Las Vegas Sun

July 27, 2016

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Sun Editorial:

Thinking big

Nevada needs candidates ready to take on the state’s big issues

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In the next six weeks, you’ll hear plenty from campaigns that want to focus on criticizing their opponents. Don’t expect subtlety; hyperbole is king, and the facts be damned.

That’s something we have sadly come to expect in an election season. Talking points have taken the place of substantial plans, policy debates became personality duels and attack ads trump all.

This style of campaigning has filtered down to local races, and while all seems to be fair in politics, it has come at the expense of any substantial discussion of the issues.

Because Nevada is a swing state (President Barack Obama’s campaign manager, Jim Messina, told the Sun last week that it’s a “bellwether”), the presidential campaign will consume most of the attention, but voters should pay close attention to state and local candidates.

If the Great Recession has taught us anything, it’s that the state needs leaders who have vision not just to move Nevada out of its economic doldrums but also to build the future.

The litany of recession-spawned problems facing the state are well-known. Nevada has had the highest unemployment rate in the nation for more than two years; foreclosures are on the rise; and 6 in 10 homes are underwater, worth less than the value of their mortgages.

But there also are problems that have dogged the state for years, such as the antiquated tax system and a shortage of medical services.

The state’s public education system has been mired for years in a situation in which reaching mediocrity would be progress. The economy has long been reliant on a couple of industries, and without a broader base of business, Nevada’s economic recovery has been slow. The meager social safety net has suffered from neglect, benign and otherwise. And the list goes on.

Many of these issues could, and should, have been addressed years ago, but they were put off by politicians who either didn’t have the vision or couldn’t muster the support to make the needed changes. Even in the boom times, the major issues facing the state were pushed off until a time when things would be “better.”

But times apparently never have been good enough, and as a result, Nevada’s weaknesses were all too evident in the Great Recession.

Some of this can be attributed to misplaced or misguided priorities. (Why, exactly, did the state need to spend more than $500 million on a freeway between Carson City and Reno? Why doesn’t Southern Nevada receive a fair share of revenue?) But the larger problem is a lack of vision.

It has been too easy to push off these discussions by saying there’s no money, and what politician wants to talk about Nevada’s inequitable tax structure when doing so can equate to political death? The political debate has surrendered to a discussion about what’s possible. At this point, given Nevada’s failure to invest in education and a number of other services, not much is possible.

The state can’t have another session of the Legislature in which lawmakers focus on minor “reforms” or talk about “doing more with less” or move to dodge today’s problems for another day.

Those types of discussions are bankrupt. The state has been paced by people who had big dreams and took risks in the private sector; it needs more of those types of people in elected office.

Instead of looking one election cycle to the next, elected leaders need to consider what Nevada is going to look like in 10, 20 and 40 years.

This is our home, and we believe in Nevada, but we’re left with this question: What kind of place will it be for our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren?

That’s what this election is about, and Nevadans should be looking for candidates who are willing to paint a bright, positive vision and offer ideas to get us there.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be discussing an agenda for Nevada — some of our beliefs about where the state is headed and what it can become. We hope you’ll join us in the discussion because it will take all of us to set a course that will give future generations of Nevadans a place to call home.

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