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December 8, 2010


Mayor finally says who paid for trip: Nelnet

by Deena Winter

It only took about a week for Mayor Chris Beutler’s office to finally divulge who paid for nine people — including the mayor and city arena contractors — to fly around the Midwest looking at arenas in late October.

Mayor Chris Beutler

Thank you.
That wasn’t so hard, was it?
For some reason, Beutler’s office didn’t want to tell me who paid for the trip when I wrote about it a week ago.
However, a reporter isn’t completely helpless when a public official refuses to disclose public information. There’s this thing called the open records law, (Beutler ought to know about this, having been a state senator for like 24 years) and on Monday, I put in what’s called an open records request. That gave the mayor’s office four working days to respond to my request for information about the trip (particularly, who paid for it).
Their deadline is tomorrow. So what did they do today? Gave up the information. To the Journal Star. Touche’!
And now we know the answer: Nelnet paid for the trip. I’m not sure why the trip needed to be paid for by an outside company in the first place, nor why a student loan company would be the one to pay for it, but there it is.
The Journal Star story didn’t say how much the trip cost Nelnet, but did mention how uncomfortable the flight was for two members of the delegation who had to take turns sitting on a toilet in the Nelnet jet.
This is the mayor’s office works. They don’t like the fact that I’ve asked these questions, but they’re backed into a corner by state law, so they strike back by handing the story to the Journal Star.
That’s OK with me, as long as the information gets out. One way or another.
But I still don’t get why they would be flying around looking at the width of seats and “integrating an arena in a brick environment” when 30 percent of the arena design — if not more — was supposed to be done by now. The arena architects have already told us how wide the seats will be and if they haven’t begun to think about how to integrate the arena with the Haymarket, well they’re way behind schedule.
And why was the mayor the only one who didn’t pay for his own hotel room? The city paid for his, according to the J-Star.
But never mind all that. The important thing is that the mayor finally told the public who paid for the trip. Thank you.

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Mike
    Dec 8 2010

    Thank you for inspiring today’s disclosures in the Journal Star

  2. Jeffrey Poley
    Dec 8 2010


    Thanks for your continuing efforts to help the Mayor keep his promise to make his administration transparent. It would appear that that’s a monumental task. It’s comforting to know that Lincoln still has at least one professional journalist willing to report real news.


  3. Don Carlson
    Dec 8 2010

    Deena, I don’t understand your bizarre hatred for Mayor Beutler. He doesn’t have an opponent because even Republicans think he’s done a fantastic job as Mayor.

    Nelnet was a huge supporter of the Arena because they’re a supporter of making Lincoln a world class city. What is so scandalous about Arena supporters flying the Mayor and other VIPs to other arena sites in their own jet? If I drove Mayor Beutler to Omaha to check out the Qwest Center do I need to submit that to Deena Winter immediately for approval?

    You should go back to working in the newspaper business. You’re a talented reporter and investigator, but you need an editor to keep you from going off the cliff of lunacy like you did on this “conspiracy” story.

  4. Tom M.
    Dec 8 2010

    I read this column Winterized. It’s a newshounds newspaper disguised as a blog.
    Wow, its like having two newspapers in Nebraska’s capitol city.
    Pithy writing. All kinds of topics. Candor. Yes open honest reporting.
    Stories with detail AND analysis. Tough topics – stuff we should know about.
    Difficult topics like how they cook the books laid out so the common person can understand.
    Tender topics about people and life. Lively topics about what’s cooking in the city’s vibrant life.

    You know, in our fair city they renamed a street, expressway whatever after a lady named Rosa Parks.
    Decades ago she stood up on a bus and said, paraphrasing, I’m not gonna sit at the back of this bus anymore.
    For me, who has lived here for decades, that’s Deena Winter.
    The reporter who stood up. The writer who spoke out.
    The lady who left and the journalist they let get away.
    We need more, not fewer people like this.

  5. Fletch
    Dec 8 2010

    Much ado about nothing.

    If we spent hundreds of millions of dollars for the arena, and it was all built, and then you found out that no one involved in the planning had even seen the work of the largest bidders or scoped out any other arenas, wouldn’t you be incredulous? So they’ve done so. And now, you’re, uh, incredulous?

    I kind of think that nothing that happens with the arena will please some people.

  6. Dec 8 2010

    People involved in the planning went around touring arenas years — literally years — ago already. I’m not saying they shouldn’t have gone on this trip, but I’m not sure what the point was. All the things they said they did on the tour are things that should be done — yesterday. But hey, everybody needs a Nelnet junket every once in awhile, right?

  7. Glenn Beck Fan
    Dec 9 2010

    Deena, I still think you need to go after Mayor Beutler more for not showing all of us his birth certificate. I brought this up last week, and still he has failed to produce a birth certificate or any documentation that he is a natural-born citizen.

  8. Em
    Mar 24 2011

    I agree, he looks a bit “Muslim” to me. We need to clarify…


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