A 'natural disaster' in North Las Vegas?

North Las Vegas officials rolled the dice this week, saying they may try to use a rarely invoked state law to handle difficult budget and personnel decisions.

It's akin to throwing your black chips on a snake eye service bet.

The obvious question: Why?

Nevada statutes allow local governments to take extraordinary measures in the case of major emergencies "such as a riot, military action, natural disaster or civil disorder." Timothy Hacker, North Las Vegas city manager, argues that the city's financial distress carries such dire ramifications for public safety that the law should allow the municipality to break union contracts with police officers and firefighters.

City officials say they face a $30 million deficit in the budget year that starts July 1. They've asked for concessions from the two unions to no avail - fire and police union officials say they've given up plenty already in recent years - and have threatened to move forward with massive layoffs.

Union officials can spin this any way they want, but they remain delusional. North Las Vegas is ground zero in the state's economic and foreclosure morass. And while members of the City Council and other officials certainly merit a share of the blame for the budget meltdown, beleaguered taxpayers simply can't afford to continue to shower police and firefighters with lavish benefits, six-figure salaries and guaranteed raises.

The city's latest gambit, though, is a long shot, at best. If the council moves forward with the tactic next week, a court challenge will almost certainly follow, further delaying the inevitable.

North Las Vegas officials obviously want to avoid laying off police and firefighters. That's understandable. But tossing the matter into court is unlikely to solve the long-term issues. If the unions won't come to the table, Mr. Hacker and his team need to have the courage to pull the trigger on workforce reductions.