As We See It

Boom and bust: According to the Opportunity Index, Vegas now has—well, very little

We had everything but the carnival barkers in the ’90s—new residents in bloated U-Hauls coming for jobs, affordable homes and pots of gold at the ends of double rainbows that arched across the construction dust of the Valley.

Thousands moved here monthly to bathe in milk and honey in this unbelievably charitable new world where monstrous, themed casinos appeared out of nowhere, bringing more tourists, more infrastructure, more support services. Strip malls and office parks multiplied as we sat poolside and wondered when, and if, this juicy bubble would burst.

But we had momentum as salve and opportunity in bright lights blocking out the night sky. Up went the MGM, New York-New York, the Luxor and Treasure Island, each lifted, it seemed, right from the desert floor. Dreams burrowed into our homes, becoming goals rather than fantasies. No stodgy old traditions here to hamper bright and not-so-bright ideas. Opportunity was everywhere. Say it and it was done. This boomtown du jour was escapist enough for new residents to ignore the back-home scoffs about Las Vegas’ poor education system, corrupt industries and lack of culture.

Momentum! Opportunity!

Now here we are years later, placing last, as usual, in another national study. The Opportunity Index declares Nevada as a grim land with a poor economy, poor education, poor community health and poor civic life. This, of course, we knew. Easy Street is over. But we’re lucky in one regard: We had front-row seats to the most unbelievable story.

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Kristen Peterson

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