From Fender Benders to Mental Health, the Week of Slippery Slopes

These are the days of defining Nevada downward

Illustration by Cierra Pedro

Illustration by Cierra Pedro

As a long-awaited rain moved through the Valley, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department stopped responding to minor car crashes, and four hospitals closed emergency rooms to ambulances because their ERs are overflowing with mental health patients.

Mental health patients, you may recall, can no longer visit the Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital outpatient clinic, because federal authorities shut it down in January. It wasn’t up to emergency-room standards. But a federal judge recently dismissed a lawsuit against Rawson-Neal for busing patients out of state, because, U.S. District Court Judge James C. Mahan said, hospitals can’t be forced to provide indefinite care just to “avoid ‘punishing’ [patients] by forcing them out into the harsh existence of the real world.”

Meanwhile, the state is busy begging the Republican National Committee to host its 2016 convention in Las Vegas, while Congressional Republicans try to stop a bill that would continue to allow Nevada to put money from federal land sales here back into the state. Never mind that the main purpose of the bill is to preserve scientifically critical ice-age fossils near Tule Springs at the north end of the Valley—Republicans thought it an opportune time to fight the 1998 Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act, which directs that money into the state’s conservation projects, parks and schools.

Fortunately, as it happens, the schools are figuring out their own solutions to myriad problems. The State Board of Education just decided that since more than half of high school juniors were failing the math proficiency exam, they’d just lower the passing score. Now, instead of needing 300 correct answers out of 500 problems to graduate, they’ll only need 242.

We need public school students to graduate—especially here in the Clark County School District, where the schools are so overcrowded officials recently decided to rezone 17 schools and make 10 more elementary schools year-round.

They’ll be fine, though, with their lower math scores and a keen understanding of overcrowded institutions. It’s the kind of logic we use when dealing with civic problems here. Too many car accidents and not enough cops? Stop acknowledging a chunk of the accidents. Too many mentally ill people and not enough beds? Push them back out on the invisible streets.

All is not absurd, however. In addition to wooing Republicans to spend money convening in Las Vegas as they try to remove money from the state, we’re trying to bring new industries here as well. To wit, as Hollywood’s awards season drew to an end with the Oscars, state and city officials were working hard to build a film industry in Southern Nevada. This month, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development is considering giving Sony Pictures a $4.2 million tax credit to shoot Mall Cop II in Las Vegas. In exchange for the credit, Sony says it will provide 3,400 temporary jobs and spend $8.7 million with Nevada vendors.

The state is also trying to encourage Tesla, the electric vehicle manufacturer, to build a 10 million-square-foot battery manufacturing plant in Nevada that would provide as many as 6,500 jobs. Tesla has whittled down its site choices to four states: Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

Last year, Tony Hsieh’s Downtown Project announced that it was buying 100 Teslas to create Project 100, billed as a “complete transportation system for Las Vegas.” The cars would be shared in a subscription-based service. So far, we haven’t seen the Teslas take over the Valley. But then again, what if the drivers got into fender-benders, and no cops responded to the accidents? Who would be responsible?

Responsibility, we see, is a super slippery concept.