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‘The Time Is Now’

Councilwoman Speaking to Elementary Students
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Pamela Goynes-Brown

North Las Vegas’ first Black mayor is ready to transform the way you think about her community

In November, North Las Vegas elected Pamela Goynes-Brown as the first Black mayor — both of that city and in the state of Nevada. A longtime North Las Vegas resident, Goynes-Brown lived and worked there as an educator for decades before pursuing politics. She became the first Black woman to serve on the North Las Vegas City Council in 2011. As mayor, she hopes to give back to the community she grew up in, acting as the catalyst for changes that will make North Las Vegas a prominent economic and entertainment hotspot. She talked about her plans with KNPR’s State of Nevada recently. An edited excerpt follows.

What was it like growing up in North Las Vegas?
My family actually came here in 1964. It was right off of Carrie and Martin Luther King area where my parents still live today. It was just a very hometown feel, especially in the neighborhood I grew up in, which was predominantly African American then. … Everyone knew everyone, and you could just walk in anyone's home at that time. I grew up on a street with a lot of educators and people that worked in the casino industry. We were just a very tight knit community.

What’s it like now?
It's still that little quiet town, away from the hustle and bustle of the entertainment, like a bedroom city. But we're evolving from that. It's still a close proximity to anywhere, especially from The Strip or downtown area. If you want that little quiet atmosphere without tons of casinos and high volumes of traffic, North Las Vegas is a perfect place to be.

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Did former Mayor Lee leave you any advice?
He's (told me to) just stay true to (myself), to put (my) constituents first, and make the best decisions … for the city. Then when you look back in that mirror … make sure that you did the right thing and that you're proud of what you did.

When she was elected mayor of North Las Vegas last month, Goynes-Brown became the first Black mayor in Nevada.

What is your vision for North Las Vegas?
The vision for North Las Vegas is to continue with the economic growth. That would be in our manufacturing and industrial blueprint. We also want to increase the medical blueprint because those facilities are lacking. (The development of) the new 135-acre Helios medical campus near the VA Medical Center will bring in more jobs. As for downtown, we are doing a total revitalization.

What are those plans for downtown North Las Vegas?
People have asked me if the city even has a downtown area. We do, but it's not clearly defined … We are the largest minority majority city, and we want to celebrate the diversity and differences. With that, we're going to bring in the medical component to our downtown area, and some affordable housing. (The Village Project along Lake Mead and Las Vegas Boulevard) will give people a reason to get off at the 15. Bring in more shops, restaurants, public spaces, and amphitheaters for shows to attract artists down. (I envision it as) a very green, walkable community.

You supported a union-backed rent control ballot initiative that did not pass. What will you do about rent control and the homeless population?
I am supportive of some type of (rent) stabilization. I truly think it needs to be a regional effort ... That will absolutely require some legislative language to move that forward. Our job is to bring in those home builders that are going to (provide) affordable or low-income housing … When you partner with the right development, those things can absolutely happen.

And we do have a very, very active home team within the city … that support the unhoused or homeless population. (They) offer resources, show them what's out there, assist with housing placement and job placement.

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As a former educator, what plans do you have for schools in your city?
We have decided to create an education advocacy committee, ... made up of educators, administrators, business leaders, community people, and even students. The goal is to reach out to the North Las Vegas schools to see what their greatest needs are … And we've identified five schools that we are going to (help) this year … Family engagement is one issue. What is it going to take to get families to be more involved in their child's education? Another issue is student attendance. What kind of incentives can be put in to get kids back to school? After the pandemic, we've lost a lot of kids. We can offer attendance incentives to the schools. We have literacy programs to get kids learning, (and get them) excited about being in school.

Twenty-two percent of North Las Vegas’ population is Black. Forty-five percent of arrests have been of Black residents. Is this a race-based problem and what would you like to do about it?
It could be a problem. We have a very active police force … The goal in our police department is … community policing. That means to get out there in the community and let the community see who you are, in non-uniform situations. Like at a football or basketball game … our police officers (will attend as their) everyday selves. If you see a person who looks more like you, no matter what demographic you are, it tends to relax you … If you come across someone who has a different background, your goal (should) not be to interrogate them about who they are, what they are ... I think if you’re policing in that manner, you get more things done.

How important do you think it is for the city to have you as mayor, and why do you think it took so long to elect a Black mayor?
I think it's very important. It just speaks volumes … With the minority majority population that we have in the city, it’s very important to recognize that diverse population. I think it took this long because it has a lot to do with timing and people’s mindsets. With the change in history … I just think the time is now. I can sit here and focus on why it’s taken so long, but my ultimate goal is to celebrate it.