Somebody needs to give Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman a dope slap. Goodman, a Democrat turned Independent, refused to meet with President Obama on his recent trip to Las Vegas and publicly insulted the president after Obama said, "You don't blow a bunch of cash on Vegas when you're trying to save for college. You prioritize. You make tough choices. It's time your government did the same." The mayor apparently thought this comment was offensive.
Now granted, Goodman is mayor of a city that relies on gambling revenue for its entire existence. But would Oscar Goodman tell his own constituents to go spend their kid's college savings on Craps, Blackjack or Slots? The president made a common sense statement--use your vacation dollars, if you're so lucky to have some, for trips to Las Vegas--not tuition money.
Goodman's comments, which were echoed by Republican Governor Jim Gibbons, show just how ridiculous some parts of politics have become.
Nevada is struggling more than anywhere else in the country right now. Unemployment is at 13 percent. The foreclosure rate is the highest in the country. A big cause of these problems was a shortsighted economic growth strategy for Las Vegas that leaned on a construction bubble--a strategy that has created a huge crash as the bubble deflated.
One concern from Goodman and others is that trade shows, conferences and business conventions will skip Vegas for another city because of the president's comments. This is silly. As somebody who has attended or helped organize more than a dozen Las Vegas events in just the last few years, as a Las Vegas customer who enjoys the city, that claim is absurd. Event organizers go to Vegas for simple reasons: the prices for space are very competitive and people like to attend because it is fun, boosting event turnout and event revenue.
Oscar Goodman's credibility to make comments like this isn't on solid ground either. His statements are more about passing the blame than anything else. In the wake of the economic crisis in Las Vegas, Goodman's own city government should've been out there with an aggressive marketing program encouraging businesses to schedule in Las Vegas. What was Goodman waiting for? Perhaps he was too busy with his economic development agenda, which includes legalizing prostitution in downtown Vegas (not joking).
What else should you know about Goodman? Earlier in his career he was the attorney for the Las Vegas Mob. And in 2005 when speaking to a group of fourth-graders at an elementary school, he was asked what he would take with him if marooned on a desert island--his response, "A showgirl and a bottle of Bombay Sapphire Gin." When asked about his hobbies, the mayor named drinking Bombay Sapphire Gin. It shouldn't have been a surprise--Goodman had a controversial deal as a spokesperson for the liquor company.
The media who have breathlessly reported these statements need to get a grip. The controversy here is how Goodman could pretend to be in touch with the family budgets and values of millions of Americans.
President Obama is right--don't spend tuition money in Vegas.