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With Barlow Out, Ward 5 Seeks A New Leader

The Ward 5 city council seat in Las Vegas is up for grabs, and 11 candidates are vying for a chance to represent the area.

In January, city councilman Ricki Barlow resigned and pleaded guilty to a felony charge of misusing campaign funds.

Ward 5 Chamber of Commerce president Katie Duncan told KNPR's State of Nevada that she was not surprised by Barlow's departure because there were already recall efforts against him.

"We had had enough already," Duncan said. "Enough of non-performance, enough of 25 years of going backward, enough of having low-performing schools, enough of no economic development."

Duncan said people living in the area want to see change, and many feel their elected officials are not helping them do that.

For Duncan, the last straw was Barlow's lack of action on the historic Moulin Rouge. The Moulin Rouge was the first integrated casino in Las Vegas and is considered a major part of the history of the city, but it has been in disrepair for years and every effort to revive the building has fallen short. 

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"For him not to support that development and not put resources and incentivize people to come in and do that project to me was an atrocity," she said.

But it goes beyond just the Moulin Rogue, Duncan said. She said Barlow did not help efforts to build a Black History Museum in Ward 5, and has not addressed concerns residents still have about F Street. F Street was closed off when Interstate 15 was reconfigured, but was reopened after residents rallied against the closure because it closed them off from the rest of the downtown area.

Shannon Churchwell is a co-founder and chair of the United Black Democratic Caucus of Las Vegas. She said while Ward 5 is a diverse area, it is still considered by many to be the "black area" of Las Vegas. 

She said besides the many predominately black churches in the neighborhood it is also home to some of the most important historic sites. 

"The next person who wins definitely needs to respect that," Churchwell said. "They need to respect what their constituents want in that area and appreciate the significance of it."

But it is not just about making sure the city's history is preserved, she said; It's also about simple infrastructure that residents of Ward 5 say they don't have. 

Leisa Moseley is a political consultant with the Action Company, and is a board member of the Clark County Black Caucus. She said the city councilperson is just one person, and the responsibility for Ward 5 can be spread around to many elected officials.

Moseley also said the community needs to make sure their elected representatives are doing what they elected them to do.

"We want someone who looks like us to represent us, but everyone that looks like us doesn't always have our best interest in mind," she said.

Moseley said black politicians are sometimes given a "lifetime pass" by black voters even if they aren't looking out for the community. 

"If they're not doing what you've asked them to do," she said, "If they're not coming to your meetings, if they're not coming to this community and saying, 'What do you all need?' and fighting for that, then you vote them out."

But before you vote someone out, Churchwell wants people to make sure they're researching who they are voting in, especially when it comes to the issue of gentrification.

Bringing economic development to Ward 5 is a key discussion point in the election, but that development can also mean higher property values, which increase taxes and rents. 

"They really need to ask those tough questions," Churchwell said. "Once all these beautiful things come to Ward 5, what about low-income or rent-controlled housing? What about the controls on the real estate taxes for owner-occupied properties?"

Churchwellsaid she doesn't want to see what has happened in parts of California to happen in Ward 5 where people can't afford rent and become homeless.

Moseley is also concerned about who owns those new businesses. She said when she asked Ricki Barlow about the owners of all the new businesses none of them were black.

"Even with some of the candidates that are running now who want to bring in industry, who want to bring in these corporations and bring in these businesses, my concern is: What are we doing to preserve the residences that are there? What are we doing to preserve the businesses that are there? What are we doing to make sure the people who currently live in Ward 5 aren't being pushed out?" Moseley asked.

She said one of the solutions is to find developers and business owners in Las Vegas who want to build in Ward 5 instead of going outside the state to bring in people looking to invest.

Early voting takes place March 22 and 23, and the election is March 27. 

Voting locations and other election information are available on the City of Las Vegas website.

Guests

Shannon Churchwell, co-founder and chair, United Black Democratic Caucus; Katherine Duncan, president, Ward 5 Chamber of Commerce; Leisa Moseley, board member, Clark County Black Caucus

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