Midtown UNLV Malaise
By Tom Hurst, 26 February 2007
Recently I had the supreme displeasure of attending a very pretentious open house where a gang of unctuous, overpaid bureaucrats did their best to sell attendees on the purported benefits of the proposed Midtown UNLV (University of Nevada-Las Vegas) re-development project. If you're not familiar with it, you should be, because you're going to be paying for it in many ways for many years. The basic idea is to more or less block Maryland Parkway from Flamingo to Tropicana to create a vast "public-private partnership" pedestrian mall that will replace existing properties with trendy stores and expensive housing. To be honest, most people at the reception were nice little statists and socialists who eagerly ate up all of the planner's grand ideas. As for myself, I was gagging mightily. Those who know me know that I rarely if ever have anything good to say about government, but this fiasco truly scales new heights. Rarely in my life have I seen such a ridiculous, damaging, corrupt, foolish waste of money. Honestly, I cannot think of anything even remotely positive that I can say about this proposed socialist hell, so I suppose a long list of negatives will have to suffice. If you are even the least bit rational I think you'll realize that the below facts and my common sense observations totally destroy the Midtown UNLV "vision" that our socialist life planners want to foist on us. Mark my words, no matter what the statist's mighty propaganda machine spews, the following very bad things WILL happen as this project proceeds:
1) The University of Nevada-Las Vegas will spend hundreds of millions of tax dollars to build a grand - though not particularly functional - facade along Maryland Parkway, complete with, in their words, a "gateway" and a "streetscape" that will "enhance the pedestrian experience". You see, some moronic UNLV bureaucrats have seen other older, larger and better universities and think that if UNLV looks like them, it will necessarily BE like them. Of course, that's just plain ridiculous! Never mind that decades of incompetent management has assured that every year tuition increases at a rate that far exceeds inflation, that virtually anyone who is breathing is admitted and graduated, and that over-priced student recreation centers are built while at the same time UNLV doesn't even have enough classrooms for their current enrollment. Just par for the course for a pseudo-monopoly government enterprise built with money taken by force from taxpayers, I suppose. Of course, their in-house, million-dollar per year, taxpayer-funded propaganda machine will twist this obvious, empire-building waste into something that somehow "serves the students" or at worst the "community". Simple accounting reality, unfortunately, tells another story: each and every Nevada resident will be taxed to the tune of many hundreds of dollars to pay for this fiasco. Realizing that UNLV is, in fact, a rock bottom tier school - no matter what the administrators claim - any money they have at their disposal would be much better spent on improving academics. Now, that would benefit the students and the community far more than Midtown UNLV ever could!
2) Clark County will spend tens of millions of tax dollars, not to improve or expand one of the busiest roads in the city, but to block it! Our life planners in the county government call it "traffic calming". I call it foolishness! Of course, the present state of our roads tells us that these public servants are at best incompetent, so I suppose we are simply getting what we should expect (although, not what we pay for). Thanks to them, Maryland Parkway is nearly a parking lot now, but just wait until it is narrowed and, as I predict, eventually closed! Traffic within a few mile radius of UNLV will become unbearable, and no one will dare venture there except students, residents and employees who have no choice. Traveling down Maryland Parkway will be so time-consuming and inconvenient for other taxpaying drivers that most will be forced to find alternate routes around UNLV. Unfortunately, to avoid driving down one mile of Maryland Parkway requires - if one is to travel on major roads - traveling 3 miles (for example, one mile from Maryland/Flamingo to Eastern, one mile south to Tropicana, and one mile west to Maryland/Tropicana). That means that all nearby roads will need to be widened if they are not to become more congested than they are now. So, for decades to come drivers will waste countless hours of their valuable time, countless gallons of gas, and emit a proportionate amount of the dreaded greenhouse gases. Why? Because our life planners know best! Taxpayers who paid for Maryland Parkway will be screwed as the droning planners smile at their great accomplishment. In true socialist fashion, government will have reduced the citizens ability to travel freely. Of course, only government could be responsible for such grand irony as having the same taxpayers who paid for the construction of Maryland Parkway to ease their travels pay for it's elimination, and to their great detriment at that.
3) Politically connected developers and property owners will make many millions. As a matter of fact, it's already started. I'm told that property along and near Maryland Parkway appreciated by 500% or so as soon as the "vision" was announced several years ago - and that's just "announced", not approved or being built out. There will be more property appreciation coming, for sure! Anyone owning property along Maryland Parkway will be cheering this project on because they want to cash in on free money from the already overburdened taxpayers, courtesy of the abusive power of big government. In fact, some land owners and developers are so excited by this prospect that they're actively promoting and lobbying for the project - wining and dining every government official that might have a say in it. Never mind that these developers could, in fact, do whatever they wanted to with their land right now, and that UNLV could do whatever it wanted to right now. No, they know they must have a planned "public-private partnership" - a corrupt monster that a student of history would correctly call pure fascism - to truly maximize the amount of tax money they suck out of citizens. And we all know the evils of fascism. In any case, the moral and legal question is should these few people benefit at the expense of citizens whose tax-funded transportation network is strangled, and who will be taxed mightily to pay for much of the so-called "vision" of others? As usual with government, a very few favored souls will be massively enriched by the expenditure of tax dollars taken from both working people and the students supposedly served by the university. Of course, to the naive officials at the open house who unconditionally pooh-poohed my observation that developers and property owners would become rich, I would say, hey, this is Vegas, and anyone who's not an idiot knows how business is done here... know what I mean? The evidence is that they are already getting rich at our expense, and they will get far richer. These same officials also ridiculously claimed that the developers and property owners, already being millionaires, have no logical reason to want more money. What?? Who doesn't want more money? If these greedy arrogant folks truly wanted to benefit the public, they would consider giving their land to the state. Of course, that is not in the cards because what they really want is more wealth, public benefit be damned. So, in the end just more ridiculous, feel-good propaganda to cover the arrogance, greed and corruption that is the heart of Midtown UNLV.
4) Jobs will be lost, and the economy near UNLV will be destroyed. Statist planners who think they know all have already decided what types of business are appropriate, what buildings should be built, and what rental prices should be. Existing modest businesses that currently can afford the local rent and still offer products and services at prices that students and locals can afford will be forced to move away, only to be replaced by planned businesses paying high rents for the new, expensive properties. And then the high-end businesses will themselves flop because the products and services they offer will be priced so high that students can't afford them, and other potential customers disappear because they will avoid the traffic congestion of Maryland Parkway like the plague. Vacant publically funded buildings ala the truly pathetic Neonopolis project (a real triumph of planning - Not!), and students and locals without nearby retail or food stores will be the end result. Of course, this could all be avoided if our arrogant planners weren't totally ignorant of the fact that basic economics tells one that there is no way planners can know any of these things they claim to know - only the many individual decisions that make up the free market can work to do that correctly. And I would further argue that the current mix of mid-level retail and food, and inexpensive apartments prove by their very existence that they are what the consumers in that area want and can sustain, no matter what the planners grandly envision.
5) Eminent domain will be used to take private property. Though Midtown UNLV proponents claim otherwise, I have no doubt that when push comes to shove, eminent domain will be used to seize that last little piece of property that will make up a necessary larger block or widen a street. And land will not just be taken by the state for the state, but will be also taken by the state in order to be given to private developers. One look at the embarrassing and totally toothless eminent domain legislation recently passed into Nevada law confirms that. Of course, this being Las Vegas, there's eminent domain, and eminent domain. By that I mean that Las Vegas is so corrupt that the property of un-connected citizens will be taken - stolen, really - at far below a fair market price, while that of connected citizens will be purchased for much more than the fair market price. So, friends are favored and enemies eliminated. It's no accident that Las Vegas is continually ranked as one of the worst eminent domain abusers in America. And eminent domain is a much bigger issue than the paying off of a few friends and screwing of a few non-friends - it tramples our Constitutional right to own and control property. In fact, for very good reason our Founders called eminent domain "the despotic power", and the more freedom-loving among them didn't even want government to have that power at all because they knew that if it existed it would be abused mightily. And history has proven them right in spades. With eminent domain abuse at an all-time high, no one can really own one's property, and Midtown UNLV will do it's part to prove it.
6) Inexpensive student and low-income housing will be bulldozed to make way for Carol Harter's "trendy loft apartments". Yes, she was so concerned for the poor UNLV students that she wanted to take away their affordable housing and force them to move farther out, thus straining their already meager finances. And UNLV's new president, David Ashley, is all on board promoting the same "revitalization". It's hard to believe that this uncompassionate displacement of the poor is being promoted by socialists, but it's true. And you thought government cared for you! Ha! You see, our socialist politicians and bureaucrats really don't love the poor. To them, the poor are just a tool to be exploited for political gain, and are totally expendable when they get in the way of the "vision". Thousands of people - including many students - who are living where they can afford to live will be mercilessly displaced by high-rent, tax-subsidized housing and businesses. I heard many arrogant socialists at the open house - lots of them government and university officials of various sorts - repeatedly and explicitly comment on how "inappropriate" the current local residents, housing and neighborhood stores are, and how the area desperately needed "revitalization". What exactly do they mean by "inappropriate", you ask? Upon probing, it became apparent that it's their euphemism for "crappy neighborhood filled with mostly undesirable poor people". Surprisingly, some of the more arrogant officials and planners boldly said as much in a shockingly politically incorrect manner. And they again stuck their noses high in the air when I suggested that the locals might in fact like where they live, or that they at least find it affordable - as proven by the very fact that they actually live there and not somewhere else. Needless to say, the government socialists didn't think much of that hypothesis of mine. Their aloof attitude eerily reminded me of the federal "urban renewal" eminent domain takings, started in the 1950's, wherein entire neighborhoods were uprooted to make way for government housing and other "re-development". So many poor and ethnic people were forcibly removed from their property - estimates are 3.6 million - that "urban renewal" came to be popularly called "negro removal". Finally, the socialist planning snobs were adamant that no students live in this neighborhood - yet I lived there once and found many other students there for the primary reason that they, too, could afford it. In fact, the vast majority of the housing near every university I have ever visited - and I've visited many in my life - is inexpensive and, frankly, crappy for the obvious reason that crappy housing is about all that most students can afford. I'm not sure one could even find an example of nice, expensive housing near any university that was occupied by students - it would be nice, but it's just not reality. And with incompetent university bureaucrats nationwide making tuition increases far outpace inflation year after year, it never will be reality.
7) Dirty, hyper-expensive, fuel-inefficient government buses will come to rule the road along Maryland Parkway. Yes, they're officially part of the plan because control-freak socialists like our planners love "public" mass transit. Not only does it give them more power over our lives, but it makes us more dependent upon them. Never mind that only those who truly have to would even consider riding their slow, inconvenient, dirty government buses. Or that government data shows that you or I driving in our average-mileage vehicle are more fuel efficient on a per person per mile basis - and if family or friends ride with us we would be getting several times the mileage that the fuelish government buses get! Or that studies show that buses are actually traffic-congestion-increasing monster polluters on a per person per mile basis - anyone stuck driving behind a nearly empty bus knows that this is true. Or that nearly every government transport system in the country is very heavily subsidized - the national average for buses is on the order of $20 tax dollars for every dollar of fare collected, and monorails and light rail systems are at least double that. I'm certain that Las Vegas is no exception. In plain English, that means that each and every time some poor soul rides a government bus for a mile or two, other citizen taxpayers are forced to pony up $20 in taxes to pay for the bus, fuel, driver, maintenance and administrative overhead. Even in a single day, that's a great deal of tax subsidy money. In fact, it's quite simple to calculate that with the same amount of money taxpayers use to subsidize regular riders of government buses ($40 per person per day or so for two rides), they could instead buy every regular bus rider a $15,000 car every 5 years, and pay them each $5,000 per year to cover fuel, insurance and maintenance expenses. Indeed, most government bus systems sport a per rider tax subsidy of at least few hundred thousand dollars over the life of the system, and some even approach $1 million per rider. Amazing, eh? Or, heaven forbid, we let the taxpayers keep the money they are paying for other's transportation and instead spend it on things important to them: education, retirement, or even just paying routine bills. Unfortunately, socialist America has banished the "good ole days" when most people were independent and responsible enough to somehow get by without relying on the government for something as basic to their lives as transportation. Back then we bought a bike or a cheap used car, shared rides with friends, or perhaps just bit the bullet and arranged our lives so that work and shopping were close to home. But even the many negatives of government buses don't outweigh the socialist's desire to have us become dependent on them for transport, diminishing our freedom and ability to move about where and when we wish. Midtown UNLV will help ensure they get what they want.
So, how do I know all of these bad things will happen? For one, I have absolute faith in the creeping socialism that has been consuming this country for more than a century, the socialism that wants big government to control and direct every aspect of the lives of supposedly free Americans, and the socialism that is guaranteed to always mis-plan the economy. From this are spawned arrogant planners, politicians and bureaucrats who think they know what is best for everyone, but who in fact know nothing of economics and care not for the rights and property of citizens. Finally, having lived in Las Vegas for a long time, I also have total faith that our fair city will stand up to its age-old reputation of being corrupt beyond belief. The money will flow from citizens, via taxes, into the pockets of the politically connected. It's very sad, but this project - as evil and expensive as it is - is a done deal, period. The planners will control, the connected will get rich, and the citizens will be screwed. Welcome to socialist Las Vegas!
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