A spike in parking tickets issued during May's First Friday event in downtown Las Vegas has raised the ire of an outspoken business owner just as officials were seeking to soothe tension in City Hall over Arts District issues.
The latest allegation of bureaucracy run amok from Arts Factory and Bar and Bistro owner Wes Isbutt follows several weeks of sparring over revised city rules governing special events that some say forced small businesses to cancel outdoor activity because they couldn't afford to hire the Metropolitan Police Department to provide security.
Isbutt, who also goes by the name Wes Myles, says the parking ticket spike at the arts festival on May 4 shows city officials aren't living up to their promises to encourage small-business success in the Arts District.
"I hear the words and I see the actions, and they don't line up," Isbutt said.
His parking pique started during the most recent First Friday event, when he said he noticed parking enforcement in the area issuing tickets when previously there had been none.
Results of a public information request showed 16 tickets, 11 for overtime meters and five for vehicles without registration displayed, issued during First Friday hours in the area bounded by Charleston Boulevard, Main Street, Clark Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard.
Although it's a relatively small number compared to the thousands who attend First Friday, it's much higher than the number of tickets issued during the event in the same area from January through April. According to the city's records, just three parking tickets were issued during First Friday over the entire first four months of the year.
The city's response to the records request didn't show any tickets on Boulder Avenue, the street in front of Isbutt's business, but he said he saw enforcement on the block and provided a copy of a ticket issued during First Friday.
Brandy Stanley, manager of parking services for the city, said there was no intent by officials to increase Arts District area enforcement during First Friday, despite Isbutt's suggestion it was retaliation for his and others' complaints about costly security requirements.
But she acknowledged the spike was peculiar and that, even though parking enforcement officers have discretion to patrol areas they see fit, the decision to issue handfuls of tickets during First Friday might not have been a good idea.
"We need to be consistent whatever we are going to do," Stanley said.
She added that it would probably be best if during First Friday events, enforcement focused on safety, such as blocked fire hydrants or emergency lanes.
"We don't need to be writing expired-meter tickets, but we do need to be writing safety violations," she said.
Although the ticket spike appears to underscore Isbutt's complaints about bureaucracy, his raising the issue along with previous public criticism isn't winning much support from City Hall.
In a radio interview on KNPR's State of Nevada, Mayor Carolyn Goodman said "we are definitely on the right track" with First Friday despite Isbutt's concerns.
Also, Councilman Bob Coffin, who represents the area, said recently that Isbutt's experience isn't representative of the Arts District as a whole.
They point to recent changes they say have streamlined special event permitting and the success of First Friday Las Vegas, a group of investors who took over the monthly event and attracted tens of thousands of people to attend, as evidence the Arts District is improving business.
Coffin said given the attendance at the event, it makes sense there would be more parking tickets.
"That sounds reasonable," he said when asked about the spike. "I don't think we've gotten to the point we are waiving parking tickets."
Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at email@example.com.