Asian-American council chasing community center in Las Vegas

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Asian American and Pacific Islander leaders who want a long-awaited cultural center built in Clark County have a new avenue to explore its feasibility — a long-dormant committee revived by Commissioner Tick Segerblom.

In fact, developing the cultural center will be the flagship goal for the 15-member Asian-American Pacific Islanders Community Commission, which met for the first time Wednesday.

“It’s a dream that’s been going on for many years. Never happened,” said Margie Gonzales, the new commission’s chairwoman and CEO of Asian Community Resource Center. “So hopefully this time it will be a reality.”

The group will also advise the county commission on social and economic issues key to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, affording the fastest-growing community in Southern Nevada a seat at the table. The population has tripled since 2000 to more than 220,000 in the county, due largely to an influx of Filipinos, according to recent Census estimates.

Despite the demographic’s growth in Nevada, it may have taken the most recent statewide election cycle to fully recognize the group’s political influence, according to Rozita Lee, former White House Commissioner on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

“Even though I have been working with the community for as long as I have, it seemed like people were still ignoring us, not realizing when it comes to election that we do matter,” she said.

The resurrection of the community commission was another step in the right direction, Gonzales agreed.

“It’s not just ‘the right time,’ we’re already late,” she said.

It was more than two decades ago when Segerblom’s mother, the late former Assemblywoman Gene Segerblom, introduced legislation requiring the county to create a commission to study Asian-American communities.

But the special council expired after only a year in October 1996.

“They never got around to completing their goals,” particularly building the cultural center, Tick Segerblom said in February, when he raised the idea of starting the commission anew.

For the past nine months, a small group including Lee, a member of the original community commission, have met with Segerblom to advocate for construction of the center on county-owned land. During those conversations, it was suggested that the community commission be the conduit to push the project forward, Lee said.

So far there is a plan for the center, but no architect or site location, according to Lee.

The community commission will address those details and its other tasks during monthly meetings through June 30, 2021. The group, whose members were appointed last month, will also research population size and identify organizations and leaders within the community. Members are also authorized to accept donations that benefit the group’s efforts.

“With your hard work, compassion and commitment, our community will be stronger and I am proud to be one of you,” Nevada first lady Kathy Sisolak told members at the onset of Wednesday’s meeting.

Segerblom called the inaugural session “a very special moment.”

“You are the energy that keeps this community going strong,” he said.

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.

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