Joe Downtown

Joe Downtown: City’s four-day week has some Downtowners frustrated

The City of Las Vegas has saved more than $10 million by switching to four-day weeks in 2011, but some Downtown businesspeople say the schedule is a hindrance to development.

Everyone loves a three-day weekend. Many of us get them for the Fourth of July or Labor Day, but a growing number of public servants enjoy them every week.

Las Vegas, Henderson and North Las Vegas municipal governments all do four-day weeks. The state began them for some positions a few months ago. Multi-jurisdictional agencies such as the RTC and SNWA also work the shorter week.

It’s such a nice perk that Boulder City lists the four-day week as part of its benefits package. Steve Sisolak, Clark County Commission chairman, says he personally knows workers who left their jobs with the county for city jobs because of the shorter week.

Nice work if you can get it.

During the economic slowdown, when the business of business had been virtually dead throughout Nevada, no one really cared or complained that local governments were closed on Fridays. If there’s no business happening, then there’s no reason to go to city hall to get documents approved or to seek legal advice, and on and on.

Downtown Las Vegas, however, is forging ahead with new development by creating businesses, construction and buying property to create more businesses down the road. And when people working in some of these areas talk about the shortened week, it’s typically accompanied by shaking heads, rolling eyes or smirks.

“What’s it mean? It means that any time you need to go to City Hall for whatever reason, you can’t go on Friday,” said one Downtown businessman. “We work five days a week; they work four. Our schedules don’t always match up.”

Another noted that back in the days of the five-day week, getting effort out of city employees was difficult, at best, on Fridays. Even private sector workers know this phenomena. TGIF begins at noon or earlier, and work will be put off till Monday to escape the cubicle earlier on Friday.

“Now, you really have to get things in by Wednesday,” one Downtown businesswoman said. “Thursday is the new Friday.”

To outsiders, the Fremont East corridor is changing relatively fast, but people closely tied to Downtown said the pace could quicken if the city stayed open for a full week.

The upshot to things not moving along as quickly as they might? A spokesman said the city has saved more than $10 million by switching to four-day weeks in 2011. Most of that stems from the fact that 1,250 unionized employees agreed to cut weekly hours from 40 to 38, while reducing work days from five to four. The shorter week is also tied to better employee morale—which goes without saying.

Of course, courts, fire and police aren’t included in the abbreviated schedule, and public works, parks and graffiti removal work all days with staggered schedules.

In addition, more services are being offered online, allowing people to apply for business licenses, pay bills and schedule plan reviews remotely. The city also allows the scheduling of some services on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, such as inspections and code enforcement.

That’s well and good, but business issues may emerge on a Friday that can’t be conveniently planned in advance. In those cases, “online” and “scheduling ahead of time” are words that ring hollow.

One Downtowner had a suggestion: Have the city informally ask those in private-sector business development which offices are most useful to them on a day-to-day basis, and have those city employees work Fridays, just in case they are needed.

Maybe the day will come when Las Vegas workers go back to five days a week. Through a city spokesman, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said she’d “prefer” that. At the same time, she added, she is “very pleased” with city staff’s “responsiveness” in moving some services online.

For those wanting to get a move on Downtown redevelopment, that’s about as committal as saying you’d like Downtown’s urban decay to disappear on its own.

Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover Downtown, he lives and works there. He is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded Downtown journalist, stationed at an office in Emergency Arts. His work appears in the Las Vegas Sun and Las Vegas Weekly.
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