Las Vegas Sun

November 18, 2018

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where i stand:

Fallen Dallas heroes prove police do ‘protect and serve’

Others' voices

In the aftermath of the tragedies in Texas, Minnesota and Louisiana, the Sun reached out to several Las Vegas community and law enforcement leaders with an invitation to use our opinion pages to express their perspectives on what’s happening in our city and our nation. Today, we present their columns, and we join our special guests in expressing hope that their commentary will prompt a larger dialogue and promote unity. The guest columnists are Sheriff Joe Lombardo; Roxann McCoy, president of the Las Vegas chapter of the NAACP; Shaundell Newsome, founder of Las Vegas-based Sumnu Marketing and a board member of the Urban Chamber of Commerce; Mark Chaparian, executive director of the Las Vegas Police Protective Association; Christian Smoot and Kendra Patterson, leaders of the Black Student Organization at UNLV; and Jay Bloom, a member of both the Metro Police Use of Force Board and Civilian Review Board.

Summertime, and the living is anything but easy. Only the people can make it better.

First, we have to talk about the tragic events that took place 10 days ago in Dallas. It was bad enough that the country was rocked at what has appeared to be unwarranted killings by police of two African-American men in Baton Rouge, La., and near Minneapolis. Yes, we have to wait for the investigations to be completed, but the videos are telling. And they aren’t telling the kind of story any decent American should want to hear. Or, more to the point, should accept in 2016.

But what happened in Dallas — the wanton slayings of five police officers and the wounding of many others by an overly well-armed man who was determined to kill cops, white cops — cannot be accepted, justified or excused.

There has been a lot of discussion lately about what fathers of minority children say to their kids when they have the “talk.” That talk has nothing to do with the birds and the bees as in earlier times but, rather, with how to act when confronted by the police. We just can no longer ignore the fact that in some cities, on some police forces, there are cops who should not be there. They cannot protect and serve when they do not respect and like. Or, worse, when they fear or hate.

When I was growing up, the talk we all had as young kids was “if we ever find we are in trouble, lost or need help of any kind, find a policeman. He will take care of you.” We believed it, and it was true.

Over the years, it might have seemed from news accounts and personal conversations that some in our society no longer believed that to be the case. Even though police cars bore the slogan “to protect and serve,” there has been good reason to believe that not all parents raised their kids to believe as we were taught in my generation.

Well, unfortunately, we now know that our parents were right when they said it, and all parents in each succeeding generation who have taught their children to trust the men and women in blue have been right. It is unfortunate because decent, responsible, heroic and selfless police officers died in Dallas proving that they were there to protect and serve.

It is a natural human response to run away from danger. Heroes learn by example or by instinct to do the opposite. There are countless American citizens who were marching in Dallas this month who are alive today because of a police force that turned toward the trouble while making sure the citizens they were serving turned away.

There is nothing else the rest of us can say except “thank you.” What we can do, though, is so much more. As the police chief in Dallas or the 15-year old son of the man shot point blank by police in Baton Rouge said, it is time to come together, peacefully and constructively. Enough of the divisiveness and the hate. Enough.

•••

Two more quick thoughts. The first is about the proposed football stadium and Las Vegas Convention Center expansion being contemplated. Yes, they would cost billions of dollars, but, yes, both ideas have a great deal of merit in the city known as the entertainment and tourism capital of the world.

And, another yes. The public will benefit greatly from both endeavors, so we should be willing to pay our share. As for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority expansion, that will be mostly paid for by tourists. Fair enough. The stadium? We have some billionaires in the mix who say they want to do the right thing for Las Vegas. Great. And if there is an NFL team that comes with it, they will pony up too. And so should the public, because it would benefit the entire city.

The questions will involve how much the people should kick in and how much control the public should have. These are always the questions. I say the public should pay up to one-third of the cost and have the loudest voice in how that stadium is operated. That may be the only way to assure all those involved that no one group will dominate the others.

But, there is always a but. None of this should happen unless there is a plan and a commitment to move our guests and our residents around this city and up and down the Strip in a manner commensurate with a first-rate 21st century tourist destination. Whether it is the parking lot on Interstate 15 on Sunday morning going back to Southern California or the parking lot created on the Strip on weekends and most evenings, it is cruel but usual punishment to build magnificent amenities with no thought given to how to move the people from one place to another.

My favorite proposal has been a light-rail system from the airport, down the Strip and throughout the valley to take people to and from work and to and from our magnificent hotels. Perhaps there is a better idea, but I have not heard it yet. But to commit billions to a stadium and a convention center improvement without a plan to get the people to and from them is the height of folly and the definition of malfeasance.

There, I have said it.

•••

And, finally, speaking of saying it: What Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said about a possible Donald Trump presidency had a whole lot of hypocrites all atwitter. They said Ginsburg crossed the line, that justices are not supposed to be political and certainly aren’t supposed to express their political feelings. And that her expressing concern for the Republic under a Trump presidency was unprecedented.

I am not sure about most of that, but I am certain that whatever line she crossed has been continually moved by Republicans and Democrats for the past 30 years or more. Our Supreme Court, including the refusal of the Senate to act on the president’s most recent appointment to the high court, has been nothing more than a political football ever since major constitutional decisions have been rendered on 5-4 votes and Senate hearings have been designed by fundraising apparatchiks depending on which side of the aisle one sat.

The line Republicans and some pundits are screaming that Justice Ginsburg crossed has been moved so often that no one really knows or has cared where it is. I think she would have better served the Supreme Court by biting her tongue, and she has since apologized for making what she termed “ill-advised” comments.

I think what really happened was that an intelligent woman of 83 years, who has given most of her life to the law and her country, deeply believed that she could not be silent in the face of a Donald Trump. So Ginsburg exercised her First Amendment rights.

And why not? Everyone else is doing the same thing without nearly the same forethought.

Brian Greenspun is owner, editor and publisher of the Sun.

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