Editorial: Let's heal the breach

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By The Staff

When it comes to economic development, Las Vegas needs to put forward a united front. Anything less is unacceptable.

Recently, the Las Vegas First Independent Business Alliance told the city Lodgers Tax Advisory Board that it is interested in vying for the city contract held by the Las Vegas-San Miguel Chamber of Commerce. It made arguments about how it could take on that role — its marketing plan in place, its relationships with various agencies, its securing of discounted rates for the placement of advertisements.

To make matters worse for the chamber, a city councilman, Andrew Feldman, has asked that the city conduct a fiscal and performance audit of the chamber, saying there are “serious problems.” He would need a council majority to make that audit a reality.

Las Vegas First also said it would hire Vince Howell to carry out its marketing plan. This is the same job that Howell had with the chamber until the group’s board fired him in November. At the time, Matt Martinez, the chamber’s president, said Howell’s $32,000-a-year contract was too pricey. But that doesn’t square with Howell’s accomplishments in his short time at the chamber, convincing statewide groups to schedule major conferences in Las Vegas.

Unfortunately, Howell got caught up in a battle between Martinez and Wid Slick, owner of the Plaza Hotel, who disagreed over advertising strategy. By Howell’s account, Martinez saw Howell as a loyalist of Slick, which led to the firing. Martinez has denied Howell’s allegation.

Still, Martinez and others at the chamber have yet to provide an effective reason for Howell’s dismissal. And the lack of one has created a lot of suspicion about the chamber’s motives. It seems as if Howell’s firing is the result of pettiness, not practicality.

Still, we hope the chamber gets through this rough spot. This never-ending division between local business groups only serves to bring down rather than lift up our local economy.

Perhaps it would benefit the community if the chamber simply admitted it made a mistake by dismissing Howell. Sometimes checking your ego at the door serves a greater interest. After all, attempting to prove a wrong is right serves no one.

If the chamber board reversed its decision, we feel this would go a long way toward healing the breach with a large segment of the business community. And that’s who the chamber is purportedly supposed to serve.