John L Smith: Las Vegas City Council Tries To Return To Business
The Las Vegas City Council tried to get back to business as usual at its meeting Wednesday. But it seems the council is still dealing with the fallout from controversy with councilwoman Michele Fiore.
Reports from the Clark County Republican chair say that Fiore made racially charged comments at the party's convention almost two weeks ago.
Councilman Cedric Crear then asked the mayor to strip Fiore of her title as mayor pro tem.
This week, Fiore stepped down as mayor pro tem, though she remains on the council.
KNPR contributor John L Smith was at the council meeting this week. He said Mayor Carolyn Goodman keep the agenda on track. He noted that she usually runs meetings with an eye to being calm and everyone playing nice.
“Which is fine for the most part, but when you’ve got emotional issues people come in with their emotions on their sleeves and that’s certainly what happened yesterday,” he said.
Smith said Goodman did not weigh in on the controversy.
“I think she struck a conciliatory tone," he said, "When Councilman Crear wanted to speak at the start of the meeting, which is really common for the members of the council and the mayor to have a line they want to say or something to get off their chest, and she basically shut him down.”
While the council went through the first part of the agenda fairly rapidly for a government body, the public comments period of the meeting became heated Smith said.
A hundred people had signed up to speak during the comment period, although not all spoke, but the main topic was Fiore and her comments.
Smith said Roxann McCoy, the head of the NAACP in Southern Nevada, spoke and gave an articulate case for why relationships with the community should matter in city hall and why the city should care about people of color.
He said there were also representatives from black-owned businesses who spoke about how controversies like these hurt businesses that are already struggling.
“There’s the sense that the community does not need this, as a whole, does not need this kind of conversation," he said, "This kind of negativity at a time when it’s trying to get back on its feet.”
At one point in the public comment period, Fiore walked out. Smith said that is common for public officials to walk out of a meeting for a variety of reason, but he felt this was different.
He said a man was outlining some of Fiore's past controversial comments, including when she said in a radio interview that cancer is a fungus that can be cured with a solution injected into a patient's vein and when she stood with Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy during a standoff with Bureau of Land Management agents.
“She’s made a lot of inflammatory comments over the years. That’s her style clearly. She seems to be proud of it," he said.
Other members of the audience yielded their allotted time to the man who continued what Smith described as a "dressing down" of Fiore and that is when she left.
When she walked out, members of the audience started singing 'Nah, Nah, Nah, hey, hey, hey, Goodbye."
“It was a tough day, to say the least, a very tough day for a public figure. No matter how street-tough you claim to be. It’s very hard to sit there and take that, and at some point, she got up and left the dais,” Smith said.
Smith said Fiore had a few allies but they didn't compare in number to the people who spoke out against her.
The unhappiness with Fiore goes beyond just the comments she made to a GOP convention, which she said have been portrayed inaccurately.
Constituents have started a recall effort.
Besides being angry about her controversial comments, they are also mad about plans by the city to turn a section of Floyd Lamb Park into an event center.
“This was mishandled in my opinion and now it’s taken on a life of its own,” Smith said.
He said that from his understanding the event center wasn't brought before the public early enough and people who were against it didn't get a chance to voice their opinions.
Smith said that public officials should take anything that might be controversial before the public early to avoid the kind of anger that is brewing now.
All of the turmoil surrounding Fiore took away from some of the important work that was discussed at the council meeting, Smith said.
For instance, City Attorney Brad Jerbic, who has been there for years, is retiring and being replaced by Bryan Scott, the first African American city attorney in Las Vegas history.
The council also talked about collective bargaining agreements with employees, affordable housing plans, a hotel at Symphony Park, the Badlands Golf Course controversy and the redevelopment of the Huntridge Theater.
“Some of this business from the dais was a distraction. When elected officials start making controversial comments, it takes away from this really important job that they do have to serve the public,” he said.
John L Smith, KNPR contributor