On Wednesday, October 1st, representatives of the Libertarian Party of Nevada, Chairman Brett H. Pojunis, Vice Chairman and County Commission F Candidate Jason G. Smith, and Outreach Director Jason Weinman attended the Las Vegas City Council Meeting to speak out against the use of over $115 Million of taxpayer money to finance a private soccer stadium in downtown Las Vegas. Amongst the sea of brightly colored union shirts and special interests there to speak in favor of using precious resources for this stadium were three stalwart individuals with nothing to do but battle with their wits, Libertarian lapel pins, and the knowledge that taking from working people to give to special interests is wrong.
For all the talk about how "Libertarians are selfish", it was only Libertarians standing strong in the face of the united brotherhood of using tax money to get paid. One union member after another told of how they would have work if only the tax money was spent on this waste of a project; without regard for less fortunate taxpayers, the inflated price tag, how over budget city projects tend to be, and how little actual enjoyment the community paying for this would actually get from it.
Jason Weinman spoke first with a well thought out argument declaring that this is nothing more than a redistribution of wealth from the taxpayers and businesses in the community to special interest corporations who then become quite powerful and enriched while not actually risking anything. He also cited a review of the literature that found overwhelmingly negative impacts from public spending on sports stadiums.
Brett H. Pojunis opened with a can of whoop-ass with his argument that the city council used a closed door method of picking partners in this; as the process for funding was not open to individuals or investors, not handpicked by the council. The lack of transparency, as with any government project that is secret, only ensures that the winners will be specifically chosen, but the losers are widely spread out across the community so the risk is less for those "investing". He also said that "when government decides which companies are going to be successful over others that this is dangerous." He also asked the city council about the message it sends to small businesses when the government provides significant subsidies to major corporations.
After this, Jason G. Smith flatly said that anyone who votes for this will have to run for reelection and face the voters who had to pay for a stadium they can't use, and that others profit from. Smith then asked each councilmember to remember that their duty is to put the primary functions of government ahead of special interests and represent the people of the community. In conclusion Smith noted that if Apple, Google, Nike and other companies with huge cash reserves are not investing, there may not be a good return on investment and the people's money should not be risked.
The full video can be viewed at: http://www5.lasvegasnevada.gov/sirepub/mtgviewer.aspx?meetid=1674&doctype=Agenda
- 2:44 – Jason Weinman
- 2:47 – Brett H. Pojunis
- 3:13 – Jason G. Smith
After a 25 minute break, the members of the council reconvened and one by one defended their positions. Councilman Ross seemed to pull stats after stat out of thin air, and said that upwards of 80% of the people in the community were for the stadium. This was refuted moments later by Stavros Anthony and Bob Beers who mentioned that their wards were overwhelmingly opposed to wasting tax dollars that could otherwise be spent on parks, bike paths and other city improvements. Councilman Coffin made an impassioned speech about how he loves soccer, is half Mexican, and still doesn't think that the money from the community should go to this while the fields that his constituents play on are in disrepair. The final nail in the public waste debate came when swing vote, Lois Tarkanian, stated that in no way would she support risking taxpayer money on this, and that though she thought a stadium would be a wonderful addition to the community, it was not something taxpayers should be on the hook for. The risk should be assumed by those in the business community that stand to profit from it.
The fun, though, didn't start until Councilman Barlow started his eulogy of the union payday. He pleaded, as did Mayor Goodman, for others to reconsider. He lamented the loss of the stadium deal as if it were the only way to save downtown Las Vegas. I guess the ban on open containers on Fremont was not the great boon to business that they thought it would be? The idiocy continues...as Councilman Barlow openly asked if anyone could name a project the City Council undertook that didn't achieve resounding success; we libertarians were ready with a list immediately. Of course, it was not public comment time, so our comments about the wasted $146+ million on the lavish and opulent city hall we were sitting in had to remain quietly in our ammo box. Not done with nonsensical hyperbole, Councilman Barlow then stated that economic analysis notwithstanding, stadiums are a major boon to economies, and are great generators of economic activity. Nobody had the heart to tell him that Detroit has two... and he was on such a roll that we wanted to hear what was next.
To finish the agenda item, Councilman Barlow did what had to be done. He reluctantly decided to amend his motion to include the words "try to reduce or eliminate public funding" so that the agenda item can be moved to December for a final vote. This was not fooling anyone; as the clerk reread it out loud, Lois Tarkanian reiterated that unless it said "Eliminate public funds" that it was a no go. So with all tricks failed, the Council voted to extend to December the stadium deal on the contingency that there are no public funds allowed to be used...and as Ralston so wonderfully tweeted, "LV Council votes to approve stadium deal w/public subsidy under condition there will be no subsidy. #embarrasment"
So here we are. Two months to wait and watch to see if there are any more tricks. Assuming there are not, the Libertarian Party has become one of the strongest advocates for a PRIVATELY funded stadium and will work hand in hand with organizations interested in making this a reality!
Fear not, though, we stand ready to defend against the forces of greed, waste and corruption. Will you join us? After all, it is you and I that we are fighting for.