Economic development in Las Vegas is a priority for most of the 11 candidates vying to represent Ward 5 over the next year.
Pockets of Ward 5 remain a redevelopment focus for the city, with key sites including Symphony Park, Cashman Center, part of Fremont Street and historic west Las Vegas.
The City Council seat has been vacant since former Councilman Ricki Barlow resigned in January. The winner of the March 27 special election will serve the remainder of Barlow’s term, which runs to July 2019.
The council recently approved agreements with developers to bring apartment complexes to the city-owned downtown Symphony Park, home to nonprofits Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health and The Smith Center for the Performing Arts.
Candidate Joe Mitchell, Ward 5 liaison to the City Council, said 80 percent of Symphony Park parcels should be occupied by projects that generate taxes.
“The community has been paying taxes on that land for decades,” Mitchell said. “We need developers to come in and build on their own dime. We’re in a stronger market now.”
Mitchell wants to see a “tech village” with automation, robotics and design components and apprenticeship opportunities for Las Vegas residents.
Cedric Crear, who is on the Nevada Board of Regents and is a city planning commissioner, wants to see the city create an employment-training facility for residents.
“I want to make sure our citizens are trained and able to capitalize on the jobs that are coming in,” Crear said.
The Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce endorsed Crear on Thursday.
Candidate Sheila Collins said training opportunities should prepare residents for increasingly tech-based jobs.
“How do we bring the constituents up to speed in this community to be able to have the skill set to be part of the new workforce,” Collins said. “We have to make sure constituents here are able when the transformation takes place.”
City officials have marketed Ward 5 sites in their attempts to bring in a major league sports franchise or a massive development project. Las Vegas officials were eyeing Symphony Park for a Major League Soccer stadium before the city was knocked out of the running for an expansion team in 2015. Officials also have high hopes for Cashman Center, but attempts to market it for an NFL stadium and Amazon’s second headquarters fell short.
The city needs to address existing issues before aiming that high, candidate Walter Jones III said.
“We need to come up with solutions for our homeless problem and economic development,” Jones said. “Once we can cure those, anyone would want to come here and bring a team because they’ll see as a community we work together. It starts with us cleaning up our own areas.”
In marketing Las Vegas to outside companies, candidate Shondra Summers-Armstrong said the city should make sure projects have long-term benefits and avoid long-term debt.
“Whatever we’re doing to draw business — sports teams or any other enterprise — we need to be looking out to the benefit of the community,” Summers-Armstrong said. “I think Las Vegas wants what other major metropolitan cities want, to be a player in the big leagues, and I understand that. I’m concerned in our efforts to draw sports teams and large companies that we’re not being fiscally responsible.”
Summers-Armstrong also wants to see Ward 5’s leader be more involved with the city’s medical district on its southern border along Alta Drive, she said.
Candidate Randy Voyard thinks too many barriers exist for businesses; he favors revising the city’s licensing structure.
“It shouldn’t be scaled so the city can balance a budget,” Voyard said. “We need to make it easy for people to engage in commerce before trying to build giant complexes. Taking an empty lot and putting up commercial structures, saying, ‘Someone will rent this eventually,’ that’s not working.”
A $6.2 million bid by Clark County for the former site of Moulin Rouge, Las Vegas’ first desegregated casino, was withdrawn last year after residents opposed the plan.
Former Nevada Assemblyman Harvey Munford, one of the Ward 5 contenders, said the area needs a large project to be an anchor and spur economic development. Munford has advocated for a Moulin Rouge revival project.
“I think the key in historic west Las Vegas, in really turning it around … depends on a big project like the Moulin Rouge,” Munford said.
Candidate Patricia Messinger could see the Moulin Rouge site hosting a casino again, she said.
“There’s no reason why it can’t go back to being what it was before,” Messinger said. “It hosted some great acts back in the heyday.”
Candidate Timothy Hicks, a contractor, said seeing the relative lack of development in Ward 5 spurred his run for office. Hicks wants the city to provide career training opportunities for residents.
Candidates Curtis Coleman and Shannon Hopkins couldn’t be reached for comment.
Contact Jamie Munks at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0340. Follow @Journo_Jamie_ on Twitter.