Los Angeles Times articles mentioning Steve Miller:
Monday, July 8, 1991
Los Angeles Times
A Whole New Image;
Las Vegas Pins Its Hopes for Civic Reform on the Flashy Saleswoman
Who Is the New Mayor
By: ELIZABETH VENANT
TIMES STAFF WRITER
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
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,
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
"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
"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
PHOTOGRAPHER: JEFF SCHEID / For The Times
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
Section: PART A
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
Section: PART A
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.
By: KEVIN RODERICK
TIMES STAFF WRITER
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
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
"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
PHOTOGRAPHER: JIM LAUIRE / For The Times
GRAPHIC-MAP: NEVADA, Los Angeles Times
Copyright (c) 1991 Times Mirror Company