Las Vegas Sun

September 19, 2019

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Where I Stand:

A question for Southern Nevada legislators

So, what have you done for us lately?

I always questioned the foolishness implied by this question because any reasonable answer knowingly discounts all that people, programs and projects have done over the years for us and, instead, boils it down to what are you doing now. It’s as if all that has happened in the past counts for nothing.

But, now that the legislative special session has come to a close by opening an entirely new chapter for Tesla Motors and the potential of economic growth for Northern Nevada, what have you done for us lately is exactly the question voters in Southern Nevada should be asking their elected representatives.

It’s not because there has been so much done for those of us who live and work in the southern part of the state but because, you should pardon the expression, of what has been done to us for lo these many years.

I am a huge fan of Elon Musk, Tesla, the whole idea of changing the way people drive their cars and with what Tesla uses to power those cars. Full disclosure: I have been a Tesla owner for almost four years. I also own and have owned fabulous cars that run on fossil fuels. I would prefer more of the former and fewer of the latter in the years to come.

This is why I am thrilled Musk and the state of Nevada came to terms — and the Legislature met those terms—for Tesla building a battery gigafactory near Reno with its promises many thousands of jobs and an economic shot in the arm for a part of Nevada that needed to get off life support.

Assuming Musk is successful, so, too, will be the economic future of Reno. That means the financial burden foisted on Las Vegas for many decades will — or should — be substantially lessened. This is good news for Southern Nevadans who have been begging our elected representatives for decades to let us keep more of our own tax monies so we can grow the kind of community we want.

So far that hasn’t happened. We elect most of the state Legislature and those elected officials go north every two years and vote as if they were from Reno. This time, this past week, every southern legislator went to Carson City and voted as if he or she were from the south to support something important to our fellow Nevadans at the other end of the state.

They even did so — unfortunately and short-sightedly — by refusing to keep Southern Nevada competitive in the high-tech world when they said “no” to some minor tax breaks for Switch customers that would have made Las Vegas a winner. Instead, they most likely gave Arizona the ammunition needed to kill one heck of a great deal for the tech future of Southern Nevada.

This is why it is not inappropriate to ask our legislators, “What have you done for Southern Nevada lately? Or ever?”

With a few tweaks to the law, it is likely the mining industry — which by the design of nature exists in counties where few reside — will provide economic stability to those underpopulated places for years. Likewise, with Tesla and the supporting cast of companies that will locate in the north to support its effort, that part of Nevada has a bright economic future to behold.

That leaves Southern Nevada, the reliable and financially potent part of the state that has pretty much supported most of Nevada for most of our modern lives.

We have our own needs that can’t be met as long as the Legislature refuses to fix built-in inequities northern legislators long ago instituted to assure access to Southern Nevada’s piggy bank.

We don’t want much. We want our own medical school at UNLV, so this part of Nevada can reap the benefits of economic activity such a school will bring, along with the immediate raising of the medical bar, which will benefit everyone who lives and works here. The quality of our medical treatment is worth billions and healthier lives, for which there is no price tag!

We also need to grow our university the way we need to, not the way some northern masters deem appropriate, which has always been measured through the lens of UNR. UNLV has great potential and the people who live here are best able to decide what that potential should be.

We also need to fix our K-12 system, which means we need more of our own money to throw at the problem rather than sending it to other parts of the state. And that is just for starters.

Here is the best news: We don’t need a special session. We need a 2015 session that focuses on the needs of Southern Nevada, coupled with a delegation from Clark County dedicated to making it happen.

So when they ask for your votes in November, do us a favor. Ask those who can make all this happen, “What have you done for Southern Nevada lately?”

Then act accordingly.

Brian Greenspun is owner, publisher and editor of the Las Vegas Sun.

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