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Inside Vegas - Steve Miller

Steve Miller is a former Las Vegas City Councilman. In 1991, the readers of the Las Vegas Review Journal voted him the "Most Effective Public Official" in Southern Nevada. Visit his website at:

"I can do whatever I want. I'm the Mayor!"
      Portland Mayor Bud Clark (1984 - 1992)             Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman (1999 - present)

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery...

INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
May 23, 2005

In 1990, as a member of the Clark County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC). I traveled to Portland Oregon to ride on their new light rail system. After getting off the immaculate electric train in the city's center, I walked around what was once the most dismal and dangerous downtown I had ever experienced, but this time I was met with gardens, fountains, and hundreds of office and store workers enjoying the revived inner city atmosphere during their lunch break.

Las Vegas was at the time experiencing a downturn in gaming revenues in its historic downtown, and I surmised it was for lack of a good transit system to bring millions of Strip-bound tourists into what was then known as "Casino Center." For that reason I traveled to several cities on a fact finding tour (at my own expense) to see how they overcame similar problems.

Honolulu, San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Portland were my examples -- all cities that had once felt the wrath of decaying downtowns -- and all had overcome their problems by one means or another.

In the case of Portland, the results were the most shocking. Back in the seventies, the railroad station and river front docks were, what appeared to be, beyond repair -- mostly inhabited by street people and panhandlers. But in 1990, things had really changed and I wanted to know how it was done.

Very enthused, I walked the several blocks from the light rail station to City Hall where I asked to speak to the Mayor.

       Mayor Clark

I was told he would be arriving in several minutes and that I might catch him on his way into the building if I waited on the steps. Soon, a bearded man rode up on a ten speed bicycle. It was Bud Clark. I introduced myself and presented my RTC credentials. He welcomed his unscheduled visitor and escorted me to his office. There, I saw
for the first time his famous "Expose Yourself to Art" poster that had sold 895,000 copies.

We laughed, then got down to business. I soon learned of his vast accomplishments and how he cleaned up his downtown. How he sponsored an ordinance to ban the sale of fortified wines such as Mogen David "MD 20/20" aka "MAD DOG", NIGHT TRAIN, THUNDERBIRD and WILD IRISH ROSE. How winos preferred the swill because it was enhanced with added sugar and alcohol, and how its effect was the main reason downtown Portland had deteriorated, along with the lack of police, a convention center, and a good public transportation system.

I soon realized I was in the presence of a true public servant. The one-time tavern owner had turned the town around in less than two terms, first by turning City Hall upside down by firing the police chief, then by implementing everything -- politically correct or not -- to bring business back into the downtown. All the while he promoted his town by regularly appearing on the Tonight Show as one of Johnny Carson's favorite guests.

Instead of just promoting himself, Bud Clark selflessly strived to bring new life into his city.

Cut to the present. The "silicon forest," as Portland has come to be known, enjoyed a boom in high-tech business during Clark's tenure and after. It's truly his legacy. But since the late 1980s, Las Vegas' historic Fremont Street has not fared as well.

Other than a distracting light show canopy dubbed the "Fremont Street Experience" by Steve Wynn and the then-mayor -- a misguided effort installed at taxpayer expense in 1994 -- little
has been done to revitalize what was once Vegas' thriving "Casino Center."

Now closed off to tourists in cars, cabs and tour busses,
the noisy light show over Fremont Street distracts gamblers twice per hour each evening and continues to suck up taxpayer dollars while the adjacent casinos are allowed to deteriorate or close.

Our present Mayor, former mob lawyer Oscar Goodman, inherited the monstrosity from his predecessor Jan Jones, and he has no plans to dismantle it.
After her second term, Jones abandoned the city to take a position with Harrah's promoting competitive-to-Las Vegas casinos in California. Her canopy meanwhile decreased tourism and caused property values on Fremont Street to plummet. Today, Oscar Goodman is reactively selling the remains of "Casino Center" at bargain basement prices. Because of the devaluation and neglect, new blood may now be able to afford to revitalize the area, but that's not the way Mayor Bud Clark proactively accomplished the same goal in downtown Portland!

Clark, like Goodman, was a consummate showman -- seeking the spotlight at every chance. But unlike Goodman, Clark was showboating to help the city he was elected to serve, and he didn't step over the line of decency to do so.

                    Goodman promoted gin to school children (03/07/05)
      (AmericanMafia photo by Mike Christ,  Illustration by David Stroud - LV Review-Journal 03/06/05)

Instead of working to rid his downtown of chronic inebriates,
Goodman, himself referred to as a "chronic inebriate," told the Las Vegas Review-Journal: "Everyday that I have I live to the fullest. I drink to excess (emphasis added). I gamble with both fists. And when I eat, I eat like a gourmand. I can do whatever I want, I'm the mayor."

Unfortunately, his most recent stunt did nothing to promote the entity he was elected to serve:
downtown Las Vegas. While the Strip (located in Clark County) flourishes, downtown's Fremont Street still languishes.

Oscar Goodman is the mayor of the city of Las Vegas, not the Strip. On April 29, he participated in a Playboy photo shoot at the Palms Hotel. The Palms sits just off the Strip on Flamingo Road in Clark County -- seven miles from the "Fremont Street Experience," and four miles from the actual city limits at Sahara Ave.

Goodman needs to concentrate on his decaying inner city like Mayor Clark did, not on the county which is a completely separate political entity with a separate tax base that's doing just fine without his help. Some also feel that Goodman stepped over an imaginary line by posing with a topless model for Playboy, to which he responded by calling his critics
"haters and those who need to get a life." 

What to do? Mayor Goodman should begin by tearing down the canopy and re-opening historic Fremont Street to vehicular traffic. He could also follow Mayor Clark's lead and outlaw the sale of fortified wine within the city limits. He could remove the $2 per hour downtown parking meters; run free trolleys from the county's McCarran Airport and Strip hotels to Fremont Street;
purchase steam cleaning machines and pay jail trustees or the homeless to steam the sidewalks and alleyways nightly. And he could encourage commuter airlines to use the nearby North Las Vegas Airport as an inner city reliever and provide inexpensive ground transportation for fly in tourists to the Fremont Street hotels.

All of these ideas have been suggested time and again, but Goodman is too busy self promoting and boozing to listen.

Former Mayor Bud Clark made fun of himself to promote the arts in downtown Portland, and his less-than-
risqué poster worked wonders. Clark also knew of substance abuse from behind the bar, and did everything in his power to rid his city of its plague including homelessness and prostitution.

Conversely, Mayor Goodman knows of chronic alcoholism from the wrong side of the bar, and is promoting anything but the arts in his downtown! In fact, Goodman in 2003 even said legal brothels would be a welcome addition to East Fremont Street -- not exactly the kind of downtown rejuvenation Bud Clark had in mind..

With this kind of promotion, its no wonder Las Vegas suffers from one of the highest crime rates in the nation. And its no wonder we're no "Silicon Desert!"

For the sake of our city, Mayor Oscar Goodman should get off the booze and try to set a better example for non-gambling industries that,
without his interference, might find Las Vegas a good place to locate. If not, Goodman should step aside after the end of his second term so someone with common sense and sobriety can take his place.

Steve scolds Goodman for protecting the Crazy Horse Too (City Hall - 2002)

* If you would like to receive Steve's frequent E-Briefs about Las Vegas' scandals, click here: Steve Miller's Las Vegas E-Briefs

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