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Steve Lunetta: City council: More than meets the eye

Posted: August 8, 2010 9:25 p.m.
Updated: August 9, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Trish and I packed up the family last week and headed up to Las Vegas for a week of basking in the sun and enjoying the strange people and sights in Sin City.

Vegas is a real study in contradictions — not unlike the Democratic Party.

On the one hand, the city brags about its family-friendly atmosphere with roller coasters, ice cream and circus acts. On the other hand, there are illegal immigrants in the streets handing out advertising cards for call girls.

We had never been to Las Vegas as a family, so this was a first for us. We kept the teenagers safely in tow as we went to the various activities. There is no way on God’s green Earth that we would let them out of our sight.

One night was Fremont Street with its tremendous light display. Throw in Queen singing “We Are the Champions” and $1 shrimp cocktails, and I was on cloud nine. 

Fremont Street is old Vegas, and you truly get the sense of what it was like in the early days with smoky casinos and gritty little eating joints meant only to serve enough food to keep you gambling.

Of course, what Vegas trip is complete without a show? We got half-price tickets to the Blue Man Group and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I’ll never think of toilet paper in the same way again. 

The shooting range was a special treat. Nevada treats gun owners with respect and not like criminals, like California does.

In Nevada, the Second Amendment still exists. Ammunition can still be bought and shot. Good guys have guns, and bad guys are scarce.

The buffet at the Luxor was a winner. A little secret: Go 15 minutes before lunch is over and the dinner foods come out.

That way, you pay for lunch but still score all the shrimp and sushi that you can eat.

The most curious sight, however, was not the truck billboards advertising hookers, the toothless lions at the MGM Grand or the human statues at the Venetian. It was the political advertising.

With an impending City Council and general municipal election, political signs were everywhere.

The signs were not the average run-of-the-mill signs. You know what I’m talking about. Around here, a candidate sign usually consists of a star or a flag followed by the candidate’s name. The name is usually in big, bold letters that announces MESSINA or STRICKLAND is running. Simple and straightforward.

In Vegas, each sign carries the candidate’s face in full color. Correction: It’s usually a shoulders-up shot that captures not only the candidate’s physical perfection but also their taste in clothing. Each sign is also 4 feet tall and 8 feet long. The size and preponderance of signs with properly coifed candidates staring at you is staggering.

The first question, of course, is: Why? The only thing I can come up with is that the typical Las Vegas voter is overwhelmed by pictures of comedians, showgirls and (ironically) lawyers on every billboard. Politicians must show their face to influence the voter.

The next question becomes: How much does this cost? I’ve only seen one local candidate, David Gauny, put a picture on a campaign poster and it must have cost a bundle. Full-color banners in large numbers in Las Vegas must come from well-funded campaigns.

I looked up what some Vegas candidates raised for their 2009 campaigns. According to the Nevada Secretary of State’s office, City Councilmen Steve Ross and Anthony Stavros raised $168,775 and $213,540, respectively. A losing candidate named Jennifer Taylor raised a paltry $30,976.

I then took a look at the excellent article written by Natalie Everett in last week’s Signal detailing the monies spent by our local City Council members. Marsha McLean spent $34,936, Laurene Weste spent $31,488 and Frank Ferry a paltry $24,945.

Ferry wouldn’t get elected dog catcher in Vegas for that amount.

This goes a long way to explaining why we don’t see Las Vegas-style campaign posters in our fair city. The money simply isn’t available to spend on gaudy campaign signs that emphasize looks and aesthetics over substance, style and leadership.
I hope that we never become a city that looks only at surface qualities of candidates. Folks, as we approach new elections in the fall, let’s strip back the veneer and look at who the candidates truly are underneath. 

In the coming weeks, Right About Now will dedicate itself to stripping veneer and giving readers an in-depth review of the candidates and issues. It may not be pretty.

Steve Lunetta is a Santa Clarita resident and does not gamble or drink. He’s a real killjoy in Vegas. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of the Signal. He can be reached at


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