Last weekend, I joined Mari Herreras, Linda Ray and 40 or so other altweekly journalists from around the country at the Association of Alternative Newsmedia's annual writers' workshop in Las Vegas.
While the seminars (and the post-seminar excursions) were productive and/or enjoyable, the most-memorable aspect of the weekend was seeing how depressed the Las Vegas area is—in pretty much every way.
I love Las Vegas. I am a Nevada native—I grew up in Reno—and it was in Las Vegas where I began working for Wick Communications, the Tucson Weekly's parent company, 10 years ago this month.
When I lived there in the early part of the Aughts, Las Vegas' economy was doing fairly well. The unemployment rate during the month I left Las Vegas to move to Tucson—January 2003—was 5.6 percent and heading downward. House prices were skyrocketing; my significant other would sell his house in 2004 for twice the amount he paid for it four years prior.
Today ... yikes. Vegas' unemployment is 13.6 percent (and that's down from nearly 15 percent), and the housing market is a disaster. A good friend of mine just lost his house to foreclosure; it wound up selling for substantially less than he paid for it 18 years ago.
Vegas' shopping centers and strip malls (and trust me: Vegas has a lot of shopping centers and strip malls) are pocked with vacancies. A drive down West Sahara Avenue was downright depressing, as I saw one unoccupied storefront after another.
I bring this up because as I write this, it's Election Day—and Vegas' state shows that things here in Tucson comparatively aren't so bad ... and could get a lot worse.
Good luck, Mayor-elect Rothschild. You have a lot of work to do.