Governor Steve Sisolak dialed up the pressure last week on nonessential businesses to stay closed by enabling law enforcement to cite offenders.
From the Strip to Reno, most businesses and citizens are following the rules.
But the city of Las Vegas didn’t respond in the same way.
Mayor Carolyn Goodman and some council members, with help from City Attorney Brad Jerbic, all but defied the governor’s directive. Jerbic had said the city wouldn’t prosecute any citations issued to businesses for violating the governor’s order.
Then, state Attorney General Aaron Ford had a talk with Jerbic. And a day later, Ford announced Jerbic had changed his tune: the city would, in fact, go along with the order.
Mayor Goodman said the lockdown would hurt working people and those living paycheck to paycheck wouldn't survive.
Nevada Public Radio contributor John L. Smith said the mayor, in a way, has a point.
“I guess in a vacuum – yes – she does have a point. Of course, there’s a point that the economy is important and working people and low-wage earners are hit hardest when businesses close,” he said.
But he said people understand that casinos don't go dark and there must be a very good reason for it.
Besides that, Smith thinks the mayor's comments are not in her wheelhouse.
“Her response puts her far, far outside the mainstream and frankly, way above her pay grade. I would rather trust Dr. [Anthony] Fauci and the other experts at CDC and the World Health Organization than the cheerleader of downtown Las Vegas businesses,” he said.
While the mayor was vilified on social media and other places for her comments, Smith notes that she has a circle of supporters at city hall that think her opinion on the matter is correct.
Beyond just what Mayor Goodman has to say on the subject, Smith noted that the city attorney has no real say in this.
"This is one of the most hard to explain moments, I think, at the city hall circus," he said, "No, the city attorney doesn’t trump the governor, doesn’t trump the state attorney general and I think Aaron Ford, the state attorney general, probably reminded Brad Jerbic of this within 24 hours of some of the comments that were said at a city council meeting last week.”
Smith said he has known Jerbic for a long time and thinks his stance was strange because he's usually "the squarest apple in the room."
Some people have attributed the disagreement between the state and the city to a long-standing disagreement between Goodman and Gov. Sisolak.
Smith said that both lawmakers are known for being opinionated and not afraid to express those opinions but he said this is no time to hold political grudges.
“But at this point, who cares about whether you got along with someone a few years ago," he said, "If you listen to the experts, this is a life and death situation. This is a time to be-the-grown-up-in-the-room time and the health and safety of the public are bigger than petty politics – at least it ought to be.”
Smith said the governor wasn't picking on downtown businesses or megaresorts. Shutting down the entire economy is not an easy choice and no one wants to see livelihoods suffer, however, “That doesn’t take precedence over being safe, over waiting until the experts say it’s okay. Don’t just do your own math on it and decide that this part of the community is not going to follow certain rules that have been laid down,” he said.
John L. Smith, contributor, State of Nevada