Thursday, December 13th, 2018 pm31 1:07pm

Las Vegas, NV: City Park Commissioner David Lopez discussed Park Updates and Homeless Challenges

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CITY OF LAS VEGAS, PARK COMMISSIONER, DAVID LOPEZ
INTERVIEW: Park Updates and Homeless Challenges 
David Lopez, City of Las Vegas Park Commissioner, discussed recent park updates and incessant homeless challenges facing Las Vegas parks during an interview held on the the 16th of September 2016 with Vegas Newspaper news correspondent Prince Adeyemi.

Find excerpt of the interview below:

PRINCE ADEYEMI:
Please state your name for the record.

COMMISSIONER DAVID LOPEZ:
My name is David Lopez.

PRINCE ADEYEMI:
What do you do?

COMMISSIONER DAVID LOPEZ:
I am the Park Commissioner for the City of Las Vegas, representing ward III.

PRINCE ADEYEMI:
And what does that meant in a layman term?

COMMISSIONER DAVID LOPEZ:
My role as commissioner is that, I advise the Mayor and the Council on issue regarding park and recreations, we have the ordinances, the rules we overseas some of the budgets, the maintenance and up-keeping of the city facility.

PRINCE ADEYEMI:
How long have you been doing this?

COMMISSIONER DAVID LOPEZ:
I’ve been doing this since 2011.

PRINCE ADEYEMI:
What are the challenges that you’ve been having since you started?

COMMISSIONER DAVID LOPEZ:
There is been numerous challenges over the years, funding and the budget is one of our biggest challenges, we have to find ways to make sure that we are able to cover
the department’s costs, we have bill to pay, we have a budget of $22 million, and that budget essentially cover salaries, the benefits of all the employees, that take about 12 million just that, so out of $22 million, we have we only have $10 million left, and so all that money has to be sorted out, so that we will be able to pay water bill, at the end of the year my water bill is $4 million dollars to pay the water for the parks, we have to pay for the fleet of the vehicles, operations and maintenance, we have vehicles like Animal Control, Marshals, City Police cars, Insurance, non-discretionary costs, we have to make sure that we have enough money to cover that.

In addition to that, we have park projects that we are working on, Mayfair Community Center will be located near the corner of Charleston and 15th street, it is located behind the fire station, it’s something I’ve been involved with for about a year now, we had town-hall meeting out on the street, in-front of a lot we had about 30 – 40 neighbors showed up, and we gave them opinions, we took a poll “What do you want in your park?” Basket ball court? Soccer field? Swings? What would you like to see in your park? We took a vote and prioritize based on the need are of the community. We takes it into account, we want to listen to our constituency’s opinions. Right now we have a great architect that are ready and design the park as we speak, that is the latest project that we are working on.

BUDGETING & FUNDING
There are many cost that we have to cover, during the session in 2008, things were difficult, there were certain cutback that had to be done, where services had to be cut, we are out of that now.

The city as a budget of $540 million a year, what a lot of people don’t understand it that a lot of this goes to Metro, Clark county and city of Las Vegas have a share responsibility of Metro funding, we have to put in whatever the percentages is and Clark county has to put in what percentages is. There has been more debates about whether we are putting in enough, to hire more police, there was a talk about raising over $1 million to hire 10 officers and at least 2 detectives, that didn’t go through.

However, there are numerous ways we could get money;

  • Municipal Bond: The city will sell bond to whoever, like the stadium remember the Stadium, the soccer stadium that they wanted to do some years ago? That fell through.
  • Southern Nevada Public Land and Management ACT: This is an act that’s written some years ago, is the deal we had between the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). BLM manages federal lands, if they swap the land, let say they sell a land to a developer, what they proceeds from that sale, a percentage of the money go to all recreation projects, some goes to education.

PARK UPDATES, CHALLENGES & HOMELESS PROBLEMS
“The park is the center of challenges, the hub of homeless problems and recent increased in crime.”

Circle Park is on Maryland and Charleston, is one of our oldest parks, built in early 40s, we did a project about $1 million back in 2013, we added a lot of nice things there, we added playground, landscaping, bathrooms we did a lot of good things for that park, reason we did that is because years ago, we had a problem with homeless population. We used to have water features, one time another homeless will come and start taking shower and getting nude in the park, that is not right for a family to see, eventually we removed those water features, we had to change the way it look, and it’s beautiful now, it’s been exciting however the park is the center of challenges, the hub of homeless problems and recent increase in crime.

Unfortunately, we had two significant incidents in the last month at the park, we had a stabbing about 3 weeks ago, it was between two individual, the injury were moderates, it’s not deadly. There was a deadly stabbing about seven years ago, that shut the park down, in the last few weeks or last few months, we had increased problem at parks, we talking about syringes found in bathrooms, broken beer bottles, glass, shavings in the bathrooms. We have people washing themselves from the water fountains, I have seen it, we have people using the bathroom right there on the street on the sidewalk right in front of park….

I don’t have problem with homeless, the problem starts when you don’t longer respect the area;

  1. When you have a bathroom why would you defecate in front of someone’s yard?
  2. Why do you need to do it on the side walks?
  3. Why do you leave so much garbage all over this park?

It’s not them, it’s increased in crime, it’s becomes a safety celebrity cleanliness sanitary issues, it’s not the homeless.

HOMELESS FEEDING
Homeless feeding in our parks, it was illegal. I want to say in 2006 – 2007. They squashed the law, ever since then we have people bringing their foods. All these homeless people coming into parks, they leave their trash, they bring their troubles with the parks, they start leaving their shopping carts in front of lawyers offices, in front of my house.

It’s the consequence of homeless feeding
There is nothing wrong with homeless feeding, the problem starts where you don’t longer respect the area, you have a bathroom, why do you need to defecate in front of someone’s yard? Why you have to go on the sidewalk? Why do you leave so much garbage all over this park?

And it’s not them, it’s increase in crime, it becomes a safety celebrity cleanliness sanitary issue, it’s not the homeless…

CLOSING PARKS FOR HALF THE WEEK
In my next meeting I have added an item to the agenda to close the park for half the week, and the reason for that is that because of recent uptake in crimes, and challenges that we are facing in the area, we want to see what will happen, we want to encourage the people to perhaps go to get help they needed most. We have shelter in downtown like a mile and half away, they can sleep and shower, they have places they can call 211 for help for homeless, they have Las Vegas Rescue and Mission, they have charities there that will help you to get help you need for a long time solution, again I have no problem with homeless people and I hoped that I don’t have another fatal stabbing like last time…

In effect we are protecting homeless people, something had to be done to them, because they are being robbed there, they’re problems happening at the park that’s harming them, this is not just about the neighbors, it’s also about they are welfare, they are well being.

People will come and target homeless individual because they are sleeping there, they have no protection, they have no security there, we have the Marshals there, they have to go right, and they have to come back. We have 67 parks, we have no enough officers, we have to patrol all of these facilities, Prince there is just not enough resources to protect the homeless people, we have to watch out for they are well being, right? How do we do that? We tried to encourage them to get help where they can get it, in downtown, there are places where they can go, Shelter is there, they are places they can get long term solutions…

PRINCE ADEYEMI:
Is there anything you would like to add?

To focus on Las Vegas, what we can do like I said, slowly but surely to encourages people that want the help, that are unaware of the help, if they want the help they will get the help they deserved. We have services, we have alternatives, we have people that are willing and waiting to help them get back on their feet.

Veterans, is another thing, we have a lot of veterans that are homeless, disgusting! It’s a tragedy, it’s a truly American’s tragedy that we have folks men and women who have served their Country who have giving them all and for them to come back we give them nothing… And remember, many homeless people don’t want to be homeless, but they fell into this because they came back from wall, we turned our back at them, they gave it all, we gave them nothing, that’s a crime, I found it unbelievably wrong and immoral, we have as a nation, we spent billion of dollars to go to Mars, support a Colony on Mars…. I walked out here and there’s veteran out on the street, that’s due for a change.

We’ll see how we move forward, I will be updating you.

The City of Las Vegas is a diverse community, we are a diverse city, we trying to make sure it’s the best that it can be. We are city of hard workers, people migrates here from other countries, and what we are trying to do is to move the city in the right direction responsive to their needs, the city is growing, we do so in a responsible manner that everyone can benefit from, I think that’s all I have to say, thank you.

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