When Steve Sisolak became governor, he appointed Michael Naft to replace him on the Clark County Commission.
The commission is seen as perhaps the most powerful political body in the state. It meets twice a month and oversees development and issues on the Strip, at McCarran International Airport and the state’s only public hospital, University Medical Center.
Naft was a former district director for Congresswoman Dina Titus. In that position, his job was to be a liaison for people in Nevada to the federal government and reach out to the congresswoman's constituents. He went to several events because he felt it was important to let people know that elected officials are there to serve the public.
Despite that experience, Naft admits that people may not know who he is.
“When they saw my name as the appointment to the county commission, they may not have known my name, but I hope that they know the work that I’ve been doing for the last 13 years,” he said.
Naft will now be representing a large swath of Clark County that includes part of the Strip, part of both the southwest and southeast sections of the county, Laughlin, and Searchlight.
He said District A has a diverse population with diverse needs. To get an idea of what those needs are, he and his staff have gone to town board meetings in Searchlight and Laughlin. He is also planning a meet and greet with Commissioner Justin Jones, who was newly elected to represent the far southwestern side of the county.
“When you get out there, get out of the office and into the communities, you see things with a very different perspective,” Naft said.
The new county commissioner said crime remains one of the main issues for people in his district; however, the crime problem and the solution are different for each part of District A.
“I think because this district is so economically diverse that becomes even more important to get to know what the specific needs are in those communities,” he said.
Another issue is growth. Southwest Las Vegas is one of the fastest growing areas and infrastructure hasn't often caught up that growth. Naft believes the county should be investing in infrastructure in the areas that want it and need it.
One controversial development that the commission might be dealing with soon is Blue Diamond Hill. The housing development would overlook Red Rock Canyon.
It has been locked in litigation for years. Naft said the developer has agreed to seek the right of way from the Bureau of Land Management. The commission will hold a hearing on the project, which Naft said he is looking forward to but he was clear about the importance of Red Rock.
“But we’ve got to ensure that we’re protecting Red Rock," he said, "It is a cultural gem. It’s a gem of Southern Nevada.”
Naft said people come to Southern Nevada for more than just the Las Vegas Strip and Red Rock Canyon is one of those alternative attractions.
Naft agreed with the commission's decision to put a moratorium on new marijuana businesses. He believes Gov. Sisolak did the right thing when he created a panel to look into the industry. He believes a statewide approach to marijuana regulations is important.
He also supports the governor's plans to implement background checks for all gun sales in the state. The voters approved the background check initiative but former Attorney General Adam Laxalt gave the opinion that it could not be implemented.
Naft also supports a proposal to incrementally increase sales tax to help pay for mental health services in the county.
“Mental health issues impact everything and it is so important that we understand that when we’re investing on the front end of these issues, we’re saving money in the long term,” he said.
The new commissioner would also like to see improvements to Interstate 15 to help alleviate the traffic jams between Southern California and Las Vegas.
“I want to make sure that while Californians are leaving Las Vegas with a good taste in their mouth we don’t want them stuck sitting in traffic in the last six hours of the ride home and having that be what they remember from their time in Las Vegas,” he said.
He thinks expanding I-15 would be helpful but so would efforts to increase more public mass transportation and even private mass transportation.
By state law, a registered Democrat had to be appointed to the position because Steve Sioslak was also a Democrat, but Naft said that the commission is actually not partisan.
“This is a great place where you can be less partisan," he said, "You can focus on the issues that impact people’s lives daily. The traffic, congestion, development, growth – responsible growth. These are issues when you open your door and step out onto a public street you are hit with right away. They’re not partisan.”
While he's only been the job for about a month, Naft said he has already been able to talk to his constituents about what impacts their daily lives and what he can do to address those problems.
“I don’t think there is anything better than when you sit down with someone hear what their issues are and then work towards the solution,” he said.
Michael Naft, Clark County Commissioner, District A
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