Saturday, February 14, 2009

Portrait: Las Vegas, Nevada

My home, Las Vegas----The city of lights; the city that for better or worse is built on wild living and extreme spending! Our city thrives when the people of this nation thrive as they flock here by the thousands, it is the countries playground. Yet when the country starts to tighten it's belts trips like Vegas fly out the window fast. Where does that leave this town?? Over spent and broken down..... Which is exactly the economic state of most of us living here.

I live in one of the most uneducated and blue collar cities around, someone once called it the new Detroit "The only city left where you can raise a family on a single income, blue collar job". That is because our blue collar isn't building cars but serving drinks, valeting cars, dancing half naked. Professions that although easy bring in a LOT of dough really fast.

Our city is full of 20/30 somethings who moved far away from home made quick money and enjoyed every penny of it. We are not a town of savers and driving down one street here will tell you that. Escalades and hummers are some of the most common cars driven around. Cars that we can no longer afford to own because the jobs that once paid for this lifestyle are drying up fast. There is a new casino opening near where I live they had about 250 various openings posted the other week, the last numbers I saw they had over 3800 applications to fill these positions. Every school is cutting teachers next year, the construction industry that used to employ a huge part of our city has basically shut down. The new housing projects all over the city have been left unfinished.

Yet that is only half the picture because the most distressing point is that when the job is cut, when the tips dry up those who have moved here are now stuck. Stuck in a town that no longer offers to support their family, their life. Stuck in a house that cannot be sold, stuck with a car they now cannot afford to drive.

We recently bought a foreclosed upon house, it was a great deal for us and we enjoyed "sprucing it up". We bought our house last summer for over 100K less than our neighbors down the street bought their house for just a few years before. In fact, every person who owns a house in our neighborhood (myself now included in this) is currently upside down on their mortgage, the only difference being how much money each person owes. There are 6 houses currently being foreclosed upon on my street.

I have a good friend who is having her house taken away from her not far from mine. She has lived there rent free for over a year now as she awaits the bank to get to her case and actually come to take the home away. She plans to stay until they kick her out and figures she has saved over $11,000 not paying her mortgage in the past year. Which is good since she has recently lost her job and could not afford the mortgage payments anyway.

The portrait of Vegas is not just a place where "Hard Times" have hit but a place where the majority of people are so far behind (hundreds of thousands of dollars) that there is nothing else left to do but just walk away. Just leave our houses and cars behind and when the credit scores improve, when things turn around, in 7-10 years--- maybe try it again. Until then we can only hope that we have learned something in the process. This city that shines with it's bright lights is in a strange way a bit quieter these days, a bit more somber we face the reality of the present situation.

Las Vegas, Nevada