The push to rename McCarran International Airport has been rekindled as the nation reconsiders the practice of erecting statues or naming buildings after historical figures with a racist or controversial past.
All Democratic members of the Nevada congressional delegation sent a letter earlier this month to Governor Steve Sisolak and state legislative leaders asking them to change the name of the airport and remove a statue of former US Senator Pat McCarran from the US Capitol. U.S.
The letter notes that McCarran fought for workers’ rights and passed legislation that helped shape the modern air travel industry. However, his “dark legacy of virulent racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia has no place to represent Nevada on the United States Capitol,” the letter said.
That dark story includes McCarran’s work to restrict immigration, including the post-Holocaust Jewish people, an push to block Jewish judicial candidates nominated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the passage of the McCarran Internal Security Act, which allowed the revocation of citizenship and limits. on freedom of expression, the letter mentions.
People are lining up on both sides of the debate, with some saying it is time for the airport’s name to be changed and that as the country progresses there is no room for controversial figures representing a city. Others are against erasing history and prefer that people learn from the past.
‘The times they Are a changing’
Count Chloe Riggins, a Las Vegas local, among those who think it’s time for the name change to really happen.
“I think times are changing and I think we are on a different day in age and I think it is not acceptable,” said Riggins, who was at McCarran this week after returning from a quiet trip from San Diego. “Racism should no longer be tolerated.”
Riggins fully supports the movement that is spreading across the country and believes it is time for it to happen in Las Vegas. With the city’s diverse population and visitors coming from around the world, having an airport named after a person with a controversial background doesn’t sit well with Riggins.
“I think Vegas is a melting pot. It’s a mix of all kinds of different people, “said Riggins. “I could send the wrong message. (We) could lose in many businesses. It is a really controversial topic at the moment. I think if they want to keep the casinos running and still have a diverse population of people, yes, they should definitely change it. ”
Margaret Jackson and her husband Dave traveled to Las Vegas from Stockton, California to “get out of the house.”
She does not want to erase history and opposes changing the names of government buildings and the elimination of historical figures with controversial backgrounds.
“I think removing monuments and removing names is denying our past,” Jackson said. “We need to learn from our past. We cannot erase our past, but we can certainly move forward. ”
Jackson said he understands why people want name and monument changes to be removed, but he believes jurisdictions are being pressured to do so.
“I think he is being forced, but I don’t think we should bow to that,” Jackson said. “I don’t think there is an easy answer for that. As the mother-in-law of a black son-in-law, I saw what has happened all her life and I don’t want my grandchildren to grow up with those kinds of racial problems. But at the same time, if we erase our past, there is nothing to remind us. “
This is the third time since 2012 that the call to change the name of the airport has come up. A proposal was submitted to the Clark County Commission in 2012 and in 2017, then state Senator Tick Segerblom proposed a in the Legislature to rename the airport after Senator Harry Reid. The Segerblom bill did not come out of committee.
Segerblom is now part of the county commission, which has the final say on the name change, since McCarran is operated by the county Department of Aviation. He said he hopes to bring up the issue after the November elections.
“I do not intend to push it until after the elections, to keep it out of electoral politics,” said Segerblom. “I think Black Lives Matter and the focus on Confederate statues and really Congress’ request to get their statue off the Capitol put it in the foreground. So it is a problem that we must solve at some point. “
Both now and when the matter was discussed during the 2017 legislative session, Segerblom said he received more calls and emails about the change than any other topic. He said those who extend are divided between 50 and 50 between support and opposition to rename.
“Phones and emails are off the wall,” said Segerblom. “It is very controversial, but it is something that we must debate publicly.”
Segerblom is yet to rename the airport after Reid, the former Senate Majority Leader.
“You cannot replace what you have done for us,” said Segerblom.
The county has not tabulated how much a name change would cost, but Segerblom said no public money will be spent on the matter.
“We will establish a foundation and there will be no cost to the taxpayer,” said Segerblom. “All the money would be raised privately. Any signal that goes down, we will pay for the new signal of this foundation. “
Segerblom said the county has been in talks with proposed sponsors for a foundation, including various individuals, groups and companies.
“There are many people who have good will towards him (Reid) and would be happy to contribute,” said Segerblom.
Contact Mick Akers at [email protected] or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.