Goodman recounts good and bad during time as Las Vegas’ mayor

"I can’t imagine Las Vegas without Oscar and the showgirls one on each arm," laughed Dom Addonzio, a retired physician who moved to Sun City Summerlin 11 years ago. "He has been mayor for as long as I’ve lived here."

That essentially sums up the tributes from many others to the old guard, better known as Oscar Goodman, as he prepares to step down after the June 7 general election.

But his farewell address was just one of many for the happiest mayor in the universe, as he sipped for the last time from his customary cocktail glass. It has been a long-standing tradition for the Sun City Residents Forum to provide the mayor with his glass of Bombay Sapphire Gin each time he visited.

And indeed, Goodman was in his glory. He recited many of the usual sayings from his bag full of Oscarisms.

"People treat me like royalty all over. I’ll miss it."

"This is a nothing job. You could be a moron and do it."

"If I have to declare an emergency, so I declare an emergency."

"Our tax structure has great advantages. This is even a good place to die. There’s no estate tax."

Of course he talked about his years as a criminal defense lawyer, when he represented underworld figures of such renown that a mob museum will become a major tourist attraction when it opens in December in the old federal courthouse at 300 Stewart Ave .

And so it went. That is until Goodman got serious for a few moments. That was when he reminded his full-house audience that despite all the razzle-dazzle, he should be remembered for some genuinely meaningful accomplishments in the years since June 1999, when he was first elected mayor.

We brought world-class medicine here, Goodman said proudly. High on that list is the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health at 888 W. Bonneville Ave. The center is a highly specialized facility for research, early detection and treatment of such neurological diseases as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The center opened its doors in July 2009.

Another facility Goodman championed is the Nevada Cancer Institute, which opened in Summerlin almost six years ago. The institute, which delves into research and provides treatment for cancer patients, is at 1 Breakthrough Way, near the intersection of the Las Vegas Beltway and Town Center Drive, and sits on 6 acres that were donated by The Howard Hughes Corp.

"We also helped bring world-class culture to Las Vegas," Goodman said proudly.

He referred to the Smith Center for Performing Arts being built in Symphony Park at Grand Central Parkway and Bonneville Avenue. The 200,000-square-foot center, with state-of-the-art theatrical and concert facilities, is scheduled to open next year.

"We have so much to be proud of," Goodman said, as he ticked off one accomplishment after another. Of course there’s the revitalization campaign for downtown Las Vegas. He talked about the World Market Center, the Historic Fifth Street School, construction of the new city hall complex and the eventual move by Zappos, the online retailer, into the old city hall.

That will do wonders for bringing back the downtown area, the mayor said.

On the negative side, one of his biggest disappointments was the inability to bring a major sports franchise to Las Vegas. The way he explained it, the city could have had a National Basketball Association franchise, but it doesn t have the kind of arena required by the NBA.

"I worked to get David Stern, the NBA commissioner, to remove his objections," Goodman said, adding that ultimately Stern and the team owners gave Las Vegas their OK. " But we don’t have an arena that s suitable. And the Legislature was no help."

But regardless of the economic catastrophe, Goodman said, " Las Vegas is still in great shape. We have the most beautiful hotels in the world, best food, best entertainment, higher room occupancy than New York City and Orlando …"

And so it went. Oscar Goodman ambassador of good will, the voice and face of Las Vegas, right to the end of his final term as mayor.

Herb Jaffe was an op-ed columnist and investigative reporter for most of his 39 years at the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. He is the author of the novels Falling Dominoes and One At A Time. Contact him at hjaffe@cox.net.

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