Is it just me or is the cleansing of Downtown Las Vegas just cluttering up the rest of the valley? Let me preface this piece by stating that it was sparked by a conversation at recent business networking event when someone mentioned how safe it was to walk around Downtown Las Vegas, and if you limit your travels to the Fremont Street Experience and don’t venture much further East than 6th street that’s probably a fair observation and statement.
I have lived all over the Las Vegas Valley during my lifetime residency and currently I reside in the Southeast area of Las Vegas near the “Boulder Strip” which is laden with criminal activity. On any given day you can observe prostitutes actively working, mostly teenage girls, drug deals, gang activity etc…. the neighborhood motto should probably be “hook it up what you need? Crack, Speed or Weed?” One cannot even walk across the supermarket parking lot without being accosted for spare change, a cigarette or having someone ask you if you’re lookin’ (meaning seeking to purchase drugs or a prostitute).
Being a Las Vegas native I have seen many transformations in our city over the past 45 years. I have seen iconic properties along the Las Vegas Strip erased from the skyline, I have witnessed our education system deteriorate, survived the population boom as well as the worst economic times the city has faced. I guess you could say that my life in Las Vegas is somewhat of a “it was the best of times it was the worst of times” saga. All of that being said I completely understand the dynamic and importance of maintaining and enhancing the tourism corridors in our Valley. The question is however is, at what expense?
With ZAPPO’s and Tony Hsieh taking up residency downtown and his interests in several Downtown Las Vegas redevelopment projects it seems that the City of Las Vegas is working harder than ever to mask our social problems rather than seek real solutions. According to DowntownProject.com a website owned by Tony Hsieh, his corporation has allocated $350 million dollars to aid in the revitalization of Downtown Las Vegas. $200 million of which is allocated to real estate purchases, $50 million in small businesses, $50 million in education and $50 million in tech startups. Now I know you might be saying HOORAY he’s investing in education but wait! The education investment is for a private tuition based school not an investment in our public education system. In fact not one project listed on his website involves any investment in solving social problems, such as veteran homelessness, affordable early childhood education or any other social plight. While there is plenty of examples of the ZAPPO’s brand philanthropic contributions, most of those instances are driven by the employee’s of ZAPPO’s through their personal giving and volunteer work. There is a membership based healthcare program however the website is vague, the cost for membership is $80/month for those over 18 and $60/month for people under 18, I am certain there are other costs associated with it but I didn’t proceed through the application process to find out the details.
In a November 2013 interview with VegasMagazine Tony Hsieh stated an maintained that his property acquisitions were primarily focused on acquiring troubled properties such as the Fergusons and Travelers Motels that were associated with crime. So where did the crime go? Was a crime problem really solved or just relocated? In the same interview Hsieh was quoted as saying “when you own most of the neighborhood you get rid of a lot of red tape.”
So in addition to the $350 million dollar allocation made by Tony Hsieh what has the city of Las Vegas already spent and/or earmarked for the so called redevelopment of Downtown? Here is a link to the 2014 Budget Summary for the Las Vegas Redevelopment Agency. Take particular note of the revenues vs. expenditures on page 6 with a projected $1,418,573 dollar excess in spending over projected revenues.
I know I sound like a negative Nancy today and I’m not, really I’m not! I adore the Goodman’s both Oscar and Carolyn they have done amazing things to keep this city alive my question is though have you forgotten about the rest of us while all of the Neon Downtown is being spit polished? The time has come to SOLVE problems! Not relocate them or sweep them under a rug and pretend that as long as the tourists don’t see the problems that they don’t exist.
I am A Battle Born Las Vegas Native, and Home Means Nevada (Las Vegas) To Me! Stop littering my city with unresolved social issues and start solving the problems! It’s high time that the City and our elected officials remember they work for us the tax paying citizens of this city. As citizens and voters it is our responsibility to question their motives, decisions and actions.