Mayor Hillary Schieve on turning Reno from gaming mecca to tech hub

While many focus on the intense partisanship in Washington, our new series “American Voices” explores how mayors and governors are tackling major issues on their own.

For decades, Reno, Nevada, was a gambling mecca, but when casinos fell on hard times, Reno struggled. The city has since reinvented itself as a tech hub thanks to recent arrivals like Tesla.

The automaker’s local factory expects to hire as many as 3,000 workers this year alone and jobs there average $14 per hour, well above the state’s minimum wage.

Since Reno’s independent Mayor Hillary Schieve took office in November 2014, the city’s unemployment rate has declined faster than the national average. Reno’s jobless rate now stands at just 4 percent (compared to 4.3 percent nationwide), down from almost 14 percent in 2011.

Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve

CBS News

Schieve joined “CBS This Morning” to discuss the turnaround in Reno, why mayors need to have a seat at the table in Washington, and the national issues that are causing “sheer panic” for her constituents.

Companies like Tesla, Switch, Amazon, Apple, Google, are all investing and building in Reno, Schieve said.

“We’re not just the gaming mecca anymore and tech companies are really realizing that,” she said.

She credits their interest in Reno to the city’s proximity to the Bay Area, lots of sunshine and reasonable home prices compared with places like San Francisco.

Schieve believes that mayors are at “ground zero” when it comes to the policy decisions made in Washington that will ultimately affect the people in their cities. She also said Congress has been moving too quickly on issues like health care reform.

“Right now, mayors across the country are saying you really need to slow it down. This is not a partisan issue, certainly for mayors, this is a people issue and it’s a very serious issue. I think I can connect with it really well because I’ve had a kidney transplant. I know what it’s like to take life-saving medication,” Schieve said.

One way to help fix the system, Schieve said, is to allow mayors to have a bigger voice in the conversation around health care.

“Bring mayors to the table in Washington. That’s something – we have not been part of the process and I will tell you the Obama administration did that great. He really sat down with mayors,” Schieve said. 

Asked what losing Affordable Care Act subsidies would mean to the city…

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