Saturday, February 18, 2006

Better days ahead
CityLife's suggestions
to improve life in the desert

Mom's Comment: Great article! Thanks CityLife!
All suggestions are great but I thought I would copy
and paste the most important suggestions regarding
the homeless issue.

To read the complete article:

Better days ahead
CityLife's suggestions to improve life in the desert


...This is by no means a comprehensive list, and it's in no particular order.

10. Help the homeless, for real

It is frighteningly easy to end up on the streets of Las Vegas. A gambling habit can do the trick. The free alcohol can lead to addiction and financial ruin. And the well- paying, entry-level jobs the city is known for aren't always available.

Yet local government and the gambling industry take little responsibility for the problem.

Currently, there are about 12,000 people on the streets of Las Vegas. They lack shelter space. They are not allowed to sleep in public parks. They are arrested for minor offenses, in an attempt to run them out of town. Many of them are gambling-addicted, drug-addicted and mentally ill. They are dying in the heat and cold. Sometimes, authorities crack down on people who try to help them.

The city, county, and gambling industry need to stop talking about the problem. We've heard enough promises, seen enough pie charts, and wasted enough time and money. We need to help the homeless. Now.

-- MO

11. Build more affordable housing (aka, homes for the workers)

A funny thing happened in 2004 -- property values skyrocketed all around the valley. Well, it's only funny if you're not one of the thousands of working-class residents trying to get a piece of the American dream by owning a home. Affordable housing, that moderately priced home first-time homebuyers and young families can manage to buy, is a swiftly vanishing thing in the Las Vegas Valley.

Government agencies have been caught with their pants down as they continue to bow to pressure from large-scale home developers. When the Clark County Community Growth Task Force Report was released last spring, one of the top recommendations was to provide more "attainable housing" in the community. Just how to do that, nobody on the appointed board was exactly sure. Some suggested requiring new neighborhoods to be built with a certain percentage of moderately priced homes.

But just a year before, when the city of Henderson tried to push for an affordable housing element in the land auction of 1,940 acres south of St. Rose Parkway, land developers balked at the caveat and wouldn't bite until the provision was removed.
And as apartments are converted to condos faster than you can say "refundable deposit," and mobile home parks are being closed by the handful, the situation is putting the squeeze on the have-nots more than ever before.

We should learn from the problems of our neighbor to the north, Reno, which has had trouble attracting teachers and nurses thanks to high home prices. Fancy pads in the suburban fringes are all fine and good, but those who keep the valley flowing, who educate our kids and who maintain public safety, need a place to sleep, too.

-- EB

14. Support mom-and-pop businesses

The Enigma Garden Cafe. Coas Books. Balcony Lights. Jazzed Cafe & Vinoteca. Cafe Espresso Roma. They're all gone -- and chain stores are partly to blame.

During the past 10 years, on the wings of the population boom, chain stores have inundated the valley. And while they may be convenient and familiar, they often offer little else. Generally, the service is impersonal, the product is mass produced and bland, and profits are shipped to some out-of-state corporate office. Independent businesses -- when run properly -- offer personal service, a unique product and some sense of community.

So support mom-and-pops businesses! Otherwise, we'll soon be drowning in a sea of Starbucks, Barnes & Nobles, Gaps and Panda Expresses.

-- MO

3. Volunteer

On My Name is Earl last week, Earl and his brother got a funny (but kinda cool) feeling in their stomachs when they saved Philo from killing himself. If you haven't had that feeling in a while or don't know what we're talking about, remembering or finding out may be easier than you imagine.

You don't have to go and search rooftops for a man about to jump, although you could go through counselor training and donate some time to a suicide hotline. If that's too heavy, you can turn your hobbies into volunteer opportunities, too. Hikers can join Friends of Red Rock Canyon to participate in conservation projects. Most museums offer volunteer opportunities for art lovers. Craigslist Las Vegas has a bulletin board dedicated solely to volunteer opportunities and lists a number of Las Vegas organizations. If you can't find one that fits, start something yourself. Maybe you're a single mother - post an add in CityLife to find other single mothers interested in forming a support group. Maybe you're a dirtbag - get the underage skate punks who you buy beer for to pick up litter before they get their booze.

Things like this can open a person of any age to new interests and even careers. Also, volunteer work is a well known but undersold way to meet that sweet, emotionally healthy person in Vegas who actually have some love to give.

Here's a few phone numbers and e-mail addresses to get you started:

Aid for AIDS Nevada (AFAN): 382-2326 or go to

Nathan Adelson Hospice: 733-0320 or go to

Lied Animal Shelter: 384-3333 or go to

Friends of Red Rock Canyon: 255-8743 or go to

Las Vegas Art Museum: 360-8000 or go to

-- Beverly Bryan

4. Get informed and vote

Say what you will about Nevada voters, but they do tend to participate in their democracy, especially when the White House is up for grabs. Voter turnout in 2004's general election was 77.45 percent, a record, although 2000's 70.15 percent wasn't too shabby. The 58.9 percent turnout in 2002 and 49.01 percent turnout in 1998 weren't all that great, but off-year elections are never as popular as presidential years. And you also can't say that they don't pay attention. Erin Kenny, Lance Malone, Dario Herrera, Mary Kincaid-Chauncey, Janet Moncrief, Michael McDonald all have one thing in common: They were removed by voters who thought they were unethical or ineffective. Ex-Las Vegas Councilman Michael Mack didn't run for re-election, knowing he'd face the same fate, and it's likely Controller Kathy Augustine will get the message fairly soon.

Obviously, an informed and active electorate doesn't stop unethical people from doing unethical things. But it does make it a lot harder. While politicians often cry out for public involvement, more often than not, they'd prefer the public stayed home rather than turned out to supervise certain things they do in office, say handing out sweetheart deals to big casino companies or letting a certain golf course mogul raid the public treasury at his whim. While those things may have been the order of the day in the old Vegas, the new Vegas is changing that dynamic, and an active, informed electorate is a big part of that change. So keep up the good work.

-- Steve Sebelius

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