Friday, July 30, 2010

Bonanza Column 196 – My Sit-Down with Rory Reid

I promised last week that I would report on my meeting with Gubernatorial Candidate Rory Reid, so here goes.

I spent about 30 minutes one-on-one with Reid, and came away impressed both with him personally and with what it became clear were substantive distinctions between him and his opponent Brian Sandoval. Going into the meeting, as a Democrat, I was inclined to support Reid, but I like what I've seen of Sandoval and was impressed with his commitment in resigning a lifetime appointment to the Federal Bench to run for Governor, and felt I wouldn't have been too unhappy if he got elected. Having had a chance to talk with Rory and look more deeply into the issues, I now find myself squarely in Reid's corner.

Before the meeting with Reid I asked the folks at the Tuesday morning open forum at the Bonanza what I should talk with him about. Their response, not surprisingly was "the state's economic situation, taxes, and education, particularly IB," so that's what I focused on.

Like Sandoval, Reid is very aware that Nevada will lose $10 million in stimulus money next year and will face a difficult financial situation. Like Sandoval, Reid has promised no new taxes. Asked how he will deal with this Reid said he has short-term and long-term solutions in mind – the short-term he was about to publish and understandably declined to give me a preview – the plan may be public by the time this column comes out. Long-term it will be no surprise that Reid sees the solution to the state's economic difficulties as expanding business in the state. In his words, "we need to be exporting more" – more products, more services, more energy, more of everything. Historically, Nevada has relied on importing – tourists, vacationers, and gamblers – and that source of revenue has been falling off for some time.

To export, we need a stronger, wider, and more varied business base – new businesses in every area and particularly high-tech and clean energy, Reid said, but this won't happen as long as we are perceived as having a poor educational system and an uneducated work force, as exemplified by our 42% high school graduation rate, and so dramatically improving education in the state is the foundation of Reid's plans and campaign, and is also where he most dramatically differs from Sandoval.

Sandoval's published plan for education involves dramatic cuts in funding for schools. In Washoe County, for example, we currently have 3,620 teachers – Sandoval would cut 550 of these, or 15%. Statewide he would cut 5,080 of a current 22,852 for 22%. I just can't see how losing 1 out of 5 of our teachers from schools that have already undergone cuts under Gibbons is anything but a short-term (and short-sighted) solution to the projected budget deficit. How will we improve class sizes, increase graduation rates, or build the economy of the future? What is the message Sandoval's cuts would send to businesses and industries deciding between Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico?

Under the Republican administration, Nevada failed to make the cut for "Race to the Top" funds and Sandoval and Gibbons are attempting to pin that on Harry Reid. Actually this failure is on Gibbons who cut $300 million from education – now Sandoval proposes further cuts and more of the same. Sandoval is proposing a band-aid for the schools; Reid is promising a genuine overhaul, eliminating bureaucracy and affording principals and teachers the freedom to innovate and to lead.

As for IB, Reid feels that it's a good program – in fact two of his kids are in an IB program in Henderson. Nevertheless, he feels that it should be up to the community to decide what it wants.

Overall, as one who places the highest value on education as the key to meeting the challenges of the future, I came away from this conversation convinced that Rory Reid is on the right track and he has my support – I'd invite you to look seriously at his EDGE plan for education, which is published in a 22 page booklet and his vision for the future of Nevada, published as "The Virtual Crossroads" and available from the Reid campaign, then make up you mind based not on party but on what's best for the future of our state and our community.

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