Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Nor'town on the Edge

Just how bad is North Las Vegas' budget crisis? Apparently, it's so bad that North Las Vegas' city manager wants the city council to officially "declare a disaster" in order to void union contracts with city workers. And apparently, it's now so bad that the entire rest of the state may suffer immensely if Nor'town collapses.

North Las Vegas indeed is facing an epic crisis, but it's just too easy for certain politicians in charge to place all the blame on unions. After all, Mayor Shari Buck had agreed to the very contracts she's now decrying. And Buck, not the police and fire unions, had the opportunity to turn the tide by scaling back the new City Hall to focus on keeping parks, libraries, and other essential service open, as well as develop a master plan to guide the city in pursuing realistic development options for all the city's empty land. Instead, Shari Buck and other city "leaders" wasted all that time chasing "magical pots of gold" (aka "casino row", unnecessary new housing, etc.) that only turned out to be mirages in the open desert.

Without a doubt, the city has made many poor decisions in the last decade and it's downright ridiculous for certain folks on North Las Vegas' city council to act "innocent" now when they supported the very policies that provided fuel when the recession caught fire and swept into the valley in full force. However, this can't entirely be laid on city "leaders", either. After all, the city can't control any tax policy. Rather, the state has been shortchanging Nor'town with lopsided C-Tax policies that provide more funding for Las Vegas and Henderson while returning far less revenue to North Las Vegas AND forcing Nor'town to run its own libraries. (The state directly funds public libraries in Las Vegas, Henderson, and unincorporated Clark County.)

And then, of course, there's that recession. Because North Las Vegas has more concentrated poverty than most of the rest of Clark County, it's always had more revenue problems. But when that's combined with fast new "boomtown" neighborhoods selling at grossly inflated prices and coupled with retail centers under construction, that makes a recipe for disaster. Really, all it took with the housing collapse and the onset of "The Great Recession" to cause North Las Vegas' house of cards to start tumbling down. And with so many deflated home values, empty retail centers, continued poverty hurting many city residents, and (again) a lack of proper planning to deal with anybody this, North Las Vegas was really doomed for disaster.

So really, it was a combination of poor planning, poor leadership, and no action to address the still poor people that led Nor'town into the mess it's now mired in. But now, it will take not just the entire city, but the entire valley and perhaps even the entire state to solve this crisis. After all, if North Las Vegas falls, then the entire Southern Nevada economy is at risk from the resulting bad media and the horrifying effects of the lack of government in a large portion of Clark County. And if our economy takes a hit, then the entire state ultimately suffers.

So really, Nor'town needs "an extreme makeover" at city hall ASAP. The people of this city need better local leadership and a real game plan to end this crisis. If they don't get this, then we're all at grave risk.

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