Heidi Kyser

Journalist, writer

Posts Tagged ‘United States

National take-back day is tomorrow, April 28

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When was the last time you took inventory of the Percocet pills lingering in your medicine cabinet since the back surgery you had in the ’00s? Now, consider all the opportunities your acquaintances, neighbors, even kids have had to get their hands on them since then.

Tomorrow, take them to any Las Vegas Metro Police station, North Las Vegas police station, Henderson Police station, Boulder City police station, Paiute Tribal Police station or Nellis Air Force Base PX and turn them in, no questions asked. It’s part of the Drug Enforcement Administration‘s National Take-Back Initiative.

What’s that all about? Recall the story about prescription drug abuse I did recently for Las Vegas CityLife, the Pill Wars. In it, I mentioned the high percentage of prescription drugs that the government estimates come from friends and family, with or without their knowing it. Take-back is a way of getting those drugs outside the reach of abusers and dealers.

In fact, you can turn in your unused prescription drugs all year round at Metro stations, which are equipped with lobby drop-boxes to offer anonymity. But take-back day kind of makes it stick in your mind, like a holiday.

Don’t flush them down the toilet (the snails in Lake Mead don’t want them). Don’t follow your cousin’s cockamamie advice and bury them (the plants and water table don’t want them; plus, that doesn’t destroy them). Take them to the police tomorrow. Conscience: clear.

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Car hits kids: A post-script to pedestrian safety story

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The Las Vegas Review Journal sent a news flash this morning about a car hitting two children in front of Culley Elementary School. It reminded me of the time I spent watching pedestrians flee oncoming auto traffic on the streets of Las Vegas while reporting a recent story, Walkers Beware, for City Life.

A public information officer at the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department confirmed today’s accident was as the RJ described. It happened near Washington Avenue and Jones Boulevard in the northwest part of the valley, and both kids went to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

The PIO had no additional information, such as specifics on injuries or whether the children were in a crosswalk. As pedestrian advocate Erin Breen noted in my story, “non-life threatening” injuries are not necessarily easy to recover from.

This incident, like so many others, underscores our community’s need to address pedestrian safety issues. People who want to get involved can check out efforts like Safe Routes to School and Look Out Kids About, or contact school administrators and public officials to see what — if anything — is being done in their area.

3-Feet law has teeth, but are they sharp enough?

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Up against deadline, an editor from Vegas Seven e-mailed me early last week in a panic. He was finalizing Room to Roll, my story in the Aug. 11 issue, and wanted to know what repercussions, if any, breakers of the new 3-feet law would face. (See the story for more about the law.)

It wasn’t that I hadn’t asked prior to submitting the story; it was that nobody seemed to know. The sources I talked to (including Ryan Pretner’s wife, who’s an attorney, and Senator David Parks, who wrote the bill) only said that it would be up to a judge to decide.

That’s true – but there’s more.

As luck would have it, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department‘s public information office, which hadn’t returned my calls while I was reporting on the story, put me through to someone right away when I called to get the Vegas Seven editor’s question answered on deadline.

PIO Jay Rivera looked it up and told me that violating the traffic law that encompasses the new 3-feet provision is a misdemeanor “with a penalty not to exceed $1,000, six months in jail or 120 hours of community service.”

Heartening as it was to get an answer (although it still didn’t make it in before deadline), it was disheartening to see a penalty that seemed light relative to the harm that can be caused when a car hits a cyclist.

To be sure, not all the collisions in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics I gave in the story are the fault of the motorists, but regardless who’s at fault, the cyclist is more likely to end up hurt – sometimes badly, as in Pretner’s case. If the driver is at fault and he, say, paralyzes someone, burdens him with millions of dollars in medical bills and a life of in-home care, takes away his ability to work… the maximum penalty the driver can receive is $1,000, six months in jail or 120 hours of community service? The punishment doesn’t fit the crime. Hopefully, there is the possibility of escalating the charges based on damage done, and of course there is always the civil litigation option.

In any case, the 3-feet law is a good first step to making motorists more aware of their obligation to safely avoid cyclists. The risk of having to shell out $1,000 for a ticket might curb some intentionally aggressive behavior from drivers toward cyclists. But it’s unlikely the end of the fight for bicycles’ fair share of the road.

There is an Outside to Las Vegas

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Hooray for summer! Kids sleep late, live on cereal, play video games in their pajamas all day… and make their parents scream, “Why don’t you go outside and play, like I did when I was a kid?” Kids complain there’s nothing to do; parents complain they don’t know how to get their kids outdoors.

You can kiss all that goodbye now. Government agencies and nonprofit organizations banded together on a massive team project to help families get outdoors, as I learned in reporting this story for Boulevards Las Vegas magazine.

Under the umbrella of the Nevada Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights, some 40 different groups worked to build  a portal to local recreational opportunities for kids. Although the project’s public funding will soon expire, Outside Las Vegas has vowed to continue spearheading the collaboration.

The website contains regularly updated information on things to do around the state; for instance, this weekend’s free fishing day at Veteran’s Memorial Park in Boulder City and Floyd Lamb Park at Tule Springs, put on by the Nevada Department of Wildlife and the City of Las Vegas, respectively.

So, parents and kids: No excuses. Step away from the game controller, make a couple mouse clicks and find what you’re going to do this weekend – outside.

Which CG will it be?

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Las Vegas City Hall in downtown Las Vegas

Image via Wikipedia

I predict the next mayor of Las Vegas will be a blond female between the ages of 40 and 80 with the initials CG. She will have extensive experience in education, upon which she has based promises to improve education in the city during her term – promises that will go largely unfilled, due to the fact the cash-strapped county and state have jurisdiction in this area. She will, as she has put it, “continue the current mayor’s development of Downtown” – much to the chagrin of Summerlin, which, despite not really needing it, would also love for the city to offer companies like Zappos millions of dollars in incentives to move to its  neighborhoods. Beyond that, I can only say for certain that the next mayor will become best buddies with Las Vegas City Manager Elizabeth “Betsy” Fretwell, who actually does all the hard work (and does a bang-up job of it, according to everyone I asked).

Any further predictions will depend on Las Vegans. Do we prefer the status quo, or are we in the mood for a changing of the guard?

That I can’t predict. To read what I know for sure about the next mayor’s job, check out my article in this week’s Las Vegas City Life.

Written by Heidi Kyser

June 2, 2011 at 9:26 am

Who’s Your Best Friend?

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Cat gassed down/masked down with anesthesia fo...

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A flyer in the lobby of Warm Springs Animal Hospital, where I took my dog Aja to see her vet this morning, reminded me of the recent feature I wrote on Best Friends Animal Sanctuary for Desert Companion.

The flyer wasn’t about Best Friends, though. It was about The Animal Foundation, which was also mentioned in my story. I recalled the 2007 disease outbreak at Lied Animal Shelter, which the foundation operates, as part of the backdrop against which Best Friends began reducing its mobile adoptions from its Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, to Las Vegas. I also cited Clark County Animal Control statistics on animals impounded and euthanized at Lied as evidence that Best Friends’ help is clearly needed in our area.

The flyer I picked up this morning was a stark reminder of how dire the pet overpopulation problem in the Las Vegas Valley has become. The flyer gives the following data (which is not sourced, but presumably comes from The Animal Foundation itself):

  • The foundation receives 50,000-plus animals each year.
  • In 2009, it took in 2,000 more dogs and cats than Animal Care and Control of New York City.
  • It takes in 136 animals daily, on average.
  • Only 13 percent of animals placed in Las Vegas homes come from shelters or rescues; 9 percent come from the foundation.
  • The foundation performs 8,000 spay or neuter procedures annually.

According to the flyer, the number of spay and neuter operations will rise by 4,000 annually starting this year, due to the opening of a new public spay and neuter clinic.

Although the animal welfare world is divided on the best cure for pet overpopulation, at least one person I interviewed for the story thinks spay and neuter laws are the answer. Holly Stoberski, who was on Clark County’s Animal Advisory Committee through 2010 and is on the board of local Heaven Can Wait Animal Society, told me that she believes ordinances such as Las Vegas’ Code 7.14, adopted in 2009, will help reduce the number of unwanted pets in the valley.

As with so many well-intentioned laws and services, the success of 7.14 and Lied’s clinic will depend on enforcement and marketing, respectively. If my neighborhood is any indication of citywide norms, Las Vegans think it’s perfectly acceptable to let their unaltered dogs roam the streets with no identification. Placing flyers in veterinary clinics is preaching to the choir; let’s hope The Animal Foundation is doing much more to get its message to those who are filling its intake rooms with 136 animals per day.

Written by Heidi Kyser

May 23, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Homeowners vs. neighborhoods

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I discovered something curious while working on The little ‘hood that could (Desert Companion, March 2011): the vexed distinction between neighborhood associations and homeowners associations. It wasn’t central to the point of the story – that any neighborhood can benefit from banding together if it’s willing to put in the effort required – yet, erroneous confusion between the two different types of organization may prevent some people from getting in on the action.

The distinction is alluded to in the story, when City of Las Vegas neighborhood planner Yorgo Kagafas says, “I’ve often heard people say, ‘I don’t want my neighbors telling me what color to paint my house,’ but that’s not what neighborhood associations do. They don’t have the power to make rules, only to enforce what the city adopts.”

Who does tell you what color to paint your house? Homeowners associations.

While the two types of group manifest in myriad forms, depending on the circumstances in each case, there are some common, general differences between homeowners and neighborhood associations: Homeowners associations are usually mandatory, dues-gathering groups of residents in a designated area that have the authority to impose and enforce rules related to design and maintenance of that area; neighborhood associations are usually voluntary groups, open to residents in a designated area, that can only enforce (or request enforcement of) public laws governing that area.

So, a homeowners association will collect dues that help pay gardeners who trim your hedges to a mandated height. A neighborhood association will organize a crime watch and call law enforcement to report suspicious activity.

Another way of looking at it would be to say that homeowners associations are profit-oriented, while neighborhood associations are community-oriented. The former focuses on property values in order to protect the owners’ investment. The latter focuses on quality of life; property values are one of its indicators, along with crime rates, owner-occupancy and anything else residents deem important.

People who have a knee-jerk reaction against neighborhood associations should consider this distinction. Although your neighborhood association may take some action you disagree with, such as seeking historical status, it can’t make or enforce any rules that aren’t already on the books. It’s also an open forum, where you are free to express your opinion, providing you’re a resident.

And that’s the democratic process at work, isn’t it?

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