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September 23, 2014

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At breakfast focused on prayer, Goodman finds ways to amuse

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Sam Morris

Swami Ramananda assists Julio Franco with a candle lighting at the mayors prayer breakfast, sponsored by the Interfaith Council of Southern Nevada. Proceeds from the event benefit Camp Anytown, which provides leadership training.

The Interfaith Council of Southern Nevada’s mayors prayer breakfast is billed as an occasion to celebrate diversity and unity and, of course, prayer. But for Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, any public gathering — no matter how lofty or reverent the purpose — is a platform for his trademark shtick.

Goodman hammed it up at the Nov. 18 event, talking about being the happiest mayor and getting escorted around town by showgirls. He joked to the Shadow Ridge High School student who introduced him that she could “stay here and be my showgirl.”

The student turned to the crowd and gave a brief showgirl pose before walking off the stage.

“She taught us a lesson, didn’t she?” Goodman said.

About 700 people attended the breakfast at Texas Station, including 340 students from 43 area schools.

Several other notables sat on the dais with Goodman, including Henderson Mayor Andy Hafen, Clark County Commission Chairman Rory Reid, Commissioner Larry Brown, North Las Vegas Mayor Pro Tem William Robinson and Boulder City Mayor Roger Tobler.

The breakfast was founded more than 40 years ago after Las Vegas Mayor Oran Gragson attended one of the first presidential prayer breakfasts, which was hosted by President Dwight Eisenhower. The proceeds of the local event benefit the council’s Camp Anytown, which provides leadership and diversity training.

Being about prayer, the event included appeals from local Christian, Jewish and Muslim clerics. Some obliquely noted the tough economic times people and their elected leaders are facing.

“In this time of challenge, we pray not for a lighter load, but for a stronger back,” said Rabbi Yocheved Mintz of the Valley Outreach Synagogue.

Among the politicians, several chose prayers with classic themes.

“May our efforts leave a long and lasting heritage for those yet to come,” Robinson said.

“Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope,” Hafen recited.

“May all in this world be happy, healthy and free from misery,” Reid said. “O Lord, give us what is best for us whether we ask for it or not.”

Goodman’s prayer was less conventional. It was written for him by the Rev. Tommy Starkes, the longtime UNLV and Las Vegas Strip chaplain:

“Today we give thanks for: alligators and aardvarks; bingo and butterflies; crocodiles and caterpillars; dealers and dog shows ...”

The breakfast was followed by a question and answer period. Students lined up for the chance to grill the politicians.

About half the questions focused on education, including its chronic lack of funding. The officials responded that they had no control over education funding — that is a state function.

Goodman again couldn’t help himself. Asked what the city was doing to combat gang violence, he responded: “We’re not going to do anything about gang violence.”

After a brief moment filled with modest laughter and a couple small gasps, he said, “No, just kidding.”

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