2014 started with a bang for Las Vegas activism! January 21st was another momentous day for Clark County activists, a major victory for the second month in a row, when the “More Cops Tax” was defeated at the Clark County Commission. The third and final defeat of this tax, for now, was given a public hearing Tuesday, in which around fifty residents of Las Vegas and the surrounding cities of Clark County showed up in force to make comments against this tax with a very misleading title. Citizens of all political stripes showed up, from Republicans to Democrats to Libertarians to Independents to no party affiliations, and while some may have at first thought this was a partisan issue started by Republicans and Libertarians, *all* the Commissioners are Democrats.
UPDATE 1/27: Highlights video- not all the best parts are in here, it simply started getting too long. (article continued below video)
The vote needed a super-majority of 5 out of 7 to win, but fell short at 4-3. Commissioners Steve Sisolak, Chris Giunchigliani, and Susan Brager voted against it. Brager then immediately introduced an alternative, .075 percent or half of the .15 percent increase asked for, which was also proposed in October but failed then. Commissioner Tom Collins rejected that compromise back in October, saying that they needed to give Metro the full tax increase. Collins and Larry Brown walked out of the room as Brager made this new proposal, and it was then she realized she would not have the five votes necessary… and this also failed to pass, 3-2. If only Collins and Brown had stayed to vote, that could have won.
“I’m sorry, that was not my intent,” Brager said as her motion for .075 percent failed.
As stated above, people from all backgrounds showed up to give their comments, mostly in opposition to the tax, and some in support of it. At the outset, the Mayors of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, and Boulder City spoke in favor of the tax. The voice of the voters clearly made an impact, along with Commissioners’ research of the lack of successful budgeting by the leaders of the Police Department. Outspoken opponents included leaders of the Democratic Party such as John Johnson (Exec. Director of the Progressive Democrats of America, who spoke at last month’s meeting), Independent American Party of Nevada Chairman Tom Jones, former Clark County Republican Party Chairwoman Cindy Lake, Steve Sanson of Veterans in Politics, director of P.A.N.D.A. Daphne Lee, a representative of the Black Panthers, Nevada Cop Block’s Kelly Patterson, numerous people running for State Assembly and other offices from each party, along with of course many citizens who came and went without any political or activist affiliations.
The fight against the “More Cops Tax” started last year when it was first brought to the County Commission in August, when Southern Nevada Watchdogs started a signature-gathering campaign against the tax increase. Led by Tasha Heath and Melissa Letourneau, and assisted by the Nevada Liberty Activists Coalition, the Watchdogs gained massive grassroots support and a large line of speakers turned out to speak against the tax’s second attempt in October. The tax was brought to the County Commission again in December, when about ten more people spoke against it (at the same meeting the anti-NDAA resolution won at, also pushed by the Watchdogs and Liberty Activists), even though it wasn’t to be voted on for another month. This time more opponents than ever showed up, over 400 petitions (comment cards) were signed, and the Sheriff struck out.
UPDATE 1/24: Yeah, it’s already being resurrected… Plans underway for fourth attempt at more cops sales tax
At the end of her public comment presenting figures such as the Sheriff’s $30 million shortfall, $140 million in reserves to hire more officers hasn’t been touched, liability insurance going from $1.3 million to $6.9 million in the past year, and $46 million in faulty equipment, Tasha reminded the Commission, “We do have people ready to run for the seats that are open, so don’t think that you’re sitting pretty and people aren’t watching you.”
Kelly Patterson of Nevada Cop Block emphatically stated, “Not one time has any cop ever been legally held accountable for shooting somebody. Even when that person’s been completely innocent, even when that person’s been unarmed. … In forty years, one guy has been fired, and that’s their entire history of their accountability. When you’re asking people that are already struggling to pay their bills to give you more money, then you need to justify how that money’s gonna be spent.”
Cindy Lake requested at the end of her public comment, “I’m here to request you demand a forensic audit before voting for this.”
Daphne Lee, Nevada director of P.A.N.D.A. (People Against the NDAA), commented, “Three out of the five candidates running so far for Sheriff, and one of them will be Sheriff in November, have adamantly stated that this tax is unnecessary, and that with proper budgeting from Metro, we can provide the needed officers without raising the sales tax on the many struggling families here in Southern Nevada.”
Steve Sanson, radio show host of Veterans in Politics, urged the Commission, “Ladies and gentlemen of Clark County, I have seen the line-item budget. We all know that Gillespie’s playing you. Ask, request, DEMAND a forensic audit from an out-of-state company before you raise taxes and give one red cent to the Sheriff.”
Gregory Hughes of the Clark County Republican Party’s E-Board closed with, “Maybe by doing some Spring cleaning of the Metro Police Department, we won’t have to be sticking our hands into the pockets of the taxpayers every time we want something.”
Ted Moody, a former Assistant Sheriff running for Sheriff this year, criticized the proposal saying, “This plan creates a false sense of urgency focused on quantity, not quality.”
Tom Collins started off the board’s discussion after the public comments, with a sales pitch of the tax using a prop sheet of paper with a dime, a nickel, and a one hundred dollar pill taped to it, which he held up for half of his speech to show the public that it would be fifteen cents per every $100 spent. He also took a couple jabs at those who gave public comments, such as a realtor’s job not being dangerous, and a sarcasm about anyone who would feel impacted by the tax increase- “Now if that hurts ya, by God you’re in a lot worse shape than a lot of people out there walking the streets”.
Following Collins, Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani stated that she always votes for taxes, but this time she was against it, and needed to see proof that they would spend the new funds on more cops as promised, since their history did not show they stuck to their budget. She also pointed out that our taxes are too high, and compared ours (8.1%) to Phoenix’s 5.74% sales tax.
“For four years no academies, for four years really no hiring, we didn’t even replace, which puts our officers at risk, which is what PPA rightfully brought to us last time around, so that’s a double whammy… and it’s almost in my mind that it was a creation of an additional shortage on top of the need for ‘more police officers’. And that’s disingenuous then. Say what you mean and mean what you say.” Giunchigliani commented.
Moments later, Sheriff Gillespie rose from his seat to the mic and interrupted the Commissioner to say “It’s not disingenuous.” Chairman Sisolak immediately cut him off, reminding him that Giunchigliani had the floor. The Sheriff then said sorry.
Commissioner Steve Sisolak grilled Gillespie, and as usual, Gillespie at times responded very defensively. In an interview with KXNT the day after the vote, Sisolak said,
“It’s about the trust that people have in Metro and the transparency that they feel Metro either has or lacks.”
He also told KXNT Sheriff Doug Gillespie may not be providing accurate numbers when he talks about how many officer serve our area. At one point during the discussion with the Sheriff, Cmsr. Sisolak couldn’t get a straight answer of roughly how many police there are, and quite a back-and-forth ensued.
Larry Brown clearly supported the tax, while not as fervently as Collins, but still used the predictable talking points- “Argue on any side of this, but we’re losing sight of more police officers on the street. If we don’t move in that direction, we’re going to be in a bad, bad situation.”
Brown also made comments about statistics and figures always changing, and told the “lobbyists” of the tax that they just need to pick a report and hammer down those figures so as to convince everyone.
When the proposal failed to pass, the police including the Sheriff left quickly. Gillespie held a press conference about an hour later. He appeared surprised and disappointed, and told reporters, “This is definitely a challenge. The original feedback I received was a ‘yes’ on More Cops.”
Well, his expectation didn’t work out quite as planned. Since then, he’s been going all over the place basically saying crime is going to get worse because this tax didn’t pass. Typical fearmongering. No new attempt has yet been proposed, but he has assured that they will return with a new plan.
This has been a unified fight and this is how we win our grassroots battles from now on. It’s not about Republican versus Democrats, infighting among any party or group, or any resentments. The Commissioners saw the numbers we had, not as one political group, but as a cross-section of all kinds, representing the public at large, a public who is fed up with the way things have been for too long. Now let’s keep working together and move on to our next victories at the local level, and beyond!
Review Journal video:
Full video of the meeting at: http://clark.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=17&clip_id=3475
Police brutality video I posted the day before the vote:
Clips of each speaker coming as soon as possible.