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Petitions With 32K Signatures Oppose Harry Reid Airport Name In Las Vegas

Two online petitions have collected more than 32,000 signatures from those who don’t want McCarran International Airport’s name changed to honor former US Sen. Harry Reid (D).  

Harry Reid, a former US Senate majority leader, gestures during a speaking engagement. The Clark Commission has voted to name McCarran airport in Las Vegas after him. (Image: WPTV-TV)

One Change.org petition had 30,812 signatures as of Friday. This petition was begun by a Nevadan identified as Rocco Sant. A second Change.org petition, by Brain George of Illinois, had 1,581 signatures as of Friday.

In February, the Clark County Commission unanimously voted to name the airport after the 81-year-old Reid, a former US Senate majority leader. The airport is located outside city limits at the southeastern end of the Strip near the Tropicana, MGM Grand, and other hotel-casinos. 

The airport is named after Pat McCarran, a Democrat who served in the US Senate from 1932 until his death in 1954. Public officials in Nevada have said that McCarran, while supportive of civil aviation and the US Air Force, held racist and anti-Semitic views.

The petition that Sant created asserts that the controversy surrounding McCarran’s past “brings into question naming the airport after another person.”

Sant proposes naming the site Las Vegas International Airport.

The least controversial name would be that of the city in which the airport is located,” the petition states. “To designate an airport to someone who is alive and a politician is just a political stunt.”

In his petition, George states that he understands why officials want to change the airport name. But he adds there “are far better ways to name it.”

“My vote goes for ‘Carole Lombard International Airport,’” he writes. Lombard was a Hollywood star who died in a plane crash in 1942 near Las Vegas.

George also suggested naming the airport after others associated with Las Vegas, including Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, and Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel. 

Siegel was a gangster and briefly was part owner of the El Cortez in downtown Las Vegas. He later opened the Flamingo in 1946 on the highway to Los Angeles south of downtown. That highway now is known as the Las Vegas Strip.

Multi-Million Dollar Cost

The cost to change the airport name is expected to be at least $5 million to $7 million. Commissioner Tick Segerblom, who proposed changing the airport’s name to honor Reid, said private donors will pick up the entire cost.

Las Vegas businessman Stephen Cloobeck has said his foundation will donate $1 million. Clookbeck recently was in the news over a lawsuit involving a former girlfriend accused of taking nude selfies at his property to post online.

The Federal Aviation Administration does not have to sign off on the name change, but must complete some administrative tasks before it can occur. Online petitions do not have any legal ability to stop the name change.

Gaming Commission Spat

In addition to representing Nevada in the US Senate, Reid has held other national and state positions, including serving as chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission. 

During his time on the commission, he engaged in a public confrontation with Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, who ran the Stardust and other Las Vegas casinos for Midwestern crime families. 

That spat was dramatized in the 1995 Las Vegas Mafia movie Casino. The Stardust has been demolished. Resorts World Las Vegas is being constructed at that site on the Strip.

Larry Henry

Gaming Regulation, Crime, Politics — Larry Henry is a veteran print and broadcast journalist who spent more than 16 years in Nevada, including serving as legislative reporter for the Reno Gazette-Journal and as political editor at the Las Vegas Sun. He's also written about popular culture for the Mob Museum in Las Vegas. As a broadcast journalist, he worked as managing editor at KFSM-TV, the CBS affiliate in Arkansas, where he now lives and where casino growth is a hot topic. A Marine Corps veteran and LSU graduate, he is also an avid movie fan, especially of classic film noir from the 1940s and ’50s.

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