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December 18, 2014

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In small town, only debate is king

You can reserve a space for talk of Boulder City politics — just don’t think you have the floor

People are gathering in a back room of the library, where an aging flag hangs haphazardly along the wall and an old upright piano calls a back corner home.

This is where children learn to make plastic lace bracelets and pipe cleaner rings.

But tonight 75 Boulder City residents are showing up to bicker over town politics. There will be no refreshments.

It’s the fifth in Richard McHale’s series of meetings, which he calls BC Facts, being held during the City Council race.

Among the issues: what to do with a money-losing municipal golf course, how to pay down a $100 million debt and whether to fire the city manager.

Many of these people come every other Monday to see McHale, a developer who wears sandals, jeans and bowling shirts, click through PowerPoint presentations on everything that he says is wrong with the city.

He plans to touch on many subjects tonight, although he will make it through only the first one: the Boulder Creek Golf Course.

Some people want the course closed. Others say better promotion would help it. A few people think the city should sell land around the course to developers to offset the debt.

McHale has another idea: “Stake the bums who created the problem to an anthill in a sand trap under a hot sun and hurl golf balls at their heads.”

McHale is not subtle.

A man in the audience stands up and complains about all the name-calling.

He walks out in a huff, his wife following him.

Everyone watches them and, after a heartbeat, goes back to the argument.

“This isn’t BC Facts, this is BC opinions,” yells Stephen Stubbs, a tax attorney.

McHale leans on a lectern, unconcerned.

“Next slide,” he says.

Sitting in the front row of gray plastic chairs is Cam Walker, who placed second in the primary and is campaigning hard to win in the June runoff.

He matter-of-factly interrupts McHale to introduce his ideas for the 27-hole course. Maybe the city could close nine holes or lease it to a private business.

He’s flanked by his wife and teenage son, who are looking dismissively at McHale.

When McHale rants about the town’s establishment, everyone knows he’s talking about Walker, a 42-year-old construction project manager with connections to the Boulder City elite.

His father-in-law is Bob Broadbent, the former Clark County commissioner and director of the Bureau of Reclamation under President Ronald Reagan — and the first mayor of Boulder City.

And tonight Walker has brought another former county commissioner, Bruce Woodbury, to speak on behalf of Walker’s involvement with the Las Vegas Monorail.

McHale grows irritated. It’s supposed to be his night, his stage, his agenda. He’s the one who reserved the library for two hours.

But Walker, with help of popular politicians, is stealing the limelight. He sets up his own computer with his son’s help, launches his own PowerPoint presentation and is answering questions from the audience.

McHale has had enough. He packs up his belongings like a vanquished boxer and, without a word, slinks out of his own meeting.

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