Mesquite City Councilman George Rapson discusses his first 100 days in office with the Mesquite Citizen Journal. Photo by Barbara Ellestad
"A hundred days isn't very long," said Mesquite City Councilman George Rapson in a recent interview with the Mesquite Citizen Journal. Rapson talked about a variety of issues he's dealt with so far as one of three newly elected Council members.
He says he puts in a lot of thought and research about each item that comes up on the Council agendas. He also said it's more technical and time consuming than it appears to be. "And, it's worth more money than they pay people," he added. That statement reflects back on the substantial pay cut that he and the other newly elected officials took on their first day in office. Previously, Council members received more than $15,000 per year. He now receives $10,000 per year plus benefits.
Rapson has turned out to be one of the most vocal councilmen on the dais, questioning City Staff and those who appear before Council on various agenda items until he's sure he understands both sides of the issue.
"It's not so much the criticism or the speculation that the press and public makes, it's more or less trying to do the right thing and get the right answer, so you can at least justify what you did," Rapson remarked. "It's fun."
Changes brought about by the new Council (Video 1)
(2:48) Rapson discussed some of the changes in City policy and how the Council operates that he's been a part of in the first 100 days.
"First, I want to give credit where credit is due. Mayor Wier has been aggressively making sure we're staying on top of those issues. He's not advocating a particular direction, he's just saying 'this is what we need to get out in front of the public.' I applaud him for that."
Rapson campaigned for election on more transparency in the local government and on being more open and responsive to the public. He mentions it again, making it apparent that it's one of his continuing goals as a sitting councilman.
"We said, 'open, honest, period,' Let's do this," Rapson quipped.
One of the first changes he and his fellow councilmen made was to open technical reviews to the public. He doesn't believe anything nefarious occurred in the previous administration when the meetings were closed to citizen attendance. "But the public wanted to be a part of it, so make them part of it. Who cares," he remarked.
He was most vocal during the Council confirmation of Mesquite Police Department Chief Troy Tanner, saying that he was simply following the motto of "Shop Mesquite." It was an easy choice for him, he says about Tanner's selection as Police Chief.
He spoke about changes the Council is currently deliberating that will revise and redefine the duties and responsibilities of the City Manager. "There aren't any major changes. But it puts the Council and Mayor back in the loop and puts more responsibility on their shoulders."
"A lot of these things are common sense and benign, but from a perception standpoint, they have a big impact," Rapson said.
Budget Issues (7:00)
He discussed the City's financial picture, more from a standpoint of his position on the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor Authority (LVCVA).
He remarked that the Council is putting more projects out to bid, even those that typically have been awarded without competition.
"Hopefully the economy will continue to grace us with an upswing in tourism which translates to more dollars. On the expense side, I think we're doing a pretty good job."
When he evaluates spending requests, he falls back on his professional experience as an accountant, saying "I just look at the cost-benefit analysis, look at the alternatives, and look at the need, and what would happen if we didn't spend it."
Thoughts on Proposed Indoor Sports Complex (Video 2)
(00:10) Rapson expounded on his thoughts and ideas about the proposed indoor sports complex that's now before the City Council and his take on the continued partnership with Nevada Community Solutions (NCS), who's been tied to a new amphitheater. Both projects are envisioned as additions to the Mesquite Sports and Events Center located at the base of Flat Top Mesa on the city's west side.
"We have a contract with NCS. The prior Council voted for one particular amenity (the amphitheater) and I think we collectively believe that Mr. Parda has been very cooperative in looking at alternatives," Rapson began. Michael Parda is the local representative of NCS.
Later in the interview he reflected on the contracted land sales to NCS, cautioning that the City was not going to repeat the mistakes of past administration by selling the acreage cheaply only to have the developer request a more prosperous re-zoning that increased the land's value.
"The question is simply 'is there something that's more beneficial to Mesquite in the short term, mid-term, and long term?' It's something that apparently has very little public support," Rapson said in reference to the amphitheater project.
He described the indoor sports complex as a more intuitive project based on Mesquite's location. "There's an immediate synergy to the existing sports complex by adding some fields," Rapson said.
He talked about potential users like college sports teams that may rent the new project. "But can you quantify what this really is," he questioned. He added that the LVCVA had provided City officials with data that was helping them determine answers to some of the questions about the kinds of economic benefits the City could expect from the project.
"There is no crystal ball. You have to take the numbers as you get them," he remarked.
While he admitted that "it's not a money maker for the City," he discussed the economic activity the sports complex could generate for businesses around town.
"But what I don't know yet, is 'how much is it? Where is the money coming from? How much is the City going to be in to it for? What exactly are we going to get? How versatile is it or is it not,'" Rapson added.
"Before I throw my hat to one side or the other, I want to know how much it will cost, what we're going to get, what form will it take, and who are we getting it from," he concluded. "I just need more information and we don't have it yet."
Committee Appointments (Video 3)
(0:10) Rapson discussed his appointment to the LVCVA Board of Directors by Mayor Wier. He's the first non-Mayor to represent Mesquite on the Authority. The LVCVA appointment is considered a 'plum' assignment.
"After the election, I thought I might be able to help out on that commission," Rapson remarked. He had a long career in the casino industry, holding the General Manager's job at the CasaBlanca Resort and Hotel for eight years.
"I didn't think anything about the politics of the thing. Mark [Mayor Wier] called me one day and offered it to me. I give him all the credit. He did something that was completely out of the box. I think he did a good job with the appointments," Rapson said as he talked about all the Council committee appointments.
"It was based on his perceived qualifications of us," he added.
(4:00) Rapson went on to explain how the money flows from the LVCVA back to contributors based on collected room tax.
He remarked that Mesquite is the only city that receives more from the LVCVA than it pays in based on a complicated formula that determines how the money is divvied up.
Rapson briefly discussed a new high-speed rail project that is just beginning to bubble to the surface through the LVCVA and how he wants to make sure Mesquite is part of it from the ground up.
"I just want to make sure we don't get forgotten," he quipped. "It's probably 15-plus years out."
Other Issues (Video 4)
(0:05) Rapson expressed his thoughts on the 'Smoke-Free Mesquite' movement that's underway in the city.
"I don't smoke. From a personal perspective I don't enjoy going to smoke-filled casinos. On the other hand, I did smoke so it's not a killer to me. Fundamentally, I think this is an issue for the citizens of Mesquite. I've suggested it go through the referendum process, get it on a ballot and find out what the City of Mesquite wants," he commented.
He suggested that the American Lung Association or the Heart Association conduct a marketability study rather than have one sponsored by the City government.
"This isn't something the council should demand of businesses or the citizens," he added.
(2:00) "I can't tell you that there's a magic pill out there that's going to create a visitor," Rapson said as he discussed ways to increase the marketability of Mesquite.
"Every visitor is a different spending profile. The casinos market to a certain group, successfully so, and they will continue to do that. We've got seven championship golf courses that no other town of 15,000 or 20,000 [people] has on the planet. We have an I-15 corridor. We've got relatively cheap land. We've got a good climate and clear skies," Rapson explained.
"But I don't think it's the City's job to market that. I think it's private businesses' responsibility," he added, listing existing marketing groups like Golf Mesquite and the Mesquite Resort Association. He suggested that other businesses in town 'coat-tail' off of them.
He remarked that impact fees on new businesses "are ridiculous, but we don't have any control over them." He was referring to fees charged to new homes and businesses mainly by the Overton Power District and the Virgin Valley Water District.
Reflecting back on his experiences in private industry, he would like to see the City regenerate an old idea of having private business representatives meet with potential new businesses to help market Mesquite. "The best way to promote Mesquite to a businessman is to have another businessman involved in it. Not a politician, not a staffer. They hear the truth that way," he concluded.
He ended the interview saying, "we have a great staff. I know some people may disagree. But, I'll tell you, they're hard workers and they are trying. I think we're going in the right direction and our message is getting through."
[Editor's note: A one-on-one interview with Councilman Al Litman will be published Wednesday, Oct. 12. on the Mesquite Citizen Journal.]
Posted Date: 10/11/2011 Very interesting! Really like Councilman Rapson's "bean counter" analytical mentality. By: -
Posted Date: 10/11/2011 Good job, george. keep up the good work but watch out for NCS -that is a trap we might fall into AGAIN. By: Henry
Posted Date: 10/11/2011 George Rapson is inherently intuitive on the issues before Mesquite. He has been available, receptive and responsive to discuss the issue. His participation on and off the Dias indicates his genuine motivation and dedication to Mesquite and he is a Mesquite promoter not a self-promoter. He is correct that the position warrants more pay then all the new councilman and Mayor are receiving. The reduction was too knee-jerk to the budget issues and imposed by the majority of the old council who knew they were not going to be affected by the 33% reduction. No other city employee received anything close to that amount of reduction. How many individuals would accept such a position of responsibility at wages far below Nevada’s minimum wage? Only individuals dedicated to their civic duty. By: David Ballweg
Posted Date: 10/11/2011 Why do we keep trying to tie ourselves to NCS? What is NCS's track record thus far in Mesquite? It has options on quite a bit of land and has yet to do anything with any of it. Again the question -- what is it going to do with the 10 acres near the proposed "tent?" If it builds a hotel, restaurants, athletic supply stores, etc. there, how much real new business will carry over to downtown Mesquite? Not much except to fill up a vehicle with gas. Why would any athletic team/supporters travel back and forth to downtown if most of the amenities are there near the "tent?"
When we know the full extent of any agreement with NCS (Jackson Hole meeting), then we will know if it is in our best interests -- local businesses and citizens. By: judy