LV Ward 1 candidates talk medical district, transportation

here they are
Ward 1 candidates from left to right - Margarita Rebollal, Brian Knudsen, Robin Munier, Jesse Holder, Robert Blakely, Drew Dondero, Dave Marlon, Sherman Ray and Amy Emanuel.
here they are
Ward 1 candidates from left to right – Margarita Rebollal, Brian Knudsen, Robin Munier, Jesse Holder, Robert Blakely, Drew Dondero, Dave Marlon, Sherman Ray and Amy Emanuel.

With the grand dame of Ward 1, Lois Tarkanian, looking on, the crowded slate of candidates vying to replace her met Monday evening to address concerns of residents in the McNeil neighborhood, the area west of Rancho and between Oakey and West Charleston.

The older homes, many on sprawling lots, are just blocks from the expanding medical district, home to University Medical Center and the anticipated future site of the university medical school on Shadow Lane.

With the primary election just a week away and no candidate poised to win more than fifty percent, the field of nine will likely be whittled to two.

The candidates weighed in on whether the medical district should extend west of Rancho to Valley View, a prospect that could place McNeil homes in the shadow of high-rise complexes.  

Jesse Holder, an armed services veteran, says he wants to work with private business to create an environment that’s beneficial for them to come here but “without giving the store away.”

Sherman Ray, a local businessman, says from a planning perspective, the city is “putting the cart before the horse.”

“We need to work on the infrastructure first before we work on the medical district itself. I’ve watched Charleston homes on the north side and the south side being used for office space,” he noted, warning the residents to preserve their neighborhood.

Drew Dondero, a business owner who lives near Alta and Rancho, identified the medical district as “the number one issue we have.”  

“I think the urgency to develop a world class medical district here will provide jobs, and forces us to improve the infrastructure.  None of us want skyscrapers on Charleston, but to bring doctors and nurses here, we have to have the facilities.”

Candidate Robert Blakely, who serves on the Nevada Board of Education, noted that when he was a Nevada regent he voted to bring the medical school to Las Vegas.

“I’m in favor of it.  It will bring a lot more industry into Ward 1 and that will bring prosperity and better medical care,” he said.

Brian Knudsen, a former city employee and candidate who lives in the McNeil neighborhood, noted the lots along Charleston are not large enough to accommodate “major structures, especially on the south side of Charleston.”  

“What the city should be looking at is going north on Rancho. That’s where the expansion of the medical district will be,” he predicted, noting the medical school will begin graduating 120 doctors annually, beginning this year.  

Candidate Margarita Rebollal, a newcomer to politics, said she favors the expansion up Charleston.

“What I see is neighborhoods can be rebuilt,” she said. “Waiting two months to see a doctor is unacceptable.  Having more doctors in town will be a great thing for the community.”

Dave Marlon, a former drug and alcohol rehab executive, says he doesn’t see the medical district expanding west on Charleston.

“We need to sit down with the current city councilwoman to make sure we carry the torch,” he said. “We don’t need to feel like we need to go to L.A. to get health care.”

Amy Emanuel, who owns a commercial property management company and is active in pedestrian safety initiatives, said there isn’t enough land to “go vertical on Charleston.”

“I had the pleasure of walking your neighborhood and understanding how Project Neon currently impacts your neighborhood,” she said, noting motorists are using streets in the McNeil neighborhood to bypass road construction.  

The candidates also chimed in on creating connections between neighborhoods and downtown.  

“Right now, there are a multitude of plans,” Munier said. “Light rails to come down Charleston from the northwest and to downtown.  It’s being discussed.”

Blakely disagreed.

“I don’t think light rail is coming. What’s more realistic is using Uber and Lyft,” he said.

“Light rail is too expensive,” said Marlon, adding Las Vegas “doesn’t have a wonderful public transit system.”

Holder said the connectivity from the Rancho and Charleston area to downtown “is very adequate as it is.”

Emanuel said Las Vegas needs to improve its sidewalks, which are lacking in the Buffalo and Oakey area where she lives.

“We don’t have enough bike lanes or bus turnouts.  Thirteen percent of our ward walks, bikes or takes the bus compared with eight percent of the rest of Las Vegas, so we need to be very cognizant,” she said.

Knudsen said he’s on a Regional Transportation Committee advisory panel.

“There’s going to be a recommendation for light rail from the airport to downtown and from downtown to the medical district,” he said, adding that as the Vice-President of the Downtown Alliance, he wants to bring more residents into downtown.  

Dondero, a father, noted there’s no safe way to take a bike ride from his home to the nearby Children’s Museum.

“We’re going to have half a million more people living here,” he said.

Rebollal told the neighbors that connectivity is a good thing.  She also supports efforts to gate communities to reduce crime.

Ray, who says he’s a cyclist, support more bike paths and a re-branding of the RTC as the “Vegas Express.”

“You never know who you’ll meet on the Vegas Express,” he said, suggesting a slogan for the effort.

“The great thing about the RTC is we have buses.  The bad thing about the RTC is we love our cars.”

Dana Gentry
Reporter | Dana Gentry is a native Las Vegan and award-winning investigative journalist. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Gentry began her career in broadcasting as an intern at Channel 8, KLAS-TV. She later became a reporter at Channel 8, working with Las Vegas TV news legends Bob Stoldal and the late Ned Day. Gentry left her reporting job in 1985 to focus on motherhood. She returned to TV news in 2001 to launch "Face to Face with Jon Ralston" and the weekly business programs In Business Las Vegas and Vegas Inc, which she co-anchored with Jeff Gillan. Dana is the mother of four adult children, three cats, three dogs and a cockatoo.

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