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December 20, 2010

6

Interesting take on Suttle vs. Beutler

by Deena Winter

Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle

The Omaha World-Herald had an interesting Sunday story on the very different experiences the two Democratic mayors of the state’s largest cities are having in office.

Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler


Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle faces a recall election next month; Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler is expected to win re-election in the spring. The World-Herald reporter, Robynn Tysver, analyzes why Suttle is struggling and Beutler is not.
Seems to me it comes down to the fact that Suttle is paying for some bad decisions by former mayors — but at least he’s dealing with them, even if that means tax increases are necessary. Meanwhile Beutler has not really solved Lincoln’s budget problems either, but somehow every year he seems to find a pot of money or slip in a telecom tax, with the help of four supportive Democrats on the City Council. And the city closes a budget gap for one more year.
But the real problem — the structurally imbalanced municipal budget — persists. Even a hint of controversy or grassroots opposition to a proposal (cutting meter readers, closing pools, raising property taxes) and he backs off. Beutler isn’t tone-deaf, as Tysver describes Suttle, but he is overly sensitive to criticism.
Personally, I think Suttle deserves credit for making tough decisions, at his own peril. If he survives the recall, Omaha will be closer to dealing with its budget problems. I prefer politicians who don’t make decisions with an eye toward the next election, but with a willingness to do what needs to be done, even if that means they won’t be re-elected.
Beutler brags about how much he does to tap into the public’s opinion, and yes, he does do those annual surveys to ask people to make budget choices. They’re expensive, but it’s a worthy effort. However, as for seeking public opinion in town hall meetings, Beutler isn’t so good at that. Some of the attendees at his budget roundtables were hand-picked, and basically city officials give their side of the budget story for a day, and by the end the attendees are putty in Beutler’s hand.
During the arena campaign, the Journal Star and other entities tried to get city officials to do town hall meetings on the arena debate, but the Beutler administration flat refused to offer up city employees to do any. Why? They wouldn’t be able to control the situation — people might get out of hand or too critical. So yes, Beutler does check the pulse of the public — up to a point.

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6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Gimmie A Break
    Dec 20 2010

    Gimmie A Break Deena. Jim Suttle is getting recalled because he chose to campaign on not raising taxes with no real plan on how to handle the budget problem without doing it, combined with many other political and managerial mistakes. Chris Beutler has no opponent because he has been honest and forthright with people and involved a large number of people in the decision making/solution creation process. Your claims that Beutler is just making decisions to get re-elected is quite baffling considering the Firefigher compensation deal he just brokered will be a liability in his upcoming re-election.

    Reply
  2. Ed
    Dec 20 2010

    Two totally different situations. Suttle was handed a much bigger mess than Beutler. His fixes impact a group of business people who got time and money to fight back. They don’t care how much their revenges will cost the taxpayer. They simply want to kick the can down the road some more. Beutler had done cartwheels to prove he’s ready to do anything the business community wants. What’s not to like?

    Reply
  3. Jane H Kinsey
    Dec 20 2010

    Omahans have guts! They have tried to recall three mayors and one succeeded so far. I think Lincolnites are asleep and can’t buck the system because they are lulled to sleep. It is disgraceful that no one is running against Beutler. He is getting Lincoln into trouble but will be gone when the rubber hits the road. How can the city spend money for the Arena, Catalyst Program,
    Centennial Mall and buy the Experian Building when the leaders preach how little money they have? Something is wrong.
    Either there are hidden resources or the city is living on hot air. I prefer the latter explanation. Woe for the day of reckoning
    is coming and the taxpayers will pay, pay and pay.

    Reply
  4. Jamie Tomlinson
    Dec 20 2010

    Jane, have you considered running for Mayor? I’m afraid you are the only real alternative to the “fix” that is going on in Lincoln. Chris Beutler and Jon Camp are just two sides of the same coin.

    Reply
  5. Eric Skowronski
    Dec 21 2010

    Jane, you should run again. Even if you didn’t win it would be an honor to vote for you again.

    Reply
  6. Roger Yant
    Dec 21 2010

    I agree with you Jane on this subject, no one is listening to us out here. They are like addicts hooked on drugs, it’s spend, spend spend, we are broke and no one seems to know it. Keep it up! There is one thing about the two of us, we are not afraid to use our real names in our statements. I am glad to see a few others on this subject are not afraid to speek up by using there names.

    Reply

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