Las Vegas Sun

January 18, 2018

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Where I Stand — Guest Column:

Working together in Nevada

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In August, Brian Greenspun turns over his Where I Stand column to guest writers. Today’s columnist is Henderson Mayor Andy Hafen.

Ten years ago, the Nevada state demographer was featured in this space talking about the incredible growth in Nevada.

It was during that time that Nevada’s population surpassed the 1 million mark, and Henderson overtook Reno as the second largest city in the state.

In the late ’90s and early 2000s, with home valuations soaring, construction booming and growth like we’d never experienced, the entire valley was racing to keep up with the demand for new roads, parks, water, infrastructure and emergency services.

However, in 2008, warning bells sounded. By midyear, everyone began to realize the bubble Nevada had experienced had burst and we were all in for big change.

Today we stand on the edge of a very different reality than the one we faced just 10 years ago.

While our population continues to grow — albeit much slower than in 2000 — the resources we have to sustain that population have dropped dramatically.

Every entity in Southern Nevada serves more people, maintains more infrastructure and has more need for services than ever before in our history.

Unfortunately, with construction almost nonexistent and home valuations still at their lowest levels in almost 20 years, the revenues that local governments use to provide crucial services just aren’t there anymore.

We’re all having to tighten our belts, re-evaluate our priorities, adjust our organizations and make do with what we have.

People should expect that. That is what families and businesses do to make ends meet in tough times, and it’s what government has to do, as well.

I remember growing up in Henderson in 1953 when my father opened the OK Tire Shop. We all worked there at some point and, in fact, the business is still in the family today.

I saw all the long hours my dad worked to provide for our family. We had good years and we had lean years, but through it all I learned that everyone had to work together to keep things running and keep the shop in business.

That is a lesson that has served me well throughout my life. It is a lesson that is particularly poignant right now.

One of the things I’ve always loved about Henderson is the way people work together. We have a fantastic sense of community that draws people to our borders.

Working together, we’ve built a premier community, a true place to call home.

We’ve enjoyed a great spirit of cooperation and trust in our city that through the good times has helped us be successful.

And, as I learned working at dad’s tire shop, it’s that same spirit that will help us weather the struggles we’re experiencing now.

Over the past few years, we’ve had to trim more than $100 million from our budget. We’ve consolidated and cut and adjusted. We’ve scrimped and saved and have had to do much more with much less.

However, we wouldn’t have been able to do that were it not for the spirit of cooperation and trust we enjoy from our residents, from our businesses and especially from the workers who serve our community on a daily basis.

We’ve been truly fortunate in Henderson to have the cooperation of our employees, especially those in our bargaining groups.

Every single group has worked with us to come up with voluntary reductions to pay and benefits that have helped us reduce our deficit, avoid devastating cuts to crucial services and keep us operating in a way that has kept us the premier city we’ve always been.

But to continue to provide the services we need to in a struggling economy, we know that even more changes are necessary.

Just like everyone else in the valley, our revenues continue to be scarce and deficits remain. We are working to do more and we know we aren’t out of the fiscal woods yet.

But I am hopeful. I am hopeful because of that spirit of cooperation that has helped us become the city we are today.

To continue to address those difficulties, we need more dialogue. We need more civil discourse. We need more trust like we’ve developed here to work together to find the solutions we need.

Those are lessons I learned at an early age. They are lessons that have served me, and served our city well. And they are lessons that can help us all as we move forward to face the challenges of our future.

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