Heat, Happiness and the Same Old City Hall

The heat arrived suddenly, oppressively, even though we knew it was coming. It happens every year. Odd that we can profess surprise, and yet, Whew, it’s hot out there!

A summer sale of sorts was announced at CityCenter, where luxury condos were slashed to nearly half price. And at Disney on Ice at the Thomas & Mack Center, an ideal cool reprieve, a power failure caused the show to be canceled. The power failed at City Hall, too—a different kind of power. Or, rather, an old familiar kind of power succeeded, the kind of thing you hope won’t return year after year.

Former City Councilmen Michael McDonald and Frank Hawkins—both of whom violated state ethics laws as councilmen in previous sweetheart deals—got approval for a new development using $11 million in public subsidies.

They’re planning to build low-income senior housing near Decatur Boulevard and Vegas Drive at the obscenely high cost-per-apartment unit of $97,975, in a city with a glut of vacant single-family homes at a median cost of $107,000. (There was no mention of setting up our dejected seniors at CityCenter—which is technically in the county—but wouldn’t that do wonders for the Vegas image?)

So against the explicit recommendations of city research staff, who cited the obvious, the City Council voted for the project anyway. Round and round we go. McDonald was elected Nevada GOP chairman four days later. Seasons change, buildings change, but does everything stay the same?

Outside City Hall and at sites all over downtown, a band of Zappos happy people “reverse picketed.” They weren’t trying to draw attention to injustices. They were spreading cheer, celebrating their favorite downtown businesses and landmarks with signs that said, “This business rocks!”

It echoed the efforts of cash mobs, which have begun organized efforts to descend on select businesses and spend lots of money, giving the shops and restaurants an economic shot in the arm. It can be argued that the Zappos crowd has been conducting a cash mob on downtown for months—from the purchase of the old City Hall to multiple investments in the Fremont East district.

But the business that goes on inside Council chambers reaches well beyond downtown.

And when the heat is on, and tough questions need to be raised, maybe the cash mobs and reverse picketers need to be complemented with some old-fashioned civic participation. The City Council meets the first and third Wednesday of each month, and agendas are available at LasVegasNevada.gov.

Plus, the air conditioning works in City Hall.