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Archive for January 10th, 2011

10
Jan

Wall Street Journal on Suttle recall

The Wall Street Journal weighs in on the proliferation of recalls nationwide, focusing on the one up north, in Omaha.
WSJ theorizes that Jim Suttle’s misfortunes are more a part of Obama-backlash. But I think this sentence in their story might be more relevant:

During his campaign, Mr. Suttle pledged to hold the line on taxes. Then sales-tax revenues crashed just before he took office, leaving the city facing a $10 million budget shortfall.

In response, Mr. Suttle cut the budget by $7 million, then pushed through two real-estate taxes, a commuter tax and a restaurant tax that generate about $37 million a year (a roughly 5% bump to the city’s $662 million annual budget). For the owner of a median-price home of $133,000 in Omaha, the real-estate taxes cost $90 a year.

About $13 million in the additional tax revenue has been used to pay down the $850 million in unfunded pension obligations, said Pam Spaccarotella, the city’s finance director.

Lincoln’s mayor has also presided over increases in the telecommunications tax and bar and restaurant taxes — but voters approved the bar and restaurant tax to pay for about half of the arena project, and the telecom tax went largely unnoticed by the Average Joe.

However, next year, if Beutler is re-elected, I think it’s unlikely he’ll avoid raising property taxes to fund the next budget. Parks Director Lynn Johnson recently told the parks advisory board that the city used about $4 million in one-time money to balance this year’s budget, and in order to balance the next budget are to find more revenue (most likely by increasing property taxes) or significantly reduce city services and continue reorganizations.

10
Jan

Did you get one of those Snow Calls last night?

I did. It was just after 10 o’clock and we were already all getting ready for bed when the phone rang and I didn’t have any cordless phones upstairs so I ran downstairs to see who would be calling at 10 p.m. — which really isn’t that late but it was late enough for us to already be settling in for the night and late enough for me to assume it’s an emergency or something — and when I got there the answering machine had picked up and…

It was the city.

Or the county emergency center, to be more precise, calling to tell me the mayor declared a snow emergency, effective at 4 p.m. That parking was banned on snow routes, bus routes and other arterials. And where to find a map of those routes. And that the city had 19 crews out spreading salt. And that a full-fledged operation would begin tonight… and then he got cut off by my machine.

I thought it was kind of late to be calling to tell me what I could see by looking out the window — that it was really snowing and I should probably get my car off the street (which I already had). But apparently, my phone call was early, compared to others.
According to the paper, some people got phone calls all through the night, from midnight to 5 a.m. Now THAT would make me mad.

According to LJS, this was the first time the automated phone system called FirstCall had been used to notify Lincoln and Lancaster County people (with land lines) of a snow emergency. It should be able to quickly notify the more than 50,000 people on its list, but something went wrong. (One has to wonder how effective the system is, given the number of people who no longer have land lines.)

One guy I talked to today got a call around 3 a.m., and made the tongue-in-cheek comment: “I thought the mayor was running unopposed?” In other words, he took the call as more of a Robocall to let people know the city is on top of this snowstorm.

And the city is very, very sorry.

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