Las Vegas Sun

November 23, 2014

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2020 Vision:

Where I Stand: Today, a forum for visionaries

Visionaries are only as good as the people who pay attention to them.

As we look to 2010 — that in itself is a mouthful to a fellow who, as a very young man, used to wonder what kind of spaceships we would use to take us to the moon in the 21st century — it is helpful to pay attention to what our community leaders think will happen in the next 10 years. For what Las Vegas will look like in 2020 has a lot to do with the decisions we make today.

I have been in Las Vegas a very long time. I remember when yesterday’s builders and dreamers would look into the future and see 100,000 people living here, a dozen or more multihundred-room hotels catering to the 2 million or 3 million tourists driving here from Southern California and flying here from New York, and a school system with the best education in the country. I remember that vision. I watched it happen. And I couldn’t wait to play my part in this new and vibrant city.

Fifty years later, a different group of visionaries has been asked for ideas of what Las Vegas will look like and be like, just a few short years from now. As I write this, I haven’t read what is being proffered as the next iteration of the American dream, but I am certain the consensus is not very different from that of a half-century ago. We can be a great city. We can be the kind of community in which people want to live. We can be the place the rest of the world points to as an example of how to do it right.

The Las Vegas Sun, always looking to serve its readers, has given over its pages to the ideas, concerns and beliefs of our community’s business, social and political leadership in the belief that the more good, quality information the citizens of Southern Nevada have at their disposal, the better decisions they will make about their own lives.

The list of contributors is impressive, not only because it involves the people who are making our community a better place today, but also because they are the same folks who, to a great extent, will help lay the groundwork for the Las Vegas of 10 years from now.

What the rest of us do with that collective vision, of course, is the big question, the answer to which will dictate whether Las Vegas will continue to be the all-American city or the poster child for opportunity lost.

I have not been bashful in this space about the kind of future we at the Sun have worked for over the past half-century. It has always been with an eye toward the future and, if I may say, a selfless eye. For who can honestly believe that people building tomorrow’s foundation today have any reasonable prospect of being around when that wonderful tomorrow actually comes?

I am reminded of that most certain part of life’s cycle when I think of last month’s illuminating Las Vegas Sun Youth Forum. There was a most disturbing aspect of that meeting of 1,000 of Clark County’s most outstanding high school students when a large majority of them said that, following their college and postgraduate educations, they didn’t intend to return to Las Vegas. Besides the fact that those are exactly the kind and quality of people we want to become citizens of Southern Nevada, the sad fact is they are our children and grandchildren.

If the Las Vegas they see in their future is not the place they want to live and raise their families — that would be our grandchildren and great-grandchildren — then I have to ask, “What are we doing here?”

From what I heard from those high school students, it wasn’t about money. It wasn’t about taxes — or not having to pay them. And it wasn’t about keeping the government out of our lives. Instead, it was about opportunity.

The opportunity to raise their families in a safe place, the opportunity to work in professions and fields that interest them and the opportunity to grow, prosper and develop as individuals and as a community in a most positive way.

You would think we could give them that much!

So, as you read what our current community leaders believe is and can be the future of Las Vegas, please do so with an understanding of what each of us can do to make it happen.

Do we want to be the best tourist destination on the planet? Do we want to have the best health care available anywhere? Do we want to have an education system that is the envy, not the laughingstock, of the country? Do we want to be at the center of the 21st century’s energy solution? Do we want to be a place where families can be proud to live?

These are all very simple questions. The answers are also very simple.

We just have to want it.