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John L. Smith: Will Las Vegas Ever Be The Same?

Brent Holmes

Tourists take pictures in front of the iconic Welcome to Las Vegas sign.

Nevada Public Radio contributor John L. Smith returned from family medical leave this week and found his Las Vegas – the one he’s called home his entire life and the one he has written about for more than three decades – a changed place in the wake of the October 1 mass shooting on the Strip.

Will Las Vegas ever be the same?

“There is this awful sinking feeling in your gut," Smith said, "And the Vegas Strong imagery, which is really omnipresent, and another side of it is that this was our community getting up off the canvas.”

Smith said of returning home after being in Southern California during the shooting and its aftermath.

He said the communities of Southern California were shocked by the shooting because so many people at the festival were from the area and because of the connection the two regions have.

“This awful, awful thing reverberated,” he said.

And while some media outlets have criticized Las Vegas as a place that encourages the use of automatic weapons at tourist shooting ranges, Smith points out that our city is more of a reflection of America.

"Las Vegas is the carnival mirror of America," he said, "We are like America only more so."

He believes American will be proven wrong about extrapolating the Second Amendment into something that protects someone trying to assembly enough weapons and ammunition for his or her own army.  

But that is what America is right now and that is what Las Vegas reflects back.

“It is clearly not right, but Las Vegas didn’t create it. Las Vegas tends to market those vices,” he said.

Following the horrific events of that Sunday night, people outside of Las Vegas saw what our city really was and rooted for our town.

“I see it as this moment where Las Vegas is also a community, that we also have a heart, and a soul and as made up as that is to the outer public – the fact is this is a factory town not so different from Detroit of a certain age. It is a tourism factory town.” 

The naming rights for the new 51s stadium:

The Howard Hughes Corporation now owns the Las Vegas 51s minor league baseball franchise and it is building the team a new stadium near Downtown Summerlin.

But the deal for the stadium's naming rights has caused some concerns. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority agreed to pay Howard Hughes Corporation $80 million over 20 years to name the stadium Las Vegas Stadium.

The agency hopes to use the stadium to market the city.

While Smith is a baseball fan, he is not a fan of this deal.

“Only in the wake of the $750 million give away does $80 million seem reasonable,” he said, referring to the public money from the hotel room tax going to the new Raiders stadium. 

Smith is not happy with the lack of transparency and he doesn't believe Howard Hughes Corp. needs the money.

Plus, he doesn't see it as an economic driver beyond the first few years that the stadium is there.

Chris Giunchigliani running for governor:

Smith says he is excited for Giunchigliani to join the race for governor against fellow Democrat Steve Sisolak.

“Chris Giunchigliani is one of the most energetic candidates to ever hit the streets in Las Vegas,” he said.

He believes the two candidates will put each other through the paces, which is ultimately good for the voters to see where the candidates stand on the issues.

John L. Smith, contributor 

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