"It's been interesting. All of the things you suspect, may or may not have happened in the past, I don't know. It is absolutely different today," is how Mesquite City Councilman George Rapson summed up his first year in office as he sat down with the Mesquite Citizen Journal in an interview.
"It's a lot more work, it's a lot more preparation, there are a lot more things going on, it's a little more complicated, more time-consuming, than I expected it to be," he said as he described his responsibilities as a Councilman. "On the other hand, I think we've made some good, positive changes. I hope there's a perception that this is a more open government today than it was a year and a half ago. 'Hizzoner' (Mayor Mark Wier) has done a good job leading some of these issues."
"I try to talk a lot in Council (meetings). That's on purpose. I want people to understand why I'm doing what I'm doing. That's important to me," Rapson said. Probably more than other Council members, Rapson goes to great lengths during meetings to make sure issues are discussed in depth so the public understands what's going on.
As an example, he used the recent citizen flare-up over the Pioneer Blvd Shared Use Path issue in which the City planned to remove the current sidewalk and replace it with one slightly larger. "I started out thinking, 'who cares.' It was a few people driving the bus. Why are we (the Council and Staff) fighting this battle? No one is complaining about the width of the path so why are we fighting somebody who doesn't want it widened? So I changed my view."
"But there was a presumption that people knew what I was thinking. That's not a fair presumption in any respect. I put things out there to get the counter-arguments to start a dialogue."
He was adamant when he said that he's never been pressured by any of the other Councilmen before a meeting to vote on an issue one way or another. "I really appreciate that."
"Clearly what we have today isn't functional," Rapson said when the discussion turned to budget issues, specifically the possible alteration of the Consolidated Tax (C-Tax) formula. The C-Tax disbursed by the State provides about 44 percent of the City's General Fund money.
"Never once did the formula anticipate a wholesale bottom-dropping of the economy. When the formulas were created there were some inequities. I'm not sure how the (new formula) is going to affect Mesquite. I get the sense that's it's not going to radically change but it will stabilize."
"Predictable revenue is a huge piece of the process. I think it's crucial that whatever is developed is a system that's more stable, more predictable, and more universally fair," Rapson commented.
"Business license fees and impact fees are not a significant part of the budget," Rapson stated when the discussion turned to changing how the City charges businesses for those two items. "Every dime is significant but you're not going to eliminate the fees. You're going to stretch them out so they're paid semiannually or reduce them to some percentage of what they are."
"Start up businesses have the hardest time," Rapson continued as he described all of the expenses new businesses incur. "When the City has a series of fees that add up to several thousand dollars, it's helpful to give them a payment plan. Let the business get going before there's an absolute depletion of funds."
On the other hand, Rapson explained that if the City stretches out payments of license and impact fees for businesses, it would require more work for City Staff. "There has to be some teeth in it. Any time there's a payment schedule, there's work involved."
"To the extent they are City-owned properties, we absolutely have a responsibility to keep them cleaned up and looking good," Rapson said about the downtown corridor along Mesquite and Sandhill Blvds. "But unless private property owners are breaking an ordinance, we have no right to tell them what to do."
"Property rights are a big deal. I don't advocate eminent domain," Rapson declared.
"Having said that, would I like to see downtown looking better than it is? Absolutely. To me, the best-looking property in town is one that has a tenant in it."
He added that the empty business properties in the Calais Center on Pioneer Blvd looks as bad to him as the empty buildings along the downtown corridor.
"There's no special place in my heart for downtown. I think it's a series of individual property owners who've had an ample opportunity over the years to do something productive with their property and have chosen not to. That's their choice."
"They're not selling. They're not improving. They're not fixing. Why would we help them as opposed to helping the person on Pioneer Blvd? Why are they special?"
"I would love to see something happen that would create synergy downtown. But it's going to be the private sector that does it. It's not going to be the government."
Rapson continued, saying he was in favor of using the matching grant portion of the RDA (Redevelopment Agency) fund program to help small businesses improve their properties. "As far as spending the remaining $2.5 million on the (proposed) event center, which I am a proponent of, or something else, how do you spend it? Do you give it to the property owners who decided they didn't want to do anything on their own? They've held out long enough that finally the government is going to help them improve their land and make money? Why are we obligated to do that? Why them and not someone else who owns property in town?"
Proposed Mesquite Indoor Sports Complex
"Philosophically, it makes sense," Rapson said about the proposed Mesquite Indoor Sports Complex (MISC).
"I haven't heard any other proposal that makes sense, that could instantly bring visitors to Mesquite. Visitors are the lifeblood of Mesquite," he declared.
"We have a history of visitors visiting because of our sports facilities. Intuitively, a climate-controlled sports facility is great. It doesn't matter then that we're in the middle of the desert. The concept makes sense."
"Having said that, it's a lot of money." City Staff has estimated that the MISC could cost about $5 million. "We don't have it in the RDA. The history of the RDA funds show that they have been spent on some things that clearly don't make us any money or benefit the community. The library land. Did we need that? Did we pay a fair price? I don't know. I don't think so. But there's nothing I can do about that."
Rapson lamented the fact that a lot of the RDA money had not been spent on facilities that would improve the community. "But this would be something that would add to Mesquite, make it more of an attraction, and create visitor volume and tax revenue. But I don't know if we can afford it. We don't have it in the General Fund."
He reiterated that no one has committed any funds to construct the facility yet. "I can tell you I'm not going to spend General Fund dollars for it."
"And," Rapson continued, "I'm not sure it's in the right place." The only location the RFP proposes for the facility is at the Mesquite Sports and Events Center near the Flat Top Mesa.
He wants the design-build responses to have detailed line items so that the proposals could easily be altered for other locations. "Then it will give us some idea of the cost. Is it $6 million, then it's 'bye-bye' in any location. Can you pare it down to maybe $3 million and put it somewhere else? Now you're starting to talk some range that we can get money from another source. I'm not married to that location by any respect. But what we get back will give us enough information to say that this is a deal we can do somewhere or it's not a deal we can do."
He shares the same belief as Mayor Wier when asked about the effect a similar facility being built in St. George would have on Mesquite's sports complex. "Because St. George has golf courses, does that mean we shouldn't have put any golf courses in?"
"Just because they do something, means we don't do it? I don't agree with that philosophy at all," Rapson said. "Mesquite offers things that St. George doesn't. It's a different experience."
He described an experience he had when he worked for Black Gaming several years ago when the company explored the possibility of tearing down the Mesquite Star and building a convention center instead. "It's a very complicated thing. Everyone finally said 'no way.'"
Rapson is Mesquite's representative on the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA). He talked about the organization's support for events in Mesquite that help bring in visitors and tourists and the marketing support the City receives. "They are here to put people in our hotel rooms."
Gold Butte NCA Issue
"No. Never was," Rapson said about the City's current resolution that supports designating the Gold Butte area south of Bunkerville as a National Conservation Area. At a City Council meeting in June, the councilors entertained a motion to eliminate the resolution. "The first motion was to eliminate it. I seconded the motion. It lost. I made a second motion to amend it which was my first choice to begin with. I wanted it to say we support an NCA in a limited form. We want a defined smaller area. Absolutely no wilderness areas. No closing any roads."
The resolution calls for Congress to create a standing committee that would help manage the Gold Butte NCA. "That's the biggest oxymoron on the planet. There is no 'act' of Congress. We weren't going to see that committee and everyone knew it. It's a great placating line in the document."
"I'm for an NCA in a very limited form which essentially puts me against it because we'll never get it in a limited form. When government gets involved, it never gets any smaller; it only gets bigger," Rapson remarked.
"Nothing will happen if it's designated as a Wilderness area. Zero," Rapson exclaimed. A Wilderness designation disallows any motorized or mechanized access to an area. "You're not going to access that area by anything other than a motorized vehicle."
Rapson agrees there should be defined guidelines such as requiring vehicles to stay on designated roads.
"I would love to see that," he remarked when asked about designating more streets and roadways in Mesquite that would make it easier for people to ride ATVs from their homes out into the desert. He explained that many of the washes people used to access the desert have been 'boxed and fenced off.' "I think our police have been user-friendly and not aggressive in pursuing ATV riders."
"Would it be better to have designated trails? I think so. You can post appropriate signage so people can be more aware. It's the same thing with golf carts. I don't have any big issues with that either."
Goals for the Next Year
"I don't go out looking for issues. I address them as they come up," Rapson said when asked about his goals for the next year.
"I think we will have some definitive answer in the Virgin River Habitat issue at some point. I think we're working in the right direction. I would like to see that resolved more than anything else. Our goal is one fee, one plan," Rapson explained.
Under the Virgin River Habitat Conservation Recovery Plan, the City charges a $500 fee for grading land on top of the $550 fee Clark County charges for a separate Clark County Conservation Plan. The Virgin Valley Water District plans to charge a third additional fee. Other entities in Clark County only charge the single $550 fee.
"Other than that, I don't go out looking for issues," Rapson said as the interview concluded.
Posted Date: 07/17/2012 Boo to Mr Rapson for not thinking the City should be involved in helping to improve Mesquite Blvd. Have you never lived in a place with a downtown? It is obviously the main thoroughfare through Mesquite. And comparing the sport tent to golfing is ludicrous. The folks who come to golf are from all over. The kids who come to play soccer are from.......you guessedit, Utah! Mr. Rapson, time to take your head out of the sand and listen to the citizens! By: J
Posted Date: 07/17/2012 Wow! I never knew that Rapson is so shallow. He does not lead, he exists. A cities function is NOT to bring people in, that is the job of the marketing experts that work for the casinos and other businesses. A city exists to provide necessary services to the residents. Wildly spending money in the hopes of having people stop by and gamble is nutty. City codes should be enforced on the slum-like buildings on Mesquite Blvd. Even if the owners have famous last names. Will not vote for Rapson again. He is pathetic. He could learn from Kraig Hafen, a true leader. By: ralphedwards
Posted Date: 07/17/2012 "I don't go out looking for issues" - what that means is Rapson has no vision, no ideas. He just sits on a log and waits for whatever comes up. Not a good leader, not good for Mesquite. By: Sandi
Posted Date: 07/17/2012 An old abandoned eye sore sits across from the Maverik gas station. People continually complained but Andy Barton got a complaint last week and it is in the process of being torn this week. That is how our city should work. Figure it out, get the job done. Good job Andy, pay attention George. Rapson came into the council with no ideas and he still has none. Just ask him. By: Lanny
Posted Date: 07/17/2012 Think outside the box, George. Think outside the box. By: Peggy
Posted Date: 07/17/2012 I like Rapson. I like the fact that he is always taking the lead in talking about issues during council meetings that other council members would allow to slide by if not for him. I don't like the fact that he works for Geno Withelder at the real estate office where he is now employed, or that he and Geno are joined at the hip in support of this ridiculous soccer tent. That aside, he is a much better councilman than I expected, and I hope he continues to be vocal during council meetings. By: Kyle Dennison
Posted Date: 07/17/2012 Rapson fails to understand that it is the governments responsibility to create an environment in which entrepreneurship can survive.
It was government that created the homestead act upon which the original pioneers settled, it was the government that distributed water rights which allowed the land to flourish. It was the government in 1990 that offered public land for sale and allowed the private sector to build houses, golf courses, and gaming places and the entire pioneer blvd side of the community.
It was the government that established zoning regulations, health standards,roadways and a range of public services that continue to support the population.
It's the government that sets the standards that allow businessmen and women to declare bankruptcy while still sheltering profits.
And it is local government that promised in a series of budget and planning documents to redevelop downtown Mesquite. A promise that they have not kept.
Government is not the answer but it is part of the solution.
The major problem is the failure of Rapson and others to distinguish between government investments that increases money flowing in the economy and investments that do not.
Posted Date: 07/17/2012 George is there because the casinos backed him and he is beholding to them. Figure it out George and do the right thing without being told how to vote. By: Gary Krull
Posted Date: 07/17/2012 I am disappointed with Rapson. This video is an expose' of what a lazy, pathetic leader he really is. No goals or vision for the future except for wanting noisy ATV's to take over the town & destroy our beautiful surrounding desert. Will never vote for him again. By: Peter J
Posted Date: 07/18/2012 It's too bad Councilman Rapson continues to perpetuate the misunderstanding that designating a wilderness area will close additional roads in Gold Butte. There are currently over 500 miles of designated roads in Gold Butte, none of which are located in the proposed wilderness areas and none of which would be closed with an NCA designation. Citizens, please vote for council members who choose to inform themselves and speak accurately of the issues. I continue to be disappointed with the level of competence of some of the council members, so much so that I have elected to change my voter registration from my other home to Clark County. I'm probably not the only one. By: Terri R.