Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sokol Saga

All of you College World Series fans visiting Omaha, please move along. Nothing to see here. Don't linger and gawk at our local squabble between the mayor and a civic leader. One of Omaha's charming qualities is that, no matter how big it gets, it's still at heart a small town.

For those of us who live here, there are significant questions that apparently will go unanswered.

Is David Sokol one of the citizens with an out-of-state residence for tax reasons? That's not a condemnation of Sokol. It's a commentary on Nebraska's unwillingness to address the fiscal situation that is driving new talent and seasoned wealth out of the state. I don't blame anyone for minimizing the local and state tax bite of Nebraska. And Sokol pours tons of his own money into this community, so the "shirking his civic financial responsibility" accusation has no legs.

The city said that, according to its agreement with MECA, a MECA board member must be a "resident elector of Douglas County," and that Sokol forfeited his position on the board by changing his voting residence to Wyoming. The MECA board and its legal counsel figuratively screamed back in news reports that MECA's bylaws do not require such voting status for a board member. The MECA board apparently was ready to sue the city to keep Sokol on the board and preserve MECA's quasi-autonomy.

What's the governing document, the agreement between the city and MECA, or the bylaws of MECA? By the way, do we not want anyone from Sarpy County or western Iowa to be eligible for the MECA board?

What's really going on? Why would Mayor Fahey set off such a stink bomb? The mayor's office seems to be saying that it was just the wheels of local government churning and producing a bureaucratic result -- informing a citizen that he no longer was qualified to serve on a civic board. That seems thin.

Was the mayor trying to score populist political points by picking another fight with a big shot rich guy? I'm not sure it's good for the mayor or the private philanthropic leaders when the story is that Sokol will remain on the MECA board because the private money tap was going to run dry if Sokol was bumped from the board.

The Omaha World-Herald endorsed Fahey over Hal Daub in 2001 in an editorial that praised Daub for his many accomplishments, but then said his style was unnecessarily contentious. (See: Mike Boyle, 1987.) That's worth remembering as we move toward the city elections of 2009.

1 comment:

OmaSteak said...

This whole Sokol debacle is pure Paul Landow who is legendary for being Fahey's political brain, enforcer and bagman. Mike thought he had gained new policitical stroke by concluding the deal with the NCAA and was trying to put another one of his supporters (or their daughter) on the MECA board at a time when there will be lots of "favors" to handout related to construction of the new downtown ballpark. Mike found out in a hurry he has no stroke and it was funny to watch Paul Kratz refuse to be thrown under the bus for Landow. If the city legal department is so concerned with enforcing the "letter of the law" when it comes to public officials, how about investigating all the times Mike slips out of town on his private jet from the CB airport for his place on Lake of the Ozarks without informing the head of the city council that he will be out of the city??? Who is really running city government in Omaha under Fahey? Everyone in the "know" knows it's Paul Landow who now should be removed from the city payroll for engineering this Sokol fiasco. On the upside, maybe this will allow Mike to become a fulltime Ozarks resident sooner than he planned.