The Unsinkable Carolyn Goodman

all smiles
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman meeting Trump administration Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson in April. Carson was in Las Vegas touring homeless facilities. HUD photo, via Wikimedia Commons.

She’s rolled her eyes at constituents and colleagues from the city council dais, incurred the ire of the LGBTQ community and galvanized opposition from Latinos. Yet Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman remains an overwhelming favorite to win a third term and cement the dynasty established by her husband, Oscar, who preceded his wife as the city’s three-term mayor.

Is Goodman as out of touch with the community she serves as her husband sometimes proved to be?  

“She is the most awesome political person I’ve ever met,” says Trish Geran, lifelong resident and author on the history of Las Vegas’ predominantly African-American westside. 

Yet Goodman, who declined an interview through her campaign manager, citing her recent announcement that she has breast cancer, and did not respond to written questions posed by the Current, has made comments that often put her at odds with the vulnerable communities that could most benefit from a champion on center stage at City Hall.

“Most people don’t even realize there’s an election in the City of Las Vegas,” says Laura Martin, executive director of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN), who says her resources are focused on the legislative session about to begin in Carson City. “That underscores why the races should be in even-numbered years. But I don’t think PLAN would be supporting her candidacy. She’s shown really troubling positions on the LGBT community.” 

Despite Las Vegas’ designation by the Human Rights Campaign as top notch when it comes to equality, and the popularity of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s marketing of the city as a tourist destination for the LGBTQ community, its figurehead, the mayor, has openly voiced her disapproval of the gay lifestyle and marriage.

At a 2011 luncheon sponsored by Lambda, a non-profit dedicated to equal rights for LGBTQ, Goodman publicly declared her personal opposition to gay marriage. This is from the Las Vegas Sun:

She flip-flopped on her position on gay marriage. At first, she said she supported domestic partnerships. Then she suggested that if she were gay, she’d go to a state where same-sex marriages are legal.

A few moments later, she said about domestic partnerships: “(With) my religious beliefs and my own personal way I live my life, I am not in favor of that.” …

Goodman also referred to homosexuality as a choice rather than an innate quality, referring to “individuals who prefer a gay or lesbian lifestyle.” Many in the audience of more than 100 scoffed at her characterization.

Goodman also received a less-than-favorable reaction when she described people as “transvestites” rather than “transgender.” Several people gasped.

Goodman’s 2016 appearance at a prayer vigil organized by the gay community to memorialize the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Florida, was a disaster, according to media accounts.

“Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman told the crowd last night that guns weren’t the issue, that behavior was,” reported KNPR. “She was literally booed and catcalled off the stage, with people yelling for assault weapons bans and chants for support of Question 1 echoing throughout the room.” Question 1 was the initiative approved by Nevada voters to expand background checks. 

This month, the Mayor’s Faith Initiative hosted a right-wing extremist at its prayer breakfast.

Latinos make up just shy of a third of Las Vegas residents, but aside from efforts to improve education for English-language learning students, Goodman’s connections to the Hispanic community are tenuous, at best.

Goodman caused an uproar in 2017 when she tweeted that Las Vegas is not a sanctuary city, prompting outcries from Southern Nevadans disturbed by what they viewed as the mayor’s lack of commitment to protecting constituents.  Goodman followed up with an op-ed in which she declared her commitment to inclusivity.

The Education Mayor 

“Mayor Goodman has championed improvement in inner-city schools pushing for early preschool programs, tutorials for ESL students and their parents, bringing together a coalition of public, private and nonprofit partners to participate in the achievement based and measurable education initiatives,” says the city’s website.

Last month on Nevada Newsmakers, Goodman suggested then-Governor-elect Steve Sisolak double per-pupil spending in the state to $10,000.

“We have so many young children who are just throw-away children because their parents are maybe single parents who have to work two jobs to feed the child and can’t be there to be supportive and involved.”

Goodman is spot-on when it comes to the economic pressures facing families, especially single parents, though she declined to elaborate on how working two jobs is not being supportive.  She has made no efforts to seek legislation that would allow the city to increase the minimum wage or extend sick pay to working parents, and has done little, if anything, to incentivize low-income housing.

Job One: Security

With the memory of the Las Vegas shooting massacre still fresh in the minds of potential visitors, Goodman says security is her greatest priority.

“I want this city to reach its potential of being WORLD CLASS!  For starters: First [on the list is] expanding security and safety measures to a point of citizenry full comfort,” she told Vegas Legal Magazine.

Goodman, who immediately praised law enforcement following the shooting, declined to tell the Current whether she is satisfied with the response of Las Vegas Metro police, who remained in the hallway outside the Mandalay Bay room for several minutes as the shooter unleashed his fury on the crowd below.

Goodman’s Las Vegas

“When I met her we were going through the F Street closure and reopening. She said she and her husband have very few fights but she stood up to him and kept her word all the way through the end,” Geran says of the controversial street closure shepherded by Oscar Goodman, seen as a racial and economic form of segregation by many residents. 

But Goodman’s commitment to the blighted neighborhoods of the Westside has yet to produce the kind of revitalization that has taken hold in downtown Las Vegas. 

Redevelopment in the City of Las Vegas during Goodman’s tenure has focused, as it did during her husband’s terms, on downtown and the medical district along West Charleston near I-15.

“With odd-year elections, poor candidates like Goodman or Michelle Fiore can sneak in, who may not be the best for the people,” says Martin. “They are not good on issues for people but they satisfy the developers.” 

But Geran blames the lack of development in blighted areas on past and present representatives of Ward 5, not Goodman.

“We’ve had plans for years for making the Jackson Street area a historical district, for making a walkable community,” says Geran. “But our representatives are pretty much focused on those who have helped them financially during their campaigning. The interests of contributors come first.  The people come second. And because we don’t moan and complain, they simply don’t have time for us.”

Las Vegas has one of the largest homeless populations per capita of any city, yet Goodman has been slow to address the issue that also plagued her husband’s tenure in office.  She’s relying in part on a “go-fund me” approach to combating homelessness. The fund has collected more than $250,000 so far and a quarter has gone to homeless services, according to the city.

Goodman points to the city’s Homeless Courtyard, a clearinghouse of sorts for those in need of help, as an example of the city’s effort to address homelessness.  A report by the Current revealed the most popular service provided by the Courtyard is the “Ticket to Home,” a free bus pass out of town.

The city has increased spending on homeless services recently, and Goodman and the council also resolved late last year to ask legislators for permission to raise fees to fund more programs.

Dana Gentry
Reporter | Dana Gentry is a native Las Vegan and award-winning investigative journalist. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Gentry began her career in broadcasting as an intern at Channel 8, KLAS-TV. She later became a reporter at Channel 8, working with Las Vegas TV news legends Bob Stoldal and the late Ned Day. Gentry left her reporting job in 1985 to focus on motherhood. She returned to TV news in 2001 to launch "Face to Face with Jon Ralston" and the weekly business programs In Business Las Vegas and Vegas Inc, which she co-anchored with Jeff Gillan. Dana is the mother of four adult children, three cats, three dogs and a cockatoo.

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