'Redevelopment' scam

Chuck Gardner

Las Vegas Review-Journal
October 4, 1996

    On Oct.16 at 10:45 a.m., the Las Vegas City Council will hold a public hearing on its proposal to amend its so-called "redevelopment plan" of 1986 by expanding its acreage.

     Presently the "plan" area is the generally rectangular region between Martin Luther King/Highland and Bruce, and between Charleston and Washington, with appendages south along Las Vegas Boulevard to Sahara and north along Owens.

    The areas to be added are scattered along Eastern/Civic Center Drive, Martin Luther King, West Washington, and North Decatur.

    There's only one problem. The city of Las Vegas doesn't have a redevelopment plan.

    What the city has is a map with the word "plan" on its cover.

    The only plan anywhere to be found is the plan to funnel property taxes from these areas into the Redevelopment Agency. The agency is a bit strapped right now, because it has given most of the money it has collected in its decade of existence to the Wynns, the Binions, the Gaughans, the Boyds, and the Snows for their casinos.

    It's called "tax-increment financing." As soon as an area is made part of the so-called "plan," increased taxes from new assessments go to the redevelopment agency. It takes awhile, but after a few years the money starts pouring in. This money, of course, is no longer available to fund the usual services - schools, fire protection, etc. - because it's now in the hands of the Redevelopment Agency

    If there wasn't blight there before, there will be now. Which is fine, so long as the agency has a plan to use the money to develop the area. But it doesn't.

    The law requires a redevelopment plan to show the details of what the city plans to do. Then it requires the city to hold public meetings so that the community can discuss the plans.

    But there's nothing to discuss. The "City of Las Vegas Redevelopment Plan" is an empty shell. Its only purpose is to get the money.

    After spending billions on new casinos on the Strip and in New Jersey, Mississippi, and other points east, the wealthiest people in this community who own some of the most valuable property in the West come to the City Council and cry about all the competition hurting their businesses downtown!

    The city then takes the money that it has collected from the poorest of the community and gives it to the richest.

    It calls it "community redevelopment." Here's the plan: First we draw a map and call it a "plan." That way, no one will know what we're up to when we hold the public hearing. Second, we take the money. Third, we give it to the rich and powefful. Finally, when we run out, we expand the map.

    The only time we hold public hearings to amend the plan is when we want to add more land to get more money. When we want to spend it, we just sign a contract with our friends.
Get the plan? Or should I draw you a map?

Editor's note: Mr. Gardner, a former deputy attorney general, is now in private practice and has represented local clients against the Redevelopment Agency.