Lee lays out North Las Vegas plan, and sets a high bar

North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee’s concise 25-minute State of the City speech was serious. Of course, he has reason to be serious.

The city’s financial shape is dismal. A projected deficit of $152.6 million over seven years must be taken seriously.

Unlike Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman’s seemingly endless 58-minute speech last week, Lee didn’t trivialize his speech with bottles of gin, jokes and silliness.

The owner of Vegas Plumbing told one knee slapper, “I’m a plumber, I’ve dealt with a lot of crap in my days.” But it’s not as if the mayor was auditioning for a reality show.

Like Goodman, Lee shared a personal experience, one he said prepared him for solving North Las Vegas’ financial woes.

He was diagnosed with stage four sinus and larynx cancer in 2008. During the intense radiation and chemo treatments, “my body succumbed one night, and I did die.” He returned to life, and the experience “profoundly impacted my life in several important ways.” Lee said it gave him a deeper desire to involve himself in things that matter, such as the financial challenges facing North Las Vegas.

Lee’s first State of the City speech to about 600 people Thursday was a speech about hope rather than accomplishment

A year from now we’ll check what he accomplished. His talk about cooperation with other entities will be judged by results, or at least the beginning of results that may take years to complete.

Right now North Las Vegas and Las Vegas are trying to create a plan for shared services. In a year, there should be some results.

Because land is North Las Vegas’ asset, will there be development on the real estate south of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which Lee said he and Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins are working on?

Will health and medical services surround the North Vista Hospital by selling the Police Department building?

Will Park Highlands master-planned community have broken ground on the 2,600-acre tract?

Will there be tenants paying rent for space in the empty part of the new city hall and the old vacant city hall?

City administration will be reorganized, but will residents be happier with services?

And the biggest question: Will North Las Vegas police and fire unions have compromised with the city in any way or have held tight to their union contracts?

Lee made it clear he has abandoned the idea of turning North Las Vegas over to a state receivership. He has learned that would “damage the entire state, destroy everyone’s bond ratings, prevent capital improvement projects and undermine our region and state’s fragile recovery.”

To avoid that, it’s important that regional solutions be found, he said.

North Las Vegas can’t do it alone or on its own, Lee acknowledged.

He revealed a development that Gov. Brian Sandoval is working on — the creation of the North Las Vegas Veterans Community Commission. It is designed to improve access and delivery of services to veterans through local, state and federal services.

Commissions can succeed or fail. In a year, we should know what direction this one is headed. Will it be just talk or concrete specifics?

Although the push to create the Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument would be a federal accomplishment, the Nevadans who have pushed this for years deserve the credit if that passes this year. They deserved the mention Lee gave them.

Lee’s first State of the City speech won’t be his last. But he set a high bar in it.

Can he deliver?

Or will his predecessors, former Mayors Shari Buck and Mike Montandon, be quietly gloating if next year, Lee shows little progress with all his hopes?

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Email her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call her at (702) 383-0275.