I hate to say I told you so [editor’s note: no, I actually don’t], but here’s what I wrote back in October when the Las Vegas city council agreed to give developers Cordish Cos. and Findlay Sports another two months to finalize an MLS stadium plan but only if they agreed to “work to reduce or eliminate” any public subsidy:
With four of the seven councilmembers ready to vote down the $3 million a year in city subsidies the developers were looking for, a compromise plan was instead offered by councilmember Ricki Barlow: Vote to keep negotiating with the soccer developers, but only if they agree to work to reduce or eliminate the public subsidy.
If that’s confusing to you — is it reduce or eliminate? and by how much? — then it’s doubly so to Cordish and Findlay, which were decidedly not in on this deal. “They worded it poorly,” Findlay advisor Dean Howes told the Las Vegas Review-Journal afterwards. “They have to come back and tell us what it means.”
What it meant, apparently, was exactly what it sounded like it meant: nothing at all. And less because of that “reduce or eliminate” phrase than by the words that immediately proceeded it:
Las Vegas Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian says she might have been “snookered” on the city’s controversial stadium subsidy deal approved last week. …
Mayor Carolyn Goodman told Tarkanian the motion from Oct. 1 said staff was supposed to “work toward” eliminating public money from the deal — not eliminate it completely. In the end, the approved deal shaved only $3.5 million off the $60 million public subsidy from Oct. 1. …
Tarkanian wanted to clarify [councilmember Ricki] Barlow’s motion, interjecting that staff needed to work toward eliminating, not just reducing, all public money in the proposal.
The meeting video showed [City Manager Betsy] Fretwell also trying to clarify the motion.
Councilman Bob Beers explained the wording’s confusion this way: “In that moment of interruption, everybody focused on the ‘eliminating’ of public dollars and didn’t consider the ‘work towards’ part that preceded the interruption.”
So basically, Cordish and Findlay were facing a 4-3 council vote that wasn’t going to go their way, Barlow bought them some more time by promising to see what he could do to eliminate the public subsidy, and then instead spent the next two months talking one of the four “no” votes into switching sides in exchange for some extra parks funding for his district. The total public subsidy, meanwhile, remains at $122 million, which may be marginally “reduced,” but is a long way from “eliminated.” Yeah, I’d say “snookered” may be a good word for it.