City Council members dont mention new city hall during casino talks - Monday 9th of February 2009

One three-word phrase was conspicuously absent from Wednesdays discussion of a planned new casino in downtown Las Vegas: "new city hall."

Despite the fact that a proposed, and controversial, new city hall is an essential element in the plans for a casino-hotel in Union Park, council members did not refer to the city hall plans before they approved the plans and variances the casino project needs to get off the ground.

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"That really wasnt at issue. What was at issue today was the gaming overlay," Mayor Oscar Goodman said after the meeting. "The city hall wasnt on the agenda."

Still, he said "theres no question" that the two projects are tightly linked.

The plan goes like this: Cleveland-based developer Forest City builds a new city hall next to the Regional Justice Center to be leased by the city on a long-term basis, essentially making the city an anchor tenant in a larger office development planned for four blocks of First Street.

Once the new city hall is complete, Forest City could trade the land under it for a 6.4-acre parcel in Union Park where the new casino would go.

The last new downtown casino was built in 1979.

The plan has been strongly challenged by the local Culinary union, which calls the city hall project irresponsible and wasteful during a time of economic uncertainty.

Goodman has pooh-poohed the opposition, contending that the union, which represents hotel workers, is trying to strong-arm the developer to negotiate a labor contract.

"Were trying to create jobs," Goodman said. "Thats what the public wants to hear to instill confidence about what were doing."

Application documents said the hotel would create 1,000 permanent jobs, though Goodman and others said they thought there would be twice that many.

"At the end of the day, this is about jobs, jobs, jobs," said Councilman Ricki Barlow, who went on to compare the casino project, a private development, to the public works projects being called for under President Barack Obamas economic stimulus plan.

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