Three Critical Structural Improvements for Nevada

Reno Gazette Journal February 14, 2021

The Nevada Legislature is in its biennial session and the focus is on preparing and approving the budget for the next two years. While that is a constitutionally mandated part of the legislature and the Governor’s duties, there are significant long-term issues that Nevada should also plan to address at this time. This column takes a brief look at three such issues.

Emergency Preparedness: Let’s set politics aside for the moment and evaluate our performance with COVID. While the development of vaccine in record time was clearly a bright spot, I am struggling to identify much else that was handled well. The one thing we are good at, is to retreat to our corners and throw rocks at each other. Our politicians and the media led us to our corners for their personal gain and we all too easily followed them there. If there was a time since 9/11 for all of us to unite and set politics aside, this was it. We failed this test in resounding fashion.

Going forward, we will have greater challenges. Are we prepared for a large-scale biochemical attack? The time to plan is before such an event occurs. Most corporations have a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) and a Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP). Nevada must create/update these plans no later than the end of the year and simulate a few dry runs to verify it will deliver the desired results if the unthinkable were to happen. These plans should have strong public-private partnerships that can be called upon to resolve the crises. We should leverage the lessons of the past 11 months to build the responses for the future.

Education Reform: The landscape of education has completely changed in the wake of COVID. Catholic Schools in large cities like New York and Chicago have been operating with in-person education. Zoom classes are taking place everywhere. Parents who didn’t like the effectiveness of online classes have become innovators with great ideas like academic pods or micro-schools. We have students who complete their tasks online. Parents are working from home in numbers never seen before, allowing them the flexibility to help their children. These methods and many others have shown varying degrees of success. Thanks to Telemedicine, a rancher from Elko can consult with a neurosurgeon from Stanford without having to spend the whole day driving there and back. Similarly, we can have a highly effective calculus instructor from Reno deliver an online class to Gifted and Talented students all across the state. It is time to leverage technology in a selective manner to democratize education and unleash the potential of our children.

Election Reform: The 2020 presidential election was among the closest ever. Three states (Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin) were won by the Democrat ticket by a total of 42,918 votes. We can all agree on one thing: this was one close election. Even small errors have the potential to alter the outcome. Our voter rolls have never been clean and using those voter rolls to mail out ballots undermines confidence in the election process. I have received many text messages and emails from people who received ballots for dead people, people who lived at the location several years or decades before, and for people who never even lived at that location. Absentee ballots should never be sent out without a signed request and voting should not be allowed without a voter ID. If getting a COVID vaccine requires an ID, so should voting.

One final point: There is a time and place for politics but when it comes to things like protecting the lives of Nevadans, educating our children, and restoring confidence is our elections, we should always be united regardless of political affiliation. Government is good at chasing yesterday’s problems instead of anticipating and preparing for the threats of tomorrow. But the challenges of today warrant a different mindset and strong, bold actions before the problems surface.