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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Chicanery in the Governors Mansion... and a time to lead...

Last year Nevada celebrated the 100th anniversary of its governors mansion. The elegant neoclassical structure designed by Reno Architect George A. Ferris in 1908 has been the residence of some of the best and well "less desirable" governors this state has had. I visited the governors mansion last year and mused at the beauty of the structure and its surroundings. The quaint hamlet of Carson City in which the mansion is located is not just the state capital but it is also believed to be home of the smallest state capital building in the United States. It is said Nevada has the smallest capital building because of our distrust of big government.

Whether you believe in historical legends or not the reality is that our state government is so small that our rapid population increase over the past 25 years has rendered it almost ineffective. We are well aware and have been for sometime that the power of the state has been shifting from its stronghold in Northern Nevada to Southern Nevada, yet as this shift has occurred our state government has remained basically the same. Every two years the legislature meets to hammer out a budget and fix a few patches here and there but when it comes to looking at the bigger picture such as planning for the future they have come up short. This is most evident over the last few years with the economy sinking into a morass. In addition it does not help that Nevada has had the "least desirable" governor in its history taking up residence in the Ferris Mansion.

A few months ago when I re-launched this blog I vowed to keep politics out of the picture. But in lieu of the draconian cuts that the Governor has proposed and the task that the state legislature must now confront I myself cannot keep quite nor should I. Nevada is my home state and as a native I have, like every other citizen, the right to stand up and speak out. The proposed cuts to our educational system is most worrisome and should give each and every one of us pause. Our state, already at the bottom of many lists when it comes to educational funding, stands at the edge of the abyss with little hope to recover if these cuts go through. Our schools are grossly overpopulated, our children are embarrassingly under-served yet with this well known fact our "less desirable" Governor is willing to sacrifice the little progress we have made over the past two decades just to satisfy his political ambitions.

It does not take a theoretical physicist to understand that without a good and well funded educational and arts infrastructure we cannot attract the kind of creative businesses that will assist this state in the diversification of its economy. Nevada must diversify its economy if we are going to mitigate the continued boom and bust cycle that has been part of our history since before our statehood; just look at the countless ghost towns dotting the landscape. In addition it is not fair to cannibalize one industry to take on the burden of practically funding the entire state budget. All businesses should pay their fair share but at the same time we must look at other industries that will assist us in improving our states revenues. Now I do not want to get into the nuances nor the details of all the problems that exist with our states arcane tax structure, what I prefer to do is take a look the important aspect of quality of life.

As I mentioned in a previous post, investments in universities, colleges, schools, museums, cultural centers, theater, public art and all the things that enrich the citizenry encourage economic diversification in a community. Creative businesses such as knowledge based companies, innovators, information technology and scores of others will not come to Nevada if we cannot demonstrate that we have the infrastructure that creative businesses demand for their workforce. Yes Nevada has a favorable tax environment for businesses to relocate here but have you noticed that they are not exactly flocking to the state nor Las Vegas for that matter? The reason is simple, we have a grossly underfunded educational system and the investment in our cultural infrastructure is minimal.

Today our state legislators will have to take on a great burden and attempt to repair a budgetary hole that seems to get larger everyday. They will be poised, as they did last year to take the helm and make the leadership decisions needed to sustain the state through these difficult times. It is important that we as citizens engage the state legislators and tell them how we feel about the future of our state. We must also remind them to set aside politics or whatever future political ambitions they may have to make the right decisions that will help save those things that are important to the diversification of our economy and our quality of life.

It is my hope that over the next few days the legislature will demonstrate leadership and carefully craft a solution that will maintain the integrity of our already fragile educational system. In addition it is also our responsibility as the citizens of Nevada to work with our leaders at the local and state level to come up with pragmatic and non-polarizing solutions that will help us prosper again; remember our children are depending on us.

Here are some important links to assist you in contacting your state legislators -

Nevada State Senate

Nevada State Assembly

And please do not forget to thank them for their hard work...

posted by Brian Paco Alvarez, Curator and Chronicler of Culture at


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