Editorial: Takeover, no; changes, yes

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By The Staff

With the recent meltdown of the Fiesta Council, it’s clear that changes are needed. At a recent Las Vegas City Council meeting, Mayor Alfonso Ortiz suggested the possibility of the city taking over Fiestas de Las Vegas, held annually around the Fourth of July.

During this year’s event, Fiesta Council President Mathew Martinez removed a third of the council members without giving them any notice of the possibility. Afterward, in another controversial decision, the remaining council halved the scholarship of last year’s queen. The group also made a number of scheduling mistakes during this year’s event.

In considering a Fiestas takeover, the city is responsibly highlighting the need to make some big changes over this year’s beleaguered approach to organizing this event. Still, we’d like to see the Fiesta Council remain an independent organization — if certain changes are made.

For starters, the council badly needs some fresh perspectives; internal disputes have been festering for years. We don’t think all the council members need to go, but it’s probably time for some of them to step aside, and it’s definitely time for some new faces to be seated on the council by an independent third party. That may be where the city can come into play, by ensuring that a range of fresh and responsible perspectives are placed on the board.

Second, Martinez will need to step aside as president. We commend him for his hard work in this top spot, including years past, but he faltered this year. And while Inez Gallegos-Lujan, the previous year’s president, did a good job during her tenure, the council needs new leadership.

And finally, the Fiesta Council needs to become transparent — with open, publicized meetings and open-to-scrutiny records. A lot of public and private money is being funneled into Fiestas de Las Vegas, and a lot is being spent on the entertainment, so it’s reasonable to expect the financial books to be well kept and subject to public review.

The city has every right to take an interest in the Fiestas. A few years ago, the city determined that it spends more than $100,000 for the annual event, providing services such as public works, solid waste and police and fire protection. Without the city’s help, the Fiestas would be a much smaller event. That’s why we appreciate City Manager Timothy Dodge’s decision to send a city staffer to the Fiesta Council’s monthly meetings.

But do we really want the city taking over the whole event? That would involve such decisions as the selection of entertainment, an area where we feel the Fiesta Council has done a good job over the years.

Indeed, the city should urge an end to the bickering on the Fiesta Council. And that will require the addition to new members uninvolved in the previous disputes.

Right now, the Fiesta Council doesn’t have a leader who is willing to move beyond the battles of yore. It badly needs one, not only to pull off another great fiesta next year but to restore public confidence in how it’s being organized.