EDITORIAL: City Council rolls dispensaries, smokes citizens

The Las Vegas City Council wants more spending money. Last week, the council cut off a group of people eager to pour new cash into city coffers and instead directed staff to shake down strapped constituents for more of their hard-earned dough.

On Sept. 18, the council continued its curious campaign to drive medical marijuana dispensaries into other Southern Nevada jurisdictions, voting 7-0 to impose a six-month moratorium on land use, building permit and business license applications by the industry. Council members claim the city needs half a year to update city code before it will consider allowing the businesses. Talk about stalling.

Worse, in making the motion to approve the moratorium, Mayor Carolyn Goodman denied industry representatives and supporters the opportunity to testify. As reported by the Review-Journal’s Benjamin Spillman, Mayor Goodman told nearly a dozen people in attendance their chance to speak was Sept. 3, when the proposal was forwarded by the council’s Recommending Committee. Attorney Marc TerBeek, who works on medical marijuana regulatory issues, told Mr. Spillman the city is “putting its head in the sand.”

Once state regulations are in place, Mr. TerBeek said, “People are going to open up … and the city of Las Vegas isn’t going to have its own voice in regulating and overseeing the process.”

The council should be going out of its way to work with the industry. The new, bipartisan state law that allows the opening of dispensaries — a long overdue response to a voter-approved constitutional amendment that made medical marijuana legal in Nevada — allows up to 40 such businesses in Clark County. Although prescription drugs are exempt from sales taxes, prescription marijuana is not. A windfall of revenue awaits jurisdictions that attract dispensaries, which will invest millions of dollars in their locations, then sell millions of dollars worth of product.

The City Council is telling prospective dispensaries, which will need months to open their doors, to create their jobs and collect their sales taxes somewhere else.

At that same Sept. 18 meeting, the council voted 7-0 to authorize Stephen Harsin, director of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services, to boost fees across the board, with the goal of collecting at least $6 million more per year. People who use senior centers, community centers, fields and pavilions can expect to pay much more.

The city could realize at least $6 million in department savings by outsourcing its most outrageous expense: park maintenance. According to TransparentNevada’s salary database, city park maintenance supervisors and crew leaders each received at least $100,000 in total compensation last year. Private-sector landscape maintenance companies do a far better job taking care of homeowner association parks all over the valley at less cost. But this is a nonstarter for the council.

Mayor Goodman, Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian, and Councilmen Steve Ross, Ricki Barlow, Bob Coffin, Stavros Anthony and Bob Beers, what in the world are you thinking?

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