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Sticking with Ortiz

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By Optic Editorial Board

We were among those who were initially irritated when Las Vegas Mayor Alfonso Ortiz, who’d been saying all along that he wasn’t planning to run for a second term, threw his hat back into the ring on filing day. But since the dust has settled over that last-minute decision, we’ve become convinced of two things. The first is that he would have preferred to sit this race out, but when his own top choices for a successor decided not to run, he felt compelled to jump in. The second is that, even though voters have seven other options, Ortiz is still the best one for the job.

This latter realization became evident as we heard from the candidates in multiple forums and as we looked back on the last couple of years under Ortiz’s leadership.

Water — pretty much everyone’s No. 1 priority — is a great example of Ortiz’s leadership. Under his watch, we’ve had a wake-up call; the mayor has spoken plainly about how Las Vegas could face a catastrophe if it fails to act, and that we can’t expect state and federal dollars alone to fix our problems. Remember his comment about a 500 percent water rate increase? Well, it got our attention, didn’t it? And while even Ortiz realizes that such an increase can’t happen overnight, he’s right to suggest that the only way to avert a worst-case water scenario is to put local dollars into a fix.

Here’s a reality that Ortiz understands: Unless Las Vegas demonstrates a willingness to pay its fair share of the costs for water system improvements, other funding sources just won’t be there. The citizenry must be willing to pony up with a portion of the money needed before bonding companies or state and federal funding sources will be willing to throw in.

Last year, under Ortiz’s watch, a thorough and professional engineering report was produced. It gave the city a blueprint on how to address its immediate water system needs as well as how to supply the city with water far into the future. Of course the price tag is hefty — an estimated $123 million over 40 years — but Ortiz recognizes the value of the report and is unequivocal in wanting to move forward with its recommendations. Moreover, with his financial acumen, he’s one mayor who can make it happen.

Of course there are myriad other issues facing Las Vegas, and we haven’t always agreed with Ortiz on every position he’s taken. But we’ve always known where he stands — he hasn’t been inclined to pander to the voting public — and we’ve remained confident that he’s had the best interests of the city at heart. Plus, his mayoral initiative to raise funds for the community’s nonprofits shows what’s in his heart.

He has not only used his position as mayor to advance worthy causes, he’s also brought a dignity to the office. We’re proud of how he represents Las Vegas elsewhere.

A self-serving leader takes the prevailing sentiment and turns it into rhetoric. But a real leader takes unpopular positions when necessary to convince people of the best course of action. Ortiz has demonstrated he’s a real leader.

Ortiz hasn’t been the perfect mayor, but we think he’s done an excellent job when it has counted the most. As well-intentioned and talented as some of the other mayoral candidates are, we see no one in this year’s lineup who could do as well. That’s why we’re endorsing Alfonso Ortiz Jr. for another term as mayor.