There’s no question that graffiti is a problem in North Las Vegas. The question — like nearly every situation the city is facing — is how to finance the fix.
For a city that has seriously considered going into receivership, the state’s untested bankruptcy alternative, should graffiti be a top priority?
One councilman thinks so. For Isaac Barron, graffiti is a negative anchor to the city’s progress as a whole.
The city staff battling graffiti is being asked to do the impossible, Barron said.
The cost of paint and labor have gone up while staffing has been cut.
Meanwhile there are 18 miles of recently added trails, bridges, flood channels and parks.
The citywide fee assessed to residents, currently at 25 cents a month, has gone unchanged.
North Las Vegas has held six town halls to get input from residents on graffiti, and ultimately, a presentation, the product of multiple city department’s expertise, went to the council.
Council members liked the programs and outreach designed to abate the graffiti. What they don’t like, is a 50-cent monthly fee increase to pay for all of it.
Councilwomen Anita Wood and Pamela Goynes-Brown feared an increase of $6 a year might be too much for some households, particularly when water rates are expected to jump yet again.
Councilman Wade Wagner equated it to a “double tax,” as most of his residents pay homeowners associations, which deal with graffiti.
“It does not take political courage to raise people’s taxes,” Wagner said. “Everybody wants a piece of all of our residents and it’s a nickel at a time, it’s a dime at a time, six bucks at a time. If every little pet project somebody has charges our residents $6 to $10 to $20 to $30 more a year, it adds up to hundreds.”
Barron remains firm. People don’t think of the Aliante master-planned community when they think of North Las Vegas, he contended.
They think of graffiti-covered downtown, he said.
“We had a great boom in the north. What happened in the south? Were people putting all that effort in the south? As someone who lived here in the downtown core, I don’t think so. Not one bit,” Barron said. “We’ve been waiting for two decades down here. How much longer do we have to wait?”
Mayor John Lee expressed concern, noting that companies looking to go to Apex Industrial Park will see downtown because that’s where city meetings are held.
Lee is looking to lure businesses to the industrial park by using the tax breaks created during a special session of the state Legislature for electric carmaker Tesla’s manufacturing plant in Northern Nevada. Lee has said bringing businesses to Apex is key to digging the city out of its financial hole.
Trying to find a way out of the contentious graffiti fee, Lee asked Finance Director Darren Adair if the city could find money in the budget to cover the costs.
“We don’t have a rainy-day fund. It’s presently raining for the city,” Adair said, explaining it boils down to a matter of what’s a priority for the city, which is projected to spend more than it brings in for years to come.
Now, new City Manager Qiong Liu plans to work with staff over the next month to drum up options for the City Council.
The unfortunate fact, she pointed out, is that while everyone likes the programs and outreach developed to address graffiti, those are possible only because of the fee.
The fee increase would generate $488,000 in revenue.
Contact Bethany Barnes at email@example.com or 702-477-3861. Find her on Twitter: @betsbarnes.