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November 29, 2015

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J. Patrick Coolican:

After stadium boondoggle, what’s next for Henderson after Andy Hafen’s re-election?


Steve Marcus

Henderson Mayor Andy Hafen delivers the Henderson State of the City address at Green Valley Ranch Station Casino Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013. At left are Henderson City Councilwoman Gerri Schroder and Chamber of Commerce Chairman Rick Smith.

J. Patrick Coolican

J. Patrick Coolican

Congrats to the voters — or the 12 percent of them who bothered to turn out — in my adopted hometown of Henderson.

They gave Mayor Andy Hafen a second term Tuesday, and rightfully so. With Hafen’s leadership, a basketball arena will be completed in summer 2014 and our new NBA team will begin competing against LeBron James that fall.

What will our team be called? The Henderson Strip Malls has been suggested, though perhaps the Henderson Fantasy — or, let’s get a little edgy and call them the “Phantasy” — is more appropriate. There will be a marching band of 76 trombones as well as a genuine, electrified, six-car monorail to bring us to the games.

Oh, wait, there won’t be any of those things.

In case you missed it, the Henderson City Council fell for the wiles of carpetbagger Chris Milam, who pitched them on a plan to build the Las Vegas National Sports Center, which would include the aforementioned basketball arena, plus a soccer/rodeo stadium. That was phase one. Phase two: a stadium for Major League baseball and another for the National Football League. An ambitious and thrilling project, to be sure, though I think we were all disappointed there were no plans for a velodrome.

Hafen and the council were excited, as evidenced from the minutes of their Sept. 6, 2011, meeting, when they passed the agreement, which helped Milam buy 485 acres from the federal Bureau of Land Management at a fire sale price.

Last spring, Hafen reiterated his support for the project: “I’ve said it all along: What community, what mayor wouldn’t want a project like this in their city?” he said. “We’ve done our due diligence and we’ll continue to do our due diligence. I think that if things fall into place and we get this thing going, it will be a boon for Henderson for years and years to come.”

Oh yeah, this was gonna put us on the map, just like it did in Brockway, Ogdenville and North Haverbrook!

Of course, it wasn’t to be. The city accused Milam of fixing up the whole scheme just to get the land so he could flip it to developers for a quick and tasty profit.

The city might have figured this out much sooner had someone picked up the phone, like my colleague Eli Segall did, and talked to some experts in these matters. They called the stadium plan preposterous on its face.

Oh, well, the city settled with Milam, who can’t do development in Henderson ever again.

So, no harm no foul, right?

Well, no, not really.

It’s disconcerting, to say the least, to know that elected officials can be so easily bamboozled.

If they can be fooled on this, why not by lobbyists asking favors from the more run-of-the-mill developers?

As of March 29, his most recent campaign finance report, Hafen had only raised a bit more than $100,000, which is understandable because he didn’t have a serious opponent. Many of the usual suspects contributed in large chunks of $2,500 or more — lobbyists, gaming companies, public safety unions, developers.

Also, $15,000 from various entities related to the garbage monopoly.

Maybe they will build us a stadium out of refuse.

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