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Chris Jones

Small Nevada Communities Could Have Say

7 December 2004

RENO, Nevada -- A pair of small Southern Nevada communities could soon have equal representation with two of Clark County's largest cities when overseeing what might be Nevada's most influential pro-tourism organization. State Sen. Warren Hardy, R-Las Vegas, has submitted a bill draft request to the Legislature that would add one full-time member to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority's 13-member board of directors. He believes the change is needed to better represent the interests of Mesquite and Boulder City, which share one board seat on an alternating 24-month basis.

"Mesquite has grown to a point where gaming and tourism is a significant part of its economy ? and Boulder City ought to have full-time representation as well," Hardy said Monday.

"I don't believe in taxation without representation, and those cities definitely contribute to the convention authority's coffers."

State law says the convention authority board must include two elected officials from the city of Las Vegas and another two from Clark County. If Hardy's bill is approved next year, Boulder City (population: 14,934, according to the state demographer's last years estimate) and Mesquite (13,895) would become board equals with Henderson (217,448) and North Las Vegas (146,005), which each have one full-time elected seat on the board per current state law.

The board's six remaining seats would remain filled by area business leaders selected by the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce and Nevada Resort Association.

Overall, the convention authority board controls a $163.5 million annual budget used primarily to market Las Vegas to potential leisure and business travelers.

The organization also owns and operates the Las Vegas Convention Center and Cashman Center. Representatives of Boulder City and Mesquite said they'd likely support Hardy's proposal.

"We think this is a win-win, something we've been trying to address since at least 2000," said Terrance Marren, Mesquite's city attorney.

Because Mesquite has four large casinos to none in Boulder City, Marren said it's difficult for his city to sit through its two off years with no active voice in the convention authority's affairs.

At the same time, Mesquite leaders did not believe Boulder City should be forced off the board altogether, which makes the extra seat "an ideal solution," Marren said.

"There's a fear that someone has to lose for someone else to win, but (Hardy's) plan is a matter of equity," Marren said.

"We're prepared to lobby with him if needed." Boulder City Councilman Mike Pacini, who serves on the convention authority board, said a permanent seat would benefit Boulder City's travel industry.

"We're a part of the greater Las Vegas area, so it's good for us to sit at all the tables," Pacini said, citing Boulder City's role as a gateway to Lake Mead, Boulder Dam, Arizona and other parts of the Southwestern United States.

"A full-time seat would keep open the doors of communication, keep us more in the loop. ? We're a small part of (Southern Nevada) tourism, but in many ways we're also a very big part."

Convention Authority President Rossi Ralenkotter said his organization has no position on Hardy's proposed change. "We answer to the Legislature, so whatever they feel is best is what we'll follow," Ralenkotter said Monday before traveling to Reno to attending this week's annual Governor's Conference on Tourism.

Though convention authority meetings are seldom a showcase for differing opinions, an even number of board members could potentially lead to a tie vote.

Should such a situation arise, the item in question would be defeated, legal counsel Luke Puschnig said Monday. The last change to the convention authority board's composition came in 1999.

That year, the Legislature removed three of the Las Vegas Chamber's then-six seats and awarded those positions to the Nevada Resort Association, Puschnig said.