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With 'All Roads Leading Downtown,' Goodman Focuses On Urban Core

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City of Las Vegas

New neon Gateway Arches that span Las Vegas Boulevard and act as a gateway to downtown Las Vegas were turned on in November.

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn gave a virtual state of the city speech this year, but the issues facing the community are very real.

The pandemic, which has flattened the economy in Las Vegas and much of Nevada, forced the event from City Council chambers.

“2020 was a tough, tough year for most of us in our lives,” she said. “Many have been forced out of work by closures while others have been struggling just to make ends meet.”

Goodman made headlines early in the pandemic when she offered Las Vegas as a control group for the coronavirus during an interview on CNN. 

During the interview, she criticized moves by the governor to control the spread of the virus. When Goodman spoke to KNPR's State of Nevada about her State of the City speech, she again criticized the measures.

"If the governor will open us back up because it hasn’t worked from March, the very first we started the shutdown, we’re worse off than ever before,” she said.

However, she clarified that when she said 'governor' she didn't mean the person.

“Steve Sisolak is a great guy and he’s just trying. It’s a very demanding position he’s in," she said, "And you know Nevada is probably one of the only places, we’re trying to get an idea about it, where there’s no limit to the timeline on this declaring a state of emergency.”

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Goodman said she always believed states of emergency should have a time limit, but this one doesn't. She also said she knows Gov. Sisolak is doing the best he can.

The mayor said she likes Sisolak as a person, but “as a politician and what he’s doing – no.” She continued, “it’s totally wrong what’s happened.” 

As the pandemic drags into 2021, Goodman said the main thing she would like is the truth. For instance, she didn't want to be told that everything is fine at the state unemployment office only to find out that the office was not prepared for the influx of thousands of out of work Nevadans.

“I think the key is: tell us the truth, and when you don’t know, don’t just go doing things,” she said.

Obviously, the pandemic dramatically changed how New Year's Eve is celebrated in the city and on the Strip, which is under Clark County's jurisdiction. 

Goodman said the properties along Fremont Street downtown already had plans to cut back on celebration activities because of the pandemic, but she said they, and city officials, knew that people would still be coming down to celebrate.

“How dumb of us, irresponsible and unsafe for us, not to be prepared,” she said.

It wasn't the preparations that worried many state and local officials. Originally, the Fremont Street Experience was going to let people into the mall area if they paid a $25 security fee. 

Officials from the governor to the head of his COVID task force criticized the move. Clark County Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick expressed her concerns.

Goodman told State of Nevada that she is "good buddies" with Kirkpatrick and admires her, but she noted that the county commission has no authority over Fremont Street Experience or downtown Las Vegas.

Goodman believes the criticism was more about keeping eyes off of the Strip.

“And at that point, I thought, ‘How stupid you are Carolyn.’ They’re looking at – put all the concentration: 'how irresponsible for the city to have parties and welcome 14,000 people.' Couldn’t have been further from the truth. There was no indication from the sheriff or law enforcement that we were going to have that kind of number. They were looking at what kind of numbers they were going to have on the Strip. Thank heavens!”

In the end, the event was limited to hotel guests only. 

For Goodman, the pandemic is also partly to blame for the uptick in crime and violence in Southern Nevada. She said the first reason is the influx of people into Southern Nevada and the second is the pandemic.

“I think the second thing is the frustration. People are so tired of being restricted and told what they can do and what they can’t do, and this is the United States and we have our own rights and we want to be heard," Goodman said, "And so there’s a frustration. There’s an anger. There’s a depression. And all these things affect crime.” 

In her State of City speech, which was streamed online, Goodman said public safety remains the city’s top priority and touted efforts to improve building- and fire-code enforcement at multifamily housing units.

She also said the city remains committed to reducing homelessness. Goodman said the Courtyard that the city built is just one of the ways it is trying to address the decades-long problem with homelessness.

"I think the most important thing is that the city of Las Vegas hasn’t just been having meetings. We’ve stepped up, stepped forward in the past, almost, full decade, by getting results and we created the low-barrier Courtyard,” she said.

Goodman said the city has also increased the number of volunteers and paid professionals who go out and talk directly with people living on the streets to get them the help they need.

The mayor also said that supporting businesses in the urban core is a priority, because “all roads lead to downtown.”

Goodman also weighed in on the legacies of casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who passed away in early January after a long illness and former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, who died in November from injuries sustained in a house fire.

“Really a tough time. We really have lost some great people. How sad,” the mayor said.

Goodman knew Adelson personally. She said the fact that they were both Jewish made it easier for them to communicate. She said he always took her calls and appointments, but he never wanted to build anything downtown, which is where she wanted to locate a major league sports team.

“For us, here in Nevada, made a huge impact because of Comdex. That took the city of Las Vegas and the heads in beds of the convention center to a whole new level,” she said.

As for Hsieh, who she knew because of his work with the Downtown Project, she said he had a magnetism that drew people to him.

“He was a soft, gentle man and he was devoted to trying to find a way to make life better for other people,” she said.

Guests

Carolyn Goodman, mayor, city of Las Vegas

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