Las Vegas Sun

March 25, 2019

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Goodman: Obama needs to ‘straighten out’ what he said about Las Vegas

Las Vegas Mayor says he won’t meet with president until the matter is settled

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Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman says he hasn't changed his mind: He won't meet with President Obama Thursday or Friday unless the president will "straighten the record out" about what he said about people not spending money in Las Vegas.

"If and when he gives us a proper explanation that he won't make references to Las Vegas in a derogatory manner, then I would definitely change my position," Goodman told reporters outside the Las Vegas City Council chambers this morning.

"Until I hear that, I feel that my word has to be my bond," said the mayor, who has taken that stand since the president made a statement about Las Vegas during a Feb. 2 speech in New Hampshire.

Obama said "You don't blow a bunch of cash on Vegas when you're trying to save for college. You prioritize. You make tough choices. It's time your government did the same."

After word got to the mayor about Obama's statement, Goodman called a press conference and verbally blasted the president. Others Nevada leaders also took issue with the president's statement, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Gov. Jim Gibbons.

Obama did send a note to Reid that same day saying he meant no ill will toward the city: "There is no place better to have fun than Vegas, one of our country's great destinations."

But last week Goodman called the note to Reid a "non-response."

And today, on the eve of the president's visit Thursday and Friday, Goodman says he's not backing down from asking Obama to reverse himself on that statement.

"I was very upset. I think it's hurting our economy. It's certainly not doing us any good. And I think we're entitled to it. So I will remain in my present posture," the mayor said.

It was the second time Obama had made a derogatory reference to Las Vegas within a year. Obama's comments last year that corporations using federal bailout money should stop visiting Las Vegas had drawn anger from Goodman at the time — and since then, many attributed the loss in meetings and conventions scheduled here to Obama's statement.

But last May, Obama made a trip to Las Vegas where his remark, "There's nothing like a quick trip to Vegas in the middle of the week," was obviously aimed at making up for that earlier remark.

Goodman has been invited this week to attend all the president's events in the city.

"If there was a meeting with the president where he would straighten out the record, I would have no problem whatsoever doing that," Goodman said.

"But I haven't had any indication from the White House, as I did the last time, when I decided that it was appropriate for me, as the mayor, to greet the president of the United States in the city. I felt very confident that there would be some rectification," Goodman said.

But this time, "I haven't heard a peep out of the White House. I'm going to keep my position firm. Until I hear such word, I'm not going to participate," he said

However, the mayor said he does expect to hear from the White House.

"I would hope so. I think it's the right thing for the president to do," Goodman said. "I don't want to be presumptuous -- he's the president of the United States. But I believe that his comments hurt our city and my job as the mayor is to protect our city. And I won't settle for anything less than that on a personal basis."

Goodman said he would also like to talk to the president about getting more federal dollars for Las Vegas, where tourist traffic is down, the jobless rate is among the highest in the country and foreclosures are rampant.

"But the first thing we have to do is we have to make sure that we're not going to have these comments, which cast aspersions upon the city, made in the future," Goodman said. "If I have that assurance, I'll feel very comfortable, because I'm sure the president is a man of his word or else he wouldn't be president of the United States."

The mayor said that he has been invited to meet with the president as his plane arrives Thursday night, as he did during last year's presidential visit.

"I did it last time," Goodman said. "But, how's old saying? 'The first time, shame on you. The second time, shame on me.' I'm not gonna let it happen."

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