It seems almost surreal. Like we’re living in a post-apocalyptic time. As residents break free from their lockdown for a temporary quarantine reprieve, many often find themselves on the Las Vegas Strip.
As you drive down Las Vegas Boulevard, the lights are on, illuminating messages of hope and unity.
But the one thing that makes Las Vegas unique is missing, the people.
The sidewalks are empty, and the dissonant sounds of the strip have vanished. The mixture of voices speaking in many languages, Optimus Prime posing for a picture, the laughter from memories in the making are all gone.
What most of the country doesn’t realize is that Las Vegas is more than just a tourist destination.
It’s home to a diverse, unique, and often overlooked community. There is no bail-out program for Optimus Prime or the troupe of bucket drummers on Fremont. There is no PPP program for industry professionals working for tips. The desperation is growing for the 290,000 hospitality and entertainment workers with each passing day.
Economic hardship impacts Sin City significantly more than most of America’s cities. Our economy is unique, and yet, our leaders are taking a one-size-fits-all approach to plan the re-opening of Nevada.
Although many of us would like to forget the Great Recession of 2008, the pain of ten difficult years still twinges a bit. The economic challenges Las Vegas faced during this time taught our community a powerful lesson. Simply put, when the national economy is struggling, Las Vegas feels this struggle two-fold.
Although the Great Recession officially ended in 2009, Las Vegas still experienced an unemployment rate twice the national average in 2015. Banks stopped lending, multibillion-dollar projects halted mid-construction, and our economy crawled along for an agonizing ten more years. Housing prices hit rock bottom, and foreclosures became a regular part of our lives.
“The valley’s housing market is more volatile than most, real estate pros have said. It has flippers and other investors, a transient population, a workforce that largely doesn’t earn hefty paychecks, a regular influx of newcomers, and an economy dominated by hotel-casinos.”
You see, Las Vegas relies on tourists and conventions to form the bedrock of our economy.
When most Americans weather a recession, they make adjustments to their lives as anyone would. Perhaps they skip that extra trip to Starbucks, cancel a gym membership, or, more importantly, stop traveling. While many Americans experience this, it remains isolated to their personal lives.
Las Vegas, on the other hand, feels the weight of an entire nation struggling on its shoulders. Our community does not rely on agriculture, manufacturing, or technology development. Nevada’s tax revenue and wages rely disproportionately on entertainment and travel. When America hurts, Las Vegas hurts more.
When the world is hurting, Las Vegas will feel it longer, and the pain will last longer than any other community.
Nevada’s Ghost of Leadership
As Nevada faces another economic downturn, this one projected to be worse than the Great Recession; our community is looking to its leaders for guidance.
This week, Governor Sisolak unveiled additional details for the plan to re-open Nevada.
However, like the previous announcements, this one left us with more questions than answers. It appears that our Governor is including Nevada in a multi-state coalition to guide him through this process.
Obviously, the Covid-19 circumstances are unprecedented, but as Sisolak leans on the Governors of California and Washington, it’s obvious he’s not addressing Las Vegas’ unique economic makeup.
Governor Sisolak is presenting Nevadans with a plan to be executed in phases. However, nothing in this plan discusses Las Vegas’s convention future and ensuring safety for the attendees. Our casinos and hotels that employ hundreds of thousands of people will be among the last businesses to re-open.
As the days roll on, our community grows restless and frustrated. The protests from our community grow more frequent. Members from our community feel pushed aside and ignored. As we attempt to make our voices heard, our leaders ignore our cries for help and brush us off as “extremists”.
Steven Horsford, House of Representatives Congressional District 4, is remarkably absent during his District’s time of need. With heavy travel restrictions and social distancing guidelines in place, it seems Representative Horsford is having a hard time getting to his District from his primary residence in Virginia.
Unfortunately, both Rep. Horsford and his neighboring District’s representative, Susie Lee, both feel that this crisis is an appropriate time to play political games. Both Rep. Horsford and Rep. Lee supported filling the Covid-19 Stimulus bill with expensive and unnecessary funding for organizations and causes unrelated to the epidemic crisis.
In addition to this, both Democrats and Republicans competing for seats in the upcoming 2020 election still consider it appropriate to continue their fundraising efforts during a time of uncertainty. While many Nevadans search for hope and ways to feed their families, callous politicians focus on raising funds for their next direct-mailer blast.
Where are our leaders? Where are the strong voices fighting for us?
We don’t need California’s plan to re-open. We don’t need millions of dollars in disaster relief for the Kennedy Center (and neither do they). Members of Congress don’t deserve a raise! What we need is leadership who recognizes the unique situation and offers real solutions. Not to get elected, but because they are a part of this community and feel the pain of us all.
If we can find that, then maybe, just maybe Nevada can weather this storm and come out stronger on the other side.
Unique Solutions For a Unique Nevada
Unlike other candidates and incumbents in this election cycle, I recognize the necessity for tailor-made solutions throughout Nevada and throughout this district.
As a business owner and community leader, I not only sees my fellow Nevadans struggling, I absolutely feel your pain as well.
We will get through this together.