For years, I've had an Oscar Goodman bobblehead doll on my desk.
Goodman is the mayor of Las Vegas, where I lived before I moved to Tucson. Like Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup, Goodman is in his third term as mayor after taking office in 1999.
There, the substantial similarities between Goodman and Walkup end.
Goodman is, to put it bluntly, kind of nuts. He's proud of his former career as a mob lawyer; he's an unabashed drinker (who once famously extolled gin's virtues to a bunch of fourth-graders); and he's about as politically incorrect as a politician can get. His views on homelessness are somewhere between insensitive and appalling.
However, Goodman is a popular, effective leader.
Since he's become mayor, downtown Las Vegas has benefited from a lot of development: new shopping, business and residential endeavors have all come to fruition under Goodman's leadership. (Much of what is considered Las Vegas is actually in unincorporated Clark County, so Goodman's jurisdiction only goes so far.)
That's not to say all of Goodman's efforts have been successful. Most notably, his push to bring a big-league sports franchise to Las Vegas has been a miserable failure.
But the point is that Goodman leads. He speaks out. He fights for things to happen.
Let's turn back to Tucson: When was the last time you heard Bob Walkup—or any city official, for that matter—really speak out or fight for something to happen here?
Tucson's problems can, in part, be attributed to this total lack of leadership. We have no spokesman for the city. We have no fighters. And as last week's split City Council decision to fire City Manager Mike Hein shows, we're going nowhere fast.
Looking at the bobblehead doll, I can't help but wonder what Tucson would be like if it had a strong leader like Goodman. I suspect that the Old Pueblo would be in much better shape if we did.