Pappas property settlement expected soon

COLUMN: Steve Miller

Las Vegas Tribune

July 12, 2000

"Our common enemy isn't any of us in the gaming industry, our enemy is the pleasure police." - Jan Jones, July 6, 2000

When the former Las Vegas mayor made the above statement at the Urban Chamber of Commerce's gaming town meeting at the MGM Grand last Thursday night, she was not referring to her "pleasure police" who stole sixty-five year old Greek immigrant Carol Pappas' land.

Jones was referring to the "other pleasure police" who oppose her new employer Harrah's Entertainment's plan to build high tech casino resorts in California on the roads leading into Southern and Northern Nevada.

When Jones served as our mayor, her own brand of "pleasure police" also prohibited the expansion of the adult use of Herb Pastor's Girls of Glitter Gulch in favor of the placement of a Baskin Robbins ice cream parlor right next door to the topless bar. Now, thanks to Jones, children visiting our downtown can refresh themselves on 31 flavors just inches away from "T and A."

Yes, Mayor Jones had a vision. A vision of families with small children lounging under a steel canopy draped over dilapidated casinos in a park-like setting -- watching the boozers, strippers, and gamblers cavort. Such a "Family Destination!"

So she finagled the LV Convention and Visitors Authority to pump one million "parks and recreation" dollars per year into the canopy's upkeep.

All this while Jan Jones the businesswoman held stock in the Golden Nugget and served on the Board of Directors of the bank that repossessed the Main Street Station from Bob Snow and sold it to her friends at the Boyd Group at a bargain basement price -- this in the face of much higher offers for the hotel from RKO Pictures and Carnival Cruise Lines.

Meanwhile Carol Pappas fought for all she was worth to retain her land and building -- a small shopping center her family had owned and nourished for over sixty years at the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Carson Street. It was illegally taken by the city to be given to the Fremont Street casinos for their private parking garage.

The city redevelopment agency under Jan Jones' direction offered Pappas $450,000 for her 7,000 square feet of prime, corner property. They said "Take our offer, or we will use Eminent Domain." At the same time, Jones arranged for Boyd Group partner and former US Senator Chic Hecht to receive $4.3 million for his adjoining parcel of the same size.

When Carol Pappas, who experienced seeing her family's property being seized by the Nazis, during World War Two, humbled herself to request an "audience" with then-mayor Jones, the mayor told her "Mrs. Pappas, you've had your property long enough. Time to give it up."

Jones held firm with her lowball offer expecting the elderly lady to crumble. Instead of leaving city hall defeated, Pappas immediately went to court.

Pappas hired Reno real estate attorney Glade Hall in partnership with Elko Constitutional attorney Grant Gerber. At trial, the lawyers quoted Jan Jones' contemptuous statement made to Pappas. Judge Don Chairez, himself the son of immigrants, ruled in Pappas' favor and deemed the city's use of Eminent Domain unconstitutional. The city and casinos appealed.

After hearing of the Chairez ruling, Jones went into action to protect the interest of her business partners on Fremont Street. She immediately sponsored an ordinance to cap the casinos' liability at $6 million for any buyouts of private property taken by Eminent Domain for the casino's use.

According to the July 22, 1997, Review Journal: Jan Jones' wanted the taxpayers, not the casinos, to pay possibly millions of dollars in fees to property owners whose land was taken to build a downtown parking garage.

After a public outcry including a fervent presentation by Carol's son Harry Pappas, the city reluctantly dropped the mayor's proposal and put the responsibility on the casinos to pay for properties taken illegally for their benefit, especially those parcels illegally taken through eminent domain to make room for the $23 million, publicly funded parking structure at Fremont and Las Vegas Boulevard.

(During the last year of Jan Jones' tenure as mayor, she godmothered another adjacent publicly funded -- private parking structure for the use of the now failed "Neonopolis" project bringing the total for such parking structures to $55 million tax dollars.)

Now enter Oscar Goodman. Mayor Goodman inherited all of his predecessor's "deals" including Neonopolis; the "Fremont Street Experience family park"; Convention Authority park funds being diverted to the downtown casinos; the mostly empty parking garage; and the Pappas eminent domain case.

Immediately upon entering office, Oscar called for a meeting with the Pappas family. After the meeting Harry Pappas described Mayor Goodman as showing "concern and compassion," in stark contrast to their response to the previous meeting with Jones.

Then, to prove that action speaks louder than words, last month Mayor Goodman accompanied Carol Pappas to a hearing before the Nevada Supreme Court.

The Mayor entered the courtroom with Carol, sat with her in the audience, and exited in her company. The Justices had no other choice than to see this as a demonstration of support by the Mayor for the Pappas family's position. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the issue within the next six months, however, the demonstration of support by our Mayor may have shaken up the casinos!

This week, sources close to the Mayor have informed this writer that a deal may be eminent to purchase the Pappas property for a sum close to or even higher than that given Chic Hecht by Jones and her casino partners.

If this occurs the funds will come from the casino owners, not the taxpayers as had been proposed by Jones during her tenure.

It may be possible that freshman Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman is soon to celebrate his second major victory of his political career: the amicable settlement of the seven year old case of Carol Pappas vs. the City of Las Vegas.

If this occurs, then the citizens of Las Vegas, at Oscar's bequest, will soon see the end of the arduous Pappas case, and the long awaited development of the Union Pacific property recently purchased by the city.

With these victories in hand, I suggest that Mayor Goodman then continue revitalizing downtown by the "re-adultrification" of Fremont Street.

Here are a few more suggestions from long time Las Vegans:

Remove that obtrusive canopy and stupid "Fremont St. Experience" logo. Reopen the street to limited vehicular traffic. It would be great to see the Helldorado Parade on Fremont Street again!

Dismantle that botched up pipe dream created by Jan Jones' and Steve Wynn that took away downtown's fame and fortune. Let locals give their visitors a drive through Glitter Gulch once more!

Make our downtown more like it used to be, the Bourbon Street of the West!

Don't be afraid to let our "Sin City" image flow to draw all the tourists we could dream of having visit our historic downtown. Let the Strip be "Kiddyland," downtown is for adults.

Do this and you will be the most successful Mayor our city has ever had. Do it in the sprit of our pioneer citizens, people such as John Pappas whose White Spot Cafe and shopping center served downtown settlers from 1929 until his death in the 1970s.

Honor our town's heritage and those who first settled here to find their fortunes and build our city. People whose offspring should not be robbed of their inheritance through the illegal use of Eminent Domain by the likes of newcomers such as Jan Jones.

Oscar, please preserve the little history our town has left. This history began and is still in our downtown. Please restore it to its pre-Jan Jones aura, and tourists and locals will find their way there once again.


Former Las Vegas City Councilman and former Clark County Regional Transportation Commissioner Steve Miller writes a weekly column in the Las Vegas Tribune.

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