So I admit I’m a bit behind the feed ’cause I just got to read Steve Sebelius’ CityLife cover story from last week: We’re not a real city. After years of working with Steve, it’s not exactly news to me what his feelings are on the value of Vegas. He makes no bones about the fact that he misses Cali in a big way. (And yet you’re still here, Steve!) But I’m not sure that negates the larger point he argues — Las Vegas (and Nevada) sucks because we let it suck.
Sebelius makes a lot of good points along the way and I can’t deny that Las Vegas in particular and many aspects of Nevada as a whole have some real issues. Of course, I’ve chosen to go work for a non-partisan organization that strives to fix what’s broken. So that’s my bias. But it’s a big job. And for me the question is not whether or not there is work to do, but what are you going to do about it? Are we going to sit back, throw our hands in the air and do nothing? Or are we going to organize, take action, push pressure points and create the change we wish to see? It’s obvious what I’ve chosen to do, but it takes more than little ol’ me.
Fundamentally, I would argue that you can see with your own eyes that Las Vegas is a city. And maybe i”m just arguing semantics here. What Sebelius is really lamenting is that it’s not a nuanced and cultured city in the image of Chicago, New York, Austin or Portland, Ore. True. But just because it lacks doesn’t change that it is a city. I’m sure the residents of New Orleans as they struggle to rebuild still consider their space a city. Same for Oakland, Detroit, East St. Louis and many other communities around the country that are cities with real challenges.
And while we’re at it, why does Las Vegas or the city we wish it was have to look like any other city in the nation? Perhaps to tackle the troubles here we have to get creative, crib from what works in other places and define success on our own standards. Certainly, we have miles to go before we sleep. There are serious problems and there need to be serious solutions.
So, okay. Life and the city we live in didn’t turn out the way we expected. I would still say, so now what? Take your toys and go home? Or build a better leggo castle?
4 thoughts on “To be or not to be?”
Nice Frost reference. I have another: Too many people in this town, especially in the middle class, simply follow the status quo and promote individual isolationism; it is those that take the road less traveled by that make all the difference.
I concur that the Sebelius piece made many good points, but the fact of the matter is that Las Vegas is indeed a major metro area in the United States and for the future of the nation it is going to remain. The population and investment within this city and state will not allow it to be turned into a ghost town by drought, be it in terms of water or social services or culture.
We should start in the communities with the longest histories, and help them build things to be proud of. Make them aware of their past and help them improve their future. Take as an example the exploits of Ruby Duncan, who led a major welfare rights movement and worked with President Carter. Only in the last 3 months did I learn she existed. She has some apartments named after her, and a few people are aware of what she’s done, but her legacy should be much more than that. It only makes sense to strengthen the culture and community in places that are already bursting with potential that is allowed to waste away due to racial and economic inequity.
While developing the potential in older neighborhoods, the community really needs to start working on building infrastructure within the newer suburbs. These places have nothing to offer; they’re just sardine cans of homes with stores nearby. That is not a neighborhood; neighborhoods have their own specific attractions and specific “flavors.” We need innovative businesses instead of corporate franchises. We need some all ages venues and attractions around town, things which have been decreasing as the population increases. We need some block parties and active neighborhood associations.
Most of all, we need to develop our youth into leaders and provide them with opportunities and incentives to stay. The most crucial thing we can do as the activists of today is to put in place programs, services, and education to develop the full potential of tomorrow’s leaders. Additionally, we must provide hope. Without hope, people who share the sentiment of Sebelius will simply leave, instead of doing the more difficult thing and pitching in to fix things up. If you’re going to leave, do everyone else a favor and at least do something to leave us off better than you found us.
Bah. Sebellius’ head is the size of an Amana self-cleaning gas oven.
I just read that only about 17 percent of Las Vegans (16 and older) do any volunteerism.
Maybe if people tried to get involve in the community, it would feel more like a community.
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