The Big Squeeze
The Desert Inn Golf Course was the most
beautiful residential community in our city for over fifty years, and those
who had the good taste and good fortune to enjoy a lifetime residing in
that lovely enclave deserve more respect than they are getting. Unlike
the indigent senior citizens who once lived at the World Wide Mobile Home
Park, the Desert Inn Estates homeowners can afford attorneys to fight for
their homes. Meanwhile, their alacrity will once again prove that Steve
Wynn and his unnatural political control of local government agencies is
one of our state’s most appalling problems.
Desert Inn Golf Course and Estates
(LORI CAIN / LAS VEGAS SUN)
(Associated Press Photo)
INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
November 17, 2003
LAS VEGAS - Long-time Desert Inn Estates residents have refused
to move from their beautiful homes to make way for a resort being built
by former Mirage owner Steve
Wynn. The homeowners claim that Wynn has cut off access to their neighborhood
by dedicating part of Country Club Lane to Clark County for the widening
of Sands Avenue. The strangulation technique they describe is becoming
commonplace as our local political power shifts away from citizen control.
The ten long-time homeowners who remain in the golf course neighborhood
that borders the future site of Wynn's resort say the private road wasn't
Wynn's to give to the county, and his giving it away blocks the access
to their homes - a maneuver they believe was by design to make their lives
miserable and cause them to sell at Wynn's price.
Meanwhile, many Las Vegas residents are left wondering why something
as beautiful as the historic Desert Inn Country Club and most of the luxury
homes surrounding it had to be imploded, especially at a time when Las
Vegas is desperately searching for its roots?
Its also unknown whether new homes to suit Wynn's personal tastes will
replace those torn down?
"This eliminates ingress and egress to our houses," said one homeowner.
"How this can be approved is beyond me. It not only takes our property
rights away, but it landlocks us." The homeowners believe there is collusion
between Wynn and Clark County officials to make this possible. Wynn was
historically one of the biggest political campaign contributors in Nevada.
John Netzorg, the homeowners' attorney, says that Wynn's company thinks
it owns the street and can hand it over to the county without the residents'
input, thereby landlocking his clients. "The whole process in front of
the county has been a farce, and that is being charitable," Netzorg said.
Homeowners have fought Wynn since his purchase of the Desert Inn in
June 2000. Wynn claims that the purchase made it possible for him to do
away with all the covenants, codes and restrictions (CC&R's) of the
D.I. Homeowner's Association making it possible for him to not only build
a high berm between residents' open back yards and his golf course, but
also construct a noisy
cement and gravel mixing facility on one of the vacant lots in the neighborhood.
Even in the face of what is being called harassment, the neighbors - many
pioneer citizens - will not move away from their once-beautiful and pristine
The remaining residents claim that former residential swimming pools
now owned by Wynn are green with algae and are breeding disease carrying
mosquitoes. Rats have also been reported. All this allegedly under the
watchful eye of Clark County health and code enforcement authorities that
are obediently turning their backs on resident's complaints, along with
a new Homeowner's Association board of directors chosen by Wynn.
Wynn counters by accusing the residents of trying to shake him down
for more money for their properties. He has paid cooperating homeowners
ten percent above appraisal. He also told a TV news audience that the main
issue is "leverage."
Ironically, it was Wynn who in the 1960s bought a small piece of land
on the corner of Flamingo Road and Las Vegas Blvd. to allegedly throw a
monkey wrench into plans to build Caesars Palace. He bought several adjacent
acres and allegedly threatened to build a low-end slot “grind joint” there
if Caesar's did not buy him out. They did, and he used the money to buy
out the Doumani Brothers at the Golden Nugget. The rest is history.
This all reminds me of a situation that occurred in 1997 when
Flores would not sell his Villa De Flores apartment house to Wynn at
the price offered. Wynn wanted to expand the Mirage, and Flores' tiny apartment
house stood in the way. Wynn offered $3 million; Flores wanted $6 million.
As a tribute to Flores' tenacity, the apartment house remains in the middle
of the Mirage parking lot to this day. However, Mr. Flores has since learned
a valuable lesson about local politics when he was refused permission by
Clark County Commissioners to convert his property into a time-share vacation
facility. Nonetheless, he also realizes that Villa De Flores still sits
in the way of further expansion of the Treasure Island and Mirage, and
the new owner may succumb to his financial demands - someday.
Since the Carol Pappas eminent
domain case in downtown Las Vegas when the city seized private property
she had nurtured for 50 years and turned it over to casinos including one
owned by Wynn, government is finding it increasingly difficult to illegally
take one private property for the benefit of another private developer,
especially a casino. The Pappas case is presently before the US Supreme
Another unlikely champion is emerging in the plight of citizens fighting
untoward political influence. The latest warrior is Buffalo Jim Barrier,
a former professional wrestler who owns an auto garage that is standing
in the way of the expansion
of a politically connected topless bar.
Barrier, who has often been featured on these pages, is the victim of
an obvious political favor recently rendered by city hall. After twenty-seven
years of running a garage business at the same location, a new landlord
with political clout wants to squeeze Barrier out of his long-term lease
to make way for the expansion of the Crazy Horse Too.
issues tickets on private property during the day...
Within weeks of the new landlord taking possession of the property,
under color of law the Las Vegas Fire Department posted "No Parking - Fire
Lane" signs alongside Barrier's business. Then the city began sending Parking
Enforcement personnel to the topless bar on a daily basis to enforce the
new no parking zone during the day - only ticketing cars owned by Barrier's
customers - while ignoring Crazy Horse customer's cars at night when the
fire lane is most needed - a government assisted squeeze tactic now becoming
...while ignoring violations at night
No one will challenge Steve Wynn in the county, and even our happy
mayor shies away from challenging Barrier's landlord in the city. Vegas
Mayor Oscar Goodman, prior to being elected, was the criminal defense attorney
for several of the landlord's cronies.
As is the case with Wynn in the county, city politicians are cooperating
with an obvious ploy to benefit another generous political campaign contributor
who also has grandiose plans.
"Like a Good Neighbor…Steve Wynn is There…"
FRANK CATANIA, poses on his
overlooking the Desert Inn Golf
(ETHAN MILLER / LAS VEGAS SUN)
Whether those who remain in their D.I. Estates homes are there because
they truly do not want to relocate, are too old and frail to relocate,
or because they want more money for their property is a mute point. Their
lives are being made miserable and county authorities are helping to exasperate
their problems by ignoring their health, safety and access complaints.
But this is not the first time this story has been told.
Another example of the fate handed down to those who challenge Wynn
was the 1993 case of 70 senior citizens who were forced out of their broken
down trailers at the World Wide Mobile Home Park to make way for an employee
parking lot. Many of the park residents were too old or too sick to move,
and most did not have the funds to find another home. The saddest part
was that a community had formed. The elderly World Wide residents were
a coalescent support group for each other.
In stark contrast, former Circus Circus Enterprises chairman William
G. Bennett was faced with the prospect of relocating the elderly residents
of the Blue Sky Mobile Home Park in the late 1980s. Bennett needed the
acreage to build the Excalibur hotel-casino. To the resident's delight,
Bennett was sensitive to their needs and built a new park especially for
them. He also bought new mobile homes in the event some were too frail
to move, and paid all moving expenses. The coalescent community moved altogether
Wynn began his effort by reportedly offering World Wide residents about
$4,000 each to move out early. If they did not go immediately, he reportedly
began reducing the offer each month until they did. Many left, but many
more stayed because they could not afford to go, were too sick, or did
not want to leave their extended family. As the months wore on, Wynn reportedly
began cutting off their life support systems one by one.
According to residents, the first service to be cut off was the pay
phones; then the gardeners; then the security; and finally the water and
power. A few more senior citizens moved, but most held their ground in
what had been their humble homes for the past thirty years. Park residents
appointed one of their younger neighbors as a spokeswoman. She went to
the local press with the revolting story but few media outlets responded.
Those that did downplayed the story, possibly not wanting to offend Wynn.
Out of desperation, the spokeswoman came to me. I helped her organize
a demonstration on the once-public sidewalk in front of the Mirage. All
local media was alerted. The day of the demonstration, several dozen senior
citizen residents, many in wheelchairs, showed up telling anyone who would
listen that Steve Wynn was heartlessly forcing them from their homes and
not providing them with alternative housing. Unexplainably, not one media
outlet covered their four-hour long demonstration, though hotel security
taped the entire event.
Wynn’s only response to the demonstration was to have his attorneys
prepare a bill draft to allow the privatization of Strip sidewalks -- effectively
prohibiting such demonstrations in the future. The Nevada Legislature obediently
passed the bill during their next session. That unconstitutional
law is in force today.
Defeated, the residents went back to their humble trailers. One 98 year
old resident, a World War I veteran who spent the day protesting in front
of the Mirage, passed away several days later. The local news blackout
remained in effect until I managed to get several newspapers and TV stations
in cities where Wynn was trying to build casinos, to tell the story about
the mistreatment of the elderly citizens along with other pertinent information.
His extra-Nevada casino ventures failed, and Wynn threatened to sue
me. Still, the story went untold in Sin City where the First Amendment
holds little weight when it comes to certain people.
Nine years later, Wynn also sued
Desert Inn Estates homeowners for speaking out. "Anything that clouds our
ability to develop our project has the ability to jeopardize financing,"
Wynn's attorney Marc Rubinstein said. "That's what the (lawsuit) is all
So what is to be the fate of the remaining Desert Inn Golf Course Estates
homeowners? Since the Pappas case, the local courts and government agencies
usually shy away from the improper use of eminent domain. Wynn cannot use
his clout to force the county to uproot the homeowners for his whim without
exposing the taxpayers to another Pappas-type court battle. The same Fifth
Amendment rules apply in the case of the garage owner standing in the way
of the topless bar.
I believe that Steve Wynn has already demonstrated that he has no respect
for our town's pioneer citizens as shown by the Carol Pappas and World
Wide examples, so the residents of D.I. Estates should prepare for the
worse case. Wynn says he will "build around" the holdouts, and he will.
But the holdouts should keep in mind that their beleaguered homes are blocking
the full realization of Wynn’s latest dream, and he appears desperate to
get his way. If the remaining homeowners can afford to move they should,
but retain ownership of their appreciating D.I. properties. Wynn’s lackeys
in the media will probably spin the story to say the remaining homeowners
are the greedy ones, but who is actually so greedy when people are being
displaced from their cherished homes?
Below are three articles that may help give insight into the political
workings of Sin City:
A Gambling Impresario Leaves Little to Chance
Sunday, December 6, 1998
By BRETT PULLEY
"Steve Wynn's control over politicians is all-encompassing," said
Steve Miller, a former Las Vegas City Council member who has frequently
been at odds with Wynn. "It's overwhelming. Either you work for him or
he tries to get you out of office." Considered by many Nevadans to be the
most powerful man in the state, Wynn gets roadways rerouted, public transportation
projects scuttled and public land deeded over to his company.
THE 10 MOST CORRUPT CITIES IN AMERICA
But critics say Las Vegas exploits eminent domain to heIp the powerful
casino owners and developers at its citizen’s expense. "This is government
for the casinos, of the casinos, and by the casinos - and the citizens
be dammed," says former city councilman Steve Miller.
Tuesday, March 07, 2000
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal
By Trevor Hayes
Observers: Wynn lofty visionary
A gaming titan bought out by a rival will give up the hotels he
built, but his mark on the valley lingers.
Former Las Vegas Councilman Steve Miller also hopes Wynn will opt
out of politics. "The influence peddling he has displayed in the state
of Nevada ... has caused him to fall from favor not only of his fellow
Nevadans but observers outside," Steve Miller said. Wynn should be remembered
"as a blowhard and a manipulator and a corrupter of politicians," said
the former councilman, once the target of a Wynn lawsuit.
Copyright © Steve Miller
email Steve Miller at: Stevemiller4lv@aol.com