Las Vegas Sun

December 17, 2014

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WHERE I STAND:

Our Legislature needs to step up and get the job done

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Once more into the breach. Once more a failure.

I have been wrong for decades. I have been one of those Nevadans who believed that the Legislature should meet no more than every two years and for no more than a specific amount of time. The theory has been that when forced to do the work, legislators will get it done and leave the good people of Nevada alone the rest of the time.

I was wrong because I believed that good people will always try to do the right thing, that governors and legislators will do the peoples’ work and that when push comes to shove, good people would step up and force the issue.

So who suffers when the governor and the Legislature fail? That would be you and me. And our kids. Who doesn’t suffer? The people who have things just the way they want them and who fight change and progress at every turn.

They’re easy to recognize; they’re the people who seem to have everything they want — and what they want most of all is to make sure the rest of the people who call Nevada home don’t get a shot at their own brass ring. They hijack the political process by threatening politicians who don’t toe the line with extinction at the next election.

And what do the people do in response? Absolutely nothing.

And what is the result? Yet another generation of Nevadans forced to live like second-class citizens in a world in which only first-class citizens get ahead.

It is way past time to seriously consider those who come after us, those who will inherit this state with all of its potential to match with all of theirs. And what I see is not as hopeful as I or any decent Nevadan should want to envision.

•••

It is not my nature to complain very much — I have very little to complain about — but there is a whole lot that parents of young children, people who have moved here to pursue their dreams, entrepreneurs and professionals should complain about.

Let me give you an example or two of just how much those in positions of power are or are not doing that will have significant negative impact on our lives.

I am doing this because there isn’t that much time left in this legislative session to wait any longer. If Gov. Brian Sandoval doesn’t act in the interests of all Nevadans — that includes the 2 million people who live south of Tonopah, governor — then we ought to know who is responsible.

And if the legislators we send up to Carson City from Clark County, well over the number needed to pass any legislation that even sounds like it has fairness as its goal, don’t do right, then we should know that they share in that responsibility the next time they ask us to “trust them,” as in the next election.

Let’s start with the easy stuff.

There is an effort to reform the way the Transportation Department is governed. Now it’s a purely political process in which the northern part of the state — where 25 percent of the people live — carries the majority weight in all matters.

That may have worked well in 1957 when the current structure was developed and when Las Vegas was barely a blip on the state population map, but in 2013 things are very different. There are 2 million Southern Nevadans who are grossly underrepresented, and that needs to change — now!

Senate Bill 322 would replace the northern-dominated political structure with a panel of experts on things like transportation. Imagine that: Decision-making would be made based on what is best for the people who need to get around, the business that needs to get done and the commerce that needs to travel our highways, rather than on some arcane method of feathering political beds.

•••

One glaring example of how badly the current structure works, according to information that has been developed by Brookings Mountain West and UNLV, is just how poorly Nevada performs when it comes to securing federal dollars for transportation projects.

In 2012, Nevada secured just $257 per person while Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah averaged about $372 per person. Multiply that times the population of this state and you will see that it is hundreds of millions of dollars. Talk about low-hanging fruit!

That gross inequity, based on an even grosser incompetence, can be changed with experts governing our Transportation Department instead of the political hackery that has failed to manage something as simple as securing federal funds that go to any state that asks for them.

The Senate Transportation Committee passed SB322 out of committee unanimously April 1, but Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Sen. Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, has kept that bill bottled up, and with it the money that could free many other millions of dollars for other important things like education.

What is the Legislature thinking? Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis, I think you have the power to “discuss” Sen. Smith’s chairmanship if she continues to treat the entirety of Southern Nevadans as stepchildren.

Gov. Sandoval, you are the governor of the state; when are you going to put your foot down and fix this gross inequity?

There is so much more to discuss, but that will have to wait until Tuesday. Until then.

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

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  1. Mr. Greenspun is right. Nevadans, and our elected officials, are way behind the knowledge and political curve compared to other states. Then, we wonder why we are always lagging behind in all national standings.

    Carmine D

  2. We cannot have equity with the north but we've got leaders who are willing to give us an official state drink.