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November 27, 2014

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Goodman hoping Obama will call today to apologize

Mayor says he won’t attend president’s visit unless he’s assured Obama will ‘rectify the situation’

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Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman is hoping he'll get a call today from the White House, telling him President Obama intends to apologize for what he said about people not spending money in the city.

But until then, Goodman won't accept invitations on behalf of the city or the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority to meet with Obama tonight and Friday during the president's visit to the city.

"If he calls me and he indicates that he's going to rectify the situation and — I put my own term on it and say with a smile on my face — and buys me a martini, I would certainly honor that request. But I haven't heard from anybody along those lines," Goodman told reporters during a press conference today at Las Vegas City Council Chambers.

The mayor, who said he is not trying to be arrogant, has demanded an apology on behalf of the city from the president since Feb. 2, when Obama told a New Hampshire audience, "You don't blow a bunch of cash on Vegas when you're trying to save for college. You prioritize. You make tough choices. It's time your government did the same."

Goodman, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Gov. Jim Gibbons all criticized Obama for the remark. And later that same day, Obama sent Reid a note saying he meant no ill will toward the city: "There is no place better to have fun than Vegas, one of our country's great destinations."

But Goodman has called that note a "non-response" and wants something stronger.

"I would like him to say that he made a mistake, that he realizes that Las Vegas is in very difficult times and to make a reference to that community in a negative fashion that in any respect would cause it pain, and that he's sorry that he caused us pain. Something along that line," Goodman said.

The mayor said he won't attend Obama's speech to the LVCVA Friday, even though not attending conflicts with his hospitality role as the LVCVA chairman and the city's top ambassador.

"He has not done the right thing by my city," Goodman said. "I wear two hats. But I love Las Vegas.

"We're in a very difficult economic time. A lot of people don't have jobs. A lot of people are losing their homes. A lot of people can't feed their kids. And to allow a remark to take place has cast an aspersion upon us that, in my opinion, was inappropriate. We're owed a straightening out of the record. And if I don't get that I don't care if I'm the chairman of the convention authority or not, I'm not going to approve of that kind of statement. It has to be straightened out."

Goodman was successful a year ago about getting the president to backtrack somewhat on a remark he made about Las Vegas.

On Feb. 9, 2009, at a town hall meeting in Elkhart, Ind., Obama said executives of failing financial institutions should use federal bailout money responsibly and that “you can’t go take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayer’s dime.”

Goodman said after he had been critical about the remarks a year ago, people on the White House staff, including Chief of State Rahm Emmanuel, had called him to let him know that the President would rectify those remarks.

Obama did so on a visit to Las Vegas at the end of May, where he said "There's nothing like a quick trip to Vegas in the middle of the week."

Asked if he had evidence if Obama's 2009 remarks had actually hurt the city's economy, Goodman explained he has never claimed that.

"I'm not saying that 341 meetings and conventions were canceled as a result of the president's statement, but I will tell you he's a little bit like E.F. Hutton: People listen when he talks," Goodman said.

Goodman said he couldn't figure out why Obama made negative remarks a second time about Las Vegas.

"I think he has some psychological hangup about Las Vegas," the mayor said. "This was not an accident the second time. The first time I think it was something off the top of his head because he went off the teleprompters. The second time, this was in his written speech. And that's unacceptable."

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