Las Vegas Sun

August 18, 2022

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Jon Ralston:

The woes of MGM Resorts and North Las Vegas

The lion in summer is not doing so hot, now is the summer of North Las Vegas’ discontent and there is no summer of love in Carson City — emptying out the reporter’s notebook with your Friday Flash:

• The Harmon tower of Babel: The finger-pointing temblor that has ensued since a consultant concluded the CityCenter’s Harmon tower was structurally deficient and could topple in an earthquake has been startling to watch; MGM Resorts vs. Perini, with Clark County trying to act as a referee, but also facing serious questions about its ability to police Strip safety.

Clark County Commission Chairwoman Susan Brager insisted this week on “Face to Face” that the county was serious about forcing the gaming giant to present a plan of action and would be thorough in checking its records to ensure other buildings are safe. But this is just the kind of story that quickly gets out of control, with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake between the private companies, a government’s credibility on the line and a troubled project’s latest foibles rippling worldwide. The danger of overreaction seems almost as problematic as the danger of underreaction, with perceptions of influence and incompetence likely to take hold.

Just as the empirical data suggests a recovery may finally be coming to Las Vegas Boulevard South, this is terribly depressing.

And if that weren’t worrisome enough …

• A legion of problems: Just as MGM Resorts was reeling from the Harmon shocker, the Southern Nevada Health District reported guests at CityCenter’s Aria had been exposed to Legionnaire’s disease — and officials first heard about it in spring 2010. The company immediately went into damage-control mode, erecting a website to downplay the potential for widespread contagion and to make the affliction sound as if it is no worse than the common cold.

To wit: “Legionella is naturally occurring in nature, found in most water supplies and only causes illness when breathed in as a mist or vapor.”

Of course it may amount to nothing, but word travels fast and this, too, became an international story. And Twitter was ablaze with sardonic suggestions for new Aria slogans, from “You Can’t Spell ‘Bacteria’ Without ‘A-R-I-A’” to “Aria: Infecting guests since 2009.”

Let’s hope these things don’t come in threes.

• Take my council seat, please: The latest machinations in Wade Wagner’s now-disputed, one-vote victory over North Las Vegas Councilman Richard Cherchio reinforce that the outcome will surely be felt for some time. Judge Doug Smith on Thursday refused to allow the council to swear in Wagner, denying him (at least temporarily) an election certificate and setting the stage for another hearing Tuesday, when the new election was supposed to occur.

Mayor Shari Buck has accused colleague Cherchio of trying to steal an election from her choice, Wagner, whom her family helped. The Democrats have turned the race partisan by filing a complaint against The Family Buck. I still think one wag had it right when he suggested that venturing into the North Las Vegas political morass is akin to Jake Gittes finding himself in Chinatown.

I say let’s just cut the cards for it. Or, since the World Series of Poker is going on, how about Wagner and Cherchio sit down at Jerry’s Nugget and play heads-up for the seat?

One more point: I’m not sure the victor really wins anything, what with all the talk of the city about to go bankrupt and placed into some kind of receivership. Forget it, Wade or Richard; it’s Chinatown.

• Redistricting gets Russellized: The state Supreme Court said last week that Judge Todd Russell got the right answer for the wrong reasons on how to run that House special election. Now it seems history is about to repeat as Russell may have arrived at the right answer for the wrong reasons on redistricting.

The judge suggested he was “thinking out of the box” and suggested county registrars draw the district lines for Congress and the Legislature. Of course, this is a nutty idea — registrars have no legal knowledge and should remain above the partisan fray, so that was a nonstarter.

But unbiased folks who know the process and law make sense. Gov. Brian Sandoval told the Sun’s Anjeanette Damon that Scott Wasserman, who handled redistricting for the Nevada System of Higher Education regents and was with the Legislative Counsel Bureau during the line-drawing 10 years ago, could oversee the process.

That may be a good idea, but Wasserman, his expertise notwithstanding, probably should have some company. Some believe it makes sense for lawmakers to do it, but Sandoval won’t call a special session.

Although it seems impossible to completely take the politics out of this most political task, Russell was on the right track, albeit with the wrong idea.

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