Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Omaha Recall: Can the Mayor Save Himself?

Apparently Mayor Suttle is squeezing in the state of the city address Friday to try to stem the rising tide of recall. After the fiver-for-your-vote homeless busing program, it might be impossible, but here's what I would recommend:

Citizens, I hear you and I get it. I will not raise taxes in future budgets. I will undo the tax increases enacted since I took office.

That means back to basics: police, fire, and public works. Nothing else. We'll have to recruit private donors to step in to fund libraries and other services and programs traditionally provided by the city, but I will not reach deeper into your pockets to pay for mistakes made by previous mayors and city councils.

More importantly, I will get us out of the rut we are in. But I will need your help.

As long as state law requires the city and public sector unions to take their disputes to the state Commission on Industrial Relations, we will never get out of this rut. As long as the city charter requires the city to provide employee pensions, we will never get out of this rut.

I will use the bully pulpit of the Omaha mayor's office to lobby the Nebraska Legislature to abolish the CIR or grant an exemption for Omaha. However, that won't be enough. I will need all of you to contact your state senators and demand this change. My words will mean little unless backed by the voices of the constituents who vote for those senators.

I will use the bully pulpit of the Omaha mayor's office to push for the necessary change in the city charter to make city employees responsible for their own retirement. Again, though, that won't be enough. I will need all of you to contact your city council members and demand this change. My words will mean little unless backed by the voices of the constituents who vote for council members.

And then I will need you to vote for the change in the city charter when it appears on the ballot.

If you are serious about changing the status quo and getting out of the rut that perpetuates the pressure for tax hikes, I am prepared to work with you to restore common sense to Omaha fiscal policy.

If we have not accomplished these goals in two years, or at least made substantial progress toward accomplishing them, then you'll have a regularly scheduled chance to replace me. But let's not waste precious time now by depriving the city of the stable leadership needed to start working on these goals.

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The biggest problem the mayor faces is that he is a creature of the status quo. I can't imagine that he would make the statement above.

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