Voters in the Colorado River casino town of Laughlin rejected a proposal to become Nevada's 20th incorporated city on Tuesday, choosing libertarian ideals and promises of low taxes over neighbors' hopes to break out of the tourist shadow of much larger Las Vegas, 100 miles away.
The vote was small, 962 to 729, but turnout was exceptionally high. Almost 64 percent of 2,653 eligible voters cast ballots on the question that would have forever changed the tourist town that has some 7,000 permanent residents but swells with winter snowbird vacationers and weekend getaway gamblers from nearby California and Arizona.
"You'd expect that," Larry Lomax, the Clark County registrar of voters, said of the Laughlin numbers. They nearly quadrupled turnout of a little more than 16 percent countywide. "They had a big question to answer."
The vote revolved around whether the community would be better served by a new local government, or by continuing to rely on a distant county administration that serves some 2 million residents.
Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak, the elected official who represents Laughlin from his office in Las Vegas, said he was surprised by the turnout and gratified that voters sifted through what he called propaganda and personal attacks.
"I've always said that at some point, Laughlin will incorporate. It's just not now," Sisolak said. "I think they did their research, and they agreed with the County Commission. I think they made the right decision _ an educated decision."
Proponents of cityhood complained they pay high property taxes to Clark County, and the $8.8 million that goes to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department for coverage of Laughlin is too high.
Terrence Yurick, a retired California aerospace worker who ran for mayor of the proposed city, said he thought Laughlin could tap some of the rapid growth enjoyed by Bullhead City, Ariz., a city of nearly 40,000 people across the river.
He said Laughlin municipal officials would be better able to encourage and plan their community's growth, and would be more responsive to the needs of residents than officials based two hours' drive away.
While the state Legislature approved allowing the cityhood vote, lawmakers in Carson City also kept the power to review the financial plan for incorporation. And state taxation officials warned that a city of Laughlin might have to raise taxes to pay for animal control, planning, police, fire, parks and public works.
City lines would have enveloped vast vacant areas of desert and hills generally south of State Route 163 between the California and Arizona state lines.
But Laughlin's key casino strip along the river, which attracts recreational vehicle tourists and boaters and generates hotel and casino tax revenue, would have remained remain in Clark County jurisdiction for police, fire and other services. The Fort Mohave Indian Reservation off U.S. 95, Needles Highway, would not have been part of the new city.