October 2017 Newsletter

SNS annual summit to be rescheduled following October postponement

Due to the tragic event on Oct. 1, the 2017 Southern Nevada Strong (SNS) Annual Summit is in the process of being rescheduled from Oct. 2.

Summit organizers are exploring new dates in December and January and are working to confirm the availability of the originally-scheduled presenters. Additional details will be released on SNS’s website and via email as they become available.

We remain #VegasStrong.


Southern Nevada discusses its food future

Meeting PhotoSouthern Nevada is ripe for a food revolution. That’s the opinion of renowned food policy expert Wayne Roberts, who served as the keynote presenter at the 2017 Southern Nevada Urban Agriculture & Food Sustainability Forum in Las Vegas on Aug. 23-24.

The day-and-a-half-long forum convened more than 100 community stakeholders with the aim of creating a blueprint for an urban agriculture policy. This policy would both support an equitable and sustainable food system and help spur a new local industry that would become a regional economic driver. The event was a collaboration between the Southern Nevada Regional Planning Coalition (SNRPC) and University of Nevada Cooperative Extension (UNCE), with Southern Nevada Strong (SNS) providing support.

Roberts, who has helped cities across North American develop comprehensive food plans, said that the Las Vegas Valley can be a leader in urban and indoor agriculture and sustainable food production.

While growing fresh produce in the summer heat of the Las Vegas Valley was long considered by many to be unsustainable and inefficient, industry innovation and technical expertise now makes largescale food production in the desert a viable opportunity that can contribute to the region’s sustainability and resiliency. Roberts pointed to the Netherlands, a global leader in food exports that relies largely on indoor agriculture, as an example of what’s possible.

“The Netherlands is now the number two agricultural exporter in the world,” said Roberts, “and most of their food is grown sustainably indoors in greenhouses.”

Roberts, who spoke on both days of the event, provided insight into next steps the region can take to development a sustainable food plan and highlighted how other communities in the U.S. developed into strong food cities.

Local food experts also presented at the forum, highlighting the role high-tech urban agriculture can play in STEM education and workforce development, and discussed the complex relationships between food, water, energy, the environment, health, and nutrition.

On the first day of the forum, attendees were given the opportunity to recommit to the Southern Nevada Food Council (SNFC) and help steer its future direction. UNCE offered to host regular SNFC meetings and help support future food sustainability efforts.

SNS presented on both days of the event, providing an overview of the SNS regional plan and highlighting nexus between many of the plan’s goals and urban agriculture and food sustainability.

Event attendees included a diverse mix of city planners, educators, local farmers, social service providers, chefs, and healthcare and nutrition experts, illustrating the ubiquity and multidisciplinary nature of the food system.

“It was great to see the mix of people who came out for the forum,” said Roberts, who noted that he was encouraged by the positive energy among the stakeholders at the table. “Food is the one thing that touches everybody. It crosses all boundaries.”

Updated, redesigned SNS data dashboard shows positive community-wide trends

Southern Nevada is continuing to make progress toward advancing the overarching goals of the Southern Nevada Strong (SNS) Region Plan. The latest edition of the SNS Indicators Dashboard, which was redesigned and updated with recently-released data, shows positive trends in many important economic and social measures.

The indicators dashboard tracks community-level data used to help gauge the well-being of our region.

Positive trends exist for the majority of the dashboard’s 35 indicators, especially when measured against the baseline year of 2012 – the year that development of the regional plan began.

Click here for the 2017 SNS Indicators Dashboard.

Over the past year, notable progress has been made in median household income, business growth, percentage of adults with health insurance, food insecurity, and water consumption rates. Public safety indicators – crime rates and bicycle/pedestrian injuries – remain challenges.

In addition to featuring new data, the dashboard was also redesigned in an effort to make it more visually appealing and to allow users to more easily discern the data and trends displayed.

Moreover, as part of the update, additional indicators were added to better reflect the priorities of the regional plan. The dashboard originally featured 20 indicators when it was initially established shortly after the completion of the regional plan. Each of the original 20 remains on the dashboard, though some are displayed or represented differently.

A handful of new metrics were added to each section of the dashboard. The Invest in Complete Communities indicators saw the most change, with the addition of measures specific to environmental sustainability and several new housing statistics.

Data sources for indicators include federal sources such as the Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics, as well as regional partners, including each of the local jurisdictions.

The RTC and SNS are currently exploring online data visualization platforms that will allow users an interactive experience with the data they publish, including the SNS Indicators Dashboard.

RTC hits the road with customized bus to engage residents

The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC) is hitting the road in style with a retrofitted 40-foot bus designed to get the Southern Nevada community engaged and excited to talk about their future transit plan, “On Board.”

Officially introduced at the September RTC Board of Commissioners meeting at the Clark County Government Center, the air-conditioned bus includes a kids zone play area, seating and countertops to accommodate iPad workstations for residents to take a short survey (available in English and Spanish) and two wide-screen monitors for presentations.

Through a collaborative partnership, the RTC and its contractor MV Transportation created the bus to get the Southern Nevada community engaged and talking about a comprehensive transit plan for Southern Nevada called “On Board.” Currently under development by the RTC, the plan will identify how enhancements to the current bus system, new high capacity transit services and emerging transit technologies can improve future mobility and accessibility for the region’s residents and visitors.

To reach residents, the On Board bus will travel the valley, attending various community events over the next 12 to 18 months. Those who visit the On Board bus will have the opportunity to speak to RTC representatives about the plan and provide their input through a brief survey. Input gathered from the community will help inform the final plan.

To stay up to date with where the On Board bus will be, or to request to have the bus appear at an event, visit OnBoardSNV.com.

Nutrition Standards Policy to increase access to healthier food choices in public buildings across state

In an effort to increase access to healthy foods and beverages, the Nevada Department of Employment, Training, and Rehabilitation (DETR) and the Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) developed a Nutrition Standards Policy for DETR’s Business Enterprise Program (BEN).

This policy will directly affect almost all of the 53,000 government employees across the state, including those that work in county, state, and federal buildings, according to Shelley Hendren, administrator for DETR’s Rehabilitation Division that oversees the BEN program.

Nevada is the first state to voluntarily implement this type of progressive healthy food policy.

“Our Office of Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion has worked closely with DETR to develop this policy with the goal of providing healthier options to patrons and clients in government buildings across the state,” said Dr. Joe Iser, Chief Health Officer for the Southern Nevada Health District. “In Clark County, about a quarter of our adults over the age of 20 can be considered obese, and many of our residents consume fewer than the recommended servings of fruit and vegetables. We want to make healthier choices easier and more accessible.”

DETR adopted the policy in the 28 cafes and snack bars and the more than 900 vending machines that are operated as part of the BEN program throughout the state. The Nutrition Standards Policy will apply to all concessions, micro-markets, cafeterias, cafes, snack bars, vending machines, and any other food outlets operated or subcontracted through the BEN program.

The policy establishes nutrition standards for beverages, meals and other menu items, and snack foods while also increasing choices for consumers who use BEN-operated facilities and cafes. The policy also includes requirements regarding preferential pricing, placement, and marketing for those items meeting policy standards.

Supporting and coordinating with organizations that aim to increase access to healthy, fresh food options in Southern Nevada is a priority in the SNS regional plan.

CCSD opens school year with 6 new elementary schools

Thousands of Clark County School District (CCSD) students began their first day of school this year in newly constructed elementary schools.

Six new schools opened Aug. 14 across the valley and are expected to help alleviate overcrowding at elementary schools throughout the district. A seventh school is scheduled to open in January 2018.

Each of the new schools has 53 classrooms and can accommodate up to 850 students, providing needed relief to the 20 nearby schools.

In total, the six new schools cost approximately $160 million to construct.

The expansion is part of CCSD’s 2015 Capital Improvement Program (CIP), made possible through the passage of Senate Bill 207 in 2015, which allows for 10 years of new school construction and renovation projects, and is expected to provide $4.1 billion in funding during this period.

For details on each of the newly opened schools, click here.

News Beyond the Valley

Here are a handful of stories that have caught our attention recently. Each article highlights how innovative, forward-thinking regional planning and policy can have tangible community impacts.

Google Gets Serious About Mapping Wheelchair Accessibility – The tech giant is tapping into its global army of users to make its Maps app more useful for people with disabilities.

Housing for Health – Multiple studies have shown how housing improves the health of people living with homelessness and the extremes of poverty. Nine communities in the United States are finding ways to invest in housing to contain health care costs.

Amsterdam Rethinks the Traffic Light’s Role in City Planning –  In Amsterdam, where bicycle infrastructure has been a centerpiece of planning for decades, traffic engineers are experimenting with removing traffic lights meant for drivers.

Philadelphia’s Placing a $500 Million Bet on Play – As the city plans a major investment in recreaction centers, parks and libraries, two neighborhoods offer a road map to getting this overhaul right.

Pittsburgh to Be Site of America’s Largest Urban Farm – Pittsburgh, once a dynamo of heavy industry, will soon become home to the United States’ largest urban farm, part of what advocates say is a trend to transform former manufacturing cities into green gardens.