Tuesday, May 26, 2009 | 2:24 p.m.
Give the man his meeting. Please.
Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman said this morning he “hopes to” meet President Obama today. Rarely have I seen the mayor so coy about, well, anything. Owe it to security concerns, maybe. But whatever transpires between the two will not quite conjure images of a Yalta summit-like meeting of the minds. As the mayor said after the groundbreaking for The Smith Center for the Performing Arts at the newly dubbed Symphony Park (formerly Union Park, on the parcel just north of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health), he intends to attend Obama’s arrival this afternoon at McCarran International Airport.
I’m thinking a grip-and-grab photo op is the most we’ll get out of this session, but there is a chance this is the long-awaited (by the mayor, at least) moment where President Obama might say something positive about Las Vegas. Something like, “Las Vegas is a fun city to visit and an affordable, convenient city in which to do business. Everything in moderation. May the force be with you. Live long and prosper.” Obama could make the Big Amends tonight at The Colosseum, too, which would make my $150 ticket to the show even more sentimentally valuable.
As has been reported, Goodman said he’d talked to Obama Chief Of Staff Rahm Emanuel about Obama making such a statement. I asked how that conversation went, if the mayor found himself coercing or negotiating with Obama’s deputy.
“You don’t negotiate with the president,” Goodman said. “Not unless you’re North Korea. … But he will say something like, ‘Las Vegas is a great place to do business.’” It’s not quite, “What Happens Here Stays Here,” but if it finally douses this issue, great. Goodman actually said the dustup, or perceived dustup, could have been resolved back in February shortly after Obama remarked that corporate executives should not be accepting stimulus money to take trips to such wildly popular tourist locales as Las Vegas or to the Super Bowl. (I saw this clip replayed yesterday on CNN, and it really reminds me of the scene in “The Jerk,” where the tycoon is crying to Navin Johnson about not being able to afford to reupholster his jet for a trip to the Super Bowl, but I digress …). At the time, Goodman quickly wrote a letter to The White House explaining that the comments could be damaging. Goodman’s point: If Obama had made the force-be-with-you comments then, we wouldn’t still be talking about it today after the groundbreaking of a multimillion-dollar performing arts center, and on the day the president himself is appearing on the Strip.
As for that event, the mayor said he isn’t certain if he’ll be in attendance tonight at Sen. Harry Reid’s fundraiser at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace. “There’s a basketball game tonight that I’ve got my eye on,” Goodman said, referring to a presidential-visit trumping NBA Eastern Conference finals tilt matching the Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic. He simply refused to confirm that he would or wouldn’t be there, so I asked if he had money on the game. “I have money on whether her left or right foot moves first,” Goodman said, pointing to the feet of Kirvin Doak rep Kate Whiteley. She moved her left foot first, and I expect the mayor can claim a victory there, too.
More from the groundbreaking, and elsewhere: Neither Goodman nor Las Vegas Visitors and Convention Authority President Rossi Ralenkotter can say just how many conventions were canceled because of Obama’s remarks. “I didn’t have anyone say that was a reason for canceling a convention,” Goodman said. “It’s more a matter of perception.” Ralenkotter said the long-term consequence is that Las Vegas, the nation’s leader in the tourism and convention business, reminded people conducting business across the country just how important these business sessions are to the economies of Las Vegas and other cities across the country. “We took a leadership position, telling people across the United States how important this business is to our city,” Ralenkotter said. “We did 22,000 meetings last year. We’re always expected to be a leader in the travel industry, and that’s why it is important to remind people that they can and should do business here.” Ralenkotter will be at The Colosseum tonight but won’t meet the president. … Rep. Shelley Berkley was at the groundbreaking but won’t be at Caesars tonight because she is being honored with a service award from her synagogue. … The Smith Center should be finished in 30 months, and those on hand included Smith Center donor Fred W. Smith and Center officials Don Snyder, Myron Martin and Dr. Keith Boman. Also in attendance on a Vegas-ized morning were former Sen. Richard Bryan (great fedora, by the way), MGM Mirage PR guru Alan Feldman, Nevada Ballet Theatre co-founder Nancy Houssels, Susan Anton and onetime Strip headliner Clint Holmes. … Photographer Jerry Metellus took the commemorative group photo marking the occasion. He sure likes directing these shoots, holding court from on high and appearing unconcerned about the heat bearing down on this rather important assemblage of subjects. I hope this is a great photo. Regardless, Metellus could front his own afternoon show at the Plaza, or like casino. … Good use of a Caterpillar D8R, gang.