District 3 Councilman Brian Byrd is hopeful barbecue will bring Las Vegas Trail residents to the table.
While more than 220 people attended the first public introduction of Byrd’s Las Vegas Trail Revitalization Project at an early morning meeting on Oct. 24 at Birchman Baptist Church, one vital constituency was conspicuously absent: the thousands who dwell in theapartments that line the mile-long stretch of Las Vegas Trail and are most desperate for a lifeline out of poverty.
So Byrd is changing tactics for the second installment scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday at Western Hills Elementary School. First, the venue was moved to the more easily accessible elementary school on Laredo Drive, just a few short blocks east of Las Vegas Trail.
Second, Byrd’s bringing barbecue. A free dinner will be offered to anyone who attends the meeting, which aims to engage residents and encourage them to join one of five focus groups built into the project: economic development, housing, education, public safety and social services.
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“We thought we always like it when somebody provides food for a dinner meeting, so why don’t we do that?” Byrd said. “Our goals have not changed. Our No. 1 goal is to get input from the community to hear what they see, what the problems are, what life is like for them so we can design the right strategy.”
The hope, Byrd said, is to attract another 200 people to share with the project’s team of business, education, civic and public safety leaders first-hand accounts of the most pressing issues facing the area, but with far greater participation from an apartment population that includes a large segment of single mothers desperate for a lifeline out of poverty.
To maximize that effort, Catholic Charities CEO Heather Reynolds is working with activist Abdul Chappell to organize three meetings at separate apartment complexes. The complexes that will host meetings will be announced in the coming weeks.
Chappell, 46, a former west-side gang member who spent 21 years in prison before turning to a life of reform, is making inroads at several Las Vegas Trail apartment complexes by implementing after-school programs for children, and educational and self-help programs for adults.
Monday’s Las Vegas Trail Revitalization Project meeting is designed to engage local residents who can help identify the most pressing issues, ranging from crime to housing to substance abuse, in the Las Vegas Trail area.
The problems were first brought to light in a Star-Telegram special report on child abuse in June. Soon after, Byrd and other city leaders such as Mayor Betsy Price have made a priority of improving conditions in the neighborhood.
The city’s first significant step was to summon the owners of the problematic Mira Monte Apartments located at the corner of Las Vegas Trail and Calmont Ave., and then later the owner of the Knights Inn at Las Vegas Trail and I-30, as warnings to meet code compliance standards and cooperate with police, or risk the city filing an abatement lawsuit.
Wyndham Hotel Group, which owns the brand name Knights Inn, has also warned the owner, Anil Patidar, to comply or risk having the Knights Inn name stripped.