Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman struck an aggressive tone in his State of the City address Tuesday, saying that continued investment in downtown projects was necessary to sustain the economy in the short term and improve the city in the long term.
"We’re not going to abandon our vision of being a great city," he said to a crowd of about 350 people in the newly renovated Fifth Street School on Las Vegas Boulevard. "The very foundation of what made us great seems to be crumbling around us.
"Rather than join in the chorus of doom and gloom, the government needs to be a beacon of stability."
Goodman pointed to several projects that need continued support, singling out Union Park first, then naming the Smith Center for the Performing Arts, the nearly completed Lou Ruvo Brain Institute, and the promise of a World Jewelry Center and a flagship Charlie Palmer restaurant/hotel. A new city hall building should also be a priority, he said.
Not all of those are public projects, but the city of Las Vegas has put up funding for infrastructure work at Union Park.
The projects keep construction workers employed and could help diversify the local economy, Goodman said. Plus, the economic downturn has led to lower construction prices — "a silver lining to this great retrenchment, or reckoning, from which we are suffering."
At last year’s State of the City address, Las Vegas wasn’t yet enmeshed in a budget crisis brought on by a souring economy and massive home foreclosures. After his speech, the mayor said he set out to find a firmer tone this year.
"Last year we didn’t have any particular problems. We were talking about all our success with sustainability and livability," he said. "Tonight’s speech — I was hoping it would be a little inspiring, showing our commitment to going forward, to be encouraging as far as city projects are concerned."
He did not mention another high-profile project at all — the Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, commonly known as the "Mob Museum," which will occupy the refurbished original federal courthouse building on Stewart Avenue.
The project has been mocked nationally since it was reported that Goodman put it on his wish list to receive funding from the pending federal stimulus package, along with the performing arts center and the new city hall building.
"That’s been talked about so much the last week, I figured that we’d better get some face time on the other projects, which to me are legacy projects," he said.
In fact, Goodman wouldn’t even say the word "mob" when answering questions about the museum: "I think everything that could be said about the M-O-B museum has already been said."
Contact reporter Alan Choate at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-229-6435.