Las Vegas mayor touts downtown turnaround

Just like her husband before her, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman is betting a burgeoning downtown will lead the beleaguered city back to the promised land.

But unlike former Mayor Oscar Goodman, current Mayor Carolyn Goodman doesn't spice her delivery with showgirls and cracks fewer gin jokes.

That's the message she sent Wednesday during the first State of the City address of her mayoral tenure, a speech that lasted more than an hour and focused mainly on efforts to revitalize downtown Las Vegas.

"I love this part of the city because it used to be a crime-infested and crime-ridden place," Goodman said. "But now it is alive and vibrant."

The speech, delivered in the recently opened City Hall building, was largely a celebration of downtown projects championed by the former mayor and promises to keep that momentum alive.

Early in the talk, she described downtown as it was when Oscar Goodman took office in 1999.

"There was a malaise and a blight," Goodman said, recalling why her husband felt a downtown turnaround was vital to the entire city. "The rotted core of an apple will in fact rot the entire apple and with that will go the whole basket."

That determination to focus on downtown, she said, led to a resurgence that has included development of the Fremont East Entertainment District; the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, aka the Mob Museum; the Smith Center for the Performing Arts; a decision by Internet retailer Zappos to move into the former City Hall building; and an explosion of interest in monthly First Friday events in the Arts District.

Left undone, according to Goodman, is the construction of a professional sports arena that could support an NBA franchise.

"I will say nothing more on this until the money is in the bank and the shovel is in the ground, but rest assured I want an NBA team in our city as much as my husband did and am committed to doing that," she said.

The speech comes as Las Vegas tries to recover from a recession that's battered Southern Nevada.

Hopeful signs include projected increases in consolidated tax revenue, which comes largely from sales tax, from $219 million in the 2012 fiscal year to $237 million in 2014.

And, unlike recent years, the city isn't contemplating layoffs, pay cuts and service reductions.

In fact, Goodman said, service levels should increase with extended hours for some parks and recreation workers and a new "parking czar" working to make it easier for residents and visitors to park their cars.

Still, the city is coping with a hangover from better days. Property tax revenue is still falling, from a projected $95.2 million in fiscal year 2012 to $85.7 million in 2014.

The bond ratings agency Fitch Ratings recently changed its outlook for the city from "stable" to "negative." A debt rating downgrade could happen if revenue doesn't increase and a projected increase in the city's share of support for the Metropolitan Police Department from $119.8 million in fiscal year 2012 to $132.8 in 2014 comes to fruition.

Sheriff Doug Gillespie said the Police Department has eliminated 238 positions and has more than 100 unfilled vacancies.

"There is not much more, in my opinion, room to eliminate positions on the policing side or the civilian side without operational aspects of the department being affected," Gillespie said.

Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at bspillman@ or 702-229-6435.