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Nevada Views: Community governance: County commissioners meddling with local advisory boards

Years ago, Nevada initiated advisory councils and boards in order to give communities a chance to participate in important local issues. Unfortunately, the Clark County commissioners have gone on a concerted attack against experienced community representation.

The straw poll that initially led to board and council membership gave way to members serving at the pleasure of the county commissioners. People who did not really represent their area began to show up on the boards and councils. They represented political or economic interests beyond their communities.

We reached the point where the commissioners, more or less, did what they wanted. Those were the gravy years for political graft in Clark County, the years of Dario Herrera, Erin Kenny, Mary Kincaid, Mark James and Lynette Boggs McDonald (most went to jail or left town).

If it had not been for Commissioner Bruce Woodbury, I would probably have resigned in those gravy years. Mr. Woodbury was my ideal public servant — soft-spoken, honest, paid attention to the boards and councils of local communities. Unfortunately for all of us, term limits ended his stellar service.

The voice of advisory councils and boards has diminished. First, term limits for board/council chairpersons took out a number of long-term community leaders. Several years ago, the senior members of several significant areas were not replaced. The commissioners seemed to be arguing that new blood is more important than community experience or community representation.

The Laughlin Advisory Board is a good example of what has been happening. A few years ago, Laughlin took a straw poll for who they wanted to represent them. Commissioner Steve Sisolak disregarded that poll and seated political associates. Needless to say, the citizens of Laughlin were not happy and are not happy (see the Review-Journal, April 24).

On April 12, I received a letter from Susan Brager, the chair of the County Commission, inviting me to a luncheon of appreciation. The letter goes on to invite me to a discussion of tenure and future reappointments, because, she says, it is “important to provide opportunities for other interested citizens to serve their community.” That meeting was eventually canceled.

The County Commission is making sure that the advisory councils and boards are not more experienced or knowledgeable than the commissioners. Heaven forbid if a council member opposes a commission action. Recently I was invited to resign from the Red Rock Citizens Advisory Council because of my ardent opposition to a major development in Red Rock Canyon.

I think my service is about finished. Frankly, it will be a relief to get out from under the yoke of community service. It’s sad, however, to see the diminishment of community governance. A straw poll is not too much to ask in selecting community leaders.

As an interesting aside, I would note that I have never heard a whisper of graft regarding a council or board member. At the grass-roots level, it is very difficult to avoid your community. The commissioners, on the other hand, have a remarkable record of corrupt service. Selling non-conforming zone changes, not living in the district they are supposed to represent, taking lap dances for votes.

For what it may be worth, I would advise everyone to start paying better attention to what is happening with the advisory boards and councils of Clark County. If representation is important — and I think it is in a democracy — then everyone would do well to start attending advisory board and council meetings.

Evan Blythin has served 20 years on the Red Rock Citizens Advisory Council and was the council’s chairman for 10 of those years.

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