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December 22, 2014

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ANSWERS: CLARK COUNTY:

Experts to advise, provide cover, on cuts

Pushed and pulled over budget cuts, Clark County commissioners last week turned to a tried and true way of creating some political cover for the hardest decisions — appointing a committee to make recommendations.

Commissioners are in what may be the toughest period in county history. They’ve made adjustments to try to cope with widespread damage of the recession combined with the loss of $180 million from county coffers over the next two years, rerouted into the state budget by lawmakers. The problem: The situation keeps getting worse and the cuts more painful.

So commissioners are sincerely seeking help, and the committee will be more than a footnote in county history if it gives Commission Chairman Rory Reid a way to avoid what are looking like increasingly rough and rocky shores.

Knowing whom each commissioner picked might provide some indication as to the priorities of the commissioners or whom they have confidence in, so who picked whom?

Reid, who proposed the Committee on Community Priorities “to engage residents in a communitywide discussion about budget priorities,” picked Assemblyman Morse Arberry, longtime chairman of the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee. Arberry, who can’t run for reelection, became interim CEO of the Las Vegas-Clark County Urban League in April, and he is expected to wind up being able to drop “interim” from his title. The Urban League is the valley’s largest nonprofit group dedicated to fighting poverty. It is set up in a county building, relies on public money and has had a few problems over the past couple of years.

Commissioner Susan Brager’s priority appears to have been health care, which makes sense for numerous reasons, not the least of which is that the county runs University Medical Center. Brager’s appointee to the commission is Dr. John Ruckdeschel, the no-nonsense director and CEO of Nevada Cancer Institute and a newcomer to the state.

Commissioner Lawrence Weekly’s appointment brought a very different type of expertise — straight from the Strip. Weekly chose Alex Dixon, director of planning and analysis for Paris Las Vegas, Bally’s and the Rio.

Commissioner Tom Collins picked Keen Ellsworth, a lawyer, business owner and member of the Las Vegas Planning Commission, and Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani chose Michael Holloway, an engineer and managing principal of Poggemeyer Design Group, a land planning, construction and urban design consulting firm.

Commissioner Steve Sisolak’s pick is lawyer John Marchiano, a former Henderson city attorney, and Commissioner Larry Brown’s selection is William Stanley, director of organizing for the International Union of Elevator Constructors.

The committee also includes members who were appointed by the full county commission, included one representative for each of the following: health care, social safety net providers, business advocacy, law enforcement, taxpayers and gaming. The county employees union has two representatives.

Why did it get two?

“We patterned it after a similar committee created in Washoe County, which also had two employee representatives,” county spokesman Eric Pappa said. “That panel was called the Charting Our Course, Investing in our Future Committee. I believe it was created in 2004 and there are regular updates.”

•••

The groundbreaking for what will be known as the Bonneville Transit Center is slated for Monday at Bonneville Avenue and Casino Center Boulevard.

What’s the center for?

It is to be the hub for much of the Regional Transportation Commission’s bus system, including the ACE Rapid Transit System and ACExpress Commuter Service. It is replacing the Downtown Transit Center at 300 N. Casino Center, a block or so west of Las Vegas City Hall on Stewart Avenue. Completion is expected in summer 2010.

Why do we need a new bus mecca?

Tracy Bower, RTC spokeswoman, said the old one has been outgrown. And because this one was “shovel-ready” at a time when President Obama was distributing stimulus money, $5.5 million of its $17 million cost is coming from the feds via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

What’s so great about the ACE fleet, beyond than the catchy name?

It’s supposed to be a faster way to get around. Bower said that on the current bus system, it could take 25 minutes to get from Fremont Street to the Convention Center, at Paradise Road and Convention Center Drive. With ACE, that same trip should take about 16 minutes.

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