Collins, Brager cost police millions


Clark County commissioners refused to compromise Tuesday — in particular Tom Collins and Susan Brager. By delaying a decision again, Brager and Collins cost the Metropolitan Police Department millions. Yet both claim to be advocates for public safety.

Collins and Brager made it clear before the meeting they were not willing to compromise. Collins was insisting upon a larger sales tax increase of 0.15 percentage points. Brager stuck with her premise that an increase of half that, an increase of 0.075 percentage points, was enough for law enforcement.

And they didn’t budge, so Sheriff Doug Gillespie ended up with no additional money for Metro. Nada. Nothing. Zip.

I assumed Collins would watch his larger increase fail and then vote to give the cops at least something rather than nothing. I assumed wrong.

Curiously, Collins pulled up Brager’s ordinance first, and voted against it. “I was just making sure they knew I was not going to vote for that,” he said Thursday.

By joining with Commissioners Steve Sisolak and Chris Giunchigliani and voting against the smaller tax increase, Collins blocked its passage. Then he pulled up the larger tax increase, but it couldn’t pass without support of Brager and Mary Beth Scow.

It takes a supermajority of five votes to approve a tax increase.

Commissioners Larry Brown and Lawrence Weekly voted for both ordinances, just trying to help Gillespie get something instead of nothing. Sisolak and Giunchigliani voted against both, saying they oppose sales tax increases.

The latest wild card is Scow, who like Brager supported the larger tax increase in December and opted for the smaller increase Tuesday. Scow and Brager, both up for election in 2014, would have to switch their votes for the larger increase to pass.

Now Collins says he’s going to try to bring another plan forward, one that would eventually raise the larger sum — $30 million a year instead of $15 million — but it would be staggered, a little now, a little later.

Who knows whether he can get Brager and Scow to switch their votes to pass that plan, but he’s going to try to get it on the next meeting.

But even if he gets that to pass, this kick-the-can-down-the-road style of government has already cost law enforcement throughout the county big bucks as the commissioners talk this issue to death, repeatedly going over the same ground.

If they had passed the smaller tax increase on Tuesday, the ordinance would have been effective next Jan. 1. Even the smaller ordinance would have raised more than $12 million for all the valley’s police departments for this fiscal year.

Metro would have gotten about $9 million of that. Henderson, North Las Vegas, Boulder City and Mesquite would have split the rest.

By their months and months of delays, the commissioners missed the deadline to implement the tax Jan.1.

Even if a new ordinance is adopted in November, it couldn’t go into effect any sooner than April 1, costing local police departments millions.

Sisolak’s failed effort to push back any decision by another six months would have cost law enforcement agencies millions more and was supported by Giunchigliani and Brager.

Collins said, “If I get it passed, missing a few months (tax revenues) now is better than getting hobbled for the next seven years.”

The sheriff wasn’t shocked by the do-nothing outcome, but he is frustrated.

“Would I take the lesser amount? Yes,” he said Thursday. “But is it going to do what is needed to do? No.”

During the meeting, Gillespie argued for the larger increase, explaining it would keep the same number of police he has today so that there would be 1.74 police officers per 1,000 residents, discounting tourists.

He might be able to add another 100 officers. And he could fill this year’s $30 million deficit.

The smaller increase “doesn’t add officers or fill the deficit,” he said.

Gillespie warned that crime has increased by 12 percent from 2011 to 2012, and the department is already stretched too thin now. Without any sales tax increase, there will be fewer police officers as 50 or 60 retire each year.

Tuesday’s meeting was like watching Keystone Cops square off against real cops. So it was a shock to see the Keystone Cops prevail simply by being do-nothings.

Is Collins a cunning strategist who can become a consensus builder in the new few weeks? Hmmmmm. Impossible to predict.

Except when I spoke to Brager about his ideas, she said she would “absolutely not” support Collins’ resurrection of his plan. “My proposal was a good compromise.”

To date, the winners are Sisolak and Giunchigliani, who don’t want any more money for police.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Email her at jane@reviewjournal.com or call her at (702) 383-0275.