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November 28, 2014

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Commissioner says Strip ‘way out of control,’ as county moves ahead with cleanup

Image

Leila Navidi

A handbiller outside the Flamingo just north of Flamingo Road on the Strip passes out cards for an escort service in May 2010.

Commissioners look to clean up Strip

KSNV coverage of efforts to remove solicitors and panhandlers from the Strip, April 2, 2012.

The Las Vegas Strip has become an obstacle course for tourists who must navigate around and through overflowing trash cans, pedestrian bottlenecks, panhandlers and handbillers. But county commissioners think recommendations by a committee largely made up of casino executives will clean it up.

The ideas include surveillance cameras, more police and ordinances regulating handbillers, adult-content newsracks and panhandlers.

“We don’t want...the Las Vegas Strip (to become) a ‘Nightmare on Las Vegas Boulevard,’” Commissioner Lawrence Weekly said. “We have to do something because the Strip is getting way out of control.”

Weekly voted with other commissioners to accept a report from the Strip Corridor Working Group, which spent six months studying the issue. Next, county staff will develop code amendments, public hearings will be set and commissioners will discuss where to find money for some of the changes.

“We all have concerns about money” coming from county taxpayers, Commissioner Tom Collins said.

Virginia Valentine, former county manager and now president of the Nevada Resort Association, said she and the commissioners get letters from people saying they will never come back to Las Vegas because of a bad experience on the Strip.

Noting that every state except one has some sort of legalized gambling, Valentine said tourists “come here to see that Las Vegas Strip. Nothing is worse than to spend a lot of money and have a horrible experience.”

County Manager Don Burnette, who served on the working group, briefly outlined some of the recommendations.

Before he began, he said the purpose of the group was not to attack the so-called “smut peddlers” or “porn slappers” on the Strip. The county has a long history of losing legal arguments over the First Amendment rights of adult-oriented businesses, and Burnette was careful to note that those businesses are not being singled out.

“People refer to them as smut peddlers, but we’re obviously talking about a much broader issue that...(includes) all kinds of handbillers on the Strip,” Burnette said, noting that club operators also hire people to hand out ads.

With photos taken in the last week, Burnette showed examples of people doing unlicensed business on the sidewalks.

They were selling water, beer, toys, sun glasses, compact discs and art. “These are just some of the examples,” Burnette said, adding that the numbers have increased significantly in the last year.

Tourists aren’t always happy, either, to have to walk around someone with three boa constrictors dangling around his neck. Capt. Todd Fasulo of the Metro Police Convention Area Command, which has 140 officers patrolling the Strip, said snakes and leashed iguanas are frequent on the Strip.

Then there’s the tumbling act in front of Bally’s, which has a large sidewalk area. While Fasulo said the act is good, it collects such a large audience that people have to walk into the road to get around the crowd.

In addition, the tumblers invite “kids to senior citizens” to participate, doing tumbling acts over the top of them. No one has been hurt, Fasulo said, but it’s a potential problem.

One night, Fasulo said, he followed an extension cord in the cracks between sidewalk sections. It led to a gas generator powering amplifiers and guitars being played by a group that had set up a makeshift stage near Harmon Avenue.

“The Strip is a very different place than it was in 1994,” Burnette said, noting that year was the last time a comprehensive pedestrian study of the Strip has been completed. In another agenda item, commissioners unanimously approved spending $581,000 for a new pedestrian study.

The Strip Corridor Working Group’s list of 32 recommendations touched on some key problems and potential solutions. Some of the recommendations:

• Establishing a “time, place and manner” code to restrict some First Amendment activities.

• Surveillance cameras and more police. Surveillance cameras could be relatively inexpensive, but more police would be costly.

• For aesthetic reasons, make all news racks for adult-oriented publications identical. The county has counted 579 of newsracks at 100 locations on the Strip. Different businesses use many different styles. Trash cans should also be placed by the racks.

• The casinos and county should empty trash cans more often.

• Increase sidewalk cleaning from three to four times a week, plus after special events.

• Pedestrian bridges, where the homeless and panhandlers often station themselves to ask for money, would be targeted with an ordinance to ban “stopping or standing,” while clarifying that bridges “are for the prompt and safe movement of pedestrians.” The ordinance would have to be approved by the County Commission.

• To address unlicensed vendors, the working group recommended adoption of an ordinance “that clearly states it is unlawful to engage in commercial activity in the public right-of-way.” It also suggests using civil penalties — tickets and fines — instead of the current method of criminal prosecution for business license violations.

• Because a lot of crime and problems happen at night, the group suggested establishing a night court to “expedite the adjudication of offenders in a prompt and consistent manner.”

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  1. Amazing how public money just pops out of the blue when ever something negative effects the Strip's bottom line. Surprise!

  2. To quote from the article: Weekly voted with other commissioners to accept a report from the Strip Corridor Working Group, which spent six months studying the issue.Plus... Plus... In another agenda item, commissioners unanimously approved spending $581,000 for a new pedestrian study. Odd amount plus...very costly to say the least.

  3. Half a dozen police forming a special squad that could issue instant permits. Of course Identification to fill out the form is necessary.
    I read before my last trip about searching for empty bottles to fill & sell and sure enough I watched it happen from Bally's escalator. Probably filled them in the pools!

  4. It really is long past time to get the businesses, homeless, and others off the sidewalk who aren't there to get from point A to B. It has become a safety issue. I, too, have had to walk in the street to get around some of the bottled up crowds on the sidewalk. I've seen people push, shove, yell because they can't move.

  5. People just love to use the 1st amendment for all sorts of baloney. The amendment was written so that the people of the country had the absolute right to criticize the govenment without fear of retribution, or to have public discourse on any subject, again without interference from officials. It was NOT written for anyone to be able to say anything at any time for any purpose. This is why we have slander, libel, harassment, abuse, and intimidation rules and laws in the communications area of our lives. Most of us forget that freedom is never absolute in a large society. We have to have some amount of decency and civility if we are to survive. Sadly, we're going in the opposite direction.

  6. While you're at it Commissioners why don't you include downtown (Fremont St). It too could use some cleaning up......

  7. Hopefully this will alleviate some of the problems. If someone in a Mickey Mouse costume wants to act, then they should audition for a legitimate show inside the casinos, not hang out on the sidewalk. And there doesn't need to be 20 handbillers on the same block. The cards litter the walkways. I try to avoid the area by Flamingo and Harrah's and sometimes from Bally's south because the high concentration. If I am trying to get to Tropicana, then these nuisances add 20 minutes to a walk that is supposed to only be 15-20 minutes. I only wish law enforcement was more prominent on The Strip. Rarely do I see a cop on foot and if these new regulations come about, I would hope that cops would be doing foot patrol. Until I see evidence of a change, I will be more likely to frequent the pedestrian friendly north Strip.

  8. As a long time resident of Las Vegas,I remember a time when this trash,assortment of freaks,casinos blasting loud music out to the street,illegal aliens handing out smut garbage in groups of 20 or 30 at a time was not permitted..The way the tourists dress and act now fits in with all the puke the strip has to offer..Good luck to them all..For me, I could not be paid enough to go anywhere near it..

  9. Every one of these "Negative" sidewalk issues could be stopped with requiring a Business License, after all they are ALL looking to make money. Sell a certain number and charge enough to pay the police to monitor them. I know of no other city in the U.S. (and the Strip is not unique in being the Only location that attracts a lot of tourists) that has the same problem. It looks like the problem is more with our Politicians and their Competence.

  10. I applaud Mr. Weekly, thank you for your efforts to make the Las Vegas Strip a better place to spend our hard earned money :)

  11. I was down on the Strip on December, just walking between Excalibur and M&M World with my kids. Last time I will be doing that. I don't tend to visit the strip a lot, but going forward I'll drive from one location to another. It's become really bad.

  12. Las Vegas Boulevard is a community. And like any community anywhere, they ALL need to step forward and act like a community.

    In other words, something is happening in front of their casino and they don't like it? Take care of it. They have done this is in the past, laws be damned.

    Let them do their thing. Casinos and businesses need to step forward. They have security that can without shoving this off on someone else.

    You ask me, these stupid County Commissioners are all stepping forward and acting like they are the true saviors of mankind along the Strip, acting and posturing tough, supposedly reacting to some kind of outcry that isn't there, and proposing the enactment of laws that make absolutely no sense. Because it will end up in court as 1st Amendment fights that will go on and on. As a reminder, this same type of outrage was done on Fremont Street, laws enacted, they were taken to court and expended oodles of money, and now it's back to the way it was on Fremont Street, abandoned as a waste of taxpayer money perpetually tied up in court.

    Knock off the polite police bit, County Commissioners, because all it is is stumping for votes in the next election. This is revealed for stupidity and it is going to adversely effect you in the next elections. I know for a fact I'm voting all you bums out of power. Start over again with calm, rational minds that concentrate on the important stuff, and not easy election winning junk.

    Quit trying to make stupid laws that will only over burden Metro PD enforcing really, really dumb stuff that has no chance of getting convictions in court.

    I still say the tourists down there will be fine. There is already a heavy police presence on the Strip, and THANK GOD they do their job protecting tourists from personal/property crimes. Not stupid stuff the County Commissioners want them to do.

    As an aside, I'm laughing at some of the commenters on this LV Sun article that seem to draw an inference that because a "porn slapper" (such as the one pictured) is of Latino descent, then it is AUTOMATICALLY assumed he/she is an illegal immigrant. And there is absolutely no proof nor indication that is true at all...only a vague stereotypical assumption thrown out there to fire up people.

  13. Following "newnvres" comments regarding the business license, this would help as well. I used to live in the Washington, D.C. area and saw many vendors on the Washington Mall selling everything including t-shirts. Then they did a crackdown of illegal business and the vendors were gone, opening up their walkways for freer traffic. It would be nice if all the people standing around were gone and people could just walk. Meanwhile, I will continue walking on the west side of LV Boulevard to get up and down The Strip.

  14. Are these people nuts? Spending more than 1/2 a million on another "study?" What do we pay those jackasses for? To funnel funds to outside companies for more "studies" which then get shoved in a drawer somewhere and forgotten until the next "study?" It's pretty obvious to me that, with the influx of visitors to the Strip continually rising, this is affecting tourism in no way. And if there is too much "trash" being accumulated on the Strip, then it's the fault of an increased number of outsiders coming here. Perhaps we should put a cap on the number of visitors allowed into LV by making them purchase permits which will allow them to visit here. Let's build a fence around LV, put toll gates at every exit to the Strip from I-15 and post the National Guard to check for the permits. No permit; no entry! (For those of you who don't get it; I jest, of course, or, maybe not.)

  15. Take on the ACLU. Enough is enough. There may be a "fine line" between illegal and legal activity but that doesn't mean we have to tolerate "legal" but offensive activity. The handing out of fliers is not violent crime but if it's advertising illegal activity or hot young girls that are held against their will OR forced into prostitution, there should be no question that we have every right to halt the advertising. And, we certainly are within constitutional bounds to outlaw advertising offensive but not illegal activity.

  16. Couple of issues to point out here:

    The Strip is in the County and Fremont Street is City so there are two jurisdictional entities which would be required to come up with a common solution;

    SCOTUS has determined that free speech includes corporate advertising, protesters at military funerals and ladies grinding their hoochies in your face but not touching. You really think that you can prevent the handbillers, panhandlers and street performers from carrying out their business in public places?

    Sell the Strip to the casino corporations and turn the whole thing private

  17. Others have suggested that handbillers be regulated as another form of advertising. I think the ACLU would have a much harder time against that type of argument. (By the way, I generally support the ACLU and think that what they do is vital.)

  18. Time to clean up the trash...hope they get this approved quickly.

  19. To my fellow bloggers;
    Quit fooling around and get serious about this clean up, our very existence depends upon it. Start going after the employers. Reopen the rehab farm. Bring in the tax man to tax the street performers. Enforce blocking the sidewalk llaws, causing pedestrians to walk in the street to avoid the smut peddlers. Enact a stronger public nuisance ordinance that would be upheld in court. Do this soon or this place is really going to turn into a dump and nobody will want to come here, when they can get the same treatment at home. Just an old cop reflecting, Gordon Martines CURRE.ORG

  20. Solution: CAM charges upon application for vendor permit. Common Area Maintenance are routine legal means of assessing each "tenant" with a share of the cost to clean up an area. Local ordinance wound enable a serious CAM charge that must be paid with the application for the vendor permit. Street vendors would then have some interest in cleaning up their own trash and not handing their "ads" to those who turn away from them. And those who aren't licensed to distribute "ads" or to sell "water" could be ticketed with serious financial penalties.