Editorial: We give up, take it over

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By The Staff

Two weeks ago in this space, we editorialized against the idea of a city takeover of the Las Vegas Fiestas. We took the position that if certain changes were made in how the Fiesta Council does its business, a city takeover would be unnecessary.

But after last week’s closed Fiesta Council meeting, we’re reversing our position. We’re now convinced that the city must take control of the city’s biggest annual event.

Last week, the Fiesta Council demonstrated a true lack of respect for the public’s legitimate interest in its activities. After keeping a small representation of the public’s interest waiting for more than a half hour, the council convened its meeting and promptly closed the door on a City Council member, last year’s reina, and an Optic reporter. And while we aren’t exactly happy about being removed from the meeting, we’re used to being the occasional unwelcome guest. But to ask council member Diane Moore and 2009 fiestas queen Carmela Montoya to leave was just way out of line.

Montoya, especially. After all, Fiesta Council members had embarrassed this young lady more than once — by reducing her scholarship by half and telling her, essentially, that her service as queen was no longer wanted because they didn’t think she’d been doing her job. So she showed up for the meeting, respectfully seeking to present her side of the story. By not letting her do so, they dissed this young lady in a vindictive manner.

And by refusing to allow a city councilor in on the meeting, the Fiesta Council snubbed its nose at its primary financial resource. Tens of thousands of city dollars (read that “taxpayer dollars”) go into the fiestas every year — and yet a prominent city official can’t sit in on the meeting? Not only that, but Moore raised a very legitimate question — Why wasn’t a financial report on the council’s meeting agenda? Fiesta Council President Mathew Martinez dismissed it as an oversight, but if that’s the case, it was a significant oversight. Questions are intensifying as to how the Fiesta Council is spending its and our money.

Why did the Fiesta Council close its meeting last week? The official version was that of “pending litigation” but we’re not at all convinced. We think that’s a smokescreen; after all, no lawyer was present. Instead, a more reasonable explanation — one that’s consistent with this council’s modus operandi — is that Fiesta Council members don’t want the public to see what’s been going on.

That’s the last straw, as far as we’re concerned. It’s time for the city to begin the process of taking over the fiestas. It’s the most important cultural event on our community calendar, and the current council has forced us to the conclusion that it cannot oversee it. Instead, the city will have to make it happen for 2011.