Los Angeles Times articles mentioning Steve Miller:

Monday, July 8, 1991

Los Angeles Times

Home Edition

Section: View

Page: E-1

A Whole New Image;

Las Vegas Pins Its Hopes for Civic Reform on the Flashy Saleswoman

Who Is the New Mayor





She has been in office barely a week--the "Good Luck" balloon still

floats above the vase of roses on her desk--and Jan Laverty Jones, the

city's first woman mayor, is already beset by a nasty scandal.

The imbroglio, which involves a newly elected councilman, made for

scintillating news throughout the campaign. A private investigator, hired

by his opponent's camp, audiotaped the candidate in a series of

compromising situations, notably auditioning an underage stripper with

the promise of finding her a job.

Now, on the phone with the councilman, Jones is pumping confidence

through the receiver: "They can run this all they want, but if you just

stay straight. . . ."

As Jones speaks, the latest episode of the scandal flashes on the

evening news. Later, "Hard Copy," the nationally televised tabloid

program, will play the salacious story, complete with testimony by the


It is just the sort of Sin City smut that the new mayor fervently

wants to avoid. Following the previous administration, which was felled

by illicit land deals, Jones won a 2-1 victory in May on a platform to

restore confidence in City Hall.

The Establishment's answer to the bad press, Jones was a political

first-timer who projected the sort of untainted, upbeat image that sends

positive vibrations through corporate boardrooms. And in a campaign of

personalities that pitted the novice against a maverick muckraking

councilman, image was everything.

Not only did Jones champion the region's economic viability, she

embodied it. The 42-year-old wife of an influential businessman and a

millionaire in her own right--her grandfather founded the Southern

California grocery chain Thriftimart--she was part of the city's

rich-and-famous in-crowd. A native of Santa Monica, she was graduated

from Stanford University, had 20 years of experience in marketing and

human resources and sat on a bevy of business and organization boards,

including Security Pacific bank and the National Conference of Christians

and Jews.

There was, however, at least one overriding problem: The name of Jan

Laverty Jones made most people laugh. To the Las Vegas populace, Jones

was best known as a glamorous gal who hawked automobiles in quirky

commercials for the Fletcher Jones car dealerships owned by Ted Jones,

her husband.

In five years of funky television spots, Jones cavorted as everything

from Little Red Riding Hood to a glitzy casino moll stroking the

hindquarters of a sleek new automobile. She crinkled her nose and

cleverly teased her niggardly father-in-law, the company founder, with

the famous tag line "Nobody's cheaper than Fletcher Jones." And, in her

most outrageous mode, she ad-libbed soap-opera vignettes with a female

impersonator who plays Vegas lounges.

"She had an acute image problem," affirms Jon Ralston, political

columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "She was no one you'd ever

expect to go into politics."

The success of her campaign "was taking Jan Jones from a car

salesperson, a socialite and dilettante to a serious mayoral candidate,"

says Boston political consultant Dan Hart, who was brought in to reveal

"the real Jan Jones."

Suddenly, a fresh but serious face was replacing the rascals and, as

such, Jones became a classically popular figure in the tradition of

American politics.

"The idea of a political amateur is very appealing to many Americans,"

says Douglas Imig, an assistant professor at the University of Nevada,

Las Vegas, who specializes in political parties and power structures.

Officeholders from Ronald Reagan to Palm Springs Mayor Sonny Bono have

successfully parlayed celebrity status into politics. "The spark that

ignites them publicly, along with a little political savvy, makes for a

potent combination in elected office," Imig says.

Moreover, Jones' opponent, then-councilman Steve Miller, was someone a

lot of powerful people loved to hate. "The issue was 'She's not Steve

Miller,' " Ralston says. "He was a loose cannon, and he hit a few


It was Miller who brought down former mayor Ron Lurie and the city

manager; Miller who proposed opening competition to the sole cable

television network in town, operated by Brian Greenspun, who owns the

newspaper, the Las Vegas Sun. And it was Miller who attempted to halt

expansion of Arizona Charlie's Hotel and Casino into the suburbs, running

afoul of the Becker family, influential hotel and real estate developers.

With a collective sigh of relief at the election outcome, prominent

citizens of Las Vegas are praising Her Honor's potential for governance.

Former three-term mayor Bill Briare predicts she will have "an

astounding" impact on the city, though allows that he is not familiar

with specific programs she plans to implement. Jones is similarly touted

by Sun executive editor and former Nevada governor Mike O'Callaghan: "I

don't know of anybody in this town who doesn't want her to succeed."

Even Imig, who notes that "social services take a back seat" in Las

Vegas, is hopeful. Whereas Lurie bulldozed shanties, saying, "There. No

more homeless problem, " Imig says, Jones was seen on television meeting

a homeless delegation at City Hall. "Coaxing money into those kinds of

programs could be the mark of this particular administration," he


Meanwhile, Jones is bringing in the kind of flamboyant style not often

seen in City Hall. Coiffed in a champagne-tipped lioness mane, she

unabashedly sports short skirts, hot slot-machine colors and earrings the

size of silver dollars.

"I'm exciting. I'm different from what people expect," she avows of

her markedly mismatched personas. "It was one thing to be cute, funny and

outrageous, but they didn't expect cute, funny and outrageous to be


"It's very sexist. Men can be all of them. Women cannot."

Contemplating the fall of the former mayor and the brewing brouhaha

over the new councilman, she says, "Perception is much more important

than reality. In fact, it's everything.

"I believe in taking what I do very seriously. But you have to be able

to laugh at yourself. I mean a lot of this is really very humorous. In

fact, it borders on the ridiculous."

Jones is sitting in her office, the tools of her new trade at hand: a

copy of "Robert's Rules of Order" and "Leadership Secrets of Attila the

Hun," a management guidebook that contains such aphorisms as "Never give

a Hun a reward that holds no personal value to yourself" and "Every Hun

has value even if only to serve as a bad example."

After calming her beleaguered councilman, Jones faces Problem No. 2:

the announcement that land the mayor hopes to broker to the county for

office space has been found to be contaminated by benzene.

The day's final incident: another councilman who is off to address

constituents who are furious about the council's recent decision to allow

a liquor deli with slot machines in their neighborhood. Jones cast the

swing vote for the developer. "They couldn't articulate what they didn't

want," she says of the homeowners.

Jones sees herself dealing in solutions, ones that are not politically

motivated, she insists. "I have nothing to gain from political office.

Perks aren't going to affect me."

"In the past," says Ralston, "mayors here have been figureheads" in a

government administered by a city manager. "There's a sense that Jones is

going to be a vibrant, hands-on leader."

She has verve, charisma and energy--characteristics that symbolize the

city. "She motivates people without trying," says Cindy Glade, office

manager at the Fletcher Jones Management Group.

Adds Wade Killefer, a Santa Monica architect and longtime friend, "She

doesn't take any crap from people, but she doesn't deal it out either."

Above all, she is going to be herself, Jones says. "It's good to bring

some style to the city." If that style contrasts with the sober demeanor

of many women in business and government, she says, "I think what it's

about is me, my performance."

Her office will be a study of teals and burgundies to project

"femininity and strength," she says, and after a campaign stint in drab

navy and khaki, she's back in her fashion stride.

Wearing a short white suit with glittering white hose and black patent

heels, she swings up into her customized van at the end of the day,

slinging a Vuitton tote bag of toiletries into the back seat, and heads

for dinner at the Golden Nugget Casino.

The mayor has no personal truck with gaming. "Gambling to me is like

taking your money and putting it in the toilet," she declares.

However, it is casino revenues that "make Las Vegas such a pleasant

place to live," drawing about 6,000 new residents a month to what Jones

calls a conservative city of Mormon bankers, real estate developers and,

until now, an almost monolithic male power structure.

"Women haven't put themselves forward and asked to be recognized,"

says Jeanne Hood, president of the Four Queens Hotel and Casino downtown

and the only woman to head a casino. "That's coming."

Also coming is a new image for the downtown, which, as Vegas becomes a

megaresort with theme-park-style casinos on the Strip, has remained

sleazy and out of date. A proposed solution for the Glitter Gulch--five

blocks of casinos and pulsating lights--is a "Ripley's Believe It or Not"

of fantasy. The streets would be turned into watery canals complete with

bridges and gondolas, the sidewalks transformed into lush tropical


"We need a thing you'd call an attraction," says Hood, and Jones "is

going to help get that done."

The glitter and clamor of slot machines are a far cry from Jones'

upbringing in Santa Monica, where her family lived on a genteel,

tree-lined street and faithfully attended Easter Sunday brunch at the Los

Angeles Country Club.

A student at the exclusive Marlborough School in Hancock Park, Jan

Laverty fell in love with Ted Jones, a Beverly Hills High School pupil.

But after she left for Stanford, leaving him at USC, each wound up with

another spouse and began raising their separate families.

It wasn't until more than a decade later that the two met again over

lunch, when Laverty went to see Jones about buying a car. He walked her

out of the restaurant and told her, "I've always loved you," the mayor


Two years later, after obtaining divorces, the couple was married in a

chapel on the Las Vegas Strip.

"Jan was never going to be a stay-at-home person," Ted Jones muses,

despite their combined six children, including the Latino baby-sitter

they adopted seven years ago when she was a teen-ager.

On a tour of Las Vegas, Jan Jones shows a visitor the imposing

Spanish-style house the couple wants to buy (Howard Hughes built it for a

mistress), the 12-acre ranch they abandoned before her campaign so they

could move inside city limits and the sleek habitat they currently rent

in a posh tract development.

For a moment, waiting for an attendant to open the gates to the ranch,

Jones' good humor vanishes. She barks orders into her car telephone and

jumps out to push her shoulders vainly against the iron bars.

How will she react should she have to push against the city's movers

and shakers?

"There's a small group of very powerful people here," observes

political scientist Imig. Though organized crime is bygone, he says, "it

is a tough group you probably wouldn't want to cross."

For now, however, the casinos are humming, the town is booming and

there may never have been a better time to be mayor of Las Vegas.

Still, the post may put a slight crimp in Jones' freewheeling style.

When campaign volunteers hired a male stripper to top off Her Honor's

victory party, the mayor-elect felt obliged to cancel the act after

learning that journalists were present.

"It would have been inappropriate," she says. Nevertheless, crinkling

her nose and grinning, she quips, "he was a darling guy. He was just as

cute with his clothes on as off."



PHOTO: COLOR, (Orange County Edition, E1) Jan Laverty Jones, who

was swept into office in May, toned down her style for campaign:

"Perception is much more important than reality. In fact, it's



PHOTO: Donning outrageous getups, Jones appeared in ads for her

husband's car dealership. Here she is as Little Red Riding Hood in 1988


Copyright (c) 1991 Times Mirror Company


Thursday, May 9, 1991

Home Edition

Section: PART A

Page: A-33

Woman Elected Las Vegas Mayor in Her First Try

By: From Associated Press



Jan Laverty Jones, who Tuesday was elected Las Vegas' first woman

mayor in her first run for political office, says she was helped by an

influx of new voters and a desire for positive change at City Hall.

Running against 12 other candidates, Jones received 52% of the vote in

Tuesday's primary election, avoiding a runoff election and winning a

four-year term as mayor.

"I think it's a whole new city," Jones said. "The city went from

40,000 registered voters to almost 90,000 in four years. People are

really looking for a change, and when they decided, they went for the

person they thought would provide leadership."

Jones, who gained fame making television commercials for the Fletcher

Jones car dealership, vowed to listen to all interests when she takes

over from Mayor Ron Lurie in mid-June.

Jones finished with 21,758 votes on a day when 50.5% of the city's

registered voters went to the polls. She easily outdistanced City

Councilman Steve Miller, an early favorite in the race, who finished with

11,377 votes, or 27%.



PHOTO: (Southland Edition, A3) Jan Laverty Jones

PHOTOGRAPHER: Associated Press

Copyright (c) 1991 Times Mirror Company


Monday, May 6, 1991

Home Edition

Section: PART A

Page: A-1

Las Vegas' Thirst for Water Upsets Many in Arid West;

Development: Boom town plans 1,000-mile pipeline. Critics say the

city should live within its means.





Drive west from the famed casino Strip about five miles, past gas

stations and convenience stores, until the desert appears by the road.

Keep going until the scenery turns to blue lagoons, soft green turf and a

sea of tile roofs. This is the new Las Vegas.

On this island of lush suburbia amid the sand and cacti, the country's

fastest-growing big city absorbs new arrivals into its sacred myth.

Tracts called Beachport and Shoreline Estates, cul-de-sacs with names

such as English Mist Circle, and apartment complexes known as Catalina

Shores and Cayman Bay imply a desert somehow awash in water.

The myth of plentiful water ignores a dry truth about Nevada. Less

rain and snow fall here than on any state. Las Vegas is running low on

water even with the biggest pool on the lower Colorado River, Lake Mead,

18 miles from the gaming tables at Caesars Palace.

They think big in Las Vegas, and they have a grand solution. Officials

here want to lay 1,000 miles of pipeline across the desolate valleys of

central Nevada, to extract water from an underground cache believed to

run from Death Valley to Idaho.

Hatched secretly in the fashion of Western water schemes, the Las

Vegas plan has touched off a fury of opposition across the arid West. In

upstate Nevada, ranchers and homesteaders talk of being sucked dry by a

growth-crazed invader from the south in a repeat of California's Owens

Valley saga.

Scientists for the National Park Service have predicted that the Las

Vegas wells could doom Death Valley's oasis springs. Former Arizona Gov.

Bruce Babbitt signed on to help fight the plan, and even the Las Vegas

Sun, the afternoon newspaper edited by former Gov. Mike O'Callaghan, has

urged restraint.

"Rural Counties Have Valid Worries About Water Grab," said the

headline on a Sun editorial last year.

The heat generated by critics, and the magnitude of the plan, have

helped nudge Las Vegas into an unusual re-evaluation of its water use, if

not its thirst for that which the rural counties have.

"We had to do it," said Patricia Mulroy, general manager of the Las

Vegas Valley Water District, who cited lack of future water for a recent

decision to stop issuing permits for new developments.

With growth expected to continue, Las Vegas could run dry in 15 years,

Mulroy said--sooner if residents accustomed to back-yard swimming pools,

birdbaths and fruit trees do not begin to accept that they live in a


She calls water conservation an alien concept for most Las Vegans, who

the Sun agreed are "notorious for wasting water. Almost every homeowner

has a lush Midwest-style lawn that is over-watered each day."

A recent caller to KDWN radio enunciated the Vegas water ethic, urging

public spankings for proponents of a new ban this summer on afternoon

lawn watering. "We have water now, let's enjoy it," he said. "Where there

is water there should be grass."

Some shift in thinking is under way. "Why does everything have to be

green?" KDWN talk show host Ted Bair recently asked his audience, urging

them to return their yards to desert plants.

Water rates have been raised to encourage conservation. Low-flow

toilets were ordered for the hundreds of homes built every year, and a

law that required green landscaping around new neighborhoods was changed.

For the first time, top candidates for mayor in this week's election

are saying the wasteful Las Vegas lifestyle is dated. A ban on artificial

lakes proved so popular that one candidate, Councilman Steve Miller, is

running radio ads taking credit.

The lake ban was aimed at places similar to Desert Shores, a

subdivision of new homes, apartments and boating lakes on the west edge

of Las Vegas. "Finish with a splash!" the ads shout for Shoreline

Estates, a Desert Shores development on Lake Jacqueline, where the water

seems unnaturally blue and the white geese out of place.

Hundreds of new houses are rising this spring on the desert west of

old Las Vegas. A 3,100-unit Del Webb's Sun City is under construction in

a 36-square-mile planned community known as Summerlin, which crows that

it is America's Newest Hometown. Summerlin, which plans to house 150,000

people, is going up on land the late billionaire Howard Hughes acquired

from the U.S. government in the 1950s, and is named for Hughes'


The outward move of Las Vegas became inexorable last month when Clark

County's commissioners announced that they were moving the county offices

from downtown to the western frontier.

South of town, in suburban Henderson, the last and most controversial

artificial lake is starting to fill with Colorado River water. When it

tops out in 1992, the two-mile-long Lake Las Vegas will expose 320 acres

of water to the desert sun. It is part of a $3.8-billion development of

hotels, homes and golf courses given permits before new lakes were


The growth is dizzying, but justified by economics. New homes sell

long before they are completed. The University of Nevada-Las Vegas said

the influx of new residents reached 6,000 a month last year, when Clark

County's population shot to 741,459 from its 1980 level of 463,087.

An astonishing spurt ended the 1980s, as the huge Mirage and Excalibur

hotel-casinos opened on the Las Vegas Strip. Water use jumped in two

years by 50,000 acre-feet--equal to the increase during the previous nine

years. The tide ebbed a bit last year, but still 4,024 homes sold in

Clark County--up 24% from the year before--and building permits were

issued for 7,311 apartments.

It is new residents, not the waterfalls and fountains outside the big

hotel-casinos or the 20 million annual visitors, that tax the water

supply, Mulroy said. "The hotels use a small share of the water and

provide most of the jobs," she said. About 65% of Las Vegas water is used

by homes, mostly in the yard.

Las Vegas gets most of its water from the Colorado River, with about a

fifth coming from wells. Both sources are about tapped out, Mulroy said.

Seven states share the Colorado, but Nevada has rights to the least

water, and its river allotment is only enough to service the growth

anticipated by 2006.

Wells are shutting down because of ground subsidence that began in the

1950s and '60s. The Earth has sunk beneath some Las Vegas neighborhoods,

cracking foundations and streets. In one startling example, the head of a

former well is now stranded five feet in the air.

Las Vegas officials say they considered building a desalination plant

on the Southern California coast and trading its output for some of

California's Colorado River water, but rejected the idea as too


Instead, in late 1989, they took rural counties by surprise and filed

145 claims for "unappropriated" ground water, which in Nevada is a public

resource awarded to worthy applicants by the state engineer's office. The

claims totaled 864,195 acre-feet, more water than the city of Los Angeles

uses in a year.

The water would come from Nye, Lincoln and White Pine counties--total

population 30,820--and rural parts of Clark County. Wells would pump from

a carbonate aquifer that geologists think extends northeast from Death


Mulroy insists that Las Vegas will need less than half the water it

filed for to serve a population expected to reach 1.4 million by

2020--more than live in all of Nevada today--but sought more claims than

necessary in case some are denied.

Speed and secrecy were justified, Mulroy said, to head off claims by

water speculators and Los Angeles, which needs water for a power

generating station that it wants in rural Nevada. "This put us first in

line," she said.

Once alerted, ranchers, miners and wilderness activists who usually

fight each other lined up to oppose the plan. More than 3,600 protests

were lodged with state engineer Mike Turnipseed, including one from the

Inyo County Board of Supervisors in California, home of Owens Valley, a

symbol of big-city greed to rural supporters.

"We can see what happened in the Owens Valley, it's not a pretty

picture," said Stephen T. Bradhurst, a former Nye County planning

director. Since early this century, the Los Angeles Department of Water

and Power has bought 90% of the land in Owens Valley, shipped the water

south, and been blamed for squeezing the economic vitality from towns

such as Lone Pine and Independence.

Critics say Las Vegas is trying to feed its runaway growth at the

rural counties' expense, rather than imposing tough conservation

measures. But they know that in Nevada political fights, Clark

County--home to more than half of the state Legislature--usually gets its

way. Turnipseed, who held his first hearings last month, is not expected

to approve or deny the plan for more than a year.

"This was just the politically easiest thing to do," said Chris Brown,

Las Vegas head of Citizen Alert, a Nevada environmental group. "They knew

they had more power than the rural counties."

Opponents hope to persuade the Bureau of Land Management to deny

permission for the pipeline to cross federal land, and to invoke federal

environmental laws. The aquifer Las Vegas plans to tap supplies 300

springs in Death Valley National Monument and nearby Ash Meadows, home to

the inch-long Devil's Hole pupfish protected as an endangered species by

a 1976 Supreme Court ruling.

"They can change Nevada law, that's the way they operate," said

Bradhurst. "They cannot change the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air

Act and the Clean Water Act."

At the first hearings on the plan last month, opposition came also

from Las Vegas residents who will pay the $1.95-billion tab. Newcomers

and old-timers alike were lukewarm about encouraging more fast growth,

calling the existing traffic, air pollution and crime already too much.

Murders in Las Vegas were up 18% and rapes up 22% last year.

A sign of frustration, pollsters say, is that many Las Vegans who

moved here for the lack of state income and estate taxes would gladly pay

new taxes for freeways and roads.

"Too many people," said attorney Tom Moore last month, lounging at the

Mirage Hotel pool the day before his family quit Las Vegas, after a

decade, for Georgia.

In the morning Review-Journal, which runs a weekly map warning of

traffic "choke points," a straw poll last August on the rural water plan

drew 382 phone calls, 82% opposed to importing water. The paper endorsed

the plan in an editorial that drew on accounts of Anasazi Indians

vanishing from the local desert a millennium ago because of drought.

If Las Vegas does not get the water, the paper argued, "future

archeologists will be asking themselves why that desert city of glass and

steel withered and died."



PHOTO: Desert Shores, above, a subdivision of new homes, apartments

and man-made lake, sits on the western edge of Las Vegas. Below, heavy

machinery readies the ground before it becomes the 320-acre Lake Las



GRAPHIC-MAP: NEVADA, Los Angeles Times


Copyright (c) 1991 Times Mirror Company