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October 22, 2019

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Pair of county commissioners, uneasy about stadium plan, air their concerns

NLF Stadium Rendings

Courtesy of MANICA Architechture

An artist’s illustration of a stadium on Russell Road and Las Vegas Boulevard was revealed during a Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee meeting at UNLV Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016.

Former state lawmakers who now sit on the Clark County Commission led an exhaustive examination Tuesday of the stadium proposal, poking holes in the recommendation forwarded to Gov. Brian Sandoval last week.

The Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee, the group charged with vetting tourism-related projects, settled on a recommendation Thursday that involves $750 million in taxpayer dollars to build a 65,000-seat stadium that could lure the Oakland Raiders here. The Las Vegas Sands Corp. and Majestic Realty Co. initially proposed the public-private project.

Commissioners Chris Giunchigliani and Marilyn Kirkpatrick — both Democrats who formerly served as state assemblywomen — raised myriad concerns about the makeup of the stadium authority board, the type of bonds used to finance the project, the prevailing-wage language and the county’s debt-coverage ratio, among other issues.

“I’m hoping lawmakers are listening,” Giunchigliani said after Tuesday’s meeting. “I’m hoping I will be better informed, my constituents will be better informed, so if something comes down the pike, they are doing it as responsibly as they possibly can.”

The lengthy discussion put pressure on Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak, who sat on the infrastructure committee, to field his colleagues’ questions. It was a bit of a role reversal: Sisolak was the most vocal infrastructure committee member last week as he attempted to pin down the developers on unanswered questions.

Sisolak acknowledged the Legislative Counsel Bureau likely will rewrite the draft legislation that the committee sent to Sandoval, tying up some of the loose ends.

“The intent was made to get the ideas across,” he said, referring to the group’s legislative recommendation.

The commission decided to hold a special meeting after the Legislative Counsel Bureau releases the new draft language to review the wording and suggest amendments if necessary. It’s unclear how soon that could happen.

The governor is expected to convene a special session in the coming weeks to consider the stadium legislation. But the process to fill legislative vacancies in preparation for a special session hit a slight road bump Tuesday.

The Nevada Attorney General’s Office clarified that government bodies must post agendas listing the names of people being considered for appointment as public officers.

The commission had scheduled a special meeting Wednesday morning to appoint representatives to fill the vacant positions in Nevada Assembly District 1 and District 5. The agenda publicizing the meeting, however, did not list the prospective appointees’ names, so the meeting was postponed.

Commissioners Susan Brager and Kirkpatrick said they have names of people interested in filling the vacancies. The state Assembly districts fall within the boundaries of their commission districts.

As political activity ramps up ahead of the likely special session, opponents of the stadium deal are increasing their criticism of it.

Officials from Nevadans for the Common Good, a coalition of faith-based and nonprofit organizations, outlined their objections to it during the public comment portion of the commission meeting. The group, which has focused on issues such as sex trafficking, education and immigration, views the $750 million public contribution as an inherent community risk.

“The public is being asked to shoulder all these risks, while the billionaires benefit,” the group’s president, Marta Poling Schmitt, told commissioners. “Meanwhile, we have so many other needs. Chief among those needs is our public-education system, which has one of the lowest rates of per-pupil funding in the nation. Any stadium deal that uses public money should benefit, rather than endanger, the well-being of Clark County’s children and families.”

Two polls showing drastically different sentiments about the stadium project also have been released this week.

A KTNV-TV/Rasmussen Reports poll found that, out of the 800 likely voters surveyed, 52 percent opposed raising the county hotel room tax to pay for the project, while 32 percent favored the deal and 14 percent were undecided. The poll was conducted Friday through Sunday, following the infrastructure committee’s decision.

On Tuesday morning, stadium backers released results from their own poll, conducted by WPA Research early last week. Of the 500 likely voters surveyed, 62 percent supported increasing the hotel room tax to pay for the stadium project, 26 percent opposed the proposal and 12 percent were undecided.

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