Las Vegas Mayor Tony Marquez has changed most of the cast of characters at City Hall since taking office nearly four months ago. He immediately hired a new interim city manager and disbanded all city committees. Last month, he brought in a new permanent city manager and dismissed six of the city’s 10 department directors. Citizens voted him in on a change platform, and change they have received.
These changes, however, have had an adverse effect that’s starting to show. The city government has lost a considerable amount of institutional memory in just a few short months.
Here are some examples of the costs:
• The City Council rejected the city staff’s proposed budget in the first go-around. That’s because the document contained several problems, as Councilman Morris Madrid, a former city finance director, pointed out. The city’s most recent finance director, Ann Marie Gallegos, was let go late in the budget process, so the city had to hire an accounting firm to finish the job.
It’s hard for anyone — even experienced accountants — to draft a refined budget at the last minute. Though critical of the budget proposal, Madrid acknowledged that the transition had much to do with the problems.
• The housing authority almost let a bid opening for a $200,000-plus roofing project fall through the cracks. Again, that’s because of a dismissal — in this case, housing director Chris Barela. His second in command, Lori Gonzales, was named as interim director, but because Barela was let go unexpectedly, Gonzales didn’t get a full update from her predecessor.
• The City Council recently approved a $192,000 contract for the Chamber of Commerce to provide visitor services. But it turns out that the city didn’t follow state law and a city ordinance, which both require that such expenditures go before an advisory committee of residents, motel operators and owners of tourist-related businesses before council consideration. That didn’t happen because the lodgers tax board, like all committees, was disbanded. Upon being informed of the law, the mayor quickly formed a new board.
• The police officers union got upset that it wasn’t getting any response from officials about a proposed pay plan. That’s because of all the turnover in personnel in City Hall. Apparently, promises made haven’t been kept because of the changes.
We think that all this change will ultimately benefit the city, but the short-term costs are evident. The mayor needs to act deliberately to fill all of the vacant director positions and name members to every committee. In so doing, he would bring back some much-needed stability.