Illustration by Thomas Speak
The opening of McCarran International Airport’s Terminal 3 expands capacity, offers ample shopping and comfort, and eases life for international travelers. But it’s reignited a debate: Las Vegas Councilman Steve Ross thinks we should discuss changing the airport’s name to Las Vegas International Airport. Las Vegas Sun business writer Rick Velotta agrees. The ubiquitous Jon Ralston long has argued for this.
They’re all wrong:
• If anyone’s name belongs on this airport, it’s Sen. Pat McCarran’s—and not just because his legislation created the Civil Aeronautics Board, forerunner to today’s Federal Aviation Administration. As a U.S. senator, he helped obtain the gunnery school (later Nellis Air Force Base) that created the need for a new airport, and then he paved the way for its construction. Local officials named it for him because he made it possible.
• Yes, McCarran was McCarthyistic and anti-Semitic. First, let that teach you not to name things for people, as if changing Tule Springs to honor state Sen. Floyd Lamb didn’t do that already (after the change, Lamb went away on bribery charges). Also, since we now know that Thomas Jefferson couldn’t stay out of the slave quarters and Martin Luther King Jr. had problems with plagiarism and fidelity, take their names off of what honors them, too.
• As others have noted, erasing McCarran’s name would cost money. If those claiming to be budgetary watchdogs approve this, they are wasting taxpayer money—and, as “watchdogs,” they’ll deserve the criticism that follows.
• Here’s an argument that’s been used in favor of the change: Reno removed Sen. Howard Cannon’s name to create Reno-Tahoe International Airport. So now we’re taking cues from Reno on how to be better recognized? Granting the insult Renoites delivered to a senator who helped their community, at least the new name communicated a nearby tourist attraction (that’s Tahoe, not Reno). If you can find me one traveler who says, “I wasn’t going to fly into McCarran, but I will now that I know it gets me to Las Vegas,” you’re a magician.
The one who was a real magician was McCarran when it came to bringing federal money to this state. Incidentally, someone else helped get the money for Terminal 3: Sen. Harry Reid. Why not discuss naming the new terminal for him?