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Mesquite City Councilman Al Litman relaxes on his patio as he reflects back on his first 100 days in office with the Mesquite Citizen Journal. Photo by Barbara Ellestad.
[Editor's note: This is the second of a six part series in which all five City Councilmen and Mesquite's Mayor reflect back on their first 100 days of the new administration. See MCJ story The First 100 Days for more details.]
The only City Councilman elected to a two-year term, Al Litman is pleased with the his performance and that of his fellow councilors on the dais in the first 100 days of Mesquite's new administration.
Relaxing on his back patio, Litman offered a range of views on topics like changing the city election dates, the proposed indoor sports complex, and his concerns about the financial outlook for Mesquite.
(0:30) He feels as comfortable sitting on the dais during Council meetings as he does on his patio. "I thought it would be a little nerve-wracking, but it's not. It's Mesquite. These are good people. They are coming there [to the Council meetings] to get legitimate answers to legitimate questions," Litman commented.
"My goal is to evaluate everything carefully before I make a decision."
He's not one to talk much during Council agenda items, but it's evident from the few comments he makes that he's done his homework and researched the issues.
Regardless of whether he's making popular or unpopular decisions, "I think about it before I jump into anything," he added.
When discussing many of the campaign issues he's been a part of resolving, he brought up the city election date change. The Council recently amended the Mesquite City Code to move local elections from odd-numbered years to even-numbered years. That brings them in line with State and Federal elections. Because Litman is filling a vacancy left by Councilwoman Donna Fairchild's death, his term lasts just two years.
"We were very surprised overall as a Council that the people voted for it [the change]," Litman remarked. Litman, Councilman Kraig Hafen, and Mayor Mark Wier all campaigned against the change, saying local elections would get buried in the ballot.
"Our gut feeling is that it would go down in flames. And it didn't. But with this group now, if the people want it, the people get it."
That attitude has spilled over to other issues as well. Bringing back the school crossing guards that were eliminated by the previous council in a cost-cutting attempt, was a "logical, feasible thing to do," Litman said. "The city, in the year prior, spent more money not having crossing guards than having them. I predicted that in the first place. Maybe their intentions were fine, but it didn't work."
He applauds technical reviews being opened to the public. "We're not getting a lot of people at them but that's to be expected. It's the middle of the day on Monday."
One issue he's particularly proud of changing is the ordinance that prevented local Boy Scout troops from conducting their traditional door-to-door food drives. "I'm the one that petitioned that so the Scouts can get back out there and do what we wanted them to do. I'm real positive about that," he added.
The annual Boy Scouts' food collections were banned in December 2008 when the City Council, Mayor, and Staff determined they violated Mesquite Municipal Code because the boys were leaving empty food collection bags on doorsteps. The boys would later return to pick up food donations left in the bags.
In an attempt to show displeasure with the ban, citizens planned a silent protest at a December 2008 City Council meeting and brought over 800 pounds of food donations which they planned to leave in Council Chambers. The citizens were stopped at the City Hall front doors by armed policemen and threatened with arrest if they took the food into the Chambers.
He spoke about the modifications to the City ordinances that govern the City Manager's position. "The City Manager shouldn't have ultimate control over everything but should have someone else to answer to. I think it will give us a little bit better organized government that way."
(8:00) Moving on to a discussion about the City's financial outlook, Litman said, "compared to other cities, we're in great shape. Compared to where we ought to be, we're not in great shape. In order to achieve what we've done so far, there's been a lot of layoffs in the City and a lot of the departments have been decimated. We have to remain very vigilant on this issue."
Describing himself as fiscally conservative, he also said that the current Council would be "watching every dollar that goes out the door," without sacrificing services to citizens.
He mentioned that the Mayor had come up with creative ideas for managing the City's budget, "which go along with his management style."
When asked about more specific spending constraints, Litman said, "the problem is we're running pretty lean in the City now. I'm afraid if we cut too much more out of it as we go along, we're not going to be able to cut the services the City needs. If we just stay status quo for a couple years, we'll start making that money back up."
He briefly mentioned that the Mayor's decision to move his office from behind locked doors on the second floor of City Hall to the management office area on the first floorwas more to make himself accessible to Staff and the public rather than just a cost-saving move. "The
Mayor no longer has a personal secretary that prior mayors have had. It isn't necessary in this particular case. It's functioning fine the way it is," Litman commented.
(Video 2, 0:05) Continuing with his examples of how elected officials are striving to save money wherever possible, Litman mentioned that, when possible, the councilors and Mayor travel to Las Vegas and other places outside of Mesquite in City staff cars rather than filing a travel voucher for use of their own private vehicles. "The City has nice cars," he exclaimed.
Proposed Indoor Sports Complex (2:45)
"I'm not opposed to a new facility. However, I'm not in favor of a facility until it's been researched to the nth degree.I want to run the numbers over and over, to evaluate, to bid for a facility," Litman said about a new indoor sports complex proposed for location next to the current Mesquite Sports and Event Center near Flat Top Mesa.
"NCS has told the City they'll give us some money towards this. It won't be a million dollars because about $200,000 has been spent in designing the amphitheater which I was very opposed to," Litman continued.
He described how the Council was told they had to move quickly in purchasing the used airplane storage facility that would serve as the basis of the new sports event center. "My first thought about that was, it's like going to a car dealer. You want a particular car and the salesman says 'we're closing in about ten minutes and if you don't buy it today, the deal won't be here tomorrow.' That's a good time to walk away from the deal," Litman remarked. "Usually the deal is there the next day."
After stating there was still a lot of analysis to be done, he continued with, "as the project sits right now, I'm against it." He didn't rule out changing his mind later but said he will remain cautious about the project idea. He did remark that many of his questions had been answered but not always to his satisfaction.
"Can it benefit Mesquite? Very probable. But it won't benefit Mesquite if the money going out is far more than the money coming in because the City will be on the hook," he complained.
He hadn't seen enough information to determine if the new complex would help local businesses. "It will help casinos. But will it help across a wide spectrum of businesses? I don't know yet," he concluded.
He said he was more concerned about long range job growth than temporary seasonal work. "I did ask the question about how many new jobs the stadium would create. The answer was zero, from the stadium itself."
He also remarked that if RDA money was used on the sports complex there wouldn't be much left for the 'downtown' area. "We have to be very, very careful about where that money goes," Litman concluded. "Once we spend it, we spend it. It's gone. If it doesn't do what we want it to do, it's gone."
Partnership with NCS and other topics - Video 3
"NCS has deadlines. They will be making the decision whether to continue on or not with the City. If they don't, there are other joint developers out there that I'm sure will be more than happy to step in at some point in the future. The land is there. It isn't going anyplace," Litman explained about the continued partnership between the City and Nevada Community Solutions.
"If they buy the land, I hope they aren't going to sit on it for the next 25 years hoping the economy is going to improve and they can develop it. I don't have a clue what they want to do with it [the 523 acres that NCS has an option to purchase]. Nor have they stated what they want to do with it."
He went on to say that NCS had the right to do whatever they wanted with the land as long as the zoning was properly established.
(1.25) He discussed his committee assignments saying that he found the Southern Nevada Health District "fascinating."
While he hasn't had to work on any issues that directly affect Mesquite, he thinks the work done on a regional basis is important. He described the Health District's clinic located next to the Veteran's Center on Hafen Lane saying that it was a tremendous convenience for Mesquite residents.
Smoke-Free Mesquite and other Issues (7:00)
Saying "absolutely, I would support it," Litman gave his backing to the Smoke-Free Mesquite movement. He also said he would support a marketability study about the issue and whether it would improve tourism in Mesquite.
He calls the I-15 Interstate"the lifeblood of Mesquite." He thinks the tourism theme should be the wholesome environment of the area. "We should be pushing ourselves more as a 'close-by' destination to the national parks. We're not just a stop off point for gasoline."
He also added that much of the tourism activity is "going to be on hold for awhile until the economy picks up."
"When the economy picks up back east, and it is much faster than we are, a lot of people who have put their retirement on hold are going to start looking west," is Litman's theory.
He said the best part of the job is all the ribbing he gets from friends. "They ask me why in the world I would do something like this. I say, 'why not.'"
Posted Date: 10/12/2011 Mr. Litman hit the nail on the head. NCS is not saying what they will do with the land and for that reason alone we should pass on NCS. Sitting on the land for 25 years helps NCS not Mesquite. Send them packing. NCS is not what Mesquite needs. By: Nancy
Posted Date: 10/12/2011 After purchasing land, wouldn't NCS be liable for property taxes - even if they don't develop immediately? The taxes on 500+ acres of high value land would certainly add to the city coffers. By: David West
Posted Date: 10/12/2011 "hadn't seen enough information to determine if the new complex would help local businesses." - - That appears to be the ultimate objective! Most government facilities NEVER actually pay for themselves . . except through "creative bookkeeping". Taxpayers are exploited to subsidize local commerce. North side businesses would benefit most . . downtown can pretty much "pound sand". By: -
Posted Date: 10/12/2011 Before continuing with NCS having an option of land, shouldn't there be a time period in which it has to develop and not just sit on its option? If no development occurs of which the City approves, the land then reverts back to the City. By: judy
Posted Date: 10/12/2011 We have been through this before with shady, out of town companies who don't want to disclose long range plans. Dump NCS and get real. This is our land, protect it, write strong contracts and if NCS wants to screw around,, show them the door. By: Robbie