Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman cares about public safety. She really cares about public safety.
Hers, not yours.
Goodman was quick to squash a proposal from Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak to put more Metropolitan Police Department officers on the valley’s streets without raising taxes. Sisolak’s plan called on the county and city — which jointly provide the department with a majority of its funding — to boost Metro’s planned $511 million budget by an additional $5 million, enough to hire 47 new officers.
The county’s share would be $3.4 million, while the city would have to come up with just $1.6 million.
What a bargain for city government. Sheriff Doug Gillespie has eliminated more than 400 officer positions through attrition in recent years because of declining property tax collections and rising personnel costs. The additional money amounts to couch change for the city and county.
But Goodman said there was no way she was going to cut $1.6 million from the city’s nearly $500 million operating budget to put 47 more police officers on the streets, thereby making her constituents and visitors safer. Goodman has decreed that if the residents of Las Vegas proper want more police, they’ll have to pay higher taxes.
It’s not like she has to worry about her safety when she’s out in the public. You see, Goodman enjoys the protection of an armed city marshal when she leaves her castle … er, City Hall. At your expense, no less.
As far as I can determine, Goodman is the only local elected official in Southern Nevada who travels with an armed guard. Henderson Mayor Andy Hafen doesn’t. North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee doesn’t. Members of the County Commission don’t. Other members of the council don’t. The only other elected official in Nevada I’ve seen with a bodyguard is the governor — and the Highway Patrol trooper who escorts him wears a suit, not a uniform.
Marshals accompany Goodman even when she’s preening well outside city limits. You’d think City Hall had annexed the Strip, based on how often the mayor visits the resort corridor to promote the valley (and herself, of course). Never mind that the Strip, which sits in the unincorporated county, is well outside her authority. Then again, maybe she brings a marshal with her because she knows the Strip doesn’t have enough Metro officers. Hmm.
A city spokesman said several deputy marshals are trained in dignitary protection, and that their schedules are arranged to prevent overtime. But it turns out Goodman’s husband, former Mayor Oscar Goodman, utilized taxpayer-funded protection more than his wife does. Ah, the perks of the office.
Goodman’s disconnection isn’t limited to the needs of her city. She’s also completely misguided on the More Cops mandate.
The mayor supports a sales tax increase to boost police funding across the county. But that increase is in the hands of the County Commission, which doesn’t have the five votes necessary to raise the sales tax rate. And the only reason the commission has even considered that increase is an advisory vote of the public — 10 years ago.
Back in 2004, the valley was booming, the economy was roaring and police forces couldn’t keep up (again, largely because of rising personnel costs). The More Cops ballot question recommended two separate quarter-cent sales tax increases. It barely passed. The first increase was imposed, but the second never happened because of the Great Recession.
The taxpaying public is hurting because of reduced incomes and home values, and high unemployment. And they’re no longer supportive of tax increases. In 2012, county voters overwhelmingly rejected a property tax increase for school construction, and Henderson voters killed what amounted to a tiny property tax increase for libraries.
But Goodman believes a 10-year-old vote for higher taxes is forever. She told the Review-Journal’s Jane Ann Morrison as much last month, then expressed her muddy view of voter sentiment — and history — in a Monday letter to the editor: “All of the mayors in Southern Nevada support enacting More Cops, and more importantly, so do the majority of the people in the state of Nevada who voted for it. We have three commissioners standing in the way of the will of the people by not passing the tax.”
Um, Carolyn, More Cops was a county ballot question, not a state one. Funny she’d get that wrong, considering literacy and education are so important to her.
During her tenure, Goodman has pushed the city to spend big money on schools, even though city of Las Vegas government has absolutely no role in funding or overseeing public education. The city is on track to donate $350,000 through next year to the Public Education Foundation to support a literacy initiative. Through next year, it will donate $62,500 to Teach for America, an awesome program that trains teachers for low-income schools, but something the city government has no business supporting. This year, the city donated $35,000 to Communities in Schools.
And Goodman says the city couldn’t possibly find $1.6 million to hire more police without raising taxes? The city still pours huge sums of money into its redevelopment agency despite a shaky track record. It still grossly overpays for park maintenance.
And Councilman Ricki Barlow still uses general fund money to make an annual calendar in recognition of … himself! City taxpayers coughed up more than $3,100 for 1,000 of his 2014 calendars.
Goodman would love to see commissioners pay the political price for raising the sales tax rate while bailing out her budget and sparing her from making a spending decision that barely qualifies as difficult. She could easily put more police on the streets. But the mayor already has her security covered.
Let them eat cake, she says — and pay more for the privilege.
Glenn Cook (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s senior editorial writer. Follow him on Twitter: @Glenn_CookNV. Listen to him Mondays at 4 p.m. on “Live and Local with Kevin Wall” on KXNT News Radio, 100.5 FM, 840 AM.