Thursday, Feb. 12, 1998 | 10:07 a.m.
Another day, another Top 10 list, another black eye for Las Vegas.
Continuing the national media's hog pile on everybody's favorite neon oasis, George magazine names Las Vegas as one of the country's 10 most corrupt cities in its March issue. The article hammers city officials for their wanton abuse of eminent domain in putting up the Fremont Street Experience, branding their handiwork "boomtown's big-time landgrab."
"... Critics say Las Vegas exploits eminent domain to help the powerful casino owners and developers at its citizens' expense...," writes George's Craig Offman. "Since the city's redevelopment began a decade ago, Las Vegas has invoked eminent domain laws numerous times, seizing private land and offering what many see as a paltry sum to quiet the former owners."
Offman spotlights the travails of Harry Pappas, embroiled in a four-year legal scrap over the city's eminent domain purchase of his downtown property to make way for a parking garage. In addition to the multi-million-dollar settlements doled out to the Hecht and Ray families in two similar cases, the article notes that the city has burned more than $700,000 in legal fees defending its actions.
Hinting at "the enormous imbalance of power in Las Vegas," Offman also quotes former deputy attorney general Chuck Gardner, who excoriates city officials for dumping money into casinos rather than schools, hospitals and other community amenities. "It is government gone berserk," Gardner fumes.
Co-founded by John F. Kennedy Jr. -- a member of a family not exactly renown for steering clear of corruption -- George puts Las Vegas in some rather non-elite company. The other cities mentioned by the political newsmonthly for assorted misdeeds ranging from city officials on the take to cops on the take to border patrol authorities on the take are:
Chester, Pa.; Clovis, Calif.; Lake Providence, La.; Youngstown, Ohio; Eastman, Ga.; Kansas City, Mo.; Douglas, Ariz.; Miami, Fla.; and Washington, D.C.
The national media's obsession with the bright lights of Vegas has managed to become even more intense in recent months. In December, the CBS news program "48 Hours" irked some city officials with a show titled "Vegas Stripped" that included segments on Hustler publisher Larry Flynt and child prostitution. Last month, Education Week and Outlook magazines took their turns, with the former blasting Nevada's academic performance and the latter praising Las Vegas' business climate.
Yet while Sin City may deserve its ranking in George, which will hit newsstands in the next two weeks, there appears to be one obvious omission from the magazine's corruption list. Considering it's home to the Mafia, perennially high crime rates and George Steinbrenner, it seems fair to suggest that New York City should've made the cut.
Except, of course, that it's also home to George.