The Strange Calm of Acceptance

A cloud-sheltered early morning, wet roads, the morning paper soaked and smelling of pulp. A plane rumbles overhead. Everywhere else—silence. Las Vegas seems to have cried itself out. Somewhere, Carolyn Goodman and Chris Giunchigliani are strategizing and fundraising and saying something about whether downtown is or is not on the move. Somewhere up north, Brian Sandoval is sleeping, presumably somewhat more soundly after the state found $274 million in the couch cushions.

A leader’s conscience is eased by such things, and by the ability to arrive at soothing sentiments: “We can’t tax our way out,” Sandoval said. “We can’t cut our way out. We can grow our way out.” The problem is that the money truly was found—state appropriation of unclaimed bank accounts, past-due taxes paid by businesses taking advantage of an amnesty, extra revenue from mines flush with recession-fueled gold fever. The windfall has the unmistakable scent of a one-time phenomenon. Taxing and cutting may still be in order.

But on a morning like this, who wants to worry? A lashing night wind has subsided to a breeze; the jazz festival kiosks are just coming down in Henderson; the last plastic cups have been cleared away after the country fest at Mountain’s Edge. The town feels cleansed—its air, its mood. There’s the sleepy, modest afterglow of community celebration.

Since the fall election season, it seems we’ve been on a long twilight jeep ride with all manner of ordnance bursting overhead. Then the morning comes, and—for the moment—we’ve survived. We’ve accepted the season’s losses: The Clark County School District may not take the $411 million hit it braced itself for, but it will take a hit. We’ve accepted that our children’s school bell times will change next fall, that their class sizes will increase, that they may be sharing textbooks, that some of their teachers may not be back. We’ve accepted that UNLV is wounded, but perhaps not, as we had feared, mortally so.

The season of acceptance may be short-lived. The Legislature, having nearly exhausted its own supply of ideological hot air, is trying to reseed the political scorched earth before closing on June 6, but it still must finalize the budget, and even weary warriors love a good budget fight. Meanwhile, one wonders if the women contending for Mayor Oscar Goodman’s sequined throne are coiled for a final attack. Nonetheless, as a city and as a state, we seem to have weathered an angry storm—and can only hope that today’s relative calm does not herald another.

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My 15-year-old daughter is in the passenger seat beside me as I drive on Boulder Highway one recent Saturday afternoon and hesitantly enter the parking lot of St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church in Henderson where my wife and I were married. We both are silent, cautious and curious about the small crowd that has gathered in the lot. We don’t want to be discovered but we want to see the small groups of men, women and children standing around in the bright sunlight. Who are they? How are they dressed? Who’s talking to whom? We feel like intruders, somehow. We drive on.