Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013 | 2:03 a.m.
The Clark County Commission approved fuel indexing to give our region the resources we need to build the infrastructure necessary to support our growth. Their leadership gives me a quiet sense of optimism that the institutional inequities affecting my city — North Las Vegas — and in particular, my council district (Ward 1) may be corrected.
During a recent visit with my daughter, who lives in Northern Nevada, I had the opportunity to drive on the new $575 million Interstate 580 between Carson City and Reno. It’s a fine, well-designed highway, and it certainly did cut a few minutes off my journey.
Admittedly, I did drive at a rather high rate of speed, but I could have doubled my rate of speed because nobody uses the desolate road. More important, I know of several transportation projects in our backyard awaiting construction and found myself wondering when we will begin building and finishing these southern projects needed for our growing and populous region.
I am a high school teacher, and my background has given me a unique perspective to my position as a city councilman. In many ways, high school is a microcosm of our city and state. The struggles of poverty, influences of bullies, realities of inequalities and all other societal challenges are uniquely found within the struggles of my students.
Over the past few weeks, I have experienced how the struggles of our local businesses, nonprofits and residents mirror the challenges I have been helping my students with over the years. The effects of inequalities are a recurring challenge faced by many of my students who are attempting to become the first in their family to learn English, graduate from high school, go to college or get a dependable job.
As a councilman, I have been amazed at how the inequalities of disparate treatment by the state are affecting Southern Nevada communities.
Southern Nevada is the engine of our state’s economy. I liken the relationship of the northern and southern halves of Nevada to that of the old motorbikes with the attached sidecar. We all know the engine in the motorbike (i.e., Clark County) propels the entire vehicle forward, yet many times our leaders decide instead of emptying the fuel jugs into the motorbike’s engine, they opt to empty the jugs into the sidecar and push the vehicle to its destination. This analogy is particularly applicable to the situation facing the Las Vegas Beltway.
While our beltway connecting more than 2 million people sits incomplete, a $167 million northern beltway encircling Carson City’s 55,439 residents is being constructed. Instead of increasing efficiencies in and around our state’s economic engine, we are funding a beltway around a city that contains about half the number of people who live in my council district.
As a simple man, I like simple facts. When the federal formula-based aid received by Nevada is divided, Washoe County gets a whopping $1,664 per person; Clark County gets only $772 per person. According to the Brookings Institution, this results in shorting Southern Nevada more than $1.7 billion dollars every year. But wait, it gets better. Remember that while we just completed the 8.5-mile stretch of I-580 linking fewer than 300,000 people in Reno and Carson City for $575 million, we have failed to fund the less expensive Boulder City bypass, which is Nevada’s critical portion of the proposed Interstate 11 project that would link more than 6 million people.
Southern Nevada’s $130 billion dollar engine will pull the entire state out of our economic doldrums before Carson City’s $3 billion dollar engine even turns over. We must prioritize infrastructure projects where we get the biggest bang for our buck.
North Las Vegas can play a crucial role in the success of our southern engine. As our state’s largest minority-majority city, North Las Vegas is well positioned to compete for federal tax dollars, credits and grants. Our region’s prime commercial real estate along the Interstate 15 and railroad corridor, essential for new businesses and robust industry growth, is in North Las Vegas. The region’s success depends on our collective efforts. My City Council district is bisected by the I-15 corridor and includes one of the largest incomplete sections of the Las Vegas Beltway. A proper I-15/northern beltway interchange will link the millions of residents to the area that contains the recently completed Veterans Affairs hospital and Las Vegas Motor Speedway area, and it would spur development worth billions of dollars to this prime area.
As a newly elected city councilman, I am committed to getting the resources necessary to connect our city and region. It is crucial we put the fuel in the actual engine currently driving our state’s economy.
Isaac E. Barron is a North Las Vegas city councilman.