Here's an interesting curveball.
[...I]n the case of Chris Giunchigliani, what "career politician" really means is that she's spent two decades mastering the workings of the two largest non-fed governments in Nevada. She's racked up an enviable record of tangible achievement: creating the bond legislation that helped build more than 100 new schools without a property-tax hike; securing the funding for the Smith Center for the Performing Arts, one of the high points of Oscar Goodman's mayoralty; earning a solid reputation for supporting education (she spent years as a teacher).
So she's got skills. Enough that one of her constituents mounted a vote-for-Goodman campaign so as to keep Giunchigliani at the county.
Hers is the sort of hard-won expertise Las Vegas needs at this time. Some economists and politicians believe a recovery is under way; yet, as this endorsement is being composed, a worried headline tells us that housing prices have dropped to where they were in 1999, the year Goodman was elected. These, then, are enormously complicated times, and the city needs a leader -- however symbolic that leadership sometimes is -- who can expertly squeeze every bit of efficacy out of government.
And she is a leader. If she doesn't have Oscar-grade charisma, she does have a forceful presence. Some say she's abrasive; we say she doesn't suffer fools gladly. She'll call out staffers who don't do their jobs, yes -- but that's why we elect strong-willed people, to ensure that our representatives run the government, not the bureaucracy. Plus, she's fearless: As a commissioner she stood up to Republic Services and other big players without regard to the political consequences.
Wow. CityLife did what the other papers were too afraid to do. Instead of making "the safe pick", they actually endorsed who they believe is the best candidate.
So are Las Vegas voters doing the same? The LA Times actually noticed Las Vegas is having this election.
So Las Vegas barely bristled when Oscar ran his mouth about wanting to cart the homeless to an abandoned prison, open legal brothels in downtown Las Vegas and cut off the thumbs of graffiti taggers (none of which came to fruition). A grade-schooler once asked what he'd want if stranded on a deserted island. His answer: gin.
"Goodman is so prone to making outrageous and offensive comments, it is hard to be shocked by him anymore," a Las Vegas Sun editorial said in 2005. Two years later, he won his third four-year term with more than 80% of the vote.
Oscar's backers view him as a symbol of their devil-may-care city, which he defends with as much zeal as he once did reputed Mafiosos. They applaud him for railing against President Obama for saying bailout-funded executives shouldn't jet off to Las Vegas — though Oscar's fit probably drew more attention to the throwaway remark.
The Las Vegas mayor's role is mostly ceremonial. The mayor runs City Council meetings and can declare emergencies, but lacks veto power over the other six members of the council. Still, Oscar is credited with persuading nightclubs, art galleries and even a clinic devoted to brain health to open in still-scraggly downtown.
"When I go door to door, I find I'm running against a name ... people think it's Oscar they're supporting instead of Carolyn," said Giunchigliani, who's trying to push voters who normally blow off local elections to the polls. A former state lawmaker who bested more than a dozen contenders to face Carolyn Goodman in a runoff, she's been more focused on business licensing and urban planning than, for example, photographing a Playboy playmate (another Oscar stunt).
"He was flash and jazz more than substance," Giunchigliani said. "It worked then, but this is now."
And this is the problem that Las Vegas faces. I can say this because I travel to other "big cities" and talk to other "big city folk" who show looks of repulsion when I describe Las Vegas city government. It's really the 800 pound gorilla in the room that many here don't want to acknowledge.
So instead, we're seeing the unoriginal and pointless attack ads Carolyn Goodman is dumping onto our airwaves. Oh, and by the way, is this also Carolyn's awkward attempt to distance herself from Oscar? After all, he has espoused the exact same views on home rule, education funding, and state revenues that she's attacking Chris G for now.
It's sad to see Carolyn Goodman really has nothing else to run on. What is her plan for the city? Does she even have one? How will she create jobs? What will she do about the homeless downtown? What about revitalizing West Las Vegas? What about home foreclosures?
Oh wait, she actually does have a plan for that!
So how is Carolyn Goodman even earning votes? Poker chips? A celebrity endorsement or three? How does that really help Las Vegas?
Again, notice the contrast.
So what does Las Vegas need? And what do Las Vegas voters really want? I guess we'll know for sure next week.