Super Size Us

Would we be better off with one local government?

Damon Hodge

There was once a town, Northlashendercitybouldermesquitecounty, that had a mayor, Michaelmontagibsongoodmanwoodburyferraronicholes and ...


There was never such a town or mayor.

(The names are an amalgam of all the Valley's municipalities—North Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Henderson, Boulder City, Clark County and Mesquite—and their leaders: northtown Mayor Michael Montandon, Vegas' Oscar Goodman, Henderson's Jim Gibson, County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury, Boulder City's Bob Ferraro and Mesquite's Bill Nicholes).

So by now you've probably figured out that this story is about—what else?—government consolidation, that tricky, often emotional, generally politically motivated process of municipal gerrymandering that pops up every so often, like, say, when the mayor of Las Vegas realizes he (or she) is the government equivalent of a backup quarterback. It's periodically touted as a big streamlining measure that would eliminate duplicate services, thin the bureaucracy and centralize the decision-making processes.

It's been on the lips of politicians at least since the '50s, when the city balked at extending its tax-collecting, ordinance-mandating tentacles to Las Vegas Boulevard, missing out on the chance to put the Las Vegas Strip in Las Vegas—it's currently in Clark County.

Friggin' hindsight.

Half a century later, Mayor Oscar Goodman—he of the one remaining term (if reelected) and possible higher political aspirations—has taken up consolidation's call, recently telling a Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce lunch crowd that the Valley would turn into a "tower of Babel" if a major disaster struck. Though decidedly less doomsday-ish in her assessment, his predecessor Jan Jones also stumped for a united kingdom.

Problem then, as now, is that no one knows what consolidation would look like, who'd lead this supersized government, how it'd function. Besides, where would you start? Good luck convincing the good folks of Boulder City that they'd be better off absorbed into the land of What Happens Here, Stays Here.

Sans voter support, consolidation would be left in the hands of state lawmakers who aren't likely to do anything to diminish their job prospects (a number of former state lawmakers have run for—and won—local elected offices).

And what would you call this mammoth entity? Las Vegas County? A legislative measure to rename Clark County as such failed years ago.

When it comes to consolidation, about the only certainty is this: Choosing a name would be the least of the worries.

Consolidation—Been There, Discussed That

One and a half miles separate Las Vegas City Hall and the Clark County Government Center.

Might as well be a million.

Nearly everything about the Valley's two largest municipalities is different. Commissioners rule the county; council members oversee the city. Stretching 8,012 square miles, the county is larger than New Jersey and has 1.6 million residents, same as Detroit. The city's measurements: a smallish 113 square miles and 517,000 residents, a third the size of the county. The County Commission is generally viewed as the most powerful municipal entity in the state. It has the most employees (11,000-plus), biggest budget (in the billions) and controls the Strip (our lifeblood). On more than one occasion, the City Council has been called the junior circuit, training ground for the bigs (county commission).

Then there are the seals. The county's: a sweeping vista with a deerhorn sheep and four people, hands interlocked, traipsing down a hill. Goodman calls the city seal—three skyscrapers, each progressively taller than the other, a plane whizzing by—the "ugliest in the Valley" and "inappropriate in lieu of the 9/11 terrorist attacks."

Like a recurrent zit, consolidation has popped up various times during Bruce Woodbury's 23 years on the County Commission. All the panels he's served on that have explored the issue arrived at the same conclusion: Not gonna happen.

"Consolidation between the city and county would create a big, monolithic government that would be distant from the people and create a lot of the same concerns that many people have about the Clark County School District being too big and not having local control," Woodbury says. "Small cities are terribly opposed to it. They don't want to be part of the city of Las Vegas, and they don't want to be sucked up in this big monolith. The folks you elect would represent a much larger number of people. In looking at other situations across the country, the anticipated efficiencies from consolidation often don't materialize."

Merging the city and county was a possibility in the '50s, Woodbury says, even in the '60s and '70s, when the Valley was smaller. "Little by little, the county became a municipality and became a city for the unincorporated and rural areas, and eventually the urban areas," he says.

As communities grow and develop their own identities and ways of doing things, Woodbury says, they're more reluctant to change. "Each governmental entity has developed its own types of civil service systems and technologies and computers and they are not compatible with the others," he says. "Just making technology compatible would be expensive. You'd also have to make employee salaries equal, which almost always means upgrading them. Residents of unincorporated areas would see their property taxes increase. There are so many things wrong with consolidation ... It's not going to happen."

• • •

The Weekly visited City Hall to query Oscar Goodman about why he supports consolidation.

Weekly: If a disaster hit, you said this place would be a "Tower of Babel."

Goodman: I believe it. I'm the chair of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. There was some whisper that because the county has the cash cows and the big gaming companies that they, perhaps, are more entitled to a larger distribution than places like North Las Vegas, which has a couple casinos, and Las Vegas, which has the Fremont Street Experience. Basically, it went in the face this agreement (a memorandum of understanding on municipalities sharing room-tax revenue) that was entered into years ago with everyone's permission. I was talking to the gamers and they said the argument really has no merit because they get their employees from everywhere. Those kind of discussions should not be taking place ... People think I'm the mayor of everything and everyone, and I do nothing to dispel that.

(His mouth is just beginning to motor).

... If we're going to be honest with one another, on September 10, 2001, Rudy Giuliani was a bum. New York wanted to throw him out. His home life was in shambles. He was at an all-points low as far as popularity. Come September 11, he becomes America's greatest mayor. There's a reason for it. He was able to speak with one voice. He was able to get information from one source. He had one police chief for all the boroughs of New York, one fire chief for all the boroughs of New York ... Here, the bottom line is we're very territorial, very possessive and, God forbid there was some kind of disaster, there would not be one voice, there'd be multiple voices. We have a sheriff, who is elected throughout the county, who heads up the Metropolitan police force. Right across the street, we have a police chief from North Las Vegas. Right down the road, we got a police chief from Henderson, and they all feel they're just as important as the sheriff. We've got four fire chiefs. We've got four or five city and county managers. We've got public information officers from each of the entities. The message would become garbled just out of reality.

Weekly: Don't the municipalities already talk to each other and work together?

Goodman: We have interlocals (agreements) and we go through these mock exercises. But I know human nature, and if there's a real disaster, the play-acting may not necessarily be followed when there's not a TV camera in front of somebody. God forbid something happens at the intersection of Sahara and Las Vegas Boulevard. The sheriff's gonna be there. There's a county commissioner who represents that area. I represent the north side. Fire chief (Earl) Greene is with the county. We've got fire chief (David) Washington with the city. I've got David Riggleman as my PIO (public information officer). The county has Erik Pappa. All good guys, but I'm afraid there'd be a lot of stepping on each other.

Weekly: Have you seriously thought about what it would take to consolidate, and are you a lone wolf in this?

Goodman: Yes I have and I am a lone wolf.

Weekly: No gamers are on board?

Goodman: I've learned this lesson: That if I talk about it, and I'm the spokesperson, then people are gonna think I'm doing it for ulterior purposes or for self-aggrandizement. So, therefore, I can't be the spokesperson. I learned from my friend Jerry Abramson, the mayor of Louisville, that he tried to get it for three terms and the public voted it down three times. The fourth time, he got smart and said the only way this is ever going to take place is if the business community feels that it's beneficial to them and to the community in general. They collected $1 million from the business community and went on an advertising campaign and the people voted for it. Same thing in Indianapolis. Same thing in Jacksonville. Same thing in Philadelphia. You really ought to talk to the folks in Louisville and Philadelphia.

Been There, Done That

Louisville's deputy mayor, Joan Riehm, says Goodman is only half right. The private sector was behind the merger in all four referenda—1956, 1982, 1983 and 2000, when it finally passed.

"This time, though, the merger plan was simpler and didn't try to control everything," she says. "Also, we had unique combo of spokespeople. The sitting Democratic mayor and sitting Republican county executive support it. Abramson was for it. Mitch McConnell, our Republican senator, and every former mayor and county executive was for it. We had focus groups and ran it like a political campaign.

"As a community, we have been talking about merging—the county had 700,000 people; the city, 280,000, another one third lived in incorporated suburban cities and the other third in unincorporated parts of the county—the city of Louisville with rest of Louisville for years," Riehm says. "The county and city government and other municipalities had governments, but we weren't trying to merge them all. We merged the city of Louisville with the government of Jefferson County. There were 94 incorporated municipalities at the time, but the merger didn't affect any suburban cities. Instead of a mayor and a county executive, we have one metro mayor who presides over this new government. There is no council for the city and for Jefferson County; we have one Metro council elected from all across the county. If you lived in the old city of Louisville, a suburban city or the unincorporated county, before 2000, you could have voted on county officials. Now, you vote for a metro mayor and metro council. This is a very important difference."

Since the merger, Louisville has become a de facto think tank for folks seeking information on consolidation. Officials from more than 50 cities, counties and states have asked, How'd you do it?

According to Louisville officials, the merger made Louisville the nation's 16th largest city (up from No. 67), reduced the government workforce by 10 percent (with no reduction in services), consolidated police forces, improved the municipal credit rating (higher than either the former city or county) and led to discussion on creating MetroSafe, a $70 million emergency-communications system to link police, fire, EMS and other first-responders in multiple jurisdictions throughout Louisville Metro and surrounding counties, Riehm says

Two examples. "In the police department, we hired an outside chief to look for savings right away. In terms of the number of police cars, we had 2,000-plus (in various departments). One department used 87 octane for gas, the other used 89. The chief asked if there were any issues with using lower octane? Everyone said no and switched to 87 octane. That saved $100,000 a year. Also, not having dual executive branches, we saved $700,000 a year in executive branch salaries."

Not that there haven't been challenges. Take the police department again. Louisville had to merge departments with two different cultures, uniforms, radio communications systems, budgets and chiefs. "It's easier said than done to act as one department," Riehm says. Labor contracts proved difficult to navigate. Two-thirds of workers were unionized under 28 different labor agreements. Uniting the public works departments proved tough, too. Two different contracts meant, for instance, that some workers were paid time-and-a-half contracts, while others got double time for doing the same job.

"That really impacted morale," Riehm says. "Merger isn't the answer for every community. There have only been 35 city-county mergers in the nation. There are other ways to get governments to cooperate. We merged city and county departments, signed revenue sharing contracts ... did all these things before we ever merged governments."

Still, Riehm says, the Louisville residents and politicians feel good about consolidation's effect.

"A lot of citizens were uneasy. They wanted to know who'd pick up garbage, operate streetlights," Riehm says. "Not everyone is happy. We do have challenges, but we're only in the third year. Citizens do like the unity we have. We have one public leader and one public agenda. When you're spending all your energy on inter-county fights and rivalry, you don't have very much left to help your municipality compete in the global marketplace."

Consolidation—Been There, Done That, Long Ago

Goodman's hometown of Philadelphia merged in 1854, bringing 13 townships, six boroughs, nine districts and 40 corporate or quasi-corporate bodies under one municipal roof, the city and county of Philadelphia, according to Philadelphia, a 300-Year History. Home rule for the city of Philadelphia came in 1951, along with a strong-mayor form of government—the same bully pulpit Goodman covets.

"In the city and county of Philadelphia, the county is totally vestigial," says Hal Fichandler, deputy chief of staff for Philadelphia Mayor John Street. "With few exceptions, government functions are run by the city of Philadelphia, while county offices are subject to the home rule charter in the city of Philadelphia."

For consolidation to be on the drawing board—much less work—Fichandler says political mergers should be as important geographic ones. Discussion of the topic usually splits folks into camps—those for, those against. One jurisdiction may not want to absorb what it perceives to be the problems of another municipality. Take the issue of rich versus poor.

"If there is poverty in the consolidator and wealth in the consolidatee, why would the latter want to join with the former?" Fichandler asks. "Pennsylvania is known for having an enormous amount of governmental units. (At the same time) lots of people think that money can be saved with consolidation. The advantage of consolidation is that you can carry out police functions, trash collection functions and other functions easier than you can with a jurisdictional mish mash. (Conversely), across the country, consolidation is sometimes seen as a way to gain a healthier tax base ... Your mayor is on to something. If you can merge some things and improve services, you should at least talk about it."

Consolidation—Been There, Studied That

Consolidation is a parlor game that's rarely worth the headache, argues Dennis Dresang, a professor of political science and public affairs at the University of Madison, Wisconsin. For every reference to prominent examples like Minneapolis-St. Paul or Miami-Dade County, says Dresang, who has consulted on the merger of city and county health departments, there are countless more promoting the efficacy of regional governance.

In areas like emergency preparedness, planning and education, he says, consolidation works "because you don't have to deal with turf protectionism or the politics of getting rid of the historical legacies of these hodge-podge governments. A major concern is the emotional attachment individuals have to the jurisdictions they are in. People get attached to things like their high school alma mater. You can have two adjoining cities—each one has city pride; the city across the street might think the other city is a den of iniquity and vice versa."

Boulder City and Las Vegas?

Ultimately, Dresang says, consolidation raises more questions than it answers. Who pays for the new system? How will the tax base be allocated? Who will head the new consolidated agency? And what about access to leaders?

"The smaller the jurisdictions," he says, "the more access I've got to the people making decisions affecting my life."

Wayne State University Political Science professor Jered B. Carr says he can't think of a single instance where "I can say because of consolidation, this is a single, wonderful, functioning community." Carr co-authored (with Florida State University professor Richard Feiock) one of the most widely cited tomes about government mergers, City-County Consolidation and its Alternatives.

"(Talk of) consolidation, a lot of time, comes when somebody in the community says, 'Wouldn't it be cool to be one of the top 10 cities in terms of population? That would make us important. Also, let's go out and grab some of the revenues outside of the city border, like the wealthy suburbs'," he says. "For some people, the only model of government that comes to their mind is a hierarchy with one person in charge and telling everyone what to do. There are lots of models based on consensus and collaboration and working to solve all the problems. Consolidation says we can't manage our way through things and/or we don't have the power to tell everyone what to do."

You probably couldn't tell there are 250 general purpose agreements between Wayne, Oakland and McComb counties in Michigan, Carr says, because there is constant dialogue among the counties and their cities. If there's an emergency, just because you're in Wayne County, doesn't mean emergency personnel in McComb County can't or won't help.

"Each county sends police cars and firetrucks when needed," he says. "You don't need to consolidate a government to create a single, unified working center to have good governments. You consolidate city and county government because you perceive weaknesses in current structure. But you shouldn't make a fairly major change to government to change a few things."

• • •

Weekly: It would seem like this new government you're after would be a big monolith. Wouldn't you be less able to meet the needs of constituents? You wouldn't be as agile.

Goodman: Sure you would. What you would do is have representatives, either elected at-large or from particular zones, wards or districts, and they would be responsible for the whole as well as the parts. Basically, that's what's happening as far as the County Commission is concerned. You have county commissioners that represent North Las Vegas, county commissioners that represent Las Vegas, county commissioners that represent the unincorporated areas and county commissioners who not only represent Henderson, but Boulder City. So, it works.

Weekly: What would be a key number of elected officials for this larger government?

Goodman: The County Commission is talking about expanding to nine.

Weekly: That would mean almost 200,000 people per commissioner, based on the current population.

Goodman: Let me start another issue with you: I think they should be full-time jobs. I'm a full-time mayor, even though the charter doesn't define how many hours I'm supposed to work. I'm a lucky fellow because I made a good living as a lawyer and representing mobsters. I don't have to worry about making a living. If you're talking about representing 200,000 people, that's a lot of people. That should be a full-time job, they should get a full-time salary and have a full-time staff. I see this as the city and county of Las Vegas. You can talk about Clark County or Washoe County, nobody knows where they are. Everybody knows where Reno and Las Vegas are.

Weekly: I talked to several professors and, among the many things they said, consolidation is too expensive.

Goodman: Professors never agree with me. Tell these people to get a life, will you? Look at our logo (pointing to it on the northwest wall). I had that same argument after 9/11. I wanted to change the logo and they said it'd cost too much money, so I backed off of it. That's the world's worst logo. We don't have one thing that's in Las Vegas in that logo and then we got the plane going through the building ... The professors. These guys in their ivory towers.

Weekly: They also talked about the issues of salaries—that consolidation would mean paying higher wages.

Goodman: Nooo. Why have four fire chiefs who are making $120,000. Why not pay one fire chief $150,000?

Weekly: Say you have to absorb 1,000 employees who have higher wages?

Goodman: Look, what we do here, we buy out people's contracts. We try to keep our budget lean and mean. You do the same thing or you won't be elected again.

Weekly: Have you looked at the possibility of union issues?

Goodman: They'd be huge. These are areas that would definitely have to be addressed.

Weekly: Can be they addressed?

Goodman: Sure they can. We're the fastest-growing area in the United States, and we're addressing the issues. Look outside my window, the traffic's flowing, isn't it? Look outside my window, the air quality is great. When I was first elected—and I don't take responsibility for this—we were not in attainment with the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) with our air quality. Now we are. That's what governments are for ... in order to effectuate these things.

Consolidation—Been There, Crunched That

Guy Hobbs is a numbers man. Numbers guru, really. The go-to guy on all things math-related. The county's former chief financial officer says talk of consolidation comes up every four years, like the Olympics.

Not that the discussion isn't well-intended. It's always good to explore ways to improve government efficiency. But it's also very political, Hobbs says, which essentially dooms the process. From a numbers standpoint, he says, consolidation is a round-peg-square-hole problem. Take property taxes in the city and county.

"A merger would yield a uniform tax rate. Since city taxes are generally higher, county residents, if the city tax code was used, would end up paying more—all of this for a questionably perceived difference in services."

Take, also, the merger of city and county fire departments. Each has a different collective bargaining agreement. Since unions would likely stump for the most beneficial agreement, there'd be a cost associated with achieving uniformity, he says.

"You do get economies of scale, but the other realities are more expensive. Say one department offers four days of a certain kind of leave and the other gets six days. The unions are likely to go with six days. You'd have similar problems across the board with employees."

Hobbs, too, sounds the gong for a regional approach to government, particularly because there's already tons of interjurisdictional cooperation, from Metro (itself consolidated in 1973) to entities like the Regional Transportation Commission, Southern Nevada Regional Planning Coalition, Regional Flood Control District, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors' Authority and so on. "The lines (of cooperation) are thinner than people think," he says.

So what would it take for consolidation to work?

"You would have to look at the areas that could provide you with the greatest successes early, such as uniform zoning or planning or business licenses," he says. "On the court side, say you get a speeding ticket on the north side of Sahara, then you go to city court. If you get one on Lake Mead in North Las Vegas, you go to that court. You'd need to look at these types of things first. It would take an intensive amount of work and the precursor would have to be a mutual understanding of goals."

• • •

Weekly: There's already a lot of regional overlay—Regional Transportation Commission, Southern Nevada Regional Planning Coalition, Regional Flood Control District ...

Goodman: Some work and some don't.

Weekly: Which ones don't? Isn't the best way to approach consolidation from a regional standpoint?

Goodman: The Regional Planning Coalition ... and I was the chair ... It's a microcosm of the real world. Those people who don't want it certainly aren't going to press an agenda to accomplish it. I brought that up three or four times since I was the mayor and, I'm not going to mention any names, but I was hissed down by members who don't even want to talk about it. I wanted to make it an regional item, the same way we talk about homelessness, but they booed and they hissed.

Weekly: Can't you see where they are coming from? The regional approach seems to be working in many instances.

Goodman: Even with the RTC, there are breakdowns regionally. Henderson doesn't want to have the light rail go through their area. We want the light rail here. Certainly there are areas of interlocal memoranda, and it's very important for us to work together, but to me, that's just a Band-Aid for the greater issue to be one government.

Weekly: The move to one government would have to come from state legislative mandate or voter initiative. Are there state lawmakers on board?

Goodman: Nope. Nobody. Right now, I'm not even talking about it.

Weekly: But you're the mouthpiece.

Goodman: I'm the mouthpiece, but I can't advocate it. It has to come from the private sector. They (lawmakers) realize that it's politically unpopular because, when it happens, some people aren't going to have their jobs.

Weekly: When you talk about consolidation and people see it in the papers, I'm not sure people realize how tough the task is. They might think that if Oscar says it, we can do it. But it's a lot harder than that.

Goodman: Anything worthwhile is hard to accomplish. Look at the aggravation I have to have over the academic medical center. Here is something inherently a priority, good, and yet the private sector had the opportunity for years before I got to be the mayor to set it up themselves if they wanted to. As soon as I start talking about the idea, you're right, it's very difficult to get it on. Everybody says that if Oscar says it, it's so. Well, it ain't so because there are other people who are jumping into this. Bottom line is, is this (academic medical center) the best thing for the community? Absolutely. Does it have to be in the 61 acres? Probably not. Would I like it to be there? Absolutely. Does the community need it? We're the largest community in North America that doesn't have one. It's that simple.

Weekly: You've made the argument about the academic medical center many times. What about the same argument for consolidation?

Goodman: Different issue. The community benefits from the academic medical center. I'm not going to make any money from it. I'm not going to have a statue built in the middle of the square lauding me for it. Whereas, consolidation, they think that anybody pushing it has reason to do, in order to gain an additional power base.

Weekly: Couldn't you say, 'I'm term-limited out and I have to run for County Commission or some higher office' and argue the point of why it's better, why we need it, why everyone would benefit from it?'

Goodman: (Smiles) I could. But I had to learn from my friends. I go the Conference of Mayors and I'm on the advisory committee and certain of the mayors who have gone through the consolidation experience say the politician better not lead the way.

• • •

After the 1975 flood at Caesars Palace and floods in early '80s, local officials pressed the legislature to create the Regional Flood Control District in 1983. Three years later, voters approved a one-quarter-of-one percent sales tax to fund the entity, which monitors water projects that bisect Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Clark County, Henderson, Boulder City and Mesquite.

RFCD General Manager Gale Fraser says the regional approach is working great.

"Prior to this, we had a more piecemeal approach. Now we have uniformity and conformity."

RFCD's board is comprised of eight elected officials (two from the city, two from the county, one from the other entities). He declined to comment on consolidation's overall impact, but said it might not be as effective as what's in place now.

"Floodwaters don't recognize corporate boundaries," he says.

Consolidation—Been There, Dissected That

Back in the '90s, after talking with scores of people, political consultant Dan Hart figured that consolidation was an impossible dream. Too combustible politically. County support was contingent on the city disappearing. City backing hinged on keeping the position of mayor. Besides, politicians have already shown a propensity to work together.

"There's a level of frustration he (Goodman) experiences, I'm sure, because there are so many layers of bureaucracy and a lot of things that affect his constituents, he has no control over," Hart says. "A lot of people who expect to vote for Oscar Goodman for mayor and they don't see him on the ballot."

From 1993-1995, political consultant Terry Murphy served on a consolidation committee that said merging services, not governments, was the way to go.

"If you look at LA County or San Diego County, there are smaller municipalities within those counties, and they work just fine," Murphy says.

Signed in the '80s, Murphy says, "peace in the Valley agreements" laid the groundwork for municipal cooperation, leading to first-responder agreements between entities like fire departments. "So there's not going to be a situation where they say you're in the city of Las Vegas, I'm not going to come to you."

All local governments engage in joint purchasing activities, she says, and the city of Las Vegas provides a pro bono law project to everyone in Southern Nevada, including in Boulder City.

But isn't having, say, four or five different public works directors redundant?

"Issues are different on the Strip versus Summerlin," Murphy says. "For example, Henderson voters have voted for certain tax levels so that their parks systems are superior. The county and city had parks bond issues in 1992 or 1993 and they were voted down. People like having a say in how their government is run."

Voters aren't the only ones who'd fight to keep power. Remember, consolidation would put some politicians out of jobs. For all his talk, Murphy says, Oscar Goodman could easily turn the keys, flip the ignition and start the drive toward consolidation: "The easiest way to accomplish this is to have the city relinquish its charter."

• • •

Weekly: Experts say it's too late for consolidation. The Valley is too big and it's not going to happen.

Goodman: There was a time when the City Council had the opportunity to extend the sewer from Sahara to Tropicana. Had they done that, that (the Strip) would have been the city of Las Vegas. They made a decision not to do it; they didn't want to spend the $250,000. Now, wasn't that the wrong decision the way everything turned out? Is consolidation the most important thing on my plate? No ... Particularly, in light of what has happened down in San Diego, before all the problems with their elected officials, there was a ballot question of whether or not there should be a strong-mayor form of government down there. The people voted for it. They don't have a mayor, but they have a strong-mayor form of government. Wouldn't it be great to be a strong mayor?

(The motor's motoring now).

... I'll give you an example. I think it'd be very attractive ... remember Tom Weisner? Well, Tom was going to help me with this before he passed away. He was a person who was very well-respected in the community. Opposite political party than mine. Very close to people on the Strip. Former county commissioner. He was saying that the biggest selling point with the folks on the Strip, the casinos on the Strip, was that the county charges a percentage of the slot drop and the city charges a fixed fee per machine. If the casinos recognize the monetary difference between the two areas, they would probably get right on the bandwagon and start cheering for consolidation.

Weekly: You don't think they already know this?

Goodman: These are things that aren't necessarily talked about. There are very few casino (companies) that have properties in the county and the city.

Weekly: What about what Guy Hobbs says about a mutual understanding goals being a prerequisite for consolidation?

Goodman: Not necessarily. You can do it step by step. If North Las Vegas and Las Vegas wanted to do it first, fine. Look at the advantages: Las Vegas is landlocked. Las Vegas has wonderful cultural centers, wonderful residential communities. North Las Vegas has terrific industrial space. I think it'd be a natural marriage to make a metropolis out of those two entities without even talking to the county first. I don't think it has to be buy-in from everybody. The two cities merge, become a greater political force and then go talk to the county and Henderson and see if they want to join us.

Weekly: But voters are territorial.

Goodman: As well they should be. Within this megalopolis, there would be entities where you can have pride in your neighborhood.

Weekly: Like you said, a lot of people see you as the mayor of Las Vegas, not realizing there are certain issues you have no control over, like schools.

Goodman: With consolidation, you have a much better chance of having control. I tell you what the trend is around America—that mayors are taking over their school districts because they don't like how the school districts are run. If that's an issue, I'd have opposition from the school district.

Weekly: Handicap the chances of consolidation? 20 years?

Goodman: No. If the private sector gets behind it, a lot sooner.

Weekly: Terry Murphy says the easiest way to spur consolidation is to give up the city charter. Would you do it?

Goodman: I would consider doing it, but I certainly wouldn't ask my colleagues to do it.

Weekly: And you'd run for office in this new entity?

Goodman: I'd like to be the mayor of the city and county of Las Vegas.

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