When the Clark County Commission voted to rename the McCarran International Airport to honor U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, county leaders promised it wouldn’t cost taxpayers a dime.
A review of public records, however, shows Commissioners Tick Segerblom, Justin Jones and the rest of the name-change advocates lied. Private funds currently cover only a fraction of the cost of renaming the airport. To make matters worse, the unpopular name change is also massively over budget.
Unless donations suddenly begin pouring in, county taxpayers will be on the hook for millions of dollars.
The desire to remove Pat McCarran’s name from the airport was understandable.
McCarren was the first U.S. Senator born in Nevada and served as chief justice of the Supreme Court of Nevada. But he was also a racist, antisemitic bigot.
Rather than simply rebranding the airport “The Las Vegas International Airport,” Clark County Commissioners Segerblom and Jones led the charge to honor Reid, a political benefactor for every single member of the Clark County Commission.
Segerblom, whom Reid called “a friend of ours for decades,” promised the name change would be entirely privately funded and wouldn’t cost taxpayers a dime.
Jones, who was handed a federal judicial clerkship by Reid and whose wife worked for Reid for more than two decades, said raising the money privately would be no problem. “I think that you’ll see others who will step forward that have been long-time supporters of Senator Reid; that they’ll step up with large contributions to pay for this,” said Jones.
But Jones – who, in full disclosure, is my opponent in November’s election for Clark County Commissioner in District F – was embarrassingly wrong.
Segerblom initially said the name change would cost around $2 million. But when county officials put pen to paper, the estimate came to an eye-popping $7.2 million. Since that time, the projected final price tag increased to more than $7.7 million.
That hefty number is expected to go higher still, as interior signage, uniforms and vehicle branding have yet to be updated to reflect the new name.
To date, name-change enthusiasts have raised only $4.6 million. Unless donors step up to fill the shortfall, at least $3.1 million of the cost will be paid by local taxpayers who overwhelmingly opposed renaming the airport in honor of Reid.
An 8 News Now online poll found 82 percent of respondents disagreed with the plan to rebrand the airport. Nearly 32,000 people signed an internet petition urging the Commission to call the airport “Las Vegas International,” rather than “Harry Reid International.”
The public backlash is understandable. Clark County residents are smart enough to see the airport name change for what it was: cronyism. After all, Reid was hardly a saint.
He may not have been the unrepentant bigot McCarran was, but in 2008 Reid said Barack Obama was electable because he was “light-skinned” and spoke “with no Negro dialect.” Reid also railed against “illegal immigrants” and publicly opposed gay rights at various points in his career.
Reid was involved in one scandal after another, from accepting illegal gifts, to profiting from a shady land deal, to improperly promoting a Chinese green energy scheme that financially benefited his son.
By rebranding the airport, the commissioners simply removed the name of one problematic former Democratic U.S. Senator they never met and replaced it with another problematic Democratic U.S. Senator who personally funneled money to their campaigns and helped them win their elections.
In fact, every single Clark County commissioner received a deathbed donation from Reid. Months after the airport was renamed in his honor and just hours before he died of pancreatic cancer, Reid miraculously and suspiciously found the strength to fill out campaign contribution checks to all seven county commissioners.
Segerblom, Jones and Michael Naft were each given $7,500, according to The Nevada Independent. The other four commissioners, Ross Miller, Marilyn Kirkpatrick, William McCurdy II and Jim Gibson, raked in $5,000 apiece.
We may not be able to get our money back for the Clark County Commission’s shady decision to rename the airport after Harry Reid. But we can vote them out and replace them with commissioners who can raise the money necessary to change the airport’s name to one we can all be proud of…The Las Vegas International Airport.