RECORDING: "Honored Guests welcome to the state of the city"
PLASKON: A tour through history opened the evening, briefly taking the audience through the 75 years prior to the May 15, 1905 land auction that was the official start date of the city. It went on to the finishing of the Hoover Dam in 1935, acquiring of the land for the Nellis Air Force Base in 1941 and then the start of modern convention history in the 50's. The site of the speech, Freemont Street, was a lesson in and of itself, where the city's first paved road and stop light were bourn. Like so many Las Vegans, Mayor Oscar Goodman remembered driving into the valley and his wife being shocked by the sight of a tumbleweed crossing their path.
GOODMAN: And my wife said, where have you brought me? And I answered very simply to the land of milk and honey.
PLASKON: And he was right he said, it was the land of milk and honey for the mob attorney as long as he didn't look at his surroundings too closely.
GOODMAN: It was funny for 35 years I was practicing law and everything looked fine. And then the day I was elected mayor I took the same walk down to city hall and everything looked different, I saw buildings that I hadn't seen before. I saw boards on windows, I saw for sale signs I saw lawyers that were moving out of offices and I felt a sense of deadness, there was nothing happening there was no vitality. And I have often said that downtown represents the future of the community and like an apple if it's core begins to rot then the bushel and it has a reverberating effect throughout the entire community and I wanted to make sure that that did not happen during my watch.
PLASKON: Goodman went on to list the revitalization efforts in downtown. An 8.5 million square foot furniture store, the Southern Nevada Water Authority building - a 75 million dollar environmentally sound green building - one of only 200 in the US and the first of it's kind in Nevada. As the city has evolved, he admits that he has changed slightly too, welcoming a new IRS office building downtown that will be opening next month.
GOODMAN: As I have often said, they are no favorite of mine but I will take them because we will be able to tax them.
PLASKON: He credited an arts district for enriching the core of the city that was rotting.
GOODMAN: I don't want to hear that Las Vegas doesn't have culture or that the people in Las Vegas aren't interested in quality of life that has refinement because single handedly there is a woman who she had a vision where people thirsted main and Charleston she had a vision that people thirsted for an environment where they could come down and relate with one another and to participate in the community project. On the first Friday about 30 people came and on the last Friday before the rain about 7-thousand people came. And I would like to thank her Cindy Funkhouser please stand."
PLASKON: Goodman also announced that Don Snider of the Boyd Corporation would make the first 1-million dollar contribution to a performing arts center downtown.
PLASKON: He started to go hoarse after 20 minutes of selling the city to the largely converted audience. He had said downtown is a very safe place, listed all the events from first Friday to the centennial, to the immanent return of Elvis and more seriously a unique PBS documentary on Las Vegas, also a movie celebration called Cine Vegas. In the end he said all he wanted was for Las Vegans to make a change too and be proud.
GOODMAN: I am hoping at the end of the day when the people of Las Vegas and they are asked where are you from that they don't say Philli or New York or Los Angeles, when they see that we have a rich history, at the end of the day they say that they are Las Vegans."
PLASKON: And that may be the biggest challenge of all. While there are lots of new projects, the throngs of Las Vegans with dispensable income he wants to converge in the core of downtown haven't materialized. Earlier in the day, before his speech he had a visitor in his office. Ben Ardito, the owner of Take One Night Club and Benedetos Italian restaurant, the first and only business to brave downtown's new entertainment district, had been complaining that money is pouring out of his pockets to stay in business.
ARDITO: It is not the city that is not doing it, it is that the people are still afraid. And we put ads in the paper and I know what is happening, people are looking at it and saying ooo look, oh it is downtown and then they shut it. And I don't know how we can get them to know that it is safe now, we just don't know what else to do.
PLASKON: The mayor did what he could by plugging Take One in his speech and he sold an even bigger investment that he says will really draw Las Vegan's to downtown - sports. Among planned development he is fighting for is a baseball park. One of his hopes is that Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson will succeed in bringing a team to Las Vegas. In that case he said the city would become the envy of the nation as the first home to an African American-owned baseball team. That idea does make at least one Las Vegan proud of being a Las Vegan, City Planning Commissioner Byron A. Goynes.
GOYNES: I think that was sensational. I think that throughout the nation there are cities that would revel to have a first product of that magnitude of major baseball that an African American owns a franchise. I think that is paramount with civil rights and just bringing neighborhoods together to work.
PLASKON: The mayor said the city is still in negotiations on development of 61 acres downtown that could be the site of a ballpark for such a team. Goodman expects to reveal a deal with developer The Related Companies on that land in two months and groundbreaking on the project to start in August.
Ky Plaskon, News 88-9 KNPR
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