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October 1, 2014

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2020 Vision:

Ex-state archivist: With its libertarian streak fading, Nevada will stagnate

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CATHLEEN ALLISON / SPECIAL TO THE LAS VEGAS SUN

Guy Rocha

I’m not hopeful for 2020. Some think CityCenter is the start of a return to the heyday, but those people are living in the past.

By 2020, the casino business will no longer be the state’s cash cow for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that the number of competitors in the legalized gambling business just keeps growing. I don’t expect Nevada’s gambling industry will have dried up and blown away by 2020, but I expect more casinos will close over the course of the next 10 years.

The Las Vegas Strip will still be a draw, but I’m concerned that international visitors will bypass Reno and Lake Tahoe.

The state’s north-south political divide will remain unchanged. Clark County will continue to hold 70 percent of the vote, and the gap with Northern Nevada won’t be widened.

The bottom line is I do not see a radically transformed Nevada by 2020, at least not a positively transformed Nevada.

That’s not to say the state hasn’t — or won’t continue to — change in some ways. We’re no longer that libertarian state we used to be, and it had been our identity as the libertarian state that had sustained us.

Newcomers have come to Nevada to escape taxes and that has changed the Nevada dynamic. They’ve made what was once a libertarian state more conservative. There have been more efforts to close the state’s legal brothels, to cite just one example.

Nevada has been unwilling in recent years to take the lead to break away from the traditional. Recreational marijuana use has failed twice when put to the voters. A ban on same-sex marriage has been added to the state’s constitution.

The bigger problem for the future, though, is I just don’t see the will of the citizens to reinvest in the state.

Nevada has refused to put in the money for education, for training to attract high-tech industries. So how much of that ground can be made up in the coming decade? I’m afraid the state will continue to get low-end businesses that do not require an educated workforce.

Political leaders are touting the development of solar, geothermal and wind energy, the industry of alternative energy, as the answer. But Nevada is competing with other states that are further along. I don’t think Nevada will be the lead dog on alternative energy.

We’re putting most of our eggs in the renewal energy basket and I don’t think it is enough, and I don’t think we can win the race with other states. It doesn’t take a lot of people to maintain solar panels in Eldorado Valley or to oversee wind turbines.

I expect to see more of Nevada’s youth migrating elsewhere to find jobs in the coming decade. I expect to see Nevada’s population flat-lining or declining.

Guy Rocha was Nevada’s state archivist for 28 years.

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