Published Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017 | 6:55 p.m.
Updated Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017 | 9:45 p.m.
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman delivered her sixth State of the City address on Thursday to a full house of about 500 spectators and media members at City Hall, focusing on public safety, health care, reducing Las Vegas’ homeless population, improving education and attracting a major league sports franchise.
“Safety has been a priority,” Goodman said during an hour long speech after pledging to support law enforcement and work “proactively” for local fire and rescue teams.
Goodman said that with the transition of presidential administrations on the federal level, the city must continue to receive funding from Homeland Security to remain a safe destination for both tourists and locals.
“I will continue to be the loudest voice to bring us Urban Area Security funding for terrorism and security preparedness,” she said, citing risks associated with having 350,000 tourists on average each week.
Goodman said she would continue to seek use for Cashman Center in downtown Las Vegas as a site for major league sports. Beyond its current use as the home of the Las Vegas 51s baseball team, Goodman said she wanted to enter a public-private partnership, incorporating funds from UNLV’s new medical facility, to add UNLV’s soccer teams and a Major League Soccer franchise.
“Cities bring major league sports into their city’s core because they affect redevelopment,” she said. “And Cashman presents the most compelling argument for us to use that.”
In a speech filled with congratulations for her six fellow city council members, taxpayers of Las Vegas and herself, Goodman also touched on recent successes in transportation and energy efficiency.
On Tuesday, Las Vegas became the first American city to deploy a completely autonomous, fully electric shuttle on a public roadway. The driverless 12-passenger “Arma” vehicle, shaped like a box on wheels, can travel up to 27 mph.
While Arma will only ride up to 12 mph on Fremont Street between Las Vegas Boulevard and Eighth Street during a trial period through Jan. 20 as developers test the vehicle, Las Vegas director of community development Jorge Cervantes said Tuesday that multiple driverless vehicles could hit city streets full-time by late summer to early fall.
“The city is totally immersed and committed to heavy participation in the future and comprehensive planning for transportation’s best in connectivity and mobility around,” Goodman said.
Last month, Las Vegas also became the largest U.S. city to power its more than 140 local government buildings and city owned property — such as street lights, parks, community centers and fire stations — with renewable energy sources like solar and hydropower.
The sustainable energy project, which began in 2008, will save the city $5 million in annual energy expenditures, Goodman said, and offset the cost for new solar energy and other existing renewables.
Amid the praise, the mayor did acknowledge some shortcomings over the past year.
Among issues needing improvement, Goodman cited health care in Southern Nevada as an area of “failure.” High Medicare and insurance reimbursement rates in Nevada “bleed doctors” and prevent Nevada health care from competing with neighboring states, she said. The mayor called on the Nevada Legislature to help solve the problem.
“We are failing here attracting and retaining the best,” Goodman said. “Our Legislature is responsible for setting Medicaid rates, and they have a chance to do so this session.”
“If not, it’s ‘where do you go for treatment? I go to the airport,’” she added, reiterating an old joke used to poke fun at the valley’s poor healthcare system. “It’s time we did something.”
Goodman also criticized the “recycling” of mentally ill and homeless people who commit crimes, “are taken to a hospital or jail, medicated for 48 hours, and thrown back into society,” without any plans for long-term care. She proposed transforming a Clark County School District building in Jean, currently used for storage, into a medical and psychological training facility where mentally ill patients can seek treatment for their illness.
Doing so would save taxpayer dollars currently used to arrest, house and treat such patients in Las Vegas hospitals and jails, Goodman said.
“This is a growing uphill battle,” she said. “There needs to be more done for the mentally ill, and it’s time to change direction.”
The Las Vegas mayor said, despite the city having no control over education in Southern Nevada, that poor ratings for schools in the Clark County School District and across the state were an “ongoing failure.” She said the current model that sets aside $5,200 per student in Nevada was “appalling,” and suggested an additional $7,000 per student would be needed to raise the state’s education to nationally competitive levels.
“We need to have more AP and IB programs, we need more music, more art and more athletics,” Goodman said. “No company will come to Southern Nevada and find it an attractive place to do business unless we fix this.”