INTRO: Mayor Oscar Goodman is often praised for his charisma in promoting the city. Recently however some of his activities in doing so have come under scrutiny by the Nevada State Commission on Ethics, prompting media inquiries that have seriously angered the mayor. KNPR's Ky Plaskon reports on the mayor's love-hate relationship with the media.
PLASKON: The mayor prides himself in being accessible to the public at monthly events like this Coffee with the Mayor. One was held this morning. But Mayor Oscar Goodman also really loves attention from the media.
GOODMAN: We have a 40 year love affair.
PLASKON: But he loves the right kind of attention from the media. Review Journal Political Reporter Erin Neff has followed the mayor since he first came to office. She remembers in 1999 when a New York writer labeled him as a: Mob mayor.
NEFF: He hated it, because she called him a mob attorney who was living in the mayors office and he hated it and he trashed her and said she was useless."
PLASKON: But now he's changed his tune about that label and feels it benefits him and the city.
GOODMAN: I use my quote mob mayor end quote person. I market Las Vegas that way
PLASKON: There is only so much good the mayor can draw from negative press however. As critical articles have seeped into the local media, the Mayor's temper has surfaced too. Neff remembers seeing the Mayor after another reporter walked out.
NEFF: He was furious, I don't know what kind of interview the other reporter was conducting, but the mayor was saying things like, I wish I could throw him out of the roof of city hall. I hate that little sh . . t like that. I have seen him really blow up. He has quite a temper.
GOODMAN: Ya, I have a very bad temper. My wife says that I am like a fish, if I open my mouth I will get caught and when I loose my temper I say things when I think about on refelction perhaps I should not have said and perhaps not in the tone that I said them. That is a weakness, I am working on it.
PLASKON: Las Vegas Sun Columnist John Ralston is a witness to the mayor's anger.
RALSTON: He is incredibly thin skinned. Listen: All politicians have egos, but he has the most titanic ego by a factor of anybody I have covered in the 18 years I have covered politics and he is fine with being coddled by the media, but you look at any situation where he is challenged and his back stiffens, or he gets angry or he is snide and he calls people names. He has the largest ego and thinnest skin of anyone I have ever covered.
PLASKON: For example, at a press conference last year he bristled when questioned about assisting his son as a defense attorney in a federal criminal investigation into corruption of local politicians.
GOODMAN: It think it is a stupid newspaper.
PLASKON: When faced with questions yesterday about ethics charges he used his office to benefit his son, the mayor called reporters who did not raise their hands - babies. Faced with Ethics charges and tough questions, Neff says the mayor has started picking and choosing the messengers.
NEFF: One very interesting thing the mayor is doing right now is that he is doing a lot of television interviews. But he is going on television and talking about them it is almost like it is where he is perceived in the public and where he can get a better shape."
PLASKON: But playing favorites isn't boding well. Yesterday the mayor, notoriously known for straight answers on just about anything, told print reporter's he wouldn't answer questions about State Commission on Ethics charges against him even though he had hours earlier given an interview to a TV station on the subject.
PRESS CONFERENCE SOUND
PLASKON: After the conference, Goodman explained his strategy.
GOODMAN: I have been interviewed by channel 8, I have been interviewed at my breakfast table because they act like ladies and gentlemen and then this morning I was on Fox 5 and they came and we sat in my librarie and there is just a certain group that ask questions that I feel are unfair and I am not going to fuel the flame.
PLASKON: UNLV professor of Ethics, Craig Walton has a different take on the way politicians who are faced with ethics charges see reporters.
WALTON: It's almost as if the press were sort of spying.
PLASKON: Nonetheless, reporters and columnists like Ralston continued to ask tough questions about ethics at yesterday's press conference, signaling that the charismatic Goodman's 5- honeymoon with the media is on the rocks.
RALSTON: I think there are a few people who he had fooled who are not fooled anymore and are going to be more aggressive about him but he is so good, he is such a good actor that I think he still may be able to maintain a lot of it. The whole image of the happy mayor is gone. In the sense that there are some who say he is being unfairly attacked but there are others who are saying, who is this guy?
PLASKON: Goodman still calls his relationship with the media excellent and he is still putting on a happy face. Yesterday he gave this KNPR reporter a fake casino chip with his picture on it and the phrase, The Happiest Mayor.
Ky Plaskon, News 88-9, KNPR
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