Dear America, please don’t hold her against us

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CNN screenshot

At one point in her now-infamous interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN Wednesday, Cooper asked Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman what she, as mayor, was doing to make testing and tracing widely available to her city.

Goodman was pleased to answer promptly: Having self-diagnosed herself with the coronavirus in January, she knew it was her duty to donate blood plasma.

Self-absorbed, disconnected from the factual issues at hand, worse than worthless to virtually everyone who lives and works in her city, and inane, it was a textbook example of what passes for policy in the City of Las Vegas as run by someone named Goodman.

Again, Cooper asked, what was Goodman doing in her capacity as mayor to help make testing — the necessary first prerequisite to reopening the economy — more widely available in Las Vegas?

Amid the ensuing word salad of conspiracy theories, dizzying contradictions, denials of past assertions even after they’d been read to her, and incomprehensible gibberish that characterized Goodman’s performance throughout the interview, Goodman managed to blurt that it was not her job to make testing more widely available in the city of which she is mayor.

Well thank goodness for that.

Here in Nevada, we already knew that as people take collective and concerted efforts to contain and control the virus, not only to save lives, but so that the economy can revive in a sustainable way instead of having to shut back down again, Carolyn Goodman is not helping

Sure, her ignorance, and willingness to share it with one and all, is counterproductive. All things being equal, a competent public official is generally preferable to a nincompoop.

But more disturbingly, as Goodman’s imbecility was going viral Wednesday, a considerable portion of the nation’s news consumers probably assumed that the City of Las Vegas is … A Thing That Matters … and that its mayor is somehow reflective or emblematic of a much larger and broader sentiment, both public and official, in Southern Nevada.

Much of the rest of the country already fosters preconceived notions about Las Vegas (the greater metro area, not the city) — for instance, that we are a shallow, greedy, seedy bunch, always looking to get over on some chump, and concerned solely with money and profit, with little regard for how it is obtained.

There is some truth to that, though those aren’t Las Vegas characteristics as much as they are American ones. As I’ve contended for years, Las Vegas isn’t nearly as  uniquely bent and crooked and corrupt as it likes to think it is, comparatively speaking.

But now, thanks to Goodman, much of the country may be convinced that “Las Vegas” is also full of moronic crackpots.

Again, we have our share. And yes, their representation on the Las Vegas City Council in particular is disproportionately large. But there are crackpots all over, and I would submit that as a rule our eccentrics in Southern Nevada can be far preferable to the generic fruits, nuts, and flakes that can be found in other parts of the country. Ours are often even quaintly charming, by comparison.

And so, as you hear from friends and family and associates around the nation, to borrow a typical example from my own inbox, “that’s some mayor you got out there,” and goodness how strange and weird and ultimately sad “Las Vegas” must be if a dullard like Caroyln Goodman is mayor, don’t forget to remind them of a few things.

The Las Vegas Strip is not in Las Vegas.

The Las Vegas Golden Knights do not play in Las Vegas.

The Las Vegas Raiders will not play in Las Vegas.

The University of Nevada Las Vegas is not in Las Vegas.

And while Southern Nevada, which is to say the “Las Vegas” metropolitan area, has more than 2.2 million people, only 645,000 of them — less than a third — live within the official boundaries of the City of Las Vegas.

Even the famous “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign isn’t in Las Vegas.

Goodman and her friends and sycophants on the city council are elected in odd numbered years, during the summer, when hardly anyone pays attention to the campaigns, and maybe 10 percent of eligible voters bother to show up.

The city of Las Vegas doesn’t have its own police force, or much of its own anything, really. Apart from the politicians and the consultants who raise money for them and take fat cuts during the aforementioned farcical municipal elections, few if any people would notice if whatever services the city of Las Vegas performs were absorbed and performed by Clark County, a much larger entity of which the city of Las Vegas is but a small – and by no means most significant – part. There is no pressing reason for the Las Vegas City Council, as a governmental entity, to exist.

If someone has humiliated and embarrassed Southern Nevada more than Carolyn Goodman, it’s hard to say who that would be. 

But the real Las Vegas, that is, the one that encompasses the city of Las Vegas but also the Strip and all the other things and people not in the city limits, is big enough to shoulder a little humiliation and embarrassment.

Sure it would be nice if Goodman wasn’t running around making a fool out of herself. But at the end of the day, we’ve got bigger fish to fry. And again, thank goodness she’s not in charge of … well, anything that matters.

Hugh Jackson
Editor | Hugh Jackson has been writing about Nevada policy and politics for more than 20 years. He was editor of the Las Vegas Business Press, senior editor at the Las Vegas CityLife weekly newspaper, daily political commentator on the Las Vegas NBC affiliate, and wrote the then-groundbreaking Las Vegas Gleaner, which among other things was the only independent political blog from Nevada that was credentialed at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. He spent a few years as a senior energy and environmental policy analyst for Public Citizen, and has occasionally worked as a consultant on mining, taxation, education and other issues for Nevada labor and public interest organizations. His freelance work has been published in outlets ranging from the Guardian to Desert Companion to In These Times to the Oil & Gas Journal. For several years he also taught U.S. History courses at UNLV. Prior to moving to Las Vegas, he was a reporter and then assistant managing editor at the Casper Star-Tribune, Wyoming’s largest newspaper.