IT TOOK CAROLYN GOODMAN six dolls and an egg timer to get through her second State of the City address.
The Las Vegas mayor employed bobbleheads of herself and her husband and predecessor, Oscar Goodman; two life-size plastic baby dolls to show the importance of education; and two apparently antique heirloom dolls illustrating the importance of working cooperatively. In response to a comment from her audience, she specified that they were “not fertility gods.”
Other than the props, Goodman’s clear focus was on downtown and the urban core, which has seen a surge of development that has helped overcome economic unease.
“We are in rebound here in Las Vegas, believe it or not,” she told the City Council and assembled well-wishers last week. “We’ve already created a solid social and residential base in downtown Las Vegas.”
State of the City addresses are generally feel-good events designed to highlight successes in the 120-square-mile city. Goodman was careful to point out good news for outlying council districts: On the west side, the expansion of Mountain View Hospital, the renovation of Village Square, investment in Boca Park; on the east side, the future development of a “Spanish Village,” a Hispanic counterpart to the city’s Chinatown area on Spring Mountain Road.
But the heart of her talk was downtown, where the growth of “cutting-edge green action” and sustainability is bringing in dollars to resuscitate an area that a decade ago was written off by many locals.
The new city hall and construction of the Smith Center for the Performing Arts have created thousands of construction jobs, while investment in the El Cortez and D resorts, the upcoming Downtown Grand, Fremont Street Experience and the long-moribund Neonopolis have, she said, created many more jobs and enticed more visitors to come to the urban center. Tourism and downtown gaming are both ticking up.
At some point, she mentioned Tony Hsieh.
Also on tap for the new year: a new Gay and Lesbian Community Center; what Goodman called the world’s largest gay and lesbian nightclub, Krave Massive; a new pedestrian bridge connecting Main Street to The Smith Center; the reopening of F Street, reconnecting the historically African-American neighborhood of West Las Vegas with downtown.
And despite potential competition from a proposed multi-use arena at UNLV, Goodman promised to continue pursuit of a sports arena near the Clark County Government Center if it can be developed in a fiscally prudent manner.
She acknowledged a few clouds in the rosy outlook.
Partisan political gridlock and cuts in federal support means less money for the city’s social services and emergency management, she said.
“While our city is doing so good, it’s not so good in Washington, D.C. … We are very affected by this,” Goodman said. “We are a target.”
She urged people to support a quarter-cent sales tax for Metro, and said the city must continue to work for “quality and affordable health care,” although she didn’t offer a specific prescription for how to do it.
And as she often does, Goodman talked about K-12 education. She is a founder of the Meadows School, a private college-prep school in Las Vegas.
She said that a critical element of the development of the city is in the hands of the Legislature, which sets education funding and policies in its bi-annual session in Carson City.
“Unless we fix education here, and it’s not the role of city government, businesses are not coming here,” she said. Nevada students overall and specifically students in the Clark County School District often lag their counterparts in other parts of the country. Many, including Goodman, believe that a part of the problem is that per-student education funding also lags behind other parts of the country.
And Clark County’s urban students receive less per pupil funding than students in rural Nevada, providing $8,200 per student here compared to $17,000 per student in rural Esmeralda County.
According to numbers provided by the tiny Esmeralda and huge Clark County school districts, the discrepancy is even larger than the mayor suggests. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in the 2011 school year Esmeralda County spent almost $31,000 per student, from revenue of all sources, with almost $25,000 coming from state and local sources alone. That’s compared to about $10,500 in the same time period for Clark County students.
Anabel Guerrero, Esmeralda County finance manager, says that the $17,000 number for this year refers only to the state-funded expenditures per student in her rural school district. According to the Clark County School District, the state’s contribution per students in the urban district comes to just $5,249 annually this year, more than $3,000 less than the $8,200 cited by the mayor.
“This is the Legislature that needs to fix these programs,” Goodman said — the best teachers and equipment belong in the inner-city schools.
While Goodman employed props throughout her address, the egg timer wasn’t as useful. It went off about 20 minutes into her speech — about 45 minutes before she finished. Which is to say, 15 minutes shorter than last year’s address.