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Las Vegas mayor calls governor ‘a dictator’ after state ‘pause’ order

Updated November 24, 2020 - 11:13 am

As Southern Nevadan governments announced adjustments Monday to adhere to stricter statewide rules amid a surging spread of the coronavirus, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman called Gov. Steve Sisolak “a dictator.”

“He’s been a dictator with whom we have complied every step of the way,” Goodman said. “We’ve had no choice.”

Goodman has been perhaps the state’s most visible critic of sharp restrictions meant to slow the outbreak. But the mayor expressed an escalating frustration with the governor after he issued an order Sunday that casinos, restaurants and bars reduce capacity from 50 percent to 25 percent beginning Tuesday.

“Obviously this was crushing to the city,” she said in a lengthy phone interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Goodman added that it had been difficult enough for small businesses to survive at half-capacity and that she foresees stronger measures after the three-week “statewide pause” because COVID-19 would not be truly mitigated until there are widespread vaccinations.

“He’s tried all these measures, and it is still here,” she said.

Sisolak urges unity

Goodman’s most forceful rebuke of the governor — twice calling him a “dictator” — came as she said he does not consider any information that disagrees with him or his advisers, nor does he reach out to mayors for advice. If Sisolak did speak with her, Goodman said, she would articulate how restrictions are devastating to residents.

However, the city of Las Vegas is part of the Southern Nevada Regional Recovery Organization, which reports weekly to the state’s coronavirus task force.

In a statement, Sisolak said the state has worked with municipalities and counties throughout the crisis and noted that the city has routinely failed to meet business compliance inspection quotas as it agreed to along with other Southern Nevada governments in the recovery organization.

“Regardless, when Nevada’s elected leaders speak, their words carry weight — and these difficult times call for our leaders to be unified in protecting the public,” he said. “I’ll be providing no further comment on the Mayor’s statement. The State will continue working with all local governments directly and through their organizational representatives, such as the Nevada League of Cities and Municipalities, as we have throughout the pandemic.”

The governor had a similar response about the weight of words used by elected officials in April after he castigated Goodman for national television appearances in which she, in part, offered the city as a control group to test whether social distancing was effective.

“The confusing message that she sends out there is troubling,” Sisolak said at the time.

County closing most buildings

Sisolak’s order intensifying rules on mask usage and crowd sizes came amid increases in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

“My goal is to aggressively try to attack this spread, while maintaining some portion of our economy and our daily lives,” he said during a virtual address.

In response, Clark County will close most of its buildings to the public beginning Tuesday, and meetings held in its government center will either be changed to virtual formats or canceled, officials said.

There will be some exceptions to closures: McCarran International Airport and University Medical Center will remain open.

“With the announcement of increase(d) restrictions focused on businesses and public and private gatherings, it is imperative that we continue doing whatever is necessary to mitigate the spread of the virus in our workplace for both employees and the public,” county Manager Yolanda King said in a statement.

Beyond keeping open the airport and the hospital, the county said that the Marriage License Bureau, outdoor park spaces, playgrounds and limited types of case proceedings in county courts will also go untouched.

But county parks and recreation centers will operate at 50 percent capacity, and all tournaments at county facilities have been canceled until further notice. Group reservations at parks will not be accepted.

County Commission meetings will now also occur virtually.

Despite closures, the county said that employees will remain available to communicate with residents by phone or email.

Cities react

Henderson officials said Monday that they will limit occupancy in City Hall to 25 percent.

“We are requiring that every employee that can telecommute do so, but there are some employees that cannot work remotely and this change will allow them to continue to work and provide services to the community,” city spokeswoman Kathleen Richards said in a statement.

In Las Vegas, city spokesman Jace Radke said capacity in council chambers would be reduced to 50 from 98, and City Hall would remain open with public health guidelines enforced.

North Las Vegas shut down its City Hall to the public this month after Sisolak urged Nevadans to stay at home as much as possible. The building will remain closed to the general public, but services will be accessible by appointment or online, City Manager Ryann Juden said.

December’s planning commission meeting and first City Council meeting will be held virtually, Juden added.

Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly described the limited operations at county parks and recreation centers.

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter. Staff writer Blake Apgar contributed to this report.

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