Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013 | 2 a.m.
Strip sidewalks could be getting a makeover for the new year if the Clark County Commission approves a ban on news racks along parts of Las Vegas Boulevard at its Tuesday meeting.
The commission will discuss the proposed ban and receive an update on the county’s overcrowded jail during its regular meeting at 9:15 a.m. Tuesday at the Clark County Government Center, 500 S. Grand Central Parkway.
No more news racks?
News racks that carry everything from magazines to strip club advertisements dotting the Strip are the latest target in the county’s ongoing attempt to clean up Las Vegas Boulevard South.
The county is planning at least $3.1 million in improvements to the sidewalks — mostly to relocate poorly placed fire hydrants or traffic signs — in an attempt to remove obstructions and improve pedestrian traffic.
The news racks, county staff and elected officials have maintained, are a major contributor to the congestion that poses quality-of-life and safety issues for the millions of tourists who visit the Strip each year.
But operators of the news racks are pushing back, arguing that crowds of handbillers, which the county has unsuccessfully attempted to remove from the Strip, are more of an impediment than their stationary boxes.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada also has gotten involved, warning that a total ban could violate First Amendment protections and lead to a legal challenge.
The various players have spoken optimistically about finding a compromise to allow news racks to remain in some capacity, but so far no clear proposal has emerged. Commissioners could vote to impose the ban, which would start Jan. 1, or take a different direction after conducting a public hearing on the item Tuesday.
Staff reports galore
A spike in the number of inmates being housed at the Clark County Detention Center in recent months has led to overcrowding that is costing the county tens of millions of dollars.
The county is attributing much of the problem to a logjam in the processing of presentencing reports, which has led to inmates staying at the detention center for days or weeks after they should have been transferred to state prison or released on probation.
Of the 3,000-plus inmates housed at the detention center on a given day, about 450 were occupying beds when they should have already been sentenced, according to jail figures.
Staff will provide a briefing Tuesday to commissioners, who aren’t happy about picking up the tab while the state Parole and Probation office, which writes the presentencing reports, struggles to meet deadlines required by law.
At least one commissioner, Chairman Steve Sisolak, has mentioned legal action as a potential step if the office doesn’t start producing the reports on time.
UMC governing change
A yearlong and often-contentious debate about the best way to manage University Medical Center will hit a major turning point Tuesday when the commission discusses turning over most of its oversight of the public hospital to an independent governing board.
Officials say the new board will bring together dedicated experts to focus solely on the financially challenged hospital’s woes, something commissioners are unable to do with their other time commitments.
A similar move in 2010 failed to generate much momentum and was disbanded less than two years later due to ineffectiveness of the appointed board.
This time around, commissioners hope to avoid a similar fate by delegating more authority to the board, giving members oversight over the hospital’s long-term strategy and operating policies.
The commission will retain control over UMC’s final budget and the county still will be on the hook for any losses the hospital faces.
Recruitment for the new board wrapped up in mid-October and if Tuesday’s ordinance is approved, the commission will likely vote on a slate of candidates in the next month.