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Regional cooperation urged

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was adamant Tuesday on what form a federal partnership would not take in working with the greater Las Vegas area and other fast-growing regions in the Intermountain West.

“Don’t think you are going to get an Intermountain caucus out of the Senate,” he told about 130 educators and business and government leaders at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas to hear a discussion on the Brookings Institution report: “Mountain Megas: America’s Newest Metropolitan Places and a Federal Partnership to Help Them Prosper.”

Instead, Reid said, the agencies, cities and states should work together to develop their own long-range plans before approaching federal legislators for help.

The report, released July 20, calls for forging cooperation between the fast-growing states of Nevada, Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. Brookings calls the region the “New American Heartland.”

The report recommends that the urban areas develop “sustainable, productive and inclusive growth” by investing in their assets: infrastructure, innovation, human capital and quality places.

The report said that while the federal government has largely overlooked the West, efforts could be viewed as interference.

Speakers agreed that now is an opportune time to engage Washington, D.C., as next week’s election promises new leadership. But they seemed to accept Reid’s advice that they collaborate first.

Leaders in the energy, transportation and water sectors said they already have been doing so. Patricia Mulroy, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, said her agency partners with other states in moving money and water.

Jacob Snow, general manager of the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, said he puts a higher priority on developing high-speed passenger railways throughout the region than building a direct interstate highway from Las Vegas to Phoenix, which the report cited as a critical missing link.

Co-authors Mark Muro and Robert Lang led the crowd through highlights of the report, focusing on the region’s rapid growth.

Muro said that while prosperity happens from the “bottom up,” federal legislation offers funding for addressing transportation, climate change and energy.

UNLV President David Ashley said the report was “profound” and “insightful” and should be a cornerstone of how the region moves forward. Brian Greenspun, the Las Vegas Sun publisher and a Brookings trustee, said this is one study he did not want to see languish in a drawer.

Several hands shot up when the audience was asked whether anyone was interested in joining future discussions on the matter.

After the meeting, Reid said that rather than have the federal government dictate how to manage growth, local, state or regional representatives should determine what their needs are.

Sen. John Ensign was scheduled to attend the event. Reid said he was unavailable because of a scheduling conflict.

Contact reporter Margaret Ann Miille at mmiille@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0401.

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