Things are done differently in North Las Vegas, and Mayor John Lee likes it that way.
That was one key message of the mayor’s State of the City address, which he delivered Thursday at Texas Station. The hourlong speech highlighted encouraging economic figures and promised major projects and continued development — even without the involvement of Faraday Future, the car manufacturer that was supposed to invest $1 billion in the city before it ran into financial troubles and axed the project completely.
But more than that, Lee’s speech defended his big-picture vision and act-now mentality.
“Our success in North Las Vegas has been because we have not been fearful to try something different,” he said. “We understood that amateurs built the ark Noah was on and professionals built the Titanic. We have not been afraid to change government.”
As an example, Lee referenced the streamlining of the permitting and licensing processes, including a self-certification initiative that reduced wait times from 18 weeks to four days. He also referenced 16 legislative changes the city and Governor's Office of Economic Development pushed through related to addressing needs related to the much-touted Apex Industrial Park.
“We are not afraid to go first,” said Lee, who emphasized his private-sector mentality and a distaste for bureaucratic red tape. “We’re driving the ideas that are changing our state; we’re pushing those ideas forward.”
Lee highlighted the improving economic outlook of North Las Vegas. He described the city “full funded, fully balanced and wholly solvent” — a far cry from five years ago when the city’s annual budget faced a $17 million shortfall. Similarly, North Las Vegas’ bond ratings had fallen 15 levels in the decade or so prior to Lee taking office in 2013. Now, it is on the rise and once again considered investment grade.
Looking forward, Lee touted plans to build up infrastructure near the VA Medical Center, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Apex. On the north end of Apex, a $4 million elevated water storage tank is planned. On the south end, engineering and design work has begun to extend the city’s water line onto the site. He claims the city has two major projects in the works but is barred from detailing them because of nondisclosure agreements.
Lee also said Nellis Air Force Base is expected to double in size over the next decade, which should bring in approximately 8,000 permanent, high-paying jobs to the area and increase demand for housing.
Missing from the State of the City address was any direct acknowledgement about the recent controversial departure of City Manager Qiong Liu and promotion of Assistant City Manager Ryann Juden, a longtime friend and former policy adviser of Lee.
Liu is officially scheduled to retire next month but abruptly went on paid administrative leave last week, one day after she attempted to fire Juden and sent a damning memo calling his hire the worst decision she’d made in her four years as city manager.
Juden was appointed interim city manager by city council Wednesday.
In his State of the City address, Lee did not mention Liu and twice thanked Juden. Lee credited Juden with crafting the strategy that will bring infrastructure to Apex.
“Juden was tasked with this very difficult problem,” he said, “and his team has done what so many others were unable to do.”