A conversation I had and a letter I received last week got me to thinking about what’s wrong and what’s right about Las Vegas. Let’s start with what’s right.
People top the list of what’s right, as far as I’m concerned. We enjoy a great diversity of cultures and backgrounds here — not so much as a melting pot but as a tossed salad.
I love the legend about how warring Native American tribes once declared the hot springs in Montezuma neutral territory, so all could enjoy its soothing and medicinal powers in peace.
It’s a great story for the United World College, an institution committed to peace through relationships, but it also hints at Las Vegas’ better nature. Sure, we fight among ourselves, occasionally on the streets and frequently in our politics, but we also know how to call a truce and come together when necessary.
That community spirit is evident in the letter to the editor printed below, from Ray Litherland. I love the part where he quotes his son saying that Las Vegas takes care of its own.
That community spirit is also evident in the volunteerism we see around town. We have a community water board trying to solve our water problems. We have Friends of the library, the museum and the refuge, all trying to support our resources. Then there’s the Citizens Committee for Historic Preservation, which works to promote and protect our heritage. All these groups, and many more, work hard to make Las Vegas a better place to live and work, with varying degrees of success.
As for what’s wrong, that brings me to the conversation I had with Ron Ortega. (No, he’s not what’s wrong; actually, I think he’s working to be a part of what’s right.) As a county commissioner, he came by to ask me a question: What needs to happen to get people together, not to talk about our community’s problems, but to actually solve problems?
As background, Ortega told me that during his two years on the County Commission, he’s been doing a lot of listening. And one of the things he said he hears quite often is that San Miguel County residents talk a lot about our problems but we never seem to solve them. We talk about water, economic development, jobs and other perennial issues, but people are wanting action, he said.
It took me a while to give him a thoughtful response to his question, but here’s what I came up with:
• Consider the 80-20 rule, or at least my version of it — 80 percent of the work in Las Vegas gets done by 20 percent of the people. The problem with inaction doesn’t lie in the 80 percent, it lies in the 20 percent. If a consensus can’t be found among the 20, or at least an agreement that no one will work to sabotage any actions taken, then just about any big community effort in this town is doomed to failure.
• If a results-focused meeting is going to work, there needs to be a whole lot of collaborators present. We need people who are interested in success, not just acclamation.
• If a meeting is going to lead to solutions, it should never end without some sort of action taken. Otherwise, the next meeting will have fewer people attending, as those who prefer action to conversation will drop out. Moreover, those who agree to take on a task — to gather more information, to talk with a key powerbroker, etc. — must do what they say they’ll do, preferably by the next meeting. That’ll keep things moving in the right direction.
Overall, I was impressed with Ortega’s interest in moving toward results rather than just more talk. He’s part of what’s right about this community.
But to be candid, I guess I’m one of those who talks too much.
Tom McDonald is editor and publisher of the Optic. He may be reached at 505-425-6796, ext. 237, or email@example.com.