Live blogging the final (really) meeting of the Nevada Vision Stakeholder Group

Victor Joecks

Update: Report with minor changes is approved. Details (more than you would ever want to know follow)

So begins the final meeting of the Nevada Vision Stakeholder Group. (Important background: Four problems with the Nevada Vision Stakeholder Group.)

Today the group is discussing and voting on its draft report.

9:08 Lang: Document is the start of a conversation. Provides baseline data.

Lang thinks Nevada will hold its self “accountable” using this report. Some elements of the report are “aspirations.” This report gives Nevada its big, hairy, audacious goals.

This is exactly what’s wrong with this group. The role of government isn’t to create Big, hairy, audacious goals. (Note BHAGs are explained more fully in a great book called Built to Last.) Government’s job is to protect natural rights (life, liberty, property) and on a more local level provide basic public services like police, fire, roads and education. Also it should pay for these services with an equally low tax and regulatory burden.

Since government only has money by taking it from other people, when government starts setting Big, hairy, audacious goals it — by necessity — has to take money or control from individuals to do so, which limits individuals natural rights.

That’s the main objection to this entire process. Government is fundamentally different from businesses, individuals, educational institutions and non-profits. Businesses, individuals, educational institutions and non-profits should set Big, hairy, audacious goals. Government with its unique role (providing basic services and protecting natural rights) and its unlimited power to take its citizens money and regulate their lives should only do its job nothing more. 

9:12 Lang: Not written in stone, flexible. Needs lots of private sector involvement. Doesn’t want to let this conversation end. This document can set priorities — where to cut less.

9:13 Calls for UNLV and UNR to keep its out-of-state tuition.

A legit idea.

9:14 Lang’s taking public comment first. Up first is PLAN. Praises the report. Regrets that the tax study portion of the study won’t be completed. Says most of these ideas will die, because of lack of money.

9:16 Business representative asks, “Please first do no harm.” Notes the unemployment tax rate is going to increase and that Obamacare is going to cost businesses more.

Worth remembering.

9:19 Geoffrey Lawrence is now commenting. First point: How does the government know “high-growth” industries are actually high-growth. Second: Transportation — report recommends building roads and also wants no one to drive on them, because the report encourages greater alternative modes of transportation.

9:22 Paul Enos up next. Look at cost benefit analysis on transportation. Look at high speed rail, look at cost per-passenger mile.

Note: High speed rail is crazy expensive per passenger mile.

9:26 Okay so here’s how the meeting is going to work. 20 minutes of discussion per each section and then a vote up or down.

9:27 Don Snyder: This is the beginning not the end of the process. Praises the detail of the report. Doesn’t like the one page summary of the summary.

And he’s finally talking about the economy. Nevada needs a proper fiscal structure – spending and revenue.

Yes, everyone thinks we need a “proper” fiscal structure, but that means different things to everyone.

9:31 So how does the committee change the first page?  Note that Moody’s would be making these changes without approval of the NVSG unless the NVSG submits word for word changes.

9:34 Busselman suggests the NVSG rank the goals.

9:37 Terry Reynolds calls for more state spending on R&D. The report’s very high on green energy, which Harry Reid has admitted need government subsidies to survive.

9:41 Someone suggests adding an emphasis on “clean” energy industries. Ugh. As I just said “Green energy” jobs often need government subsidies to survive. That won’t grow the economy.

9:44 Moody’s points out that there’s not even a standard definition for clean or green energy jobs. And as the report points out (p 27) — “Thermoelectric energy generation can be highly water-intensive.” Which is funny, because one of the other goals is decreasing water use by 35% per capita (p 29).

9:58 After much discussion on land use, they’re preparing to vote on the economy section without really talking about the economy or what makes it strong.

10:01 And it passes 19-0. Glad this group isn’t in charge of the economy or we’d be in worse shape then we already are.

10:02 Up next environment.

10:04 Rene Cantu suggests all new state vehicles be hybrids/alternative energy vehicles.

Yep, we’ll be paying more for the “make a statement.” Wonder how many of the stakeholders know that global warming alarmists routinely fabricate data to make their case.

10:05 Rob Potter: Umm, what about snow plows, which are all powered by diesel?

10:09 Busselman notes what I noted above: “green” energy vs. water.

10:10 Lang: We should decide what we invest our water in. We don’t want a Coca-cola plant here.

Unbelievable. Yep another example of the NVSG wanting the government picking the winners and losers.

10:17 Katy Simon recommends a goal of “maintaining the overall health of the environment.”

10:31 Environment passes 19-0 with changes. Up next transportation.

10:32 Cantu: Move people as energy efficiently as possible. Hmmm… wonder if Cantu took public transportation here today?  Doubtful.

10:33 Reynolds: Include a statement on looking at cost impact of looking at changes. Good idea.

10:38 Little discussion on transportation. No mention on the contradictory goals of building more roads and using them less.

10:43 Passes 19-0 with a good change by Doug Busselman on objective 2.

10:45 Up next education. Lang suggests setting the education goal higher. Doesn’t want to set the goal as “average” after 20 years.

10:46 Lang notes Florida’s done a great job with education reform and that that isn’t included in the report.

Potentially encouraging, because Florida is the model to follow.

10:55 Lang: Should we change the graduation metric to a completion metric? Snyder and Williams: Better to stick with the norm.

11:03 Group adding the statement: Recognizing the state has a dropout crisis and the we need to dramatically the improve graduation rate.

11:16 Lots of discussion on formalizing a state high school honors diploma. The group also wants to make having an honors diploma benefit students in the state’s financial aid formula.

Wish the discussion on Florida hadn’t been lost.

11:20 Cantu wants more of an emphasis on Nevada’s English language learning programs.

11:24 Marsha Irwin: We need to explain why the report only highlights ELL and not other categories low-level learners.

Good point. Just another example of the whole point of this report is to allow special interest groups to cherry-pick its findings to justify more spending for special interests.

11:25 Busselman suggests adopting the Nevada Education Reform Blue Ribbon Task Force recommendations

11:27 General agreement on adding the recommendations for others to consider.

11:38 Now talking about student to teacher ratio. Is it a metric or a strategy? It should be neither, because it has no impact on student achievement.

What ever happened to looking at Florida?

11:44 One hour later on education … Cantu mentions tying teacher performance to compensation.

11:46 Paul Dugan, from the Washoe County School District, ties to object subtly — We haven’t really studied it., we don’t want to give a false impression.

11:50 Katy Simon, Washoe County: We’re not ready to make a statement on merit pay.

Government employees trying to kill merit pay? Shocking.

11:52 Busselman: I have a problem paying for poor teachers. Exactly!!!

11:55 To break the impasse, Lang takes a 10 minute break.

12:10 New language — The teacher evaluation process should be evaluated to see how effective it is at rewarding good performance and identifying bad performance. (Not exact wording, sorry)

A good compromise maybe, but it’s also a complete gutless statement.

12:21 Cantu wants to include that most ELLs are US citizens. Paul Dugan: Educators can’t verify that.

12:23 Moody’s now defending student-teacher ratio as a metric. Do none of these people look at data?

12:25 Education section passes 19-0.

12:33 Now discussing the Health and Well-being section. Sorry for the lack of comments, but I’m not too familiar with this area.

12:36 Busselman: How does extending health insurance relate to extending health care? Insurance only equals payment not care. There are other mechanisms for pay.

Yes, yes, yes. Exactly. Bernhard follows up – change the language to include other payment methods.

12:42 Groan, Packham wants to emphasize health insurance. Bernhard initiates a compromise.

12:46 Lang doesn’t let PLAN offer a public comment at least not until the NVSG has taken a vote.

12:50 Passes 19-0. Last session is Public Safety.

12:52 Laugh out loud funny. Cedric Williams, a firefighter, “suggested” to Moody’s that it include a new objective with a metric of “firefighters per capita.”

The clearest example of what we’ve been saying all along: The real point of the NVSG is to allow cherry-picked special interests to create a spending wish list.

12:56 Katy Simon: Wait, why are we just focusing on firefighters?

12:57 Awesome. Lang mentions that Nevada’s public employees are generally higher paid (in return for more productivity).

12:59 Williams, the firefighter, defends adding this Objective. Says firefighters have to work OT, because there aren’t enough of them.

1:03 Lang: “States are states” and they can organize how they want.

Lang is so close here: States are states yes, but individuals are individuals too. Why in the world isn’t the NVSG (or Lang) recognizing the freedom for individuals that they do for Nevada?

1:10 Snyder nails it: We are a high salary state and then we’re going to double to headcount. I don’t know that I’m going to be comfortable with that.

1:11 Williams tries to defend: Lots of OT in current system.

There is lots of overtime and there’s also lots of reports of gaming the system.

 1:14 Huh? Williams says this is one of the safest places in regards to fire. Then why do we need to double the number of firefighters?

Snyder: Maintain cost-effective firefighting.

1:20 Lang summarizes changes. Going to eliminate the metric. Flexibility. Ensure cost-effective firefighting.

1:28 The end is near! 18-1 (Rob Potter) pass it.

1:32 Vote on the document as a whole forth coming. Don Snyder is going to submit a revised opening.

1:38 All that needs to be said by ???, There’s “one paragraph” on using resources efficiently.

1:39 19-0 it passes. Let the cherry picking of this wish list begin.

**** As this is a live blog please forgive any spelling or grammatical errors. ****