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Mayor Casts Tie-Breaking Vote to Keep Gold Butte Resolution-Video
Posting Date: 04/25/2012

By Barbara Ellestad
The Mesquite City Council Chambers were packed Apr. 24 with citizens wanting to hear a debate on rescinding or keeping a resolution on Gold Butte. Photo by Barbara Ellestad

The Mesquite City Council Chambers were packed
Apr. 24 with citizens wanting to hear a debate
on rescinding or keeping a resolution on Gold
Butte. Photo by Barbara Ellestad

In the most contentious meeting yet of the current Mesquite City Council, the Mayor was forced to cast a tie-breaking vote that ultimately retained a City Resolution in favor of designating Gold Butte as a National Conservation Area (NCA).

The almost-hour long debate among the four councilors and Mayor at the Apr. 24 meeting saw each one explain why he either wanted to rescind the resolution or keep it on the books. Councilman Geno Withelder was out of town during the meeting. See Mesquite Citizen Journal stories Gold Butte Resolution on Council Agenda and Mesquite City Council to Revisit Gold Butte Resolution for more background information on the agenda item.

At times the debate turned personal with Mayor Mark Wier admonishing two of the Councilmen, Karl Gustaveson and Kraig Hafen, to settle down.

Hafen, who sponsored the agenda item, opened the discussion by saying "this has absolutely nothing to do with cattle and Cliven Bundy." He was referring to a Bunkerville rancher who recently had a run-in with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) over cattle grazing rights in the Gold Butte area.

"The question is, where does the City Council and Mayor stand on this situation. The second thing to be made clear is that those from Washington D.C., whether its elected officials or department heads, they owe it to the City of Mesquite and the citizens of Mesquite that they contact Mayor Mark Wier when they are coming to the City of Mesquite."

An hour long public comment period ensued with comments and opinions split almost 50-50 about the proposal to rescind the resolution. Several lifelong residents of the Mesquite area spoke against increased federal government control of Gold Butte and wanted the resolution rescinded. Others spoke in favor of keeping the resolution as a way to gain national conservation status for the area.

Gustaveson, who was on the City Council that passed the current resolution in 2010 and a previous one in 2009, vehemently fought against rescinding it. "There's always going to be a group of people who don't agree with anything and we know that," Gustaveson said. "They say this will happen or that will happen. It's obvious they haven't read the resolution. It's obvious what we want this to look like." At that point Gustaveson asked City Clerk Cherry Lawson to read the resolution out loud in its entirety.

Gustaveson noted that Hafen and Municipal Judge Ron Dodd helped craft the resolution two years ago. "At the time they seemed fine with it. I guess they can't live with it now. This resolution will benefit the community. We're all different. Trying to scare people is not the way to pull the together. If we don't pull together, they'll do it for us," he said, referencing federal lawmakers in Washington D.C. who are crafting legislation to declare the Gold Butte area as a NCA.

Saying that the people in Bunkerville and Mesquite used to get along and that he has spent five years on the Council "talking to people about trying to get along, I've made almost zero on that. It hasn't done much good."

He admonished that "it's time we put a stop to this because we are going backwards. It's easy to bring your relatives in and a few people in and have them try to throw a monkey wrench in it but the numbers don't lie."

He was referencing the appearance of Hafen's younger brother Tillman who spoke in favoring of rescinding the resolution during the public comment period. His remark was confusing since those in favor of keeping the resolution had brought in people from Las Vegas to speak against rescinding it.

"I am in support of a National Conservation Area," Councilman Al Litman said as he began explaining his position. "I'm not sure if Resolution 669 answers all my questions, however I'm not opposed to this resolution."

Litman remarked that resolutions in general are advisory. "We're not making any laws. Those will be made on another level. We've clouded the issue because we're getting a lot of opinions."

He referenced the number of emails that had been sent to the Council regarding the agenda item saying, "most of them read exactly the same. About 90 percent of them were in favor [of keeping the resolution]. We need to remove the studies from this. The numbers can be manipulated any which way you feel like so you get the answer you want. We need to remove the emotions from this. We need to remove the rumors. We need to remove the paid consultants from this program. We need to remove the special interests. Gold Butte has existed for one billion years. It isn't going any place."

Litman suggested the resolution should remain in place and that the issue be placed on a voting ballot as an advisory question and "leave it up to the voters to come back with an answer. The answers to this aren't going to come from us. They are going to come from the federal government whether we like it or we don't like it. Do I like it? No. Will I have to live with it? Probably."

"Council has an obligation to occasionally revisit past decisions," Councilman George Rapson said in response to Gustaveson's earlier admonishment about reversing many past Council actions. "Attitudes change and issues evolve."

"I believe Mesquite needs a clear voice in this thing, not an environmental voice which seems to be the loudest," he continued. "We cannot have outside groups advocating on behalf of the City. The City needs to be part of the process and not a bystander. Resolution 669 has some specific inclusions in support of the designation of an NCA. Although I'm not opposed fundamentally to an NCA, I don't think this resolution is okay. I think it can use some tweaking, fixing, and bolstering."

Rapson mentioned the resolution's call for a standing committee that would advise lawmakers on actions that could possibly be taken in the Gold Butte region. "When is that going to happen," he asked. Even

though the resolution was passed two years ago, the recommended committee of local representatives has never met. The resolution calls for the committee to be established by an 'Act of Congress.'

"You've got to be kidding me. An Act of Congress? They haven't passed anything. It won't get created although I think it would be a good thing to do," he quipped.

He read several passages of the resolution's language that calls for the committee to assist in drafting legislation that would govern 'any and all future designations of wilderness within the Gold Butte Complex.'

"I don't want to see any wilderness up there. Let me make that very clear. If we're going to tweak it, we should add no more closed roads and revisit the ones that have already been closed. They have guys, they have closed some roads. When they start shutting roads down, if not today, it might be tomorrow or ten years from now, how are you going to get there," he asked rhetorically.

Rapson also commented that no one really knows how big the Gold Butte region is because there are varying ideas about how many acres are included and the exact boundaries of the proposed NCA.

"I didn't put this on the agenda to divide anybody," Hafen said in answer to Gustaveson's earlier remarks. "Ron Dodd's and my name have been mentioned with the resolution. References have been made that I supported this resolution [in 2010]. You are 110 percent correct. Here's why. If you go back to the first resolution, from the minutes, at 5:57 Mayor Holecheck read the short title of Resolution 649. Mayor Holecheck said she had the pleasure of working with Nancy Hall on the resolution. She said it was very important because this is an area that needs preservation. At 5:58, one minute later, this was all done," Hafen stated.

Hafen was referring to an October, 2009, Council meeting at which Resolution 649 calling for the Gold Butte region to be declared a NCA with Wilderness was passed. Hall is the Executive Director of the Friends of Gold Butte conservation organization.

"We were all asleep because there was no participation. Mr. Dodd and I found out about this and had some concerns. We got involved," Hafen explained. He added that he wanted the Gold Butte resolution to "have more input" from citizens.

"We have one shot to let the Federal government know where we stand. Let's do it right," he remarked.

"If we back out of this discussion, we'll have nothing to negotiate with," Mayor Wier said when the debate came to him.

He explained that in conversations he's had with Mesquite's Congressional delegations, "they will attempt to make accommodations for multiple use on Gold Butte. Multiple use means ATVs, it means hiking, it means wilderness, it means all those things. It means historical uses out there. We do have some challenges when it comes to wilderness out there."

Wilderness designations prohibit any motorized activities in the area and no improvements or repairs can be made to an existing roads, trails, or structures.

In response to Rapson's comments about the advisory committee called for in the resolution, Wier said, "I don't think that committee has every been formed. I don't think Congress has ever moved on it. I hope they will."

Wier added that one of his main concerns was funding for the NCA maintenance and operations. Describing budget cuts within BLM and other federal agencies, he said, "we can say an NCA designation will move us up on the list for possibly more money. It doesn't guarantee it. But we will get put on a priority list. That doesn't guarantee protection [of Gold Butte]."

"Will this be a massive economic draw for Mesquite," Wier asked. "I can't answer that question. I don't think there's anybody here that can honestly answer that question with empirical data. It doesn't exist."

He commented that there were various ways to create an economic draw through multiple uses of the Gold Butte region including the construction of a boat ramp on the eastern side of Lake Mead. People would be able to access it by a road leading from Mesquite through Bunkerville and into Gold Butte.

Reiterating that he wasn't "telling Bunkerville and Moapa what to do, I think it's important that we stay at the table and we continue to work towards agreements. One or two sides have dug their feet in and don't want to move on certain issues. That's their choice. We need to move forward and do some things."

"Until there are some motivations from both sides to come to the table, we're just going to sit here and stonewall each other," Hafen said as he prepared to make a motion on the agenda item. "I'd like to level the playing field and make sure people come to the table. I'd like to suspend this resolution and allow people to come forward with input. We'll bring this back when we can get some consensus."

City Attorney Cheryl Hunt advised the Council that the resolution would have to be rescinded because suspension of it wasn't an option.

Hafen clarified that he wanted the resolution rescinded and the issue brought back in 120 days. Rapson seconded the motion.

After Gustaveson's objections, Wier called for a vote. Hafen and Rapson voted in favor of the motion and Gustaveson and Litman voted against the motion. Wier, casting the tie-breaking vote, also voted no.

"If someone calls and asks if we're for or against [an NCA designation for Gold Butte], we'd have to say no. But we need to be at the table," Wier remarked as he explained his vote.

Rapson made a follow-up motion that essentially would keep the resolution in place and revise parts of it within 120 days. That motion died for lack of second.

"The resolution stands," Wier declared.

The video below contains the Mesquite City Council debate on the Gold Butte resolution issue.

The video below is from the Public Comment period for the Gold Butte Resolution agenda item at the Mesquite City Council meeting, Apr. 24.

 

Commentary
  • Posted Date: 04/25/2012
    Who's Hafen kidding? Obviously, this is about Bundy and his cattle grazing illegally on an area that belongs to all of us. Rapson's support of Hafen's attempt to recind the resolution suggests whose pocket he's in, as well, and neither councilmen appear to care about representing their constituents, the citizens of Mesquite. Hooray for Carl who maintained his support for the continuation of the resolution and for Litman and Weir's votes. Remember Mesquite, who's on your side come election time.
    By: KS
  •  
  • Posted Date: 04/25/2012
    This discussion is nothing but a tempest in a tea cup full of bobbing political aspirations. Gold Butte is FEDERAL LAND, and as such, the BLM will designate it however they see fit, resolutions or not. A suggestion for the hysterical ATV crowd. Take your head out of the crankcase and look up the definition of "Wilderness" then ask yourselves how much of the entirety of Gold Butte would qualify. Sleep easy, you won't have to walk anywhere anytime soon.
    By: Andrew Newcom
  •  
  • Posted Date: 04/25/2012
    I agree this is much ado about nothing, it is going to be an NCA sooner or later. I applaud Gustaveson, Litman and the mayor for foresight and smart thinking. I still think, based on the Hafens family businesses (Ofwhich there are many), that Kraig should have recused himself from this issue. As far as Mr. Bundy, he should be sued for the past money owed to US or the cattle rounded up and sold. That cattle issue has been determined by the courts time and time again in many different states and Bundy is dead wrong.
    By: Vic M
  •  
  • Posted Date: 04/25/2012
    When any politican says we should bring this back in 120 days, 1 year, 10 years or whatever, they are just kicking the can down the road. We didn't elect them to postpone things. Just vote on it and go forward. Bottom line is there are probably way more problems in Bunkerville than we have yet to even learn about.
    By: Charlie
  •  
  • Posted Date: 04/25/2012
    Where was state assemblyman and Bunkerville resident Cresent Hardy when this discussion was going on??? Notice how he always avoids anything controversial? At a minimum he should have supported his cattle buddies but he couldn't even do that.
    By: Nancy
  •  
  • Posted Date: 04/25/2012
    Nancy: Cresent Hardy was in attendance at the meeting and spoke during the public comment period. His presentation is included in the second video available at the end of this article along with all the other public comments. Thank you, Barbara Ellestad, Editor/Publisher
    By: Barbara Ellestad
  •  
  • Posted Date: 04/25/2012
    Wow! So Carl read the emails from people in the community? A year ago he couldn't care less about all the emails in his in box in support of an agenda item. Interesting how a prior Mayor can have so much power over him. Just remember he is tied to that nameless, gutless individual and will use Carl for her own personal needs.
    By: Mandy
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  • Posted Date: 04/25/2012
    Thank you editor.. I didn't write very well. What I meant to say was he didn't make it clear (to me) how the residents near the NCA were going to maintain it. Why hasn't he said anything about it before now? I think what he is saying ishe represents Bunkerville and not Mesquite.
    By: Nancy
  •  
  • Posted Date: 04/25/2012
    While watching all of the public comments of those opposed to the resolution, I kept hearing 'let the locals take care of it... let them clean it up without the government getting involved.' OKAY... so where are the locals lining up to take care of this place? Why not go ahead and establish a group of people to manage it, since they are all so willing to volunteer? OH WAIT! That should be what 'Friends of Gold Butte' should do! This town is a ton of talk, but nothing to back it up. If this were as much of an importance to locals as it 'seemed' last night, then it wouldn't be such an issue. People in this town need to walk the walk if they are going to talk the talk. Oh, and by the way, if this town wants to prevent any further deterioration, maybe it should fix the problems it has RIGHT NOW, instead of trying to find other new ways to spend money. Start with a NEW Chamber of Commerce who will do more than just get drunk once a month on the members' dime...
    By: You Know
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  • Posted Date: 04/25/2012
    Cresent Hardy talks big but doesn't follow through. I have ridden my ATV for years from one end of Gold Butte to the other. The whole area is filled with trash left by ranchers, broken PVC pipe, wire, wood, old tires,corregation. Maybe the ranchers should pickup after themselves, starting with Hardy.
    By: Kenny
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  • Posted Date: 04/25/2012
    The NCA was the right thing to do. The "pioneers" can cry the blues about how that land belongs to them but they better wake up. Times are changing and they better too. Good job, Al, Karl and Mark.
    By: Marty
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  • Posted Date: 04/25/2012
    Finally, a smart move on the NCA. Let's get this city on the map.
    By: Stan
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