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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:

"Degenerate" mayor endorses booze to eight year olds
INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
March 14, 2005

Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman reads to children before controversial question and answer session

LAS VEGAS - Jo Mackey Elementary School in North Las Vegas is a special facility for at-risk children. According to substance abuse experts, one out of three children attending such schools live in a situation in which substance abuse is a problem. If that's the case, what was a role model like the Mayor of Las Vegas doing there last Monday telling eight year old kids that if he was stranded on a desert island the one item he would bring with him would be "a bottle of gin."

Moments later when a student asked
what some of his hobbies are, one of Mayor Oscar Goodman's responses was: "drinking."

"The sad thing is that a comment like that can tend to normalize behavior that shouldn't be normal," stated Candice Kidd, director of the WestCare Women and Children's Campus, a treatment center that receives clients from the area where the school is located.

Mary Francis whose fourth-grade daughter attends the school told the Review-Journal, "Maybe he was playing to his audience... Maybe because he was in the barrio, he thought that's what they wanted to hear. My daughter looked up to him. He owes those kids an apology."

However, an apology was not forthcoming. The former mob lawyer did the opposite and immediately blamed someone else for his problems
-- a tactic often used by criminal defense lawyers to distract from their client's misdeeds. But who did he blame? The eight year old who asked him the questions.

Goodman gave the Las Vegas SUN this amazing explanation: "I'm the George Washington of mayors. I can't tell a lie. If they didn't want the answer, the kid shouldn't have asked the question! It's me, what can I do?"

Instead of fessing up to his transgressions, Goodman inadvertently made matters worse by becoming defensive. The press had a field day! The egotistical mayor basked in the attention.

This begs the question of whether the mayor would have glorified
booze if he had been visiting a fourth grade class at the Meadows School, a private institution in posh Summerlin? Oscar's wife Carolyn is the founder and Chairwoman of the Board of Trustees of the exclusive school that charges between $11,200 - $14,950 tuition per year. The mayor is known to speak on a higher intellectual plane during his frequent visits there.

In the meantime, many low income parents of children exposed to the mayor's Mackey Elementary School rantings were busy with damage control. One parent stated, "A child may want to do something because the mayor said it was OK."

On Thursday after the story went national, Goodman called a press conference to try to explain away his actions. Six minutes into the conference, a very angry Goodman was asked if he thought he had a drinking problem? Goodman replied, "Absolutely not .I love to drink!"
          (Las Vegas SUN photo)             
Illustration by David Stroud published in
                                                         Las Vegas Review-Journal on 03/06/05

Goodman then said, "Have I learned anything from it? Yes. That I'm proud that I gave an honest answer. I'm proud of myself but at the same time sometimes you shouldn't answer a question if it's going to be offensive to people." Asked if he thought it was appropriate to talk about drinking to fourth graders, the mayor said, "I wouldn't have said it if I thought it was inappropriate." Then he abruptly walked out.

Just before the press conference, in honor of Nevada Reading Week another group of  fourth and fifth graders were brought to city hall to again hear the mayor read stories and answer questions. Following his interaction with these students, Goodman was presented a gift. While slowly opening the package he loudly said, "It's not a bottle is it?" His remark brought laughter from his staff. The gift turned out to be a shirt.

As troubling as the mayor's untempered words and actions may be, what troubles me more is the callous reaction he's receiving from local leaders.

Sandy Heverly executive director of STOP DUI apologetically told the SUN, "I think this was just a fluke. All of us have had at one time or another a time when we misspoke. But I know that he didn't do it intentionally."


If his words weren't intentional, why would he say "I wouldn't have said it if I thought it was inappropriate," and then several days later joke about "a bottle" when receiving a gift from another group of impressionable children? Ms. Heverly should be more concerned for the children to whom he extolled his love of drink, children who someday might be involved in a DUI because they took his words seriously!

A concerned INSIDE VEGAS reader summed it up: "His, otherwise normal arrogant nature has been transformed into a Bombastically, Gin induced, Energized Personality, apparently influenced by wayward Guidance and Greed, and has become Foolhardy with very questionable practices. Las Vegas is deserving of the Best and the Good Citizens need to send in the Brave who can protect them from the ravages of evil who are destroying Mayor Goodman and his Public. Sadly enough, Mayor Goodman's time in office has become too dangerous for the Citizens to allow him to continue. He must be removed, for his own sake."

The nonchalant response Goodman is receiving locally contrasts with the ongoing criticism of his "gin" comments by the national press suggesting this really is a "Sin City," a place devoid of conscience in the eyes of the nation. Sadly, the maelstrom of outside comment compared to the apathy within Las Vegas gives a clear indication of the severe loss of family values our city has suffered since Goodman took office in 1998, something that may discourage families from moving here in the future.

KLAS TV NEWS Online Poll,  March 6, 2005

Do you think Mayor Oscar Goodman responded well to questions about the gin and drinking comments he made to a group of 4th graders?
Thank you for participating in our poll. Here are the results so far.
Yes 44%
No 56%

Las Vegas Mayor Addresses Gin Comment

An example is when the mayor in 2002 encouraged allowing teenagers to strip in city topless bars. "There's no prostitution taking place, and if there was, they should arrest them, not make some big fuss as to what some 18-year-old girl is doing to make a living," stated the mayor in the Las Vegas SUN.

His words brought shivers up and down the spines of parents with teenage daughters.

This is the same Goodman who once said he'd rather have his daughter date Chicago mob enforcer Anthony Spilotro than an FBI agent.

Then in 2003, Goodman proposed allowing brothels in downtown saying, "It would turn old motels into beautiful brothels." Nary an eyebrow was lifted at his remark most thinking it was in jest.

In 2004, the mayor was taken before the state Ethics Commission for accepting $100,000 to endorse Bombay Sapphire Gin. After he learned of the complaint, he donated $50,000 to his wife's private school and $50,000 to the homeless. The much more deserving Mackey Elementary School was never considered in his gift giving.

I usually avoid calling people names but the word "degenerate" keeps racing through my mind each time Mayor Goodman tries to rationalize his endorsement of booze to eight year olds, says he was "proud" of his actions, that his "honesty" was somehow a virtue in this instance, or when some supposedly righteous person comes to his defense.

Goodman's actions were not a "fluke" and can't be discounted even by his highly paid campaign manager.

"Jim Ferrence, Goodman's campaign manager for his 1999 and 2003 elections, said the people who would be offended by Goodman's comments are probably the people who are offended every time he mentions drinking in public. Ferrence said the comments could be turned into a campaign issue, but added that the issue would not necessarily hurt Goodman because 'he would not run from it or try to put a spin on it. It's just that he is who he is.' " - LV SUN, 03/04/05

Oscar Goodman is expected to run for Governor of Nevada in 2006 no matter how clouded his judgement may be by then.

As the parent of four daughters including an inquisitive little 12 year old, I know how hard it is to properly raise children in a town with the slogan "What happens here stays here," but if our mayor continues to mouth off, our job will become that much more difficult in coming years.

The word "degenerate" may be considered a stretch based on Las Vegas' skewed values and of how entertaining some people believe Goodman to be, but I can't think of a more appropriate adjective to describe such careless braggadocio in the presence of small children by a public official with aspireations for higher office.

My sympathies go out to Mrs. Goodman and her family.

Main Entry: [1]de·gen·er·ate
Pronunciation: di-'jen-r&t, -'je-n&-, dE-
Function: adjective

: having sunk to a lower and usually corrupt and vicious state

Copyright © Steve Miller

Oscar Goodman was voted "Least Effective Public Official in Las Vegas" in 2003 by the readers of the Review-Journal

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