By Luis Cabrera
A proposal for Laughlin, NV to become incorporated was defeated at the polls this week. Residents of this tourist town decided on the measure on June 12th, and voters in opposition prevailed over the ones in support of it. The final score showed 962 votes against incorporation and only 729 in favor. At day’s end, ballots cast totaled 1691, a number that represented a turnout of sixty percent of the 2,700 registered voters in town.
Those in the losing minority still managed to get 43 percent of the vote, a figure that will likely encourage them to try again in the future. Cityhood for Laughlin was a heated issue leading up to the voting this week, with both sides fervently arguing for and against it. Proponents of the measure claimed that Clark County Government Centers, located in downtown Las Vegas, are just too far and out of reach for the reality of daily life in Laughlin.
For example, under the current status, a resident of Laughlin who needs a building permit has to make the nearly two-hour, 100-mile long drive to Las Vegas. The same rings true if a meeting with an elected official is in order, because bureaucrats operate from the central outposts located in Las Vegas.
On the other hand, opponents feared that if Laughlin became an incorporated entity, it would not have sufficient resources to pay the bills and exist on its own. They argued that in case of failure, the State would take over the town’s finances and a raise in property taxes would likely follow. They pointed out the recent ruling in the Nevada Legislature in which lawmakers opted to leave the Laughlin “strip” out of the incorporation proposal. Therefore, it is unclear whether the hypothetical city to-be could support itself without the cash flow in tax revenue from the casino resorts.
Laughlin is a true desert oasis, a small town of 7,000 people sitting in the Valley of the Colorado River. The resort town boasts an impressive 2.3 million visitors per year, and it hosts big annual events such as the Laughlin Regatta and the Laughlin River Run, a motorcycle enthusiasts’ gathering. It has its own international airport, golf courses, gambling and dining amenities, shows, and miles of river for sports and fun on the water. According to the local Chamber of Commerce, close to six percent of the gaming revenue Clark County receives is generated there.
The town prides itself in being a cheaper alternative to Las Vegas; Laughlin is a destination where visitors still gamble, or enjoy a good dinner and show on a low budget. However, not everything in Laughlin is about casinos and gaming. This enclave in the Mohave also offers opportunities to explore wildlife, like hiking and bird watching. In addition, there are nearby attractions such as famous Route 66, or the old west town of Oatman, in bordering Arizona.
Perhaps being remote and removed from a big metropolis like Las Vegas is not a bad thing. Residents here treasure the clean, crisp air that lets them enjoy a blue sky during the day and the opportunity to gaze at the stars at night. Maybe the residents here like it that way, and the long trips for official business come with the living.
Whether the battle for incorporation will come back later or not remains to be seen. Judging by the attention and news the issue brought forward, it is evident that both sides had valid reasons to push for their causes. For now though, it is time for the residents to leave differences behind, and get back to working together. Laughlin’s reputation for being fun, friendly and affordable has been rightfully earned, and it is up to the community to keep it that way.