A better Nevada in 2014

Here are some quotes about planning to pass some time: www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/planning.

Nevadans are essentially optimists, believing gold is soon to be discovered in the creek in the next canyon. In keeping with that ethos, here are some optimistic opportunities for improving our state in the New Year.

Let’s imagine that Gov. Brian Sandoval’s oddly named Behavioral Health and Wellness Council conducts a serious review of the state’s mental health issues and produces a blueprint of recovery to guide the governor and the 2015 Legislature in making lasting improvements in Nevada’s beleaguered mental health system. They have their work cut out for them.

To be successful, the unwieldy 18-member commission will have to remember it’s not all about them. They need to listen more than they talk, especially to those actually engaged in service delivery and to those receiving the services. The worker bees and consumers of mental health services know better than anyone what is needed and in what order of priority

Workers and consumers are largely absent from the panel, so the membership must quickly educate itself, asking the right questions during open hearings, and again, really listening before pontificating. Since the council does not reflect the state we live in, given its overwhelmingly white, executive-level membership, it must pay special attention to the most challenging sub-sets of the mentally ill population: Hispanics, young adults and the indigent.

My unsolicited advice: Don’t produce another study with lofty goal statements that don’t translate into real-life solutions. Instead, outline specific immediate, short-term and long-term programmatic priorities, with price tags attached, and a brief rationale for how and where they fit into the continuum of care. Make it compelling enough to rally the public and convince policy-makers to enact the reforms. Only then take credit for your hard work.

The answers to the mental health crisis in Nevada aren’t that difficult to find, but the political courage to actually fund the needed fixes seems to slip away whenever the business sector decides it prefers another subsidy instead.

Let us also imagine the Education Initiative (an initiative petition providing $800 million annually that can be used for schools) captures the public’s attention and earns the support our kids deserve, enabling Nevada to become the 48th state with a broad-based corporate tax. It’s true the initiative language isn’t perfect and will likely have to be amended after three years, but it’s the only way we’re going to get the corporations to start contributing something meaningful to our state budget. It’s clear the Legislature will never do it.

If you’re a parent exhausted by overcrowded classrooms, outdated technology, and limited offerings, examine this issue closely. If you don’t have kids in school but care about investing in our future, the Education Initiative should also speak to you. If you’re living in one of our neighboring states, all of which already have a similar tax and pay the same price for goods as Nevadans do, you’re entitled to smirk, recognizing that Nevada might finally decide to stop acting like a colony of the corporate world.

Let’s also pass SJR 15 in the 2014 election and take the special taxation provisions that benefit the multi-national mining corporations out of the Nevada constitution. Remember the boom and bust cycle of mining, currently on the downward side of record-breaking profit years, and allow your representatives in the Legislature to tax mining appropriately. Tell Barrick and Newmont it’s time they worked for Nevada instead of the other way around.

Finally, let’s resolve to have a quiet, scandal-free political year, shall we? One in which our elected officials don’t lie about where they really live, follow all the laws—not just the ones they agree with—and remember that there are smart phones with video capabilities in every public setting. No more talking about slavery as a constituent priority or suppressing the minority and youth vote as a way to win elections.

Happy New Year!