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Mayoral debate next week at LIBA lunch

Tammy Buffington

A debate between mayoral candidates Chris Beutler and Tammy Buffington is set for next week at the monthly LIBA luncheon.

Mayor Chris Beutler

The luncheon is at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday at the downtown Holiday Inn. It is open to the public and no reservations are required. The buffet line opens at 11:30 a.m. and the meeting begins at 12 noon.
It costs $11 to eat lunch but no charge to attend the meeting. Free parking in the Holiday Inn garage while it lasts.


Spatz will not run for re-election

Councilman John Spatz announced today he will not run for re-election to the Lincoln City Council.

Councilman John Spatz

“I have greatly enjoyed my service to the district and I will miss being a part of the City Council. In the last four years my personal and professional responsibilities have grown and will continue to grow. Due to these changing circumstances, I do not feel I will have the time necessary to devote to the City Council. The Northwest district deserves to have a representative that can dedicate adequate time and attention to its needs,” he said in a press statement.

“I am very proud of the City of Lincoln and especially my district,” he said.

So far, the only official candidate for the position representing district 4, or northwest Lincoln, is attorney Carl Eskridge, a Democrat who is a deputy in the state ombudsman’s office.


Nelson going after Bruning’s college days as a Dem

Our first clue came in Sunday’s Journal Star story about comments U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson made to young Democrats over the weekend: He called Attorney General Jon Bruning (his opponent next year, if he runs again) a “political weather vane” and said the wild swings in Bruning’s political positions “will come out along the way.”
The reporter, Don Walton, didn’t explain what Nelson was referring to, but it’s clear Nelson was talking about Bruning’s past as a Democrat, way back in college. Politico picked up where Don left off, reporting Monday about Bruning’s swing from D to R:

But as a law student at the University of Nebraska almost two decades ago, a younger Bruning was critical of the NRA, supportive of gays to serve as Boy Scout leaders and unabashedly in favor of a woman’s right to choose an abortion.

Politico is referring to column Bruning wrote for the Daily Nebraskan when he was a columnist there during his second year of law school. In it, he called Hillary Clinton an “amazing woman,” said women should have the “right to choose,” said he believed in gun control, affirmative action and that “homosexuals should have the same rights as everyone else,” including to be Boy Scout leaders. Oh, and just for good measure, he said trickle-down economics were a farce and that Reagan was incapable of “understanding complex policy arguments.”

Clearly, if you read the column, Bruning was trying to get a reaction out of DN readers. But clearly he’s also had a big change of heart since then — and who says we all have to keep the same political position throughout life? A Bruning advisor acknowledged to Politico that Bruning did write the column, but said as Bruning matured, started a family and began his law career, he “embraced conservative principles.” Did he ever.

Several years ago, a reader sent me the same column Bruning wrote. I didn’t cover state politics, so it was of little interest to me. I probably passed it on to Don Walton. I never forgot it though — when you look at how conservative Bruning is today, it’s hard to believe he’s changed so much since college.


Firefighter raises, bus studies, steel prices and Beutler’s tax threat

So much city news to talk about, so little time. A few things that have caught my eye lately:

• In the Journal Star’s Sunday front page story about the fight looming over Nebraska public unions, I noticed the graphic says Lincoln firefighters got 4.5 percent raises for 2010-2011. Again, I can’t believe the Journal Star is letting Mayor Chris Beutler’s administration get away with selling the raises as 4.5 percent. Here’s the deal firefighters got: They got a 3 percent raise immediately and another 3 percent this month. In what world does 3+3=4.5 percent? In Beutler’s world, but not mine. And that doesn’t even count the new calculation for their longevity bonuses, which pushes some firefighters up beyond 10 percent raises this year. In fact, I doubt the other union raises in the graphic included other raises employees can get, such as merit raises. If it’s money in your pocket, it counts.

• Did you see where Mayor Beutler held a press conference last week to warn that if the state Legislature adopts several proposed bills, Lincoln might have to raise property taxes 20 percent? The story was buried in LJS on page B2 — perhaps because they figure the Legislature won’t do all the things Beutler is railing about. But when the mayor threatens a 20 percent increase in property taxes, people ought to take notice. One bill would erase the city’s telecom tax — a whopping $7.8 million hit to the city — and another would end state aid to cities — a $1.8 million hit. State aid is intended to reduce pressure on local property taxes — so ending it would shift the burden from the state to cities. Lincoln had better hope the lawmakers don’t eliminate occupation taxes — or they won’t be building a new arena, half of which is being paid for with four new occupation taxes.

• Beutler also mentioned during that presser that the CIR needs reform, but said he won’t support eliminating collective bargaining (did you think he would?). I wonder how much Beutler will lobby for CIR reform — will he just write letters or really lobby hard?

• Steel prices just keep going up, up, up. Steel prices have gone up six times — or a total 30 percent — since November. I asked around city hall to see what impact that might have on arena construction prices, but nobody seems too worried about it. Yet.

• Finally, a council member thought of something for the city’s audit board to do! Councilman Adam Hornung and the mayor jointly announced a proposal to study the city’s bus system, StarTran. This was kind of a surprise, given that the city just went through an exhaustive, thorough route study four years ago, spending $150,000 to adjust bus routes and try to make StarTran more efficient. But perhaps this will be worth the $251,000 they plan to spend.

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