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FROM THE EDITOR: Why I would like to see a State of the County address

January is one of my favorite months. Not because the holiday season is over and we can get back to our normal lives.

Not because all the big college football games are played and the National Football League playoffs are in full swing heading for a Feb. 1 Super Bowl (Go Cowboys).

January is my favorite month because that is when municipalities begin holding their “State of…” addresses.

I know, I have problems.

“What is a ‘State of…’ address,” you might ask, because you live in an area that doesn’t seem to have these little jewels of fist pumping, yet oddly open, government-like events?

They are similar to the “State of the State” address that the governor gives every year, or “State of the Union” speeches given annually by the current U.S. president.

On a smaller scale, over the hump the mayors of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Henderson and Boulder City give a “State of the City” address every year. I already received my invite for the Las Vegas event Jan. 8 at 5 p.m., but I will be here putting out your newspaper.

That makes me sad because last year I went to all four.

I know, problems.

I suggested to a county commissioner a couple weeks back that Nye County do something similar. Since we don’t have a mayor, the duty would likely fall to the commission chairman, which is currently Dan Schinhofen.

I have four reasons why I feel these events are important and could benefit Nye County.

First, it gives your local government officials an opportunity to tell their story of how they view the county in which they live and serve. What are the big challenges and issues? Not just south but up north too. This often reveals some things of which citizens who do not regularly follow County Commission and town board meetings might not be aware.

Second, it gives your government another way to engage you. While 99.9 percent of residents of any municipality never go to government meetings, and a quarter of the remaining 1 percent only go if they are being honored or forced to for civics class, “State of…” presentations break down the big issues in Cliff-Notes-style PowerPoint presentations for the public.

One of the challenges with regular government meetings, such as County Commission meetings, is that they can last for hours, while “State of…” addresses top out at an hour if done right.

The third reason I feel they are important is they are forward looking, and can give a peek into your commissions’ collective mind. Last year at the City of Henderson address, Mayor Andy Hafen told the audience that city is a place “where a little investment as a taxpayer yields extraordinary returns.” City officials love to call their city “premier.” He went on to discuss how Henderson’s property tax rate is “the lowest rate of any major entity in the state of Nevada,” at 71 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, the same rate for the past 24 years.

While taxpayer value was Hafen’s theme, it became clear the next month that what he was really doing was laying the groundwork for asking Henderson’s property owners to consider a 20-cent increase, something the voters would have to approve. But it was at that January 2014 the seed for a tax increase was first planted.

A “State of the County” address would give our elected officials that platform to discuss with us where they see the county in the next year, five years and beyond, and how to address those challenges.

Finally, “State of …” presentations give your government an opportunity to tout their accomplishments. It seems like when political bodies are in the news there is usually some contentious issue being discussed. I don’t see anything wrong with a little cheerleading, a look back at the past year of county business, championing county departments’ and employees’ accomplishments during the previous 365 days.

To go with that is celebrating successful business ventures, because it is the government that provides the atmosphere for an entrepreneur or company to exist. A casino, hotel or racetrack cannot operate without a relationship with the local government.

Now I know there are some readers who are going to take issue with some of my thoughts on why “State of…” speeches are important. I believe it provides a platform for our elected officials to speak to all of us. It also is another way for us to keep them in the light and have a healthy public discourse.

I love January.

Arnold M. Knightly is the editor of the Pahrump Valley Times and Tonopah Times-Bonanza & Goldfield News.

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