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McCarran name change won’t fly

The effort to rename McCarran International Airport could be dead in the water.

County commissioners gave the proposal short shrift at the end of their meeting Tuesday, with none voicing support for it and two openly opposed to the idea.

“I have no appetite to bring anything forward on this,” Commissioner Tom Collins said.

The commissioners’ lack of interest in changing the name to something like the Las Vegas International Airport could make any effort pointless.

Although many people have weighed in on changing the airport’s name – Las Vegas City Councilman Steve Ross spearheaded the effort, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid has given his opinion and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is studying potential costs of a change – the ultimate decision about what to call the county-run airport rests with commissioners.

The issue might not even come to the commissioners for a vote. County officials will give them a rough estimate of the cost of such a change, which County Manager Don Burnette warned Tuesday would be “significant,” but there was no move to place it on a future meeting agenda.

That is Collins’ objection to the idea: He doesn’t want to spend any money redoing signs or renaming the airport’s website, mccarran.com.

Besides, he said, the airport logo includes “Las Vegas.”

Ross introduced the idea to the convention authority in June. He was concerned that tourists don’t associate McCarran with Las Vegas though former Sen. Pat McCarran’s name has been on the airport for more than 60 years, its airport code is LAS, and it handles tens of millions of visitors each year.

But the move had support from other members of the convention authority, and last month they chose to do their own estimate of the costs and benefits of a change.

That study is expected to be released this month. Any decision by the convention authority is merely advisory, however.

Reid supported the proposal because he doesn’t believe McCarran’s name should be on anything.

“Pat McCarran was one of the most anti-Semitic … one of the most anti-black, one of the most prejudiced people ever to serve in the Senate,” Reid said during an August ceremony at the airport’s new Terminal 3.

McCarran, who represented Nevada from 1932 until his death in 1954, is widely known as a rabid anti-Communist who was staunchly allied with Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

But McCarran also was influential in the field of aviation. He wrote the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938, which set the airline regulatory framework for four decades, and pushed for the development of civil aviation.

Commissioner Lawrence Weekly approached the subject at the end of the meeting Tuesday, when commissioners discussed issues that they might want to see on future agendas.

“I just think we need to put it to bed one way or another,” Weekly said.

Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani called it the “elephant in the house” because the subject has been discussed by seemingly everyone other than the commissioners.

She said that though McCarran’s actions were “reprehensible,” she doesn’t support taking his name off the airport.

She noted that she opposed removing former state Sen. Floyd Lamb’s name from the state park in northwest Las Vegas that bears his name. Lamb was convicted in 1983 of taking a $23,000 bribe during an FBI sting.

McCarran still contributed to society, Giunchigliani said.

The rest of the commissioners didn’t share their opinions on a name change. Commissioner Steve Sisolak noted that nobody seemed to support it, so he asked Burnette why the county should bother doing a cost estimate.

Burnette said an estimate wouldn’t take much time or resources.

The results will be sent to commissioners, and any of them could choose to place the proposal on a meeting agenda for a vote. The next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 18.

Contact reporter Lawrence Mower at lmower@reviewjournal.com or 702-455-4519.

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