Behold the seasoned experts at the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
They are this community’s quintessential image-is-everything guys. They chant the “perception is reality” mantra and manipulate the gods of marketing to promote Las Vegas as America’s place to play: Play cards, play slots, play a round of golf, or just plain play around.
When it comes to burnishing the Las Vegas image in the public psyche, they’re geniuses. After all, not just anyone can sell the boring old Strip to the waiting masses, right? It takes a concerted effort and many millions to accomplish the task.
Given the LVCVA’s amazing attention to detail, it makes me wonder why the agency didn’t see the potential public relations gaffe inherent in dishing out $480,000 over fewer than three years to fund an anti-terrorism intelligence analyst position.
The analyst will work for Metro, but as nearly as I can tell will act as a liaison between law enforcement and the heads of security of resorts from throughout Southern Nevada. The position will require sufficient federal clearance to give the analyst access to classified intelligence documents, the sort generated each day by cops and FBI agents throughout the country.
Sounds good, right? Tourism generates an enormous part of our economy. It only makes sense to keep it safe.
But that raises the first question: You mean law enforcement and the resorts weren’t working hand-in-glove before, and this new analyst position was actually needed?
That makes the players involved sound unprofessional, something they aren’t.
Then there’s this alternate question: Have you discovered the need to communicate information from law enforcement to hotel security chiefs has increased?
That makes the Las Vegas atmosphere seem more volatile, but officials assure me it isn’t.
LVCVA vice president of public affairs Vince Alberta: “The hospitality industry’s a $30 billion industry. It’s the No. 1 economic engine for Southern Nevada and the entire state. We believe making an investment of several hundred thousand dollars makes sense. Essentially it’s about enhancing the customer experience. Whatever we can do to ensure a positive customer experience and have our customers focused on why they came to the destination, benefits everybody.”
That’s true, of course. But I just don’t understand what it has to do with spending $480,000 to hire a terrorist intelligence analyst who will link hands with the Southern Nevada Counter-Terror Center and the local resort industry. This work is already done on a daily basis.
Alberta, the good soldier, stuck to his guns. The LVCVA and area resort operators have helped fund police and fire stations near the Strip. The addition of the intelligence analyst position is in keeping with a long-standing attention to the safety of millions of visitors, and that’s an image that sells.
But that’s not what an analyst with a classified clearance would be doing. In theory, at least, he’d be sifting through the stacks of intelligence for pertinent information and communicating it to hotel security directors.
You know, the same thing Metro already does.
Metro Deputy Chief Greg McCurdy says the position is appreciated and needed, due in part to the increasing amount of information, not that there’s anything to be concerned about. But McCurdy, a police veteran who stays on message, added that the analyst might also assist in working crimes unrelated to terrorism as well.
Which is great, just not how the LVCVA described the “analyst’s” job.
“We’re looking for the best person with the best experience to help us do the best job we can to help make the city the safest in the world,” McCurdy says.
The position’s creation could raise more questions than it answers, said University of Nevada, Las Vegas public administration professor William Thompson who calls the arrangement “strange.”
“Do other convention authorities in the United States do this?” Thompson asks.
By LVCVA security director Ray Suppe’s proud admission this week, no other convention authority has funded a similar position.
Does that mean no other agency needs such a position? Or is the LVCVA simply being extremely proactive nearly eight years after 9/11?
Call me cynical, but this deal is starting to reek like a traditional Vegas juice job.
I’m no public relations maven, but I’d say this isn’t the image the authority’s gurus wanted to create.
John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0295. He also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/smith.