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July 22, 2014

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Councilman Stavros Anthony takes on the role of the contrarian

He’s crossed the mayor on new city hall, mob museum

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Sam Morris

Councilman Stavros Anthony, left, laughs with Mayor Oscar Goodman after last week’s council meeting. Goodman says they have a “very good personal relationship.”

Stavros Anthony

City Councilman Stavros Anthony takes part in a City Council meeting Wednesday, September 2, 2009. Launch slideshow »

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Beyond the Sun

Stavros Anthony made it clear during his campaign for Las Vegas City Council that he wouldn’t support two of Mayor Oscar Goodman’s biggest proposed downtown developments: the new city hall and the mob museum.

In his first three months on the council, Anthony’s comments and consistent “no” votes have shown he intends to maintain those positions. In doing so, Anthony has quickly carved out a rare niche for himself on the council: contrarian.

It’s a role likely to drive Goodman to distraction before long.

By the standards of the council, where unanimity is the unstated but near-ironclad rule, where disagreements among council members are almost always hashed out beyond public view, Anthony’s first six council meetings have been extraordinary.

According to those meetings’ minutes, Anthony voted “no” on at least 10 occasions, including five votes against mob-museum-related funding or contracts and two votes against moving forward with the new city hall.

Two of the three remaining “no” votes were on appeals of Metro Police’s denial of work cards to convicted criminals. The last had to do with a disputed food services contract for the city’s jail.

Anthony was alone voting “no” in eight of the 10 instances, including each of the votes regarding the mob museum and the new city hall.

To put Anthony’s 10 “no” votes in perspective, of 1,000 votes taken during a recent one-year period, the council unanimously voted “yes” 984 times, the Sun found in an analysis last year. During this period, from July 18, 2007, to July 2, 2008, no council member, including Goodman, voted “no” more than four times.

At his current pace, Anthony is on track to vote “no” 40 times during his first full year on the council.

In an interview, Anthony said folks at City Hall knew what they were getting when he eked out a 10-vote win over city Planning Commission Chairman Glenn Trowbridge on June 2.

Anthony said he received a warm welcome from Goodman and other council members and staff members after being sworn into office on June 17. He said he’s also received several e-mails and calls from residents expressing their appreciation for his positions.

“We’re glad you’re voting that way,” he said they’ve told him. “We don’t want the new city hall built. We’re glad somebody’s on the City Council asking questions and voting no on projects.”

He added that no one, including Goodman, other council members and the lobbyists he’s met with, has tried to push him off his positions.

“Nobody’s come to me and said, ‘Hey, you’re voting the wrong way. You’re on the wrong side,’ ” Anthony said. “They’re just letting me ask my questions and do my thing.”

One reason could be that Anthony has been alone in opposing the projects.

Goodman has said he doesn’t try to impose his will on other council members. But he hasn’t denied hoping that his forceful leadership style has influenced them.

At his Sept. 3 news conference, Goodman said he has a “very good personal relationship” with Anthony, and he understood why the new councilman is voting against the city hall project and mob museum — to make good on promises to voters.

“But the vote’s always been 6-1 in favor of it and that’s the way it works,” Goodman said. “The beautiful thing about City Hall is you’ve got to learn the lesson real fast. If you want to get anything done here, you’ve got to have four (votes).”

Goodman suggested that Anthony, a former Metro Police captain and member of the Nevada Higher Education System Board of Regents, should be open to changing his mind. “In government and in politics you’ve got to roll with the punches. You’ve got to be malleable. You’ve got to move with the times and the flow,” the mayor said.

Anthony said during the interview that he might be willing to revisit his opposition to the mob museum at some point. The city owns the building, he noted, and a new museum would hold some civic benefit. But the time isn’t right for it, he said.

As for a new city hall? Forget it, he said. “Right now, I can’t think of anything that would change my mind on the new city hall.”

At the July 1 council meeting, he elaborated: “I still think it is too risky a project. It’s getting even riskier, and I just don’t think the timing is right.”

Anthony’s opposition to a new city hall has coincided with increased skepticism from at least two other council members.

Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian recently expressed concerns about the project’s timing. And Councilman Steve Wolfson said he’s reserving judgment until city staff returns to the council with revised cost estimates.

Anthony may not have his four votes on the council, but his arrival on the current City Hall’s 10th floor, home to the mayoral and council offices, has shaken things up.

“The general sense is that he’s going against the grain,” said one council staff member who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Some folks are saying he’s the only one standing up and questioning how the process works.”

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