By Brenden Villavaso
NABJ JSHOP Reporter
Westside Las Vegas residents often try to use their neighborhood community center, but can be turned around at the door, according to activist TaShika Lawson.
“The city or like one of the government agencies would say, ‘Hey…we’d like everyone to show up,’ and we get there and the gates are locked.” said Lawson, the community liaison for Historic Westside Revitalization.
Lawson said that the COVID-19 quarantine originally locked residents from using the community center. Since quarantine has ended, people still do not have access to the community center, and there are more reasons causing this.
Lawson said that when the person in charge of opening is absent, the entire community has to bite the bullet and miss out on what their tax dollars go towards.
The community center was previously home to a school for Black and Brown Westside children, but underwent a $12.5 million renovation in 2016 to convert it to a place of community development and recreational use.
How can renovation be justified if the center can not be used when the principal key holder is absent? Lawson thinks the community center should have more flexible operating hours to be more accommodating to families with kids.
“Everybody believes that Vegas is a town like Chicago or New York that doesn’t sleep, but the truth of the matter is most of our families are on set schedules, and the weekends are still their most free and opportune times to meet,” she said.
Lawson said that the community is looking for a secondary key holder to avoid these problems in the future so the community center and other facilities can be rightfully used by residents.
“Some people are thinking ‘Oh maybe I got the wrong date or I got the wrong time,’ and then they’ll leave,” Lawson said. “And then like 10 maybe 15 minutes where the event was supposed to start is when we actually are allowed in…we see a lot of purposeful disengagement when it comes to this community because we’re literally, like letting people get turned away at the gates when they came to actually voice their opinion.”