Las Vegas Sun

December 19, 2014

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Jon Ralston:

Obama’s visit, a strange ballot and Goodmans galore

The president was here, the Republicans are coming, and an election already has begun — here’s your Friday Flash:

• POTUS visit, No. 1: I noticed that President Barack Obama, as he was in October, was met at McCarran International Airport by a receiving line of one: Mayor Carolyn Goodman.

I’m sure the president was thrilled to be greeted by the wife of the man who gobbled up national air time bludgeoning him for his much-overblown “don’t go to Vegas” comments and whose new eatery has a “No Bama” drink (ah, the wit!). But I am more interested in who wasn’t there — again.

Yes, the delegation folks were in Washington. But reports of past presidential visits refer to the multiple dignitaries who greeted the president on the tarmac. The White House insists only the governor, mayor and delegation members are traditionally invited, but two visits and a solitary greeter?

First, the Clark County Commission actually has jurisdiction over the airport and, unlike the city of Las Vegas, is run by a Democrat (Susan Brager) and also populated by Democrats. I understand the commissioners, both now and in October, felt snubbed. Goodman, as you may recall, switched from Democrat to nonpartisan when her husband — again — bamboozled the media into thinking he might run for governor.

It’s simple: If Democratic congressional candidates or other party luminaries wanted to be at the airport, they could have asked the White House, which surely would have granted permission. And for any of these cowering Democrats who think a picture might be damaging to their election prospects, they will be tied to the president nonetheless and should have collected the souvenir picture and lifetime experience.

• POTUS visit, No. 2: So, where was the governor? You may recall the ever-graceful and gracious Jim Gibbons snubbed the president because of those supposedly anti-Vegas remarks, showing he had as much class as former Mayor Oscar Goodman. Gov. Brian Sandoval didn’t show, either, and his spokeswoman says he had “a long-standing interview and commitments to work in the Carson-Reno area.”

You don’t get to bend the president’s ear very often, so I am flabbergasted that whatever “prior commitments” the governor had could not have been moved so he could welcome Obama to Nevada. But perhaps he couldn’t get a Southwest flight on Wednesday.

• POTUS visit, No. 3: Yes, timing can be everything in politics — and sometimes it’s bad. An hour and a half before the president alighted in Las Vegas to tout, among other things, alternative energy and tax incentives for manufacturing, the Sun posted a story about a North Las Vegas solar facility that received a tax break from the federal government and was ... laying off two-thirds of its work force.

The layoffs came only seven months after the governor, North Las Vegas Mayor Shari Buck and the delegation touted the solar plant, which received a $5.9 million investment tax credit through the stimulus law. Whoops.

Welcome to the valley, Mr. President. Luckily for Obama, his GOP antagonists, while quick to disgorge the usual boiler-plate bashing, neglected to try to undermine his visit with the news.

A metaphor for why the president still has the upper hand, at least in Nevada.

• This is how we do elections here? Nevada has, as do many states, an electioneering statute that prevents anyone from trying to influence a voter near a polling place. But Ward 6 voters who cast ballots in a Jan. 31 recall effort against Councilman Steve Ross — early voting started Thursday — will find sanctioned electioneering on their sample ballot: Find it here.

Election officials are noncommittal about the outrage, which the Ross campaign exploited to reprint its inflammatory “Byron Goynes is a puppet” campaign by attacking prime recall funder Joe Scalar, an upset car dealer.

It’s one thing when the pros and cons of an initiative are allowed in ballots. But to have campaign materials essentially sanctioned by the state and on display in the voting booth?

Really? Paging Nevada legislators.

• One happy family: One of the enduring pleasures of Nevada politics is I can still be surprised. So imagine my delight in learning Thursday that Ross Goodman, son of mayors, was telling people he would like to float his name for the appointment to the seat occupied by soon-to-be District Attorney Steve Wolfson. If only three other council members would find other jobs or do the right thing and resign, Oscar and Carolyn could have the whole family on the council. Anyone have a problem with that idea?

To make this complete, there also have been reports of the appointment going to Michael Mack, a Goodman family friend, “consultant” to Carolyn’s mayoral bid, former business partner with Ross and who left office after being lambasted by the state Ethics Commission.

Just too good to be true.

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