Mayor Carolyn Goodman, the Santa Claus of Sin City, Should Resign

Ethan Miller (Getty Images)

On December 31, 2019, the Mayor of Las Vegas arrived downtown with her husband — the former mayor, Oscar Goodman — to ring in the New Year. The air was euphoric. A $32 million upgrade to the Viva Vision video canopy above Fremont Street was being unveiled. Mayor Carolyn Goodman meandered through the intoxicated crowd just like she did every year. It was a Goodman tradition. “For more than 20 years, one or the other of the Goodman mayors have been involved in ringing in the new year,” she said. “When you get one Goodman, you get the other.”

Las Vegas, for the first time ever, ground to a shuddering halt in March. Neon lights in casino after casino went dark. Five months after prancing through Downtown Las Vegas, Mayor Goodman appeared on Anderson 360 after publicly calling to open the city. “I would love everything open,” she told Cooper. When pressed for details on how to maintain social distancing amid the pandemic, Goodman subscribed to an alarmingly deadly libertarian philosophy: “The free enterprises need to make sure that what you offer the public meets the needs of the public […] they better figure it out. That’s their job; that’s not the mayor’s job!”

In other words: no, Anderson, maintaining the safety of city residents is not the job of the city’s mayor. Beyond her stark ignorance of the science of the coronavirus itself, or the anti-Chinese racist dogwhistling, the most startling aspect of the interview was how ill-prepared and clownish Goodman seemed. Goodman grinned through the entire twenty-five minutes of Anderson Cooper’s frustration.

Mayor Goodman’s comments immediately generated backlash and national shock — from fellow politicians, journalists, and comedians. The fact that the mayor has appeared so far unfazed by the controversy, even affirming criticism that she is just a “cheerleader” for the city, reveals the character of a mayor more interested in partying than governing.

As a long-term resident of Las Vegas, the controversy is not altogether surprising. Oscar Goodman, the former mayor, was renowned for two activities: defending the most murderous mobsters in Las Vegas and waltzing around the city with two showgirls on his arms. He presided over a reign of terror over the homeless population of Las Vegas. He was always given a pass and never lost an election; his wife, Carolyn Goodman, has largely continued to enjoy those benefits. The Goodmans always skirted every controversy, every shock. They appeared on Fremont Street during New Years, then disappeared for the rest of the year. The party continued.

Now, the party has ended. When Carolyn Goodman appeared on Anderson Cooper 360, she was stepping out of the club and into the harsh light of the alley — the national spotlight. Now, the ugliness of the Goodmans is visible. Now, the world can see the Goodmans as they are: relics of an older era when Las Vegas was more resort than city.

The Las Vegas of today is a world away from the Las Vegas of yesteryear. In Goodman’s own words, “we have two and a half million people” in Southern Nevada. Las Vegas is an urban community with a heartbeat and a soul. We are the bartenders and the cocktail waitresses; the casino security guards and medical center staff; the airport workers and the neighborhood bar cooks. We are Eastside and North Town and the Arts District and Chinatown and Little Ethiopia. We are #VegasStrong.

Las Vegas has also become a more progressive city than its Independent mayor would indicate. Vegas was the blue hotbed that not only swung Nevada for Hillary Clinton in 2016, but also provided Bernie Sanders his crushing victory in the 2020 Nevada Caucus, right before the pandemic shut Sin City down. The residents of Las Vegas do not share their Mayor’s social Darwinist free market philosophy.

The Goodmans are not representative of the city they have ruled as mayors for decades. In the era of COVID-19, that fact has turned deadly. Las Vegas is particularly vulnerable to the impact of the pandemic. While some progress has been made, Clark County schools rank as some of the most overcrowded in the country — more contact and more possibility of transmission. Las Vegas also has the highest proportion of undocumented immigrants in the United States. Undocumented residents form a population particularly threatened by the virus in a myriad of ways. Finally — and most significantly — Las Vegas is uniquely connected to every other locale in the nation. The tourism mecca would become, as Anderson Cooper called it, a “virus petri dish.” Each tourist returning home would become a viral agent. What happens in Vegas would not, in fact, stay in Vegas.

Carolyn Goodman is neither a good mayor nor an accurate representative of Las Vegas today. She is an apparition that appears every New Years, the Santa Claus of Sin City, much like her husband before her. Instead of parties, this year, Carolyn Goodman may bring us overfilled hospital wards and coronavirus cases.

Ordinarily, an incompetent and out-of-touch mayor is hardly noteworthy. But during a pandemic, the need for good and level-headed governance is amplified. We do not need cheerleaders; we need responsible leaders. Whether in the White House or Las Vegas, government officials need to be held accountable. The mayor of Las Vegas is not only endangering many of the residents of her city, but also of the entire United States. Carolyn Goodman — the party is over. You should resign from your position as Mayor of Las Vegas.

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Organizer and freelance writer.

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Travis Sanderson

Travis Sanderson

Organizer and freelance writer.

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