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26
Oct

City Council dutifully follows Beutler again

Lincoln City Council


Well, here we go again. The mayor comes up with a bright idea. One or two Republicans on the council point out the flaws in his plan. The four Democrats on the City Council dutifully fall in line with the mayor, and the plan passes.
I’m just wondering when some of the Dems on the council are going to start representing voters, rather than Beutler. The two newest council members — Jayne Snyder and Gene Carroll — are most vigilant about doing whatever the mayor says. No matter the issue, you can count on them to stand up and sing the praises of Beutler’s ideas.
The latest example is the council’s approval yesterday of a $6.4 million purchase of a building now owned by credit information giant Experian. The vote was 5-1, with all four Dems voting “yes” (of course), one Republican voting yes, one R voting no, and one R absent (the most adamant opponent, Jon Camp, who is in China).
(Note to Camp: Come on, man, you gotta be here for votes like this. Especially after you’ve put up such a fight.)
I knew the council would pass it. There is little mystery about what the council will do anymore: They’ll do whatever the mayor wants them to.
(Note to Mayor Beutler: Take advantage of that and do everything you want to do before you’re up for re-election next year.)
The Experian purchase shows just how easily swayed the council is. Councilwoman Snyder said the building is “special” and “you could eat your lunch off the garage floor.” If the cleanliness of a building is a key factor in deciding whether to buy it, I’ve got a few more buildings to show the council.
She claimed the Experian building is “the pearl or gem of commercial property” in Lincoln. However, the building sat on the market for years without any nibbles, so I’m not sure it’s that great a gem.
The main thing council members should have been concerned about — rather than the cleanliness of the garage floor — is where the $10 million cost of moving will come from.
Also questionable is the fact that deal came up after the city put out a request for 23,000 square feet of space and Experian offered this whopper of a building, at 355,000 square feet. The city refused to give in to business groups’ demands that it put solicit new bids to be sure there were no other suitable locations for the city’s planned public works campus.
If you’re so sure there’s nothing else out there, why not give it a try?
But I think the biggest concern should have been the fact that the city is buying a much bigger building than it needs when the city is so broke that it has closed swimming pools, cut library hours, cut school resource officers and cut hundreds of jobs during Beutler’s tenure.
The city budget is so imbalanced that the mayor and council have to find millions of dollars in cuts and one-time money (chiefly, a $10 million fund that Beutler has steadily raided since finding it a few years ago) to balance the budget every year.
Meanwhile, the city’s infrastructure is crumbling and the cost to fix it is so overwhelming it’s best not to keep track. So buying oversized buildings that you can’t even buy outright — you do it through a lease-purchase deal which is like buying a rent-to-own couch — feels like buying a new car when you can’t afford to fix the roof. Doesn’t really matter how great a deal it is, if you can’t afford it.
(I guess that would make building a $340 million arena like building a swimming pool, or a summer home, even though you’re barely making the mortgage as it is.)
By the way, how much interest is the city paying on this lease-purchase deal? What’s the cost of borrowing the money? Why didn’t the city buy the building outright? Oh, yeah, because it doesn’t have the money.
Well, that $10 million pot of gold will soon be gone, and the city will have no choice next year but to raise taxes. Of course, by then Beutler will likely be re-elected, and if he still enough friends on the council, he’ll probably be able to get them to do that, too.

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