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John L. Smith: Rude Las Vegas And Stadium Sites

Las Vegas is rude? Say it ain’t so! Well, one survey says it is so.

And the billion-dollar football stadium proposal continues to take a beating in some elements of the media. The Field of Schemes website argues that none of the sites now being considered are even feasible. 

KNPR contributor and commentator John L. Smith is with us again with that and more. 


We’ve talked on this program to Neil deMause about his opposition to the $1.4 billion stadium proposal. Much of that has been his opposition to the request for first $750 million, and now $500 million in public money to support it. But he now takes issue with the siting of the stadium.

I think there are a lot of moving parts to the issue that makes it complex and not necessarily just something that is political or just a matter of shopping around for the right geographical location.

The Field of Schemes website is not meant for folks who are excited and want a stadium. Whether it uses tax dollars or public funding or not. It is clearly coming from a certain advocacy but it actually provides a lot of background information on stadium sites all over the country and the challenges they have faced. And the kind of politics that have taken place to get some of these stadiums built.

Support comes from

It always boils down to the rabbit trick. They pull a rabbit out of their hat at the last minute. They start with one number. They move the number. They find a couple of alternative funding sources. I’m noticing they’re not interested in sending it out to the taxpayers to vote on.

Instead, there is a kind of fast tracking that is taking place here. And people with interest in the stadium are involved in it. And it’s really not unique that’s the thing. It’s news in Las Vegas of course, but it’s not unique in America. It’s really quite common place.

Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak is head of the infrastructure committee looking into the stadium. Word is he would also like to run for governor in 2018. If he and this committee supports a stadium, with a large taxpayer outlay, would that hurt him? 

I’m not sure it’s a deal breaker for someone politically. It can be played both to his advantage and it could be played against him of course. The fact is Sisolak has been in office a long time and he knows that no matter what you do, if you do anything you’re going to add enemies to your list and add some friends too – occasionally. By the end of a career, most politicians are hated equally on either side. I don’t know if it will be a deal breaker for him.

I do think it plays very poorly politically for anyone at the Legislature who has been espousing their conservative, anti-tax credentials for them to sidle up next to something like this would be something that would create an awful lot of negative.

At the same time, a group of investors is making a pitch to the mayor of Oakland, Libby Schaaf, who said she is “confident” the Raiders will stay in Oakland. It sounds like what many speculated from the start: Las Vegas is being used as a bargaining chip by Raiders owner Marc Davis in order to get a deal from Oakland. Do you think our political leaders are thinking that? 

There is no question there is an element of politics on the Raiders part. They’re definitely playing politics. They want the best deal for their team and franchise. But also believe that Mark Davis has a genuine interest in Las Vegas as a potential place to be. I don’t think that’s completely false on his part. But he’s a hustler and he’s going to hustle the best deal. I really see that that’s the case.

It’s just armchair speculation really, but I don’t anticipate the Raiders leaving Oakland. I think that that will also be downplayed. You’ve already started to see that. Isn’t the stadium a good idea even if the Raiders don’t come? You go back and look at some of the news that was generate just a few weeks ago and it was the Raiders have to come or the stadium is a no go. It was UNLV had to participate… You recall UNLV’s football team was looking for a new stadium near campus or on campus.

There are a lot of things that got pushed to the back burner, including the location. I think… you are seeing something that is very much in motion right now. The July meeting will be fascinating to see how people parse their language so that they don’t kill the deal.

What would you suggest for a site for the stadium?

The north end of the Strip has a lot to be said for. It is not developed well. Some of these unfinished casino projects are a huge embarrassment to Las Vegas Boulevard. If your neighborhood looked like that, the county would force you to clean it up.

I could see a stadium on that end of the Strip. Obviously, the hot end of the Strip is a few miles south. It’s just a matter of where the land is. But it is also a matter of how in public funding it’s going to take before people can swallow it. I’m not sure if half a billion dollars is the number. It might move lower than that. My question as the resident skeptic is this one: If you swim half way across the ocean and decide it’s too far and turn around and swim back. You’ve swam the same length. In other words, if this stadium is supposed to be a billion dollar stadium. It gets half way finished and more money is needed well clearly public funding is going to be part of that schematic.

And Las Vegas gets yet another bad ranking. But this time in an area you wouldn’t expect in a place known for service. That is, we rank 12th in rudeness, according to Travel & Leisure magazine. See any truth to that?

They’re talking about a number of different criteria and I think some reader comments. For me, these kinds of rankings are more fun than terribly important. Miami is apparently the rudest city in America. New Yorkers are now crying in the street because they take great pride about their city and its reputation for rudeness. I’ve found New Yorkers to be wonderful. I just don’t want them to beat me up. No I’m kidding!

There’s a quote: “It’s no wonder that Sin City scored gold for a Wild Weekend trip, with its world-class nightclubs and hotels. But the city came off to many readers as a bit shallow…”

Now, imagine that someone accusing Las Vegas of being shallow! I love it!

“Its scores for historic sites, galleries, and peace and quiet were low.”

Well, yeah we’re not really big on historic sites. If you want to see a Civil War cannon, I suppose you’re going to have to go elsewhere. But this is the place people come for anything but peace and quiet. If you’re looking for peace and quiet you are not going to book a trip to Bellagio with its 19 million people in the lobby on any given day.

We are number 12 when it comes to rudeness.

You visited New Mexico recently. A man there named Forrest Fenn is known for his collection of Native American artifacts. And you found out he has ties to Henderson, Nevada. What’s going on there?

Forrest Fenn is an octogenarian. He’s been a long time collector of artifacts, Native American treasures, that sort of thing. Sometimes with quite a bit of controversy attached to it. But now, he’s made international news with something called the Thrill of the Chase and that is a treasure hunt. He had stated that he has planted a treasure chest of jewels and gold in the Rocky Mountains and he’s left clues for people to find it. It has sparked the interest of thousands of treasure hunters all over the West. People have come from out of the country to search for the treasure. Most of them out just to have a good time and dreaming of that winning lottery ticket. Others are taking it quite seriously. There’s actually a website devoted to the treasure hunt.

Here’s a twist. With all that celebrity, Forrest Fenn has attracted… some unwanted attention. And that is allegedly from a man named Francisco Paco Chavez who is from Henderson and he’s been charged with stalking Fenn’s granddaughter. In documents presented for publication, he mentions the treasure hunt and the treasure.

The story continues [Chavez] was extradited from Southern Nevada recently to New Mexico and he has a court date later this year. 

From NPR: Seeking Adventure And Gold? Crack This Poem And Head Outdoors


John L. Smith, contributor

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