Las Vegas Sun

August 20, 2014

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Sun Editorial:

Time to think big

Southern Nevada governments should be thinking, working regionally

North Las Vegas will shut down and mothball its jail this week. The move is in response to the city’s financial crisis.

Inmates from North Las Vegas will be transferred to Las Vegas’ jail under an agreement struck by the two cities. The Las Vegas jail will also book and hold anyone arrested by North Las Vegas police.

North Las Vegas Mayor Shari Buck and City Manager Tim Hacker told the Sun’s editorial board Wednesday that they don’t believe public safety will be affected. The Las Vegas jail is a few miles from the current facility, and they said officers will be able to get in and out quickly after an arrest.

The jail closure is one of several ways city officials are trying to save money. The city is laying off more than 100 workers and has streamlined or cut back several other services, including recreation, libraries and the fire department. Hacker said the city is considering further proposals.

The recession has forced organizations, both private and public, to consider new and different ways of operating, and the jail agreement is notable because it has opened a discussion about consolidating government services. This discussion has long been needed.

Buck said there is a “willingness to look at” what she called “shared services” among local governments, and that is good to hear. Discussions in the past have stalled on the issue as local governments and elected leaders fretted over their territories instead of exploring the possibilities. Leaders should be thinking beyond what they’ve always done and consider the big picture and what’s best for their constituents.

In the Las Vegas Valley, there are four local governments — the three cities and the county, which oversees the large unincorporated urban area that includes the Strip. It can be difficult to identify whose jurisdiction you’re in if you’re driving around town. Physical separations, such as the stretch of desert that once was between Henderson and the valley’s major urban area, have long been erased by growth. Although consolidation has been successful in some large-scale endeavors in Southern Nevada, like water and public transportation, it has been slow to catch on in other ways. We’re hopeful, however, that there is movement in that direction.

For example, a few weeks ago, Clark County, Las Vegas, Henderson and North Las Vegas rolled out a consolidated business license for contractors, who will now be able to make one application for a license in all four jurisdictions. That will save time and work for everyone, and officials are considering consolidated licenses for other businesses as well.

That type of consolidation was long past due, but state law limits local governments’ action. It took a change in the law last year to make way for the consolidated business license, and it would likely take legislative action for other proposals. That’s ridiculous.

People aren’t as concerned about which government provides services as much as they are about services being provided. And given these difficult economic times, who could be against increasing efficiency, pooling resources and saving tax dollars?

The Legislature should give local governments the ability to enter into those types of agreements, and elected leaders should be having more discussions about consolidating services. Where it’s cost effective and makes sense, it should be a no-brainer.

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