Tag: las vegas
With Changing Climate, Let's Not Expect Green Lawns In Las Vegas

With Changing Climate, Let's Not Expect Green Lawns In Las Vegas

One can well understand the allure of the American Southwest. Shirtsleeves in February. Natural beauty under a big starry sky. But as the region's water shortage approaches crisis levels, newcomers — and old-timers — may have to give up the idea that the good life includes a lush green lawn.

Las Vegas isn't Buffalo without the snow. Grass grows in Buffalo with minimal effort. Not so in Las Vegas, set in the Mojave Desert.

Grass needs lots of water, and the region's supplies are so strained that Las Vegas is sending out contractors to dig up "nonfunctional turf." The city defines "nonfunctional" as grass kept only for its good looks — in practice, grass along streets or at commercial sites.

Over 40 million people rely on the stressed Colorado River for water. Water levels in the river's two big reservoirs, Lake Powell and Lake Mead, are at historic low levels. Meanwhile, the other source that has provided water forever, underground aquifers, are drying up. Climate change and growing populations are making shortages worse.

As a result, states in the Southwest are facing a hard reality: Greenswards and gurgling fountains may become part of an unrealistic past.

Where water is scarcer, its distribution must be tightly managed. Layers of federal and local agencies must make the hard decisions about who gets how much water and for what. They have no choice but to tighten the rules.

That's why being rich and famous in the Southern California city of Calabasas still doesn't guarantee you a green lawn. Residents there are now limited to watering only eight minutes one day a week.

There's a reason golf was invented in Scotland. The weather there is cool and rainy, and that's what makes grass happy.

Not so in the Sonoran Desert, where Phoenix happens to be located. Phoenix is hot, dry and booming with new arrivals taking showers and flushing toilets.

And so it makes sense to ask why the Phoenix area has 165 golf courses. Having formed an alliance to defend their water allocations, the owners argue that year-round golf is important to the region's economy. That may be so, but couldn't they change the idea of what a golf course looks like?

Arizona farms use over half of the available water. Now getting less water than in previous years, they, too, have banded together. Perhaps the time has come for some of them to stop growing thirsty crops like cotton in the desert.

And what about homeowners? Arizona's cities and suburbs are still largely shielded from drastic cutbacks in water use, but a green lawn may no longer be in the cards.

The good news is that desert vegetation has its own charms. This Old House aired an interesting episode on landscaping a front yard in Phoenix. The result was largely a hardscape of pavement and rocks with spots of desert-friendly mesquite, lantana and, of course, cactus. One plant, the red yucca, offered dramatic blooms eight months a year.

No, it wasn't the opulent green carpets of Connecticut. On the other hand, you don't get eight months of bloom in Connecticut.

A reduced Colorado River has ignited new worries not directly tied to irrigation. Lake Powell has been a source of hydropower. Its water level has fallen so low that it soon may no longer be able to produce electricity serving millions of Westerners. Lake Powell is now down to 27 percent of capacity.

Mother Nature is a disciplinarian. If you want a lot of rain, move to Hawaii or Louisiana or Mississippi. Otherwise, learn to love the desert the way the Creator made it. Really, there's little choice in the matter.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Electionomics: How Donald Trump’s Union Busting Is Killing The American Dream In Las Vegas And Beyond

Electionomics: How Donald Trump’s Union Busting Is Killing The American Dream In Las Vegas And Beyond

Published with permission from AlterNet.

Union busting is never pretty. But in the case of Donald Trump, it’s especially ugly. The Republican presidential nominee has campaigned on promises to make America great again by bringing back good jobs. But in Las Vegas, a company he owns with casino mogul Phillip Ruffin has worked methodically to keep hundreds of its own employees from achieving the American dream.

For the past 18 months, the Trump International Hotel has waged an anti-union campaign in response to an organizing drive by workers. The effort to quash the union has led the National Labor Relations Board to issue a complaint against the Trump Hotel, alleging that the hotel fired union supporters and interrogated and intimidated employees.

In late July, the NLRB denied a final appeal by the hotel challenging last December’s vote by workers to be represented by the Culinary & Bartenders Union. More than a month later, the company is still refusing to recognize the union and negotiate a contract.

When Trump unveiled his economic plan, he promised that “no one will gain more from these proposals than low- and middle-income Americans.” Nowhere in the plan did he mention the right of workers to organize, or the crucial role unions played in building the great American middle class that he pledges to restore.

While Trump may have been silent about his attitude toward unions, the actions of his company in Las Vegas speak volumes about how a President Trump would deal with workers who exercise their right to organize. If Trump has no qualms about sanctioning a union-bashing campaign conducted under the intense national glare of a presidential campaign, imagine how he would act as chief executive when confronted with decisions about the basic rights of workers.

In fact, there is no need to imagine: Trump’s record speaks for itself. In the last decade, Trump’s companies were cited for two dozen violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. According to the International Business Times, the Trump Organization paid almost half a million dollars to “settle a claim with nearly 300 Los Angeles golf club employees in a class-action suit alleging unpaid wages and age discrimination, among other offenses.”

Meanwhile, according to an investigation by the USA Today Network, “at least 60 lawsuits, along with hundreds of liens, judgments, and other government filings…document people who have accused Trump and his businesses of failing to pay them for their work.”

Then there is Trump’s practice of bringing in foreign workers, as he did at Trump Plaza in the 1980s, displacing American construction workers. Trump’s rhetoric distorts the reality that when given the opportunity to shave a few bucks, he will also take the low road of low-wage union avoidance and contracting out to foreign interests.

The anti-union campaign in Las Vegas was preceded by a similar effort in Chicago, where the Trump International Hotel and Tower vigorously fought an organizing drive by the hotel workers union. During the presidential race, Trump has spoken favorably of right-wing “right-to-work” laws, which weaken the best job security protections workers have—a union contract—by preventing employers and employees from negotiating an agreement that requires all workers who receive the benefits of a collective bargaining agreement to pay their share of the costs of representing them. So-called right-to-work laws force unions to represent every eligible employee, whether or not he or she pays dues or fees, thereby allowing workers to pay nothing and still get all the benefits of union membership.

Trump doubled down on his anti-labor stance by picking Mike Pence as his running mate. As reported in the American Prospect, Pence has been an opponent of minimum wage increases, prevailing wages and even the right of local governments to offer more generous wages or benefits than those provided by the state.

All of this should give pause to working- and middle-class voters thinking about casting a ballot for the Trump/Pence ticket in November. Trump may talk a good game when it comes to the economic woes facing tens of millions of Americans, but actions speak louder than words. A vote for Trump would be a vote for the privileged class in which he has spent his entire life. What’s happening in Vegas at the Trump Hotel would surely not stay in Vegas.

Julie Gutman Dickinson is a partner with the union-side law firm, Bush Gottlieb.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Man Arrested At Trump Rally Said He Wanted To Shoot Candidate: Court Papers

Man Arrested At Trump Rally Said He Wanted To Shoot Candidate: Court Papers

A man arrested over the weekend trying to wrestle a gun from a police officer at a Las Vegas rally held by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump told an investigator he wanted to kill the candidate, court papers showed on Monday.

Michael Steven Sandford, who prosecutors described as a 19-year-old British national, was arrested on Saturday at the Treasure Island hotel in Las Vegas after trying to disarm the officer, according to Las Vegas police.

According to court papers filed on Monday in federal court in Nevada, Sandford told a Secret Service agent he had driven to Las Vegas from California with the goal of shooting Trump.

“Sandford claimed he had been attempting to kill Trump for about a year but decided to act on this occasion because he finally felt confident about trying it,” the court papers said.

He was charged with committing an act of violence on restricted ground, Natalie Collins, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said in an email.

Sandford has not entered a plea and is scheduled to be in court for a preliminary hearing on July 5, Collins said. Sandford’s federal public defender, Heather Fraley, could not be immediately reached for comment.

Sandford said he had been in the United States for a year and a half, the documents showed. The records said he had lived in Hoboken, New Jersey, after coming to the country.

Court records said Sandford went to the Battlefield Vegas gun range last Friday to practice shooting, adding that he had never fired a gun before. While there, he fired 20 rounds from a Glock 9 mm handgun, the records said.

Sandford told investigators that if he were “on the street tomorrow,” he would try again, the documents said.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles and Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Toni Reinhold and Peter Cooney)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses an audience at The Fox Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia, June 15, 2016.  REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry

First-Time Visitors To Vegas: Prepare To Be Overwhelmed

First-Time Visitors To Vegas: Prepare To Be Overwhelmed

By Patti Nickell, Lexington Herald-Leader (TNS)

LAS VEGAS — Las Vegas rises, Oz-like, from the scorched brown earth of the desert, an Emerald City whose hue is the color of money. Money, one casino employee joked, that comes from vice and virtue — its two biggest industries being gambling and weddings.

The Vegas mystique is writ large. Chevy Chase took a memorable vacation here; Hunter S. Thompson found “fear and loathing” here; Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis woke to the mother of all Hangovers here. Las Vegas — for better or worse — affects all comers.

Although legalized gambling came to this sleepy southern Nevada town in 1931, it was the 1960s that saw Vegas transformed into an international playground for the famous and infamous.

One of the most famous was eccentric billionaire oilman Howard Hughes, who after being asked to vacate his room at the Desert Inn, retaliated by buying the entire hotel. Around that same time, a trio of entertainers — Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. — dubbed the “Rat Pack,” became regulars on the Strip. Las Vegas never looked back.

While iconic properties such as the Sands and the Dunes have given way to bigger, glitzier ones — the Venetian and Bellagio respectively — Vegas is still a town of one-name headliners. Dean, Frank and Sammy are gone; now there’s Britney, Reba, Donny and Marie.

And it’s not just the entertainers who have achieved a one-name level of fame. Check out the myriad of restaurants in the resorts, and you’ll find Gordon, Giada, Wolfgang and Emeril. In Vegas, it seems celebrity trumps everything, except, of course, money.


Unless you’re a regular, when you first arrive on the Strip, you may find yourself overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of it all — the skyscraper resorts, neon signs and towering billboards. A good way to get your bearings is to purchase a GO Las Vegas Explorer Pass (choice of 3, 4, or 5 attractions and good for 30 days.)

Among the attractions your pass will get you into are the outdoor gondola ride at The Venetian Hotel and the High Roller at the LINQ, Vegas’ answer to the London Eye. You can walk on the wild side at the Mob Museum or stay on the right side of the law at CSI: the Experience. You can even party like Elton or Rod on the Rockstar VIP Club Tour.

Should you wish to do your own thing, just remember: taxis are expensive (second only to New York City) and distances between places — even on the Strip — can make for a long walk, especially in 100-plus temperatures.


Understated Vegas is not, with every property vying to out-glitz its competition. My first stop was the Bellagio, which dazzles with the Dancing Fountains spectacle on its artificial lake (get there early for a prime viewing spot); Cirque de Soleil’s most spectacular show, O, (which transforms the stage into a gigantic swimming pool) and the lobby Conservatory, which draws as many people as the casino.

The Conservatory changes its floral display five times a year — for each season and the Chinese New Year. An ocean-themed display was up during my stay. To say it’s eye-popping is an understatement. Giant seahorses cavort with equally large turtles; oysters open to reveal shimmering pearls, and a 7-foot mermaid lounges on a rock. It would have been spectacular even if the entire display hadn’t been fashioned of real flowers, which are replaced every couple of days as needed.

Other properties are equally over-the-top. The Venetian has gondoliers to take you on a ride through indoor and outdoor lagoons; Caesar’s Palace has a Roman-inspired shopping street featuring the best Italian brands — Ferragamo, Versace, Armani and Gucci — and Paris Las Vegas has a half-scale replica of the Eiffel Tower.

If these properties are all about conspicuous excess, the Cosmopolitan is the very definition of cool. Large graphics that explode in a kaleidoscope of colors and shapes dominate the lobby, and make the often-lengthy check-in process at least entertaining.

Also entertaining is the Cosmopolitan’s Chandelier Bar. The multi-level bar, cocooned in rows of crystal beads, is meant to resemble, what else, a chandelier, but I felt more like I was sipping champagne in a giant jeweled spider web.

If the craziness gets to be too much and you need a quiet retreat, don’t despair. You can find one in the peaceful oasis of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Tucked away in an enclave, there are no garish lights or signs here, just the tranquil zen-like feel of an Asian garden.

I booked a table at MOZEN for lunch one day and had a delicious sushi/sashimi platter accompanied by a plum-flavored sake with delicate notes of blood orange and cinnamon. That was followed by a 60-minute massage in the Mandarin Oriental’s acclaimed spa. It was so relaxing that I was ready to take on the Strip again.


Almost as popular as gaming in Vegas are the shows. Everyone who is anyone in the entertainment world makes Las Vegas a regular stop. Everyone from pop stars to Cirque de Soleil, which has no fewer than eight shows running on the Strip (the Michael Jackson Thriller scene at Mandalay Bay will, pardon the pun, thrill you.)

However, if you are into nostalgia and want a look at Las Vegas in the days of glamorous showgirls, magicians and animal acts, save a night for Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino’s Saxe Theater production of VEGAS! The Show.

Beginning with Frank, Dean and Sammy, the show segues through all the great performers who left their mark here: Judy Garland, Elvis, Sonny & Cher, and Tina Turner come alive through talented impersonators singing and dancing their hearts out.


Forget the $3.99 buffets. Las Vegas is a food lover’s paradise. Your only problem will be how to squeeze in all the places you want to go in the time you have. During my three days, I managed three lunches and two dinners.

Aside from the previously mentioned MOZEN, lunch spots included TREVI at Caesar’s Palace and GIADA at the Cromwell Hotel (they do love capital letters here.)

Step out of the white-hot glare of a desert afternoon into the lavender twilight of the Eternal City at TREVI. Tables surround the Fountain of the Gods in the Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace, which has been designed to resemble a Roman street, right down to the painted blue ceiling with fluffy white clouds. It may sound kitschy, but it really does give the feel of dining al fresco in Rome.

For a more sophisticated take on Italian cuisine, I had lunch another day at GIADA, the only restaurant of Food Network superstar Giada De Laurentis. The oval-shaped dining room in soothing earth tones of beige, cream and burnt orange has floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Bellagio fountains.

The food matched the view. I started with a Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese dish with wild sage honey, and followed that with more cheese in the form of a lemon pesto grilled mozzarella and fontina cheese sandwich with heirloom tomatoes.

Dinners both nights were small plate affairs where the emphasis was on taste rather than size. Jaleo in the Cosmopolitan showcases the exquisite tapas of Barcelona-raised chef Jose Andres. Here, my chilled gazpacho, watermelon and tomato salad with goat cheese and pistachios and the signature shrimp tapa sauteed with garlic were accompanied by a 2005 Reserva from Bodegas Ontanon in Spain’s Rioja region.

Lago, overlooking the Bellagio Lake, is also known for small plates — Italian rather than Spanish (I loved the roasted green olive focaccia with pecorino.) The outdoor terrace is a great spot for dining, if you can get over the unsettling feeling that Donny and Marie are watching you eat from their billboard-size images on the side of the Flamingo Hotel.

From resorts to restaurants, gaming to golf, Las Vegas puts on a show that’s destined to run forever.

(Patti Nickell is a Lexington-based travel writer. Reach her at pnickell13@hotmail.com.)

(c)2015 Lexington Herald-Leader (Lexington, Ky.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Tourists line up in front of the Bellagio in Las Vegas to watch the water show in an October 2007 file image. (Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times/TNS)