Friday, Jan. 9, 2009 | 2 a.m.
Term limits be damned, Oscar Goodman wants to be Las Vegas mayor for life.
Goodman has asked Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley to review a 1996 attorney general opinion that outlines a potential path to exempt the mayor from the state’s 12-year term limits.
Goodman’s third and final four-year term under the constitution’s limits is set to expire in 2011.
With legislative approval, however, Goodman believes he could seek reelection in 2010 and continue to perform his current mayoral duties, including presiding over City Council meetings, except for voting on matters before the council.
Currently, the Las Vegas mayor is a voting member of the City Council, which sets policy executed by the city manager.
A new, seventh council member would be elected, Goodman said, so that council votes do not result in ties.
“He would definitely be OK with giving up his voting power,” said Goodman’s political consultant, Jim Ferrence, of the mayor’s plan to keep his job. “He’ll always have the bully pulpit.”
Term limits, passed by voters in 1994 and 1996, set a maximum of 12 years in office for state legislators and members of local “governing bodies.”
The 1996 attorney general opinion states: If “the mayor’s main function is to be an administrator for the city, and the mayor does not exercise legislative power as a member of the city council, then the mayor would not be subject to term limits.”
Such a reading of state law exempts county clerks, sheriffs and district attorneys from term limits.
To change the Las Vegas mayor’s position, the state Legislature would have to revise the city’s charter, said Legislative Counsel Bureau director Lorne Malkowich.
Buckley, in an interview, said she hasn’t examined the legality of changing the mayor’s job, but “I think it would be a difficult road.”
“I’ll tell you what I told the mayor: I think he would be much better served running for lieutenant governor,” Buckley said.
That position’s primary function is to promote the state and attract businesses to Nevada, Buckley noted. “I told him he should spread his wings.”
Goodman said he first broached the idea with Buckley during an informal sit down with the speaker about four months ago. He said he asked her whether she knew of the attorney general opinion and showed her a copy.
Goodman also recounted Buckley’s suggestion that he run for lieutenant governor — “and I said to her, ‘I’d love to be the mayor.’ ”
Goodman and Buckley, both Democrats, have expressed interest in running for governor in 2010.
Goodman insisted he did not ask for Buckley’s assistance with the term limits issue in return for his not running for governor.
“There’s no quid pro quo here, that’s for sure, and I want to emphasize that. No backroom discussions, just two friends talking to each other,” Goodman said. “The bottom line is there is nothing nefarious, there is nothing except the expression of good friendship.”
Goodman has said he commissioned a poll to test his chances of running for governor. He has not released the results.
Goodman said he was intrigued by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who recently persuaded the council there to extend the term limits law to allow him to run next year for a third term.
Goodman said his decision would hang largely on the state of the economy.
“A lot of it depends on the economy coming back. If it comes back and I see projects that we’ve been talking about being started and placed in the ground, then I’ll be satisfied that I’ve done what I set out to do,” he said.
If the economy is still stalled, however, Goodman said: “I would seriously consider trying to stay on.”
The two councilmen who appear to be the most interested in Goodman’s job, Steve Wolfson and Gary Reese, had different reactions to the mayor’s term limit tactics.
“I think that Oscar Goodman has been the best mayor Las Vegas has ever had,” Wolfson said. “Whether it’s as mayor or in some other position where he could continue what he does best — which is promote the city of Las Vegas — then that’s something we should consider.”
Wolfson declined to say how Goodman’s maneuvering, if it comes to pass, would affect his plans to run for mayor.
Reese said he voted against term limits, but now that they’re law, all — not just some — elected officials should have to live by them.
“I’ve always said, the voters voted on it twice, and I do what the voters want,” Reese said. “They voted on it for mayors and everyone else.”