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McCarran International Airport might be renamed after Harry Reid

Updated February 3, 2021 - 9:37 pm

A proposal to rename McCarran International Airport after former Nevada Sen. Harry Reid is being revived.

Four years ago, the effort took place in Carson City, when then-state Sen. Tick Segerblom’s bill failed to advance out of committee. Now Segerblom is trying once more as a Clark County commissioner, and other county lawmakers have indicated their support.

Segerblom on Tuesday raised the prospect that one of the busiest airports in the country be rechristened for the longtime Democratic lawmaker and former Senate majority leader, suggesting that its current namesake is out of step with Southern Nevada’s efforts to reinvent itself.

“Sen. (Pat) McCarran, who at the time was probably a nice man, really is passed in history,” Segerblom said during the commission meeting. “If you look back at his record, it was not good. The name doesn’t represent the diversity of our community.”

Segerblom will work with the county’s legal counsel on an ordinance to propose the name change, which commissioners are expected to discuss publicly in two weeks. At least two colleagues, Commissioners William McCurdy II and Justin Jones, expressed support for the move.

“I can’t think of anyone who has done more for the state of Nevada and also our country than former Sen. Harry Reid,” McCurdy said.

Troubled history

Last summer, Nevada Congressional Democrats authored a letter to Gov. Steve Sisolak and state lawmakers requesting they rename the airport and remove a statue of McCarran in the U.S. Capitol.

Their letter said that while McCarran fought for workers’ rights and helped shape the modern air travel industry, he also pushed to block Jewish judicial candidates nominated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, revoke citizenship, limit free speech and restrict immigration, including of Jewish people after the Holocaust.

Ultimately the county gets the say-so on whether a name change will occur since the airport is operated by the county’s Department of Aviation. The Federal Aviation Administration would have to sign off, however.

Segerblom has acknowledged that such a change is controversial.

County requests 1 million doses

Commission Chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick said Tuesday that the county has requested 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses from the Federal Emergency Management Agency as it faces a shortage of shots despite having the infrastructure to administer as many as 100,000 immunizations a week.

As of late last month, the county was getting only 22,000 weekly doses of vaccine from the federal government.

Kirkpatrick said that Southern Nevada had administered more than 133,000 vaccines in total as of Monday, most being first doses to protect against the coronavirus.

She said the public has been “amazing and patient” thus far, but she asked for further patience as the region seeks to ensure the most vulnerable population is immunized.

Kirkpatrick noted that the county hopes to get more vaccines in the next two weeks and that it had been “moving mountains” along with the state’s federal delegation to acquire more.

“This is like testing: It’s a little rocky to get started, but now we’re on a good system, a good track and will continue to move through those lines,” she said.

Legal help with evictions

With the state’s eviction moratorium set to expire March 31, the county is exploring additional safety nets, including the possibility that renters be provided with a government-appointed attorney in the event they are faced with a notice from their landlord.

Segerblom suggested Tuesday that the county join what he described as a “movement” among other U.S. cities in paying for the legal representation as another way to protect struggling renters during the pandemic.

“It’s not something that would happen overnight,” he said, adding that it would fit into proposed state legislation to slow down the summary eviction process.

Commissioner Jim Gibson said a more practical and cost-effective approach could be to ensure that an attorney is available in courtrooms where eviction proceedings are occurring to provide advice and counsel.

He also noted that while renters were “primary concern No. 1,” any decision the county might make should not leave out landlords, who are also feeling the squeeze during the current crisis.

As of last month, the county had spent nearly $56 million in federal relief funding on its rental assistance program, known as CHAP, but officials have said there is not enough current federal money to meet demand. Kirkpatrick said Tuesday that 19,000 people were in the queue seeking rental assistance.

Commissioners ultimately said they will research the prospect of funding legal representation, among other potential ideas to assist renters.

Hunting for competition

The county will formally notify the Nevada Department of Wildlife that it opposes competitive predator hunts that are legal in Nevada but banned in other southwestern states.

At the request of Jones, county staff will prepare a resolution that outlines the opposition from county lawmakers, he said Tuesday.

“This is not a prohibition on hunting in any way,” Jones said.

Instead he said it would articulate that the commission is against hunting as a competition, where participants are awarded prizes. In May, Colorado became the sixth state to prohibit such events after its Parks and Wildlife Commission voted to ban wildlife-killing contests, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

“That’s not what I think of when I think of hunting,” said Gibson, who supports the resolution. “The hunting experience is more than just shooting and killing.”

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.

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