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VICTOR JOECKS: Henderson ignoring residents concerned by potential hockey arena

Henderson officials claim they want to hear from residents about a proposed minor league hockey arena. They’ve given no indication, however, that they intend to listen.

On Monday, city officials held back-to-back-to-back meetings about their plan to replace the Henderson Pavilion with a 6,000 seat arena. Last month, mayor Debra March turned her State of the City Address into a Golden Knights pep rally. She excitedly announced that city taxpayers would be giving the team up to $40 million to build an arena for the Golden Knights’ minor league hockey team.

When it came to answering residents’ questions about this plan, March didn’t show up. That was a shrewd, albeit cowardly, political move. Turns out, the people responsible for shelling out $40 million are less excited about it than those receiving the money.

“We’re trying to get input from the community,” assistant city manager Robert Herr said. “If we have elected officials, the whole room flocks to them.”

Translated: She didn’t have the guts to face her constituents, even after pledging to give away their money.

The second meeting had a standing room-only crowd in the back and a line of people forced to wait for the next meeting. They wanted answers on a range of issues, predominantly financing and parking.

Herr didn’t provide those answers. Instead, he talked mostly about the problems with the current pavilion. He did outline some options the city is considering to alleviate traffic, but he punted on the money issue.

“We had a lot of questions around financing,” Herr said. “We aren’t there yet. We wanted to come out, talk to the community. So if you have questions around financing, we really don’t have answers for you at this point.”

Financing shouldn’t be the final piece of the puzzle. It’s the first decision that has to be made to see if a project is feasible. The crowd knew it, too. Shouts of ,“You should be ashamed of yourself” and, “What’s the matter with you?” rang out after he refused to take audience questions.

Imagine if your 16-year-old son came to you and said he was going to buy a 2020 Corvette. He wanted your input on what color the car should be and what special features he should add. You wouldn’t answer those questions. Instead, you would demand to know how he was going to pay for it. If he gave you an answer resembling Herr’s, you’d laugh him out of the house.

But your son can’t forcibly take your money. City government can.

If Henderson officials cared to listen to their residents, they’d hear some astute observations.

“If they made that many bad decisions (with) the pavilion — he listed all the problems that they have — what confidence do we have that this next decision is going to be a good decision?” Patricia Brach said after Herr’s presentation.

“All they did today was make everybody more mad,” Linda Campbell said.

No wonder. Henderson officials have as much disdain for city residents as they do for their tax dollars.

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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