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April 23, 2014

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looking ahead:

Optimism prevails for improvements in schools, athletics, social services

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Christopher DeVargas

Partygoers take to the Strip to ring in the New Year, Saturday, Dec. 31, 2011.

The coming year brings optimism to our leaders in education, growing excitement among our sports coaches, anticipation for continuing changes downtown, and even new trends in the sorts of food we may eat.

The new year also prompts optimism that our children will more safely walk across the street, that there will be enough food to feed the hungry, and that those suffering addictions will receive the help they need.

Many forecasts for 2012 involve hard numbers. For others, it’s about less tangible ways of measuring the quality of our lives.

Neal Smatresk, president of UNLV

I would love for the new year to bring stability and predictable growth to the university. I feel we have an incredible opportunity to be a dominant player in the economic diversification and progress of this region. There’s nothing more important to Las Vegas.

UNLV President Neal Smatresk listens the national anthem during the Premier UNLV event, an annual campus tradition that kicks off the fall semester in Las Vegas, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011.

UNLV President Neal Smatresk listens the national anthem during the Premier UNLV event, an annual campus tradition that kicks off the fall semester in Las Vegas, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011.

I’m very excited about our public-private partnerships — especially the UNLV stadium project, a facility that benefits the city and the university and is very much a part of our economic diversification.

Finally, I believe this new year will bring a funding formula that will properly recognize UNLV as a major research university. To provide access to a high-level degree at a quality institution, we need a funding formula that incentivizes productivity and creativity.

It’s also my strongest desire that faculty and staff be able to have competitive benefits packages. I want to see UNLV take care of its university family and provide competitive salaries. We no longer want to be raided by other universities for our teaching talent.

I have two resolutions for the new year: To work tirelessly to be the best public servant to support the growth of the university and the success of our students, and for UNLV to be the best partner to the community we can possibly be.

Paul Takahashi

• • •

UNLV athletic director Jim Livengood listens to a presentation to the Board of Regents on Friday, Feb. 11, 2011, regarding a proposed UNLV stadium.

UNLV athletic director Jim Livengood listens to a presentation to the Board of Regents on Friday, Feb. 11, 2011, regarding a proposed UNLV stadium.

Jim Livengood, UNLV athletic director

The past year has been about laying a solid foundation, and in 2012 our objective is to build on that now that the pieces are in place.

January’s Conference USA-Mountain West meeting will answer a lot of questions about the future of the athletics department and, on a larger scale, the future of large conferences as a whole. But no matter what comes from that meeting, we’re focused on taking care of things that are within our control, which is primarily recruiting the best student-athletes possible to be Rebels.

As always, we also want to manage our finances so we can properly provide for all 17 of our athletic programs and afford them every opportunity to win.

UNLV student-athletes are ambassadors for the university. This year we must continue to bring in the best kind of students to fill those roles, and once they’re on campus we will do everything in our power to help them succeed.

Taylor Bern

• • •

Dwight Jones, superintendent of the Clark County School District.

Dwight Jones, superintendent of the Clark County School District.

Dwight Jones, superintendent of the Clark County School District

There will be some payoffs in 2012 in the number of graduates because of our reform efforts, including a significant number of kids getting high school diplomas. But from an academic approach it may be a few years before we see substantial growth in that figure.

There’s a high likelihood our standardized test scores will get worse before they get better. The increased rigor we’re pushing in classrooms and tougher requirements for passing standardized tests in math, reading, writing and science will initially have a negative impact on those grades, but we should applaud the toughening of those standards.

In the past we were on the sidelines of school reform. It was like we were on an island, and the rest of the world was changing. Now we’re onboard, and businesses notice that and what it will mean for their future employees.

Dave Berns

• • •

UNLV basketball coach Dave Rice is introduced during the Rebel Fan Fest Friday, October 14, 2011 at the Fremont Street Experience.

UNLV basketball coach Dave Rice is introduced during the Rebel Fan Fest Friday, October 14, 2011 at the Fremont Street Experience.

Dave Rice, UNLV men’s basketball coach

I was fortunate to come into a great situation with the team that Lon Kruger had built, and we’re just working every day to get better.

In the fall we signed three quality players — guards Katin Reinhardt and Daquan Cook and forward Demetris Morant — who will join us in 2012. We also added USC transfer Bryce Jones last spring, and he will be eligible at the beginning of the season. These guys will help us continue to improve in the coming year.

Moving forward, our game plan won’t change. We want to build our program on defense and continuously work to improve on the offense end.

In 2012, we will play even faster and keep getting back to the style of the Runnin’ Rebels.

Taylor Bern

• • •

UNLV football coach Bobby Hauck during the Mountain West Conference media day at Red Rock Resort on July 25, 2011.

UNLV football coach Bobby Hauck during the Mountain West Conference media day at Red Rock Resort on July 25, 2011.

Bobby Hauck, UNLV football coach

A lot of young players have been thrust into starting roles in the past two years, and in 2012 I expect that experience to pay dividends.

It’s imperative that we continue to grow up, too, but the sheer number of underclassmen who are coming in with starting experience is exciting. I believe that there has to be some benefit from throwing so many kids into the fire, and that should start to show through this year.

There’s still a long way to go. We’re trying to build not just a team, but a program that can consistently compete in our conference and go to bowl games. It won’t be easy, but some of the pieces are in place for 2012 to be a big step forward toward that goal.

Taylor Bern

• • •

Elizabeth Blau, local restaurateur and founder of the restaurant consulting firm Blau and Associates

Vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free menu items are going to become more and more common and necessary. Over the past several years we have seen both a growing occurrence and a growing awareness of food allergies and diet sensitivities. As restaurants have become more competitive with the current economic climate, attracting and retaining customers with dietary restrictions is key.

We’ll also see more healthy dining options. While this has been a growing trend for some time now, we are really starting to see it be wholeheartedly embraced. We have moved past the days of everyone in Vegas wanting everything to be over the top and recognizing that there are diners who want good, healthy food. This trend can be seen in everything from low-calorie menu and drink options to healthier kids menus.

Finally, I believe we’ll see a proliferation of locals restaurants. As we have seen some of Vegas’ tourist crowds shrink with the slowed economy, a larger and larger share of diners are locals. Las Vegas residents are proud supporters of our dining scene, and I think 2012 will see more recognition of this.”

Delen Goldberg

• • •

Erin Breen

Erin Breen

Erin Breen, director of the UNLV Safe Community Partnership, is a traffic safety advocate.

My hope for next year is that we quit killing children who are crossing the street.

We normally kill people who others don’t think twice about. That’s really a sad statement, but it’s not usually your neighbor, and it’s not your child. It is someone’s child; it just may not be someone who matters to the general population all the time.

I hope everybody gets involved and keeps this heightened awareness for pedestrian safety. Parents should remind their kids every time they’re walking out the front door of the basic pedestrian rules. You can’t assume because you told your child in January that they’ll remember in October or even in the second week of January. You’ve got to tell them every time.

There is impetus and willingness to make improvements for pedestrians in the cities, but I think the county will be more difficult. Pedestrian funding gets shuffled down the totem pole. I’m afraid that, in light of budget issues, if there’s something serious that needs to be fixed, we won’t be able to do it.

— Kyle Hansen

Brian Paco Alvarez

Brian Paco Alvarez

• • •

Brian Paco Alvarez is a native Las Vegan, a curator and an urban historian, and author of the blog Las Vegas Arts and Culture

I predict that 2012 is the year for downtown.

It’s my belief that downtown Las Vegas will be the new economic driving engine of Las Vegas with the opening of the Smith Center, the Mob Museum and the Lied Discovery Children’s Museum, and Zappos moving its headquarters downtown.

Downtown will revolutionize the city’s culture.

To accomplish this, the downtown area will be doing a mix of two things: It has to create its own unique product or brand, and it has to be what the people here are looking for. It has to be homegrown.

Along with preserving its history and nurturing the growing local art scene, downtown has to be the very essence of what Las Vegas has been missing — itself.

— Gregan Wingert

• • •

Farm owner Laura Bledsoe stands with Quail Hollow Farm in the background in Overton on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2011.

Farm owner Laura Bledsoe stands with Quail Hollow Farm in the background in Overton on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2011.

Laura Bledsoe, owner of Quail Hollow Farm and seven-year veteran of working in community-supported agriculture

I think 2012 is going to be the year for local organic agriculture. People will have the right to choose the food we want to consume. Lawmakers will put community-supported agriculture in the books. I really have a good feeling about 2012.

There will be more neighborhood farmers' markets, more people subscribing to farms and new ideas. The wave of the future is direct connection — farmer to consumer. We’re working with chefs in artisan restaurants and chefs on the Strip. There are really only two community-supported agriculture operations in Southern Nevada; in the year 2012 there will be five to six at least.

But there will be legislative issues to battle, such as farmers and ranchers being able to provide the community meat. Committees for the 2013 legislature are meeting now on this issue. I think 2012 is the year of consumer choice, and it’s high time.

Gregan Wingert

• • •

Patricia Falvey, vice president for development at Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada

I’m hoping things are going to get better. What we’re seeing is old donors coming back and new donors signing up.

It’s a significant number of donors but smaller donations than before the recession. Meanwhile, our client demand has risen significantly. It’s tough. It’s really, really tough.

We have 23 social services, which do everything from adoption services to senior respite care. What we have found in the past year is our demand for client services has risen by 25 percent. That’s why we have to urge the public for support.

We used to give out maybe 25 bags of groceries a day. Last year we gave out 100 to 120 bags a day. We’re not seeing a turnaround at all. Now we’re distributing an average of 180 bags per day.

We’ve streamlined and cut as much as we can. We’re working with as little a staff as we can.

Jackie Valley

• • •

Jeffrey Iverson, general manager of Presidential Limousine and co-founder of Freedom House, a sober living facility

I hope we begin to grapple with the community’s substance abuse and addiction issues in 2012. I talk to some people who don’t have much empathy for the people I serve. They say, “Addicts and alcoholics, well, they did that to themselves.”

Perhaps, but they need to be served. Otherwise, we wind up with related problems like crime and homelessness. Yes, they need to work their way out of it and be held accountable, but ignoring the problem isn’t going to do anyone any good.

A first step will be admitting it’s a real serious challenge facing our community.

J. Patrick Coolican

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  1. Positive changes will come by VALUING PEOPLE. There is a movement to find what is wrong and change it. For the past few decades, we have witnessed the erosion of values. For our communities, state, and nation to thrive, we must return to values and integrity.

    One way to achieve this, is to change our thinking, become forward-thinking and caring. Our LAWMAKERS must address the Nevada Constitution and ammend, reform, and or delete laws towards the end of serving US, not US serving THEM. We need to invest our energies into supporting and strengthening what remains here.

    Putting our economic eggs into the home construction model is patently wrong. Typically, the construction industry is one where you move with where the job is. You can only build so much, then all you build is a SATURATED market, which equals death. Here we are, right? Our thinking must change, we must move towards strengthening what remains in entertainment, culture, infrastructure, recreation, and industries towards what people value most, what will make us the envy of the World!

    This is the type of "diversity" you see in other stable and prosperous cities and countries and we need to adapt our mindset towards that direction.

    There are plenty of industry leader with reserves sitting on their balance sheets. Our LAWMAKERS need to bring the necessary changes so that these folks will be encouraged to lead in a new, SUSTAINABLE growth revolution, to build and bring what is of true value to the PEOPLE.

    There will be NO shortage of consumers when giving what the PEOPLE value the most!

    Cheers, Blessings, Peace, and a Happy 2012 New Year!
    Star