's following Maverik's lead.
For example, last Friday, the price for gas at the big M convenience store was also $3.26 per gallon. 
Whichever way the flow goes for low price supremacy, it's a major win for local consumers.
Part of the victory can be attributed to one of the core tenets of capitalism, which is the fact that competition breeds better service and lower prices.  Because there is so much collusion between the big oil players like Exxon, Chevron, and Shell, (all of which reported incredibly high multi-billion dollar profits in the third quarter of this year, including Exxon's $10.3 billion windfall), it's rare to see a low price posted on one of their signs. 
On the other hand, the smaller gasoline purveyors continue the American tradition of trying to beat the other guy's price.  This downward pressure is a positive for our town.
In fact, I wish there was a way we could get this message out to the potential visitors whizzing by our interstate exits, and residents of neighboring towns.  It would be a huge boon for the community if we could somehow let those travelers know that not only is Mesquite a fun place to stop, with our casinos, bowling alley, golf courses, movie theaters, and friendly people, it's also a place to find a good deal on fuel. 
It's sort of like the "loss leader" technique often used by big retailers: Lure the customer in with an insanely low price on one popular item, and more than make up the difference with all the other buys the person will make while they're there.
Unfortunately, that strategy will never catch so long as the Rebel station at exit 122 and the Chevron Travel Center at exit 120 continue to commit mercantile rape on visitors with their outrageous gas prices at their high visibility posts at the two entryways to our city.
But we can blast our good gas news about Smiths and Maverik to everyone in our Facebook lineup and e-mail address book (along with driving directions on how to bypass Chevron and Rebel), letting friends and acquaintances know that Mesquite is the place to go for low gas prices.
So after years of complaining about our place in the gas price pecking order, I want to thank Smith's, Maverik, and Terrible's for treating Mesquite residents right, and bringing some sanity back to an overpriced commodity.  We appreciate you.
To my friends and neighbors, I encourage you to bury your Chevron card deep in your wallet and take your cars to one of these three low-priced options.  If we don't support their efforts with our dollars by ensuring they sell in enough quantity to keep their prices low, we won't be in a position to complain when the prices go back to big oil levels.
And be sure to tell your friends and neighbors here and outside Mesquite that we are the area's low price leaders in gasoline.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

VVWD Needs To Fight Back Against Federal Extortion

The Virgin Valley Water District has been dancing around the issue of a new fee for the Habitat  Conservation and Recovery Plan, particularly how much to charge for it.
Currently, A $500 HCRP fee is already included in the myriad of impact fees and surcharges levied against developers and home builders by the City of Mesquite.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is requiring this fee.
Now, they want more from the Virgin Valley Water District.
It's double dipping, plain and simple.
Worse, the feds are using strong arm tactics to force the water district to add this fee.
In 2008, I attended a water board meeting in which a representative from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was as blatant in his extortion as I've ever seen.  He point blank told the board that if they didn't impose this fee, they would have a hard time getting any more wells drilled or pipes laid in the area.  That's because, as the rep explained, the feds would require what's called a "Section 7 Consult" for any future work.  It's a protracted review process that can tie up a project for months, if not years.  At that meeting, the rep said that if the water district imposed the fee, the feds wouldn't require the consult.  He also said that, if the water district didn't do this, the feds would also do a "Jeopardy" filing on any future water projects in the area, another review process that could delay a project.
For the last few years, the water district has held off imposing the fees, mostly because there haven't been any new water applications coming in.  As long as we're not building homes or businesses, or drilling wells, there is no compelling reason to take care of this.
But the hope for this community is eventually people will again want to start building here.
So the district board has been trying to figure out how to impose the lowest possible fee and still make their federal blackmailers happy.
The amount of the fee is problematic.  The feds say a fee must be imposed, and placed into an account, but they don't say how much of a fee, how big the account has to be, or even what that money will be used for.
Think about that.
We are basically being forced to pay a fee to fund a program that doesn't even have a plan for how the money will get spent.  "Just gather the money, we'll figure out what to do with it later" is basically the process.
This is extortion.  There is simply no other word for it.  And the extortionists are getting away with it because they are the federal government.  While we pretend to be a democracy "of the people, by the people, for the people," the truth is that the feds always hold all the cards.
So the water district is left in the unenviable task of being forced to be the bagman for the USFWS, making their "collections" like the bent-nose guys going from shopkeeper to shopkeeper to gather their "protection" money.
For the last two months, the water district has been struggling to decide how much is enough.
At the last VVWD meeting, a city official showed up and pleaded with the board to get this done and start making their "payments." It felt like a cowardly shoemaker begging the fruit stand owner to pay up, afraid the Mafia is going to torch the whole block if this last holdout doesn't get on board.
It's sickening.
Next week, the VVWD board will take up this sticky question again.
So, how much should they pay?
To quote from the extortionists playbook, the answer comes from Michael Corleone himself, in Godfather II.
"My offer is this: nothing."
We shouldn't agree to charging one thin dime. 
The feds, the city, and the water district have already squeezed landowners and developers to death with their impact fees, connection fees, plan review fees, and dozens of other taxes and expenses.  To add one more fee to the cost of building a home makes it that much less appealing for anyone to build here, or to buy here.
It will be one more nail in Mesquite's coffin.
The water district should follow the lead of board member Ted Miller, who has been adamant in his refusal to bend over for the feds.  He is a hero, one of the few politicians still willing to stand up for the people.
If the feds want to push this issue, then the answer should be simple and firm:
See you in court.
There are times when public money must be spent to defend and protect the public.
This is one of those times.
The water district has one of the best attorneys in Southern Nevada.  If he's not enough, go hire some more attorneys. 
Yes, it will be more expensive than simply imposing the fees, but sometimes the right thing to do is to fight, even if it costs you.  Principle must be upheld.  More importantly, somebody has to stand up to these leech-like bullies and stop them, or else they'll simply continue to squeeze little communities like ours because we've shown ourselves repeatedly to be pushovers.
They say you can't fight City Hall.  The truth is, City Hall can fight City Hall, and that's what this would be: a battle between government agencies.
Hopefully, word would get out to the rest of the state and the rest of the country: "Look at this extortion being perpetrated by the federal government."  As Michael Corleone said in Godfather I, "the press would love a story like that."
It's time for us to stand up and tell the feds "no."
We cannot back down against hoodlums looking to hurt our town.
Not even when the hoodlums are dressed in red, white, and blue.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

City Requires Fee To Allow Animals To Have Sex

If this handsome fella lives in Mesquite, he
needn't bother getting prettied up for a date.
Unless his owner has a city permit that
will allow him to have sex.
In order for your pet to legally have sex, the City of Mesquite requires a permit.  And of course, a fee.
I'm not making this up.
While visiting a local veterinarian this week, I noticed a sign posted on the counter.  The sign advised that Mesquite City Code 10-7 requires all dogs and cats in the city to be spayed or neutered. 
Like so many lousy laws, it's obvious this one started as a good idea, but has gone horribly awry.
It's commendable that a city wants to keep its stray animal population in check.  Mesquite can be proud that we have not one but two different organizations dedicated to stray or abandoned pets.
It's also responsible pet ownership and good sense to have your dog or cat spayed or neutered if you don't plan to intentionally breed them.
But mandatory forced sterilization seems a little extreme, even for Mesquite.
So when I got home, I looked it up on the city's website and found that the law went into effect in March of 2010.
Stop and think about this.
For decades, the mantra has been "whatever consulting adults want to do in the privacy of their own home..."  Apparently, that freedom doesn't apply to animals.
Unless you get a special license, you can't breed your dog or cat.  So by city law, no matter how adorable Rover might be, he's the end of the line.  No cute puppies or kittens.
Oh, you can have a cute puppy or kitten if you buy it from the city's shelter or We Care For Animals.  Otherwise, forget it.
If you're caught with a virile, unfixed canine or feline, you will get fined $225 for the first offense.  That's right, if your Golden Retriever gets caught doing the Humpty Dance, YOU will pay a fine for your pet's indiscretion.
To be fair, there are exceptions.
If it's a city-owned pet, like a police dog, the rule doesn't apply.  (Judging by the allegations of sexual misconduct involving a couple of officers a few years ago, maybe it's not the police dog the city needs to worry about neutering.)
Also, the four-footed inmates in the city's animal shelter are exempt from the law.
Is anyone surprised that a city law doesn't apply to the city?
The third exemption is for pets that a veterinarian has ruled can't have the surgery for medical reasons. 
It's the fourth exemption that puts Mesquite in the tawdry position of permitting pets to have carnal knowledge if someone is willing to put up the cash. 
You can pay $25 for a "dog fancier" or "cat fancier" permit that will allow your pet to remain "intact" and free to fornicate.
Sounds a little too "Mustang Ranch" for me.  (For those new to Nevada, let me just say the Mustang Ranch in Storey County has nothing to do with horses).  You pay a fee to someone at the city (a guy in a purple wide-brimmed feathered hat, maybe?) so your tom can get down with whatever kitty catches his attention.  That is, if the kitty's keeper has paid a similar fee to the pimp.  I mean, the city.
All joking aside, this is another example of a horrendous, intrusive law that goes way too far.  It crosses a resident's threshold and dictates what goes on in someone's home with their own property, in this instance a pet.  Licensing cars is one thing, because they travel on city or state-owned roads.  Requiring special permits to allow someone to breed their own pets on their own property is crossing a dangerous line.
Since the new city council has been busy the last couple of months undoing all the ridiculous decisions and stupid laws put on our books by the previous administration (more than a few of which were approved simply because "<fill in the blank> city does it,") maybe this is another one they could add to their long list.
In this instance, it's not the dogs and cats that need to be "fixed."

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Big Tent Bid Means City Just Slower In Going Over The Cliff

The fabric building at the CasaBlanca is smaller than
the one proposed for the Regional Park.
The Mesquite City Council voted on Tuesday to put the Big Tent idea out to bids.
For those who are just getting back into town, the "Big Tent" is the latest desperate grasp at straws by people claiming to have the best interest of local business owners at heart.  It's a used fabric building that is currently being utilized as a shelter for airplane construction, a long way from Mesquite.
The idea is to buy it for $2-3 million, bring it to Mesquite, and put it up on some land near the soccer fields in the Mesquite Sports and Events Complex (what is known by longtime residents as the Regional Park).
Then, it can be used as an indoor facility for soccer games and other sporting events, allowing the city to have such events during the summer when even lizards want to head north for the summer to escape the desert's brutal 115-degree heat.
Where supporters want to put it is poetic.  They could even name it the "Desert Falls Solstice Soccer Tent" in honor of the two failed projects that were once slated for locations next to or down the street from the proposed location.
The general idea isn't a bad one.
But as always, the devil is in the details.
Mesquite needs a new draw, since the struggling casinos appear to have abandoned their previous roles as promoters of the city and providers of shows and events to bring people here.  After the heady days when the CasaBlanca's own tent once brought in acts like Kenny Rogers, Clint Black, Wynonna, Travis Tritt, and even Larry the Cable Guy, today they don't even bother with guys like Don Williams and the Bellamy Brothers from the ATSA tour.  (ATSA="Are They Still Alive?")
And that should be the first warning sign.
The tent (events center) at the CasaBlanca is getting used once or twice a month, despite the fact that the casinos have a deeply vested interest in bringing visitors to Mesquite.  If they can't do any better than that when they have a dedicated staff motivated and experienced in bringing events to the community, what chance does the City of Mesquite have with their history of being extremely inept in developing and promoting their own events?  The City has absolutely no one on their staff qualified to take this on, especially not in the Economic Development department which will likely get this task tossed on their desk.
The first answer that might jump to mind is "let's go out and hire someone to do this." 
That's right, at a time when the city continues to lay off long term and talented individuals, let's go spend $75,000 a year to hire someone?  Or even worse, take the lazy way out that this city seems to love doing, which is to hire another high-priced outside consultant?
And that leads to a simple truth that a handful of zealots inside and outside City Hall refuse to acknowledge:
We just don't have the money.
The big talk is to raid MORE money from the RDA redevelopment fund that is supposed to be earmarked for "rehabilitating blighted areas."  It seems that everyone in Mesquite except councilman Karl Gustaveson understands that area to be downtown Mesquite, which is currently overrun with vacant stores and half-empty shopping centers, including two that are currently in horrendous shape and in dire need of makeovers.  That is what the RDA money is legally and morally intended for.
Then, beyond the $2-3 million to buy and erect the thing, there will be significant maintenance costs in the upkeep of a fabric building, costs that wouldn't exist with a more traditional concrete or steel structure (not to mention the fact that a steel or concrete structure would last longer, giving us a better return on the dollar).
Another thing that keeps coming up is the location.  While Gustaveson and other council members claim that "most" of the people they've heard from support the project (which is the exact opposite of what I've found, that all but two people I've spoken with oppose the idea), the think I keep hearing from opponents is that the location will not help the downtown and local businesses, which is what the council members claim is their biggest motivation.
Because of the remote location which is bordered on two sides by large residential neighborhoods, and the lack of public transportation to that address, opponents claim it won't lead to much of an uptick in business.  I don't know that I agree with that, but I do agree that the boon would be much more significant if the tent were pitched in the middle of town.
Where, you might ask?  Well, we have this big patch of dirt downtown that was originally purchased for an obscene price almost across the street from City Hall by the previous council, allegedly for a new library that is extremely unlikely to ever be built.  Putting a large indoor facility there would be a true boost to the downtown area, and would instantly change former councilman Randy Ence from goat to hero.
Another question that keeps nagging at opponents is the involvement of NCS, a developer with out-of-state roots that has never built a single thing they promised to build in Mesquite, despite the fact that the city has gift-wrapped not one but two huge parcels of land at fire sale prices in the last decade.
Haven't we had enough of carpet baggers like Solstice and Desert Falls rolling into town and promising the moon, only to deliver larger and larger piles of nothing?  Speaking of which, we should have zero interest in building another facility to help out the Long Drivers organization.  We've already built them a first-class driving range with tax dollars, only to be rewarded by having to come up with another $50,000 a year in payoffs to the organizers to keep them coming here.
If we truly want to have a large event facility (and I fervently believe that as a town trying to be a tourist destination, this is an absolute must), let's partner up with some folks we know.
The new owners of the CasaBlanca, Virgin River, Oasis, and Mesquite Star are obviously cash poor right now, but they could certainly find funds for a project that would benefit them, especially if they're not carrying all the risk.  On the other end of town, the Lee family has been here for a long time, and they have proven their devotion to this community over and over and over.  If the city wants to partner up with someone to build a large, permanent facility almost dead center between the two casino areas, it would seem more logical to become partners with business people who are already here, who have already invested heavily in our community, and have proven they can actually accomplish something.  With the combination of those three, taxpayers wouldn't have to carry the whole load.  Also, the staff to market and promote the facility would be built-in, coming from not one but two casinos that are both known for having tremendous prowess and experience in promotions and events.
It would also help get Mesquite back on track to "finding itself."
We have forgotten who we are as a community, a tourist and retirement destination.  While dreams of making Mesquite a Mecca for soccer or other youth sports sounds exciting, the reality is that kids and senior citizens don't mix well.  Bringing kids into the community also does little for the casinos (which is why, you'll notice, the casinos don't bother bringing in a lot of youth events).  And nonsense about the parents being casino customers doesn't wash.  Most families have little money or time available for sitting at a gaming table.
If Mesquite wasn't already a casino town, already a retirement community, the idea of bringing more youth sports would be a brilliant foundation for a directionless town.
But we are what we are.  We were successful at bringing in retirees, golfers, and casino tourists when we worked at it (which we haven't done since the previous administration came into power at City Hall). 
Building a soccer tent on the outskirts of town isn't anywhere close to being the best use of money we don't have.  The delay to get bids and develop a plan is prudent, but an additional waste of time and money if it is simply used as the justification to go forward with an idea that just doesn't seem likely to succeed.
We would be better served to use that time to get together with local business owners and leaders, including the casino heads, and develop our own comprehensive long range plan.  A Mesquite plan, instead of trying to ram ideas cooked up by out-of-towners down the throats of citizens and businesses.  Again, we're collectively smarter here than our "public servants" give us credit for.