Friday, February 10, 2012

State of the City, State of the Soul

Yesterday, Henderson Mayor Andy Hafen explained why we should be "positive and upbeat about the future" in his State of the City Address.

Hafen used the address Thursday, attended by hundreds in the Henderson business community, to announce a $156 million expansion of the St. Rose Dominican Hospital Siena campus. The expansion, he said, will add 130 new beds and double the size of the hospital’s emergency room, with construction beginning in the next few months.

He also welcomed a $28 million expansion of the Levi Strauss distribution facility in Henderson, which will bring with it a 50 percent increase in staffing. [...]

He pointed out the city has received several distinctions in the past year. Bloomberg Businessweek named Henderson No. 38 in its list of America’s 50 Best Cities, and Forbes ranked Henderson as the second-safest city in the nation.

Hafen also highlighted Henderson’s goal for its residents to live in a “premier community.”

He said he wanted the community to know Henderson was the safest and best place to live in the valley, despite the effects the dire economy has had on the city.

Hafen also addressed the opening of TH Foods' manufacturing plant here in Henderson, as well as the new Union Village health care and mixed-use development set to break ground this year. He also gave a shout-out to new Ward 3 Council Member John Marz.

However as Hafen was speaking, new developments emerged in the story of the Ward 3 Council Member that Marz replaced. Apparently, her law suit against Clark County and County Commissioner Steve Sisolak will be dropped.

And this morning, The Sun has an in-depth article on the rise and fall of Kathleen Vermillion's political career. It's quite the tragic read. I'm sure she was genuinely interested in helping kids in need when she founded the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth. But as one climbs and corporate and political ladders, it can be easy to forget the reason why one started on the ladder in the first place. It can also be easy to lose one's own identity.

Partnership employees told of a topsy-turvy work environment. One employee, who asked to remain anonymous, said Vermillion was unpredictable. She would be absent from the office for days and then, upon returning, be intensely critical of what was happening there.

“It was Kathleen’s world, and everyone is affected by her emotional state,” the employee told the Sun. “If she is in a bad state of mind and goes into her bottom swing, everyone fears for their jobs. It would change day to day — from her praising people to talking about firing them.”

Co-workers might complain to board members, but their complaints never reached a full-board discussion. Vermillion “tightly controlled her board” and was “good at manipulating perceptions,” the employee said.

“There was a good Kathleen and a bad Kathleen,” the employee said. “The good Kathleen was very sincere about the children; the bad Kathleen would throw anyone out of the bus.”

I think this article sheds some light on what may have caused Tuesday's tragic news. At some point ten years ago, Vermillion wanted to change the way we "deal with" homeless youth. Again, I'm sure she genuinely wanted to help back then. But now, Vermillion needs to help herself and her family. And hopefully, dropping the law suit against Sisolak is the first step in doing that.

And as I wrote late last month, the whole city has to recover from this. Even as large as Henderson has grown, many residents here still talk about "the small town feel". I certainly felt it in the last month as nearly everyone around town had an opinion on the Vermillion-Sisolak scandal. While it was probably best that Mayor Hafen didn't specifically address this in his State of the City Address yesterday, there may be more work to be done in restoring confidence, and in ensuring that personal affairs don't become so intertwined with city business in the future.

Hopefully, there's still a chance for some sort of positive end to this sad affair. And hopefully, Henderson can move past this and look forward to what looks to be exciting developments in our future.

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