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Chairman Jim of the People’s Republic of Omaha 11 July 2009

Posted by The Inimitable M in One-offs.
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Mayor Jim Suttle says the City of Omaha faces bankruptcy if taxes aren’t raised or more taxes aren’t instituted.  On more than one occasion, he has painted a dire picture of the future of the city.

In the process, he has added heavily to the strain on the city’s coffers himself, and at the same time, put a considerable strain on city services. 

His spokesman is paid, at his designation, $71,000, which is 22% higer than the previous mayor’s spokesman.

His chief of staff is paid, at his designation, $125,000, which is 36% higher than the previous mayor’s chief of staff.

Now, this isn’t technically a raise, because neither of these two men were employed in those positions with the previous mayor.  Suttle is adamant about that.  He said he decided to pay them what he felt they were worth.  This is all well and good, but if your campaign promise was to balance the budget, one would think you would consider the budget before effectively raising the salaries for the positions. 

Maybe it isn’t a raise.  It is, however, a bigger cheque coming out of the city treasurer’s office for each of them, and a bigger strain on the budget than necessary. 

Of course, after designating such a salary for each of them, he has since asked all staff members to consider refraining from taking a salary increase this year.

Well….let’s think about that.  If these weren’t raises, then that request doesn’t apply to them, now, does it?

Then there’s the issue of the pretty red hybrid SUV he leased for his “mayoral duties”.  Well, he said, it was his way of “going green”.  Sure.  At an expense of $60,000 to the taxpayers.  Thankfully, the city council is about to come down on him for that.  Multi-year contracts of any kind must be approved by them.  He didn’t do that.  He has yet to say, “Gee, I didn’t know that,” but I’m just waiting for it.

This is touchy for me – spending that much on the lease for a 2009 Dodge Durango SUV hybrid, particularly when I know the lease on a 2009 Mercury Milan is about half of what the city is paying for that SUV, with an even higher mpg.  To add to this, there’s not a darn thing wrong with a vehicle that might be a year or two older. 

To add insult to injury, he cut $500,000 from the Omaha Convention and Tourism Bureau.  He raised city parking rates from $6.00 an hour to $8.00.  He has announced that an entertainment tax, which will reflect in taxpayers’ use of any entertainment resources within city limits (including the museums, park facilities, theatres, arenas, ball parks), will be instituted (something he can’t do without city council approval), and he is seriously considering an employee privilege occupation tax on anyone from anywhere who works in the city* (also something he can’t do without city council approval).

Suttle doesn’t get it.

The mayor of Nebraska’s capital city (Lincoln), the Honourable Chris Beutler, doesn’t drive a new vehicle, costing the taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.  In fact, he drives his own vehicle and doesn’t charge the city travel expenses to perform his mayoral duties.  To the best of my knowledge there is no consideration underway to institute either an entertainment tax or an employee privilege occupation tax.  Monies were not cut from the Lincoln Convention and Tourism Bureau.  Parking rates were not raised, period.  His staff’s salaries have not increased 22%-33%.  There’s nothing in his proposed 2009-2010 budget to reflect anything but a level head.

I have a sneaking suspicion that if Mayor Beutler was transplanted into Suttle’s position in a larger city, the outcome would be far different.

I think a recall is in order.

Before anyone comes down on me for my criticism because I don’t live in Omaha, save your breath.  I used to live there.  I breathe a sigh of relief that I’m not living there, especially now.

I’m also, with the pending occupation tax, breathing a sigh of relief that I will no longer be working there at the end of this month.

Suggested stellar blog sites dealing with Omaha issues:

WeirdHarold.com
LeavenworthStreet.blogspot.com

*Separate blog about the Employee Privilege Occupation Tax is forthcoming.

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