Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Letter to NDOT and the FHWA about Project NEON

Mr. Saul Willis at his home in West Las Vegas, near F Street and McWilliams. Mr. Willis has received no compensation for the damage done to his home and business.

Mr. Cooke and Mr. Abdalla,

I am expressing my concerns to the FHWA and NDOT so they are in the loop about my concerns. I actually have some revisions to the statements I made on this project, but I understand the public comment period has expired. I would like you to reconsider the deadlines and include these comments.

After again reviewing the limited amount of information on the Project NEON survey of potentially displaced people, it appears to me that you may have a major Environmental Justice issue on your hand with Project NEON. You had some of the information buried in a CD that is not even in the paper copy of the Draft EIS.

Given both agencies' track records on environmental injustice from 1956 to the present, I would encourage you to review my concerns. Based on this abysmal record, I do not trust that the Relocation Program will be just or fair or that you have given a reasonable effort in conducting your surveys.

I am letting you know of these concerns so there is not another F Street situation and lots of wasted money and resources to remedy the situation.

According to Executive Order 12898 as well as FHWA guidelines, protected groups include people under the poverty line as well as people of color.

Your "Relocation Impact Study" by Mayo and Associates in 2005 only had 76 respondents for the survey and only 46 respondents for the income portion. The number of people potentially displaced was 852. So that's a 9% response rate (76/852), not a 22% response rate as mentioned on pg 3-14 of the Draft EIS. The percentage of people who answered the income questions was 5% (46/852). (Note: the number of people potentially displaced comes from pg 3-27 of the Draft EIS, FHWA-NV-EIS-09-01-D).

The survey also indicated that of the respondents who did answer, the median income was $32,863 in 2005, versus a median family income of $44,069 of the City of Las Vegas in 2000. Although these may not be poverty-level numbers, you listed 37 of the 46 respondents had income below median levels. You do not mention how many people fall into the poverty category. You also didn't mention whether the survey was also available in Spanish.

I would argue that these response rate may not yield valid results. Income statistics may also have changed dramatically in this area, due to the recession and to the economic damage already created by Project NEON, where those with higher incomes may be leaving the impact area.

I would like to know whether the FHWA and NDOT are compliant with procedures/ guidelines on this type of survey. Is there a standard for response rates? I would also like to review whether there may have been any fraud or unethical behavior involved in gathering and/or publicizing the survey data by Mayo and Associates.

Dahn Shaulis

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mass Incarceration in Nevada Is a Failed Strategy/SB398

Nevada Prison Commissioners Meeting, April 20, 2010

My name is Dahn Shaulis. I am an instructor at the College of Southern Nevada, a former Nevada correctional employee, and an attender of the Las Vegas Friends Worship Group—the Quakers.

My purpose for being here again is to discuss Nevada’s justice options for the future. In discussing these options, we need to examine where we are and were we have come from in terms of justice and prisons. When I speak of justice it’s about a justice much broader than many people perceive.

The State of Nevada is in crisis, socially, economically, and spiritually. Unemployment in Nevada has been in the double digits for months and has approached 14%. For people of color and the working-class, their struggles for opportunities, including decent and humane housing, education, employment and justice have taken longer. Nevada’s unemployment rate for African Americans is estimated at 20%, but that does not even include discouraged workers and those part-time workers who are seeking full-time work. Unemployment rates for Latinos are not much better and I suspect rates for indigenous peoples are also above the average.

As I mentioned at the January 2010 Prison Board meeting, Nevada has heavily invested in a Prison-Industrial Complex (PIC) for more than four decades. Prison expansion began in the mid-1960s and has continued into the 21st century. Since the 1970s, the State has also chosen to mass incarcerate youth, giving NDOC more potential recruits for prison. Even as index crime rates began to drop in this State in the early 1980s, Nevada continued on the path of mass incarceration. Conditions were so deplorable in Elko that the youth facility required federal oversight. Nevada has also chosen to jail and imprison many women, rather than find alternatives to incarceration or to remedy the situation by understanding the etiology of crime.

Tough on crime legislation has been tough on society, as Nevada leaders chose for decades to disregard human needs: underfunding education, mental health treatment, drug treatment, and decent affordable housing. The State chose to increase sentence structures and to punish probation and parole violators, at the expense of long-term social and economic costs. Prisons in Nevada were supposedly constructed to save rural economies, but they also provided low-wage convict labor--reminiscent of the racist South after the Civil War. Prisons may bring work for some, but the work is often inhumane—it bleeds into all those who are near it.

From the 1980s to the present, Nevada followed the most dysfunctional aspects of the California prison system, and built Golden Gulags, facilities that cost hundreds of millions of dollars to construct, staff, and maintain. Limited efforts were made to rehabilitate prisoners despite increasing knowledge about what works in correctional treatment. Recent attempts to privatize prisons and prison services at Summit View, the women’s prison in Southern Nevada, and the medical services at Ely State Prison (ESP) have been huge failures—yet Governor Gibbons continues to push for more privatization.

In 2007, Governor Gibbons proposed $1.7 billion in new prison construction to include a new death chamber—because he saw no other alternatives. Only a budget crisis and unforeseen drops in crime prevented the Governor and Director Howard Skolnik from continuing this mass incarceration master plan.

So here’s the picture in 2010. According to the US Census, Nevada ranks 2nd in prison spending per capita and 48th in education spending. The State has chosen a path of mass incarceration and a system that promotes violence and ignorance rather than a path of education and innovation. In April 2010, Nevada has been labeled as the most place dangerous state in the US. But this is a pyrrhic defeat for the Nevada prison system, which profits from crime and the fear of crime.

Prisons today function inadequately as drug treatment and mental health facilities, as “the new asylums.” They also serve inadequately as high schools, work houses, and as high-cost warehousing of throw-away people. Nevada’s prisons, frankly, serve as graduate schools and network hubs for organized interstate crime and White Supremacist hate groups.

Little effort is made to help prepare prisoners for work and independent living after they leave the facilities. One of Governor Gibbon’s recent strategies to cut the budget included closing Casa Grande, the state’s transition facility; Mr. Skolnik did not protest the plan to cut Casa Grande. This plan to close Casa Grande should be understood in the context that the Nevada Department of Corrections wins when it receives “repeat customers.” NDOC is an agency that grows in proportion to its failures.

When I publicly made statements two years ago, that NDOC officials were morally corrupt, and reported my experiences in the Justice Policy Journal, prison officials told the media I was fabricating information. They refused to comment on the record, however, because they knew I was telling the truth about prison conditions and the state of justice in Nevada. As a payback perhaps, Mr. Skolnik denied me access into NDOC facilities to teach college courses or to volunteer.

As UNLV criminal justice Professor Randall Shelden will tell you, our prison system is a failed system. Mass incarceration is a drain on society and it’s a dysfunctional strategy to improve public safety. In terms of economic opportunity costs, money spent on prisons means less resources for education, drug treatment, mental health care, and community redevelopment.

So what are our options?

Privatizing prisons does not work. They are not even an adequate short-term fix. No other civilized nations use this failed strategy of punitive justice to this extreme. Our only reasonable option is to think long-term and to think holistically. We need to recognize that resources are limited and that there are opportunity costs. Even US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Reagan appointee, questioned this approach as early as 2004.

One of the most obvious short-term solutions would be to pass Senate Bill (SB) 398. This program would divert hundreds of nonviolent offenders from prison and into treatment. The SAGE Commission has estimated a savings of $280 million over a 5-year period—savings that could be used to invest in people rather than in concrete shrines to man’s ignorance and greed.

The ideal situation would be to take the savings from this diversion program to reinvest in communities hardest hit by mass incarceration, “million-dollar blocks,” to be spent on prevention and reentry. Good Pre-K programs, for example, reduce crime in the long run. The Rand Corporation and others have ideas of what programs would be most effective.

I would like to have your support today and am asking that you promise to promote SB 398 immediately--with the courage to promote it publicly. I would also ask you to encourage educators and working-class communities to support this bill.

In my January 2010 statement to the Board I explained several sources to safely plan for the downsizing of prisons—and for long-term community investment that reduces crime. These sources include legitimate authorities: Michael Jacobson and the Justice Center of the Council of State Governments. We also need to train and retrain workers so they don’t have to resort to prison work, as I did, for a decent paycheck. In the long-term, we need to mature as a State, divest ourselves from prisons and sources of crime such as casino gambling, while investing in the People.

Friday, April 16, 2010

West Las Vegas Timeline for Environmental Justice and Regional Equity

Video produced by Brandon Greene.

Please email me at dahnshaulis@netzero.com to correct errors, make comments or suggestions.

1904-1905: J.T. McWilliams Townsite established. Union Pacific Railroad connection completed in 1905. Townsite grows to approximately (West Las Vegas Plan, 2009, p. 10. http://www.lasvegasnevada.gov/files/WestLasVegasPlan.pdf)

1905: The Las Vegas Land and Water Co. owns most of the water rights in the Las Vegas Valley, forcing McWilliams townsite residents to relocate to the southeast side of the tracks. The result is a rapid decline of the McWilliams townsite. Railroad tracks cut off trade between the two sides (West Las Vegas Plan, p. 10).

1930s: Apartheid to the west side of Union Pacific Railroad tracks results from restrictive covenants. Segregation results in tent subdivisions next to the McWilliams townsite to accommodate growth. Residents lived in overcrowded conditions due to low wage jobs, and the high cost of land on the east side. Many families either shared a house or lived on one lot with several structures (West Las Vegas Plan, p. 10).

1936: Bonanza underpass allows Westside transportation access between both sides of the Union Pacific railroad track (West Las Vegas Plan, p. 10).

1943: Mayor Ernie Cragin refuses to renew business licenses of Black business owners unless they relocate to the Westside. Restrictive covenants and failure to rent to Blacks create defacto segregation (Orleck, 2006, pp. 43-44). African American population increases during World War II (Nellis Airfield, Basic Magnesium). Most New African American newcomers live on the Westside. Westside businesses prosper as hotels, casinos, and bars are built.

1944-1945 Informal urban renewal programs raze 375 homes, causing overcrowding on the Westside.

1945: Reverend Henry Cooke and West Side residents petition Mayor Cragin to pave “E” Street, the main thoroughfare on the Westside. All requests for public improvement are denied (Moehring, 2000, p. 178).

1948: US Supreme Court Shelley v. Kraemer bans racially restrictive covenants in housing. However, this is not instituted into Nevada Law until 1971.

1950: Under Truman’s Fair Deal, $1 million federal housing project approved (Kaufman, p. 360)

1951: Predominantly White middle-class residents of Bonanza Village protest use of the 20-acre Zaug Tract for low-cost housing development. Black residents charge racial discrimination. Bonanza Village hires attorney Harvey Dickerson (Kaufman, LV Sun, 4-24-51).

1951: As a compromise to Bonanza Village residents, a “100-foot wide buffer highway” is constructed (Highland Avenue, later renamed Martin Luther King Boulevard), separating the future housing project from Bonanza Village (Kaufman, p. 361; Moehring, p. 179)

1952: City of Las Vegas blacktops areas on the Westside. Federal housing project now known as Marble Manor completed (Kaufman, pp. 362-363).

1954-1955 Westside Park/Berkley Square subdivision constructed 155 tract houses. Subdivision designed by Paul Revere Williams is “the first subdivision in Nevada built by and for African Americans.” According to Mooney (2005), “the subdivision contributed to the improved living conditions for the community and represented the progress of local civil rights activism.”

1955: City of Las Vegas creates ordinance to drive out parked trailer owners. Six hundred (600) people sign petition to overturn ordinance, but the ordinance is retained (Kaufman, p. 375). Paving district established to fund curbing, guttering, and lighting on the West side.

1956: City of Las Vegas applies for federal urban renewal money, allowing it to condemn property for “better” use. City Planning Department extends slum clearance program by recommending that the federal highway (later known as I-15) be routed through the Westside (Kaufman, p. 375).

1957: Federal Highway plans cut highway through the Westside. Westside residents protest plan. Highway plan tied in with urban renewal plan to placate residents. 200 families displaced with promise that they would be moved to better housing (Kaufman, pp. 375-376)

1959: Las Vegas Review-Journal describes plan by State Engineer and city officials to extend Highland Avenue, which had ended at Charleston Blvd. Plan states that Highland Avenue may be extended all the way to San Francisco (LV Review Journal, 10-15-59).

1960: 160 family dwellings completed. This does not meet demand for housing (see 1957 entry). Advisory Urban Renewal Committee suggests that further low-income projects should be built outside the Westside, but this suggestion was ignored by planners. Dr. Charles West suggests that this is an attempt to create a ghetto (Kaufman, p. 378). See LULU.

1962: Plans for widening I-15 include a cul-de-sac at F Street.

1964: Civil Rights Act. Title VI prohibits racial discrimination on any projects involving federal funding.

1968: Seven streets closed on the Westside. Led by Ethel Pearson, hundreds of people of the Westside community protest street closures, but streets remain closed.

May 1968: NAACP files lawsuit against Clark County School District to integrate schools. Ninth Circuit Court decides in favor of NAACP. (see 1972 entry).

October 5-11, 1969: Protests framed as "civil disturbances" prompt the City to reopen streets in West Las Vegas (City of Las Vegas documents, 1970)

1970: Las Vegas Rescue Mission established on West Bonanza Road.

1970-1980: Population of the Westside declines from 15,857 to 15,122, while County population increases from 273,268 to 463,087. Some Westside businesses fail as they are patronized less (1994 West Side Plan, p. 15, 22).

1971: In response to Westside protests, F and D Streets reconfigured to access Downtown.

1971: State of Nevada passes law prohibiting restrictive covenants and housing discrimination. (Moehring and Green, 2005)

June 4, 1971: Hotels and casinos sign consent decree to end racial discrimination after NAACP filed a federal lawsuit.

1972-1992: Clark County School District buses Westside children in grades 1st to 5th and 7th to 12th for racial integration. Westside schools serve as 6th grade centers for busing Whites.

1974: Sherman Gardens (public housing) built.

1978-: State of Nevada invests in significant prison building projects to include Southern Nevada Correctional Center (1978), Southern Desert Correctional Center (1982), and High Desert State Prison (2000). See Opportunity Costs and Prison-Industrial Complex. http://www.doc.nv.gov/facilities/index.php?idnum=0

1980s: Growth of Green Valley suburb in Henderson. As a bedroom community for Las Vegas it accentuates urban sprawl and White flight from Las Vegas. Mandated school busing does not apply to Henderson (Moehring and Green, 2005, p. 228).

1980s-1990s: “Homeless Corridor” built in area adjacent (to the east of) Westside (Borchard, 2005, p. xxiii). See LULU/PIBBY.

1980-1985(?) A,B,C Streets closed at Bonanza to build food warehouse

1986: Las Vegas Redevelopment Authority (LVRDA) established to redevelop blighted areas under State of Nevada law (NRS 279). Westside is excluded. In 1988, only portions of the Westside are included in the RDA. Other parts of the Westside continue to be excluded.

1990: Construction of Summerlin suburb by Summa Corporation expands wasted land use (i.e. sprawl) and White flight in Las Vegas Valley (Schumacher, 2004, p. 120, 125; Alan Berger, 2007, p. 32)

1991: Intermodal Surface Transportation Act (ISTEA) becomes law. Under ISTEA, Interstate Highway I-15 is labeled the “Economic Lifeline Corridor.”

April 1992: Creation of the West Las Vegas Neighborhood Advisory Board to address the needs and disparities of the community. Members appointed by Las Vegas City Councilman Frank Hawkins. http://www.lasvegasnevada.gov/files/WLVcomposite.pdf

1992-1998: US Environmental Protection Agency orders Union Pacific Railroad to remove petroleum and lead contaminated soil. Site to be remediated as a brownfield for city redevelopment. Unable to find information on the health effects of decades of railroad air, water, soil, and noise pollution to Westside residents. http://ndep.nv.gov/bca/brownfield_union-park.htm

1994: First West Last Vegas Plan by City of Las Vegas. One of the goals is to “ensure that planning for West Las Vegas is done with the residents rather than for the residents.” (1994 West Las Vegas Plan, p. 19). The plan recommends that highways I-15 and I-95 should not be used to impede traffic. The plan also calls for a college branch campus at Washington and D Street. http://www.lasvegasnevada.gov/files/WLVcomposite.pdf

1994: Executive Order 12898 orders federal agencies to develop environmental justice guidelines and lists people of color and poor people as protected groups.

1994-1997: Half of Gerson Park (public housing) remains vacant due to a virus. More than 1500 people remain on waiting list for public housing. http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/1997/sep/29/housing-agency-moves-slowly-on-gerson-park

2002: Southern Nevada Regional Planning Commission reports on infill issues in Las Vegas noting what Scott Adams, Operations Manager for the LVRDA calls “the donut hole” in West Las Vegas (Amy Kingsley, LV City Life, 2-26-09).

September 2, 2003: V-Point Planners, a representative for Paradise Development (associated with Molasky Group), requests that a portion of "F" Street be renamed Parkway Center Drive "because it deems more appropriate with the Parkway Center Development."

September 15, 2003: City Parkway IV A., Inc. “a nonprofit organization and subdivision of the State of Nevada”, petitions the Las Vegas City Council to have “F” Street renamed “City Parkway” on the east side of I-15.

November 18, 2003: In an email from city employee Melanie Dobosh to City of Las Vegas Planner Thomas Burkart, Ms. Dobosh calls the name change from F Street to City Parkway "a very bad idea" and expresses major concerns about public health and safety.

2004: Nevada Department of Transportation and City of Las Vegas plan expansion of Interstate Highway (I-15) through the Westside. F Street renamed City Parkway on development side of I-15. Government agencies claim they have followed policies by notifying the four residents who live within 400 feet of the closure. http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2009/jun/28/fight-over-closing-f-street/

2005: Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Act (SAFE-TEA) becomes law.

2005: NDOT holds hearings for I-15 widening to Apex. According to NDOT, the closing of D and F Street are not in the plan.

2006: Second West Las Vegas Plan completed by City of Las Vegas. http://www.lasvegasnevada.gov/files/WestLasVegasPlan.pdf

January 18, 2006: Las Vegas City Council votes to close F and D streets as part of I-15 highway expansion. The provision is part of one agenda item 87 of 147 listed agenda items. Las Vegas Councilman Lawrence Weekly later claims he did not know the plan would include street closings. According to Bart Anderson of Public Works, The F Street connector was intended to "provide additional access to I-15." Mr. Anderson also stated that "additional public meetings would take place."

August 2, 2006: NDOT (Jeff Hale) asks the City of Las Vegas for a “resolution of support” to close F Street as part of the I-15 to Apex Widening project. The video from the January 18 and August 2 council meetings posted at

2006: Clergy and Las Vegas Metro Police reach out to local youths to reduce crime. According to Captain Patrick Neville violent crimes decreased 35% from 2006 to 2007 and an additional 17% from 2007 to 2008 (Sonya Padgett, Las Vegas Review Journal, February 15, 2009, p. 4J).

2006: “Economic Opportunity Board [EOB], the area’s oldest and largest nonprofit that offered programs such as child care and Head Start closed.” In 2003, it faced allegations of misuse of funds. A federal audit of The Southern Nevada Workforce Investment Board also showed millions of mismanaged funds, with lucrative contracts going to nonprofits with close ties to the board. (Adrienne Packer, Las Vegas Review-Journal, July 26, 2009, p. 4B)

May 2007: Environmental Assessment (EA) of “I-15 Improvements to Apex” published. The study (p. 32) finds that the proposed project is in non-attainment for Carbon Monoxide, Particulate Matter, and Ozone. However, the EA claims a “finding of no significant impact” and therefore no Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is completed. The authors (p. 21) also report “no adverse, disproportionate, environmental justice impacts.” According to the report (p. 24), “the proposed area includes a larger proportion of African Americans (28 percent) than the County (nine percent). “ The Paiute Indian Reservation is also in the impact zone (p. 24). http://www.nevadadot.com/divisions/pdfs/013/EA_06_01.pdf

2008: Native Son bookstore (Sam Smith) closes.

2008: Third West Las Vegas Plan published by City of Las Vegas. Plan notes that 24% of the lots on the Westside remain vacant. http://www.lasvegasnevada.gov/files/APA_Report_2008.pdf

2008: Concrete wall built across F Street which cuts off only direct access between the Westside and $16-24 Billion Downtown redevelopment zone. City Council members claim they know nothing about the closure.

September 7, 2008: F Street closed (Les Pierres Streater, Las Vegas Sentinel Voice, p. 1, December 25, 2008).

September 2008: Las Vegas Ward 5 Chamber of Commerce stages a protest at the F Street underpass. The sign read "Don't Shut Us Out". Katie Duncan, Katherine Joseph (Black Historical Society),Nevada Assemblyman Harvey Munford, Gene Collins, Anthony Snowden, Cedric Gay, Sharon Jamerson, Irma Walker, and Stan Wilkerson participated. The media and Oscar Goodman notified. Channel 3 and City Life covered the story. Construction was temporarily halted. NDOT official Jeff Hale states that the closing of F Street would cut construction costs of the I-15 expansion by $14 million. http://www.lasvegascitylife.com/articles/2008/10/06/news/local_news/iq_24228234.txt

October 2008: Stop the F Street Closure Coalition formed

December 24, 2008: Ora Bland, Estella Jimerson, National Action Network and Stop the F Street Closure, LLC file a Federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of Las Vegas and Nevada Department of Transportation for the F Street closure.

January 7, 2009: Westside residents conduct protest march on Las Vegas City Hall.

February 2009: After political pressure from Westside residents, City agrees to reopen D Street.

April 18, 2009: Protest march by F Street Coalition held on Las Vegas Strip.

May 2009: Assembly Bill 304 approved in Nevada Legislature. AB 304 provision sponsored by Assemblyman Harvey Munford and Senator Steven Horsford requires reopening of F Street and participation of two residents on the Southern Nevada Enterprise Community Board.

2009: College of Southern Nevada ends its sponsorship of the A.D. Guy Center at 817 North "N" Street.

2009: West Prep passes No Child Left Behind standards after receiving increased funding. Las Vegas Sun (8-12-09) reports from UCLA researchers that Westside elementary schools (“Prime Six” schools) are in danger of triple segregation (race, poverty, language) due to influx of large Spanish speaking population. Approximately 1/3 of all students are limited in English language. Booker and Wendell Williams schools, however, show adequate progress.

September 3, 2009: Nevada Department of Transportation submits Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Project NEON (I-15 Corridor Improvements and Local Arterial Improvements). In the plan, MLK Blvd would be connected to Industrial Blvd to have a high-speed arterial between Henderson and North Las Vegas. The NEON project would take 6-20 years and is based on county population growth from its current count 1.9 million residents to 3.3 million residents in 2030. According to the Draft EIS, more than 850 residents and approximately 1800 employees will be displaced. Many of the displaced residents are living near Martin Luther King Boulevard (Between Charleston and Desert Lane). A survey of potentially displaced people results in a 22% return rate. Based on this limited data, there is a Finding Of No Significant Environmental Justice Impact (FONSI). http://www.ndotprojectneon.com/Text.pdf

October 5, 2009: At the SNEC meeting, NDOT/City of Las Vegas report an estimate of mid-2014 reopening date for "F" Street.

November 2009: City of Las Vegas (City Parkway IV-A) and PHI (affiliated with Molasky Development) sign an exclusive agreement to construct a building to house Immigration and Customs Enforcement Building at 301 West Mesquite. Las Vegas City Council approves the contract. http://www5.lasvegasnevada.gov/sirepub/cache/2/pzmvmwqooln3ea55inayva55/273541811222009082432203.PDF

November 2009: National Park Service designates Berkley Square for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2009/nov/20/berkley-square-neighborhood-national-historic-regi/

April 12, 2010 At the Southern Nevada Enterprise Community (SNEC) meeting, The City of Las Vegas annnounces they will not fund a public outreach prgram for the F Street reopening Project. F Street members state that they were not informed of this development. Ricki Barlow claims that the decision was made so that he could be more directly responsible for the F Street Reopening Project.

Key Terms:
EA=Environmental Assessment
EIS=Environmental Impact Statement
FONSI=Finding of No Significant IMpact
LULU=Locally Unwanted Land Uses
NIMBY=Not In My Back Yard
PIBBY=Put in Black’s Back Yard
Opportunity costs
Quality of Life (QOL) indicators
Inequities (procedural, geographic, social)
Prison-Industrial Complex