Should the City of Las Vegas absorb Clark County—or vice versa?

Illustration: Ian Racoma

All those signs promoting city council candidates make me feel left out. Though I’ve lived here for nearly 10 years, I can’t vote in municipal elections. I’m disenfranchised, since my Las Vegas address isn’t Las Vegas enough. And that’s because I don’t live in a city at all (even though I’m in the middle of town). I live in unincorporated Clark County, and odds are you do, too.

The City of Las Vegas is much smaller than you’d think. Its population is 640,000, while nearly a million people live in the Vegas area with no city to call home. Geographically, “Las Vegas” only consists of Downtown and the northwest corner of the Valley. Much of what you’d find on a postcard—the Strip, the airport, UNLV, even the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign itself—is free floating in Clark County, a land area slightly smaller than New Jersey.

It just seems wrong. Southern Nevada is disconnected enough. We should at least be united by living in the city we say we live in. These dividing lines point to a dusty, unpopulated past. It’s time to meet the future: It’s time for the City of Las Vegas to annex us.

Or so I thought. Annexation sounded like the natural progression of a growing metropolis. But turns out, the city/county distinction doesn’t make much of a difference. Clark is one of the few counties that offers municipal services, so free-agent residents still get trash pickup. Apparently, the city provides slightly more robust graffiti removal, but the county has lower taxes, so that’s a wash. There are some bragging rights on the line. At ribbon cuttings, Mayor Goodman presents a Key to the City and a County Commissioner presents a Key to the Strip. The mayor’s title carries more cachet, but she represents fewer people.

Since we county folks have critical mass, we could just annex the city and take its name for ourselves. The idea has floated around various political water coolers. It makes a certain sense, even it’s not politically viable.

At the risk of sounding cheesy, my search led me to one of those Wizard of Oz, no-place-like-home revelations: There’s the City of Las Vegas, which is a small place. And there is Fabulous Las Vegas, which is all of us. We live inside a global icon, and that identity transcends political lines.

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C. Moon Reed never meant to make Las Vegas her home, but she found a kindred spirit in this upstart ...

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