The Reno Works Program: The Grit of the Silent Men and Women in our Community

Today we celebrated the fifth Reno Works graduating class. We heard seven great stories of overcoming adversity, going from rock bottom back to success. I had the privilege of addressing the graduating class and renew our commitment to those wanting a second chance in our community. We will be working with the City of Reno to launch the first Reno Works Program for at risk youth in our community. I applaud the City of Reno and Volunteers of America leadership in helping those hurting in our community.

I continue to be inspired by the grit of those down on their luck in our community.  One particular graduate’s words really stuck out to me. He spoke about the stigma of being homeless and his desire to be a contributing member of society.  A man that spent most of his life as a contributor to society but quickly fell into a tough spot. This program gave him the dignity and training he needed to get back on his feet.  A second chance to be the man he knew he could be, he just needed to be heard.  It made me think about the “silent” men and women that are not heard and mostly ignored in our community. How easily it is for so many to fall into that silent crowd, to be forgotten by society forever.

As I heard the stories from the graduates I could not help but think of the counter narrative in our community.   The narrative that everything is great in Reno and Nevada and it is the best place in the world.  This might be true for the elite, for the select few that get to be in on the inside deals.  Yet this narrative completely ignores those without a voice in our community, the silent men and women.  The single Mom struggling pay check to pay check. The elder worker whose skills might not match the modern day. The small business owner struggling to keep their doors open as red tape and taxes continue to increase.

Many in our community are one pay check away from being on the streets and that number is increasing rapidly as our economic policies double down on unsustainable growth.  And all any of these people want is a fair shot at the American dream, but whats fair about a government that gets to pick winners and losers.  A government that ignores the true realities of the silent but will be the first to champion a headline that puts them in the spotlight.

Many of the leaders in our community that are prospering from the boom growth remain deaf to the silent in our community. The real economy is being hidden behind flashy deals and superficial headlines.

The truth is that wages in Nevada have decreased by 8.5 percent since 2009. Reno has become one of the most unaffordable housing markets in the country, in the last year rent and house prices have gone up 10 percent plus. Nevada ranks as one of the least affordable states for child care, single parents have to pay nearly 30 percent of their income for child care. And on top of that health care premiums have gone up nearly 30 percent since 2009. When you look at the real numbers you begin to understand quickly how many fall on hard times.  Something is broken yet all we see is community events where everyone is patting themselves on the back for a job well done.

I want to know from our leaders that continue to state we are not in a bubble or justify giving money away to the wealthiest in the name of growth what they say to the silent in our community? How is the latest deal with the sexy new company working out for the single mom, the elder worker, or the small business owner?

Listening to the seven graduates today should inspire anyone to want better in our community.  We should be spending a lot less time boasting about our accomplishments and a lot more time focusing on the problems we still have. Our commitment should be to protect and fight for those less fortunate in our community and hold our leaders accountable to the results.  Good economic policies should be good for nearly everyone, not just the select few with political influence.  The numbers absolutely do not support this and we should be taking a hard look in the mirror about which direction we go from here.

Reno and Nevada might have been hit hard by the recession and perceived to be one of the greatest stories of recovery but it has never been this unaffordable and unfair. Many are hurting due to the policies implemented over the last five years, it’s time we quit ignoring the facts and trying to use headlines to mask the flaws.  It is time as a community we start spending less time talking about Tesla and more time talking about the silent in our community.  Our job as a community is not done until nearly everyone has an opportunity, not just the select few, at the American dream.