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July 31, 2015

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Slightly hopeful North Las Vegans sound off on city’s economy, future

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Col. Carol Yannarella, vice commander at Nellis Air Force Base, congratulates North Las Vegas City Manager Timothy Hacker on the new City Hall during the grand opening celebration Thursday evening, Dec. 1, 2011.

Before North Las Vegas resident Michael Holly arrived at the city’s special council meeting to discuss North Las Vegas’ future, he was concerned.

One year ago, he had taken part in the city’s first-ever citizen’s summit to help shape a plan for the both the next five years and forward to 2030. While he felt the residents’ voices had been heard, he also had witnessed his city suffer a bleak year.

In June, the city declared a state of financial emergency to close a $15.5 million budget deficit. Decisions were made with choices that seemed to be between bad and worse. The North Las Vegas Detention Center closed; fire stations were assigned to close if short-staffed, and library and community center hours were cut.

On Monday, Holly joined about 30 other residents — among them teachers, retirees, housing workers, business owners and city employees — to help assess the current state of the city and shape the future. After sitting through the meeting scribbling notes on his black notebook and voicing his concerns, Holly felt a sense of cautious optimism.

“Since the last summit until today, I was somewhat concerned because it still seemed like we had this cliff we were always up against,” said Holly, who has lived in North Las Vegas for three years. “But some of those decisions they made were tough … to see that they’re working together … that’s something I appreciate.”

The discussions focused on programs and policies that would help the city fulfill its five-year goals and return to prosperity. City Manager Tim Hacker said the purpose of the meeting was to help the city shape its future budgets and make sure it was addressing the concerns of its residents.

Mayor Shari Buck said the meeting showed the community was ready to move on from “surviving” through the economic hardships to become more involved in the city’s future.

“We love hearing from our citizens — knowing we’re on the right track, and what we need to change,” Buck said. “From what they’re saying, maybe they’re ready to get involved and sounds like get groups together for more community activities and involvement.”

Hacker began by presenting the city’s accomplishments from 2012, and then opened the floor for feedback.

Many residents were pleased with the city’s progress on the North Fifth Street Arterial Project and the Craig Ranch Park; the city’s devotion to keeping the community center and libraries open, and commitment to not laying off any additional emergency personnel.

But others voiced concerns about the lack of improvement on fixing the negative stigma attached to the city. One woman said she knew several residents who had sold their homes to move to Las Vegas or Henderson. A Neighborhood Housing Services of Southern Nevada employee said prospective homebuyers don’t want to move to the city.

Meanwhile, retiree Phyllis Levy was worried about the city’s collection of empty business lots and their negative impact on attracting new business.

Hacker said the relatively muted reaction from the residents meant the city was headed in the right direction.

“When people don’t say something, it’s almost de facto (agreement),” Hacker said. “Believe me, if they don’t agree, they’ll let you know.”

As conversation shifted to the future, residents pitched their ideas. Levy suggested filling some of the empty business lots with the help of incubator programs.

Another suggested the city embrace its military community and rebrand as a military-friendly town like San Antonio, Texas. Holly pleaded with attendees to band together to make sure their suggestions become more than just words.

Hacker said the suggestions would be used to help the city as it develops the budget and future projects for 2013. While he was excited by the comments, he said the city still had a long way to go to recover from the recession.

Levy said she felt the city was headed in the right direction.

“I think (the city) is on the ball, their direction is correct,” Levy said. “But I really blame it on the economy. If we had a stronger economy we could promote the city.”

Holly echoed Levy’s concerns. While he left with a renewed optimism, a layer of skepticism remained.

“I’m confident,” Holly said of the future. “But the concern I have is just revenue … the city is very limited in what they can do, but (city council) is working together. I’m optimistically optimistic.”

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