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February 8, 2011


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

by Deena Winter

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.

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. John Duhon
    Feb 8 2011

    I love how Deena likes to compare Beutler’s world to her world. Here’s what I call “The Real World”

    2009 – Firefighter’s raises 0%
    2010 – Firefighter’s raises 3%
    2011 – Firefighter’s raises 3%

    So, the firefighters will recieve an average 2% raise each of the last 3 years. Considering the average inflation for the last 10 years is 2.3%, it’s strange to see Deena Winter enraged that the heroes who rescue and protect Lincolnites aren’t losing enough of their ‘real wage’ to make her satisfied.

    • Feb 8 2011

      John: If I asked you how big your raise was this year, in what universe would you reply: “Well, I got no raise in 2009, a 3 percent raise in January and I get another 3 percent this month, so I guess to answer your question, 4.5 percent.” I’m not saying firefighters don’t deserve nice paychecks, but I wish the mayor’s office would be honest and forthright about the deal. Obfuscation is the name of the game over there, as you well know.

  2. Mary Lazlo
    Feb 8 2011

    Deena – this anti-Beutler bashing of yours has to end because it’s going to undermine your credibility as a journalist, who by definition is supposed to be impartial. You need to shake some other trees and try to hold some other politicians accountable. In the mean time your editorializing about your Beutler obsession is getting old.

  3. Keep Watching, Keep Asking Questions
    Feb 8 2011

    If you got a 3% raise in 2010 and a 3% raise in 2011 n a two year contract its three percent for both years. The first year three percent then gets compounded the next year. Two three percent raises in a row does equal an effective six percent raise. Salary raises are not awarded to at-will employees for being heroes.

    Winterized holds other politicos accountable on an equal-opportunity basis.

    In fact it seems to be the ONLY journalistic venue that tells it like it is. The Mayor in a strong-mayof form of government like Lincoln is the top dog. Scrutinizing the Office of Mayor and the subsequent actions makes for more transparency.

    Asking quesions is one of the only thing that keeps democracy going. All of the easy-to-get TIF kickback grants, purchase of the uneeded Experian building, raising the restaraunt taxes, the hotel taxes, the arena bond are digging multiple long- term holes in the current and future budget sand the Lincoln taxpayers into more debt and a deeper public budget burden, even if it is spread over time.

    Asking questions is not personal – its good citizenship at work.

  4. happy
    Feb 8 2011

    Your Right Deena in Beutlers in lincoln aday is only 23 hr long.

  5. Roger Yant
    Feb 9 2011

    Deena, you are doing good! Keep it up. Turn over the rocks and expose them to the sun. I don’t care if they are Democrats or Republicans, expose them. What our problem is everywhere in this great country are the crooked politicians, from both parties. We need to find them and get rid of them. Keep your fingers on what is going on in city hall, we need a watchdog. We the tax payers are sick and tired of all the good old boy stuff. That is what has been going on now for soooooooooooooo long. Expose them and lets get rid of them.

  6. Jane H Kinsey
    Feb 9 2011

    Beutler did testify as did Camp, Schatz, Hornung and Mach. I did also for Tony Fulton’s bill. Senator Lathrop told Camp that he and his colleagues from Lincoln did not show the proper respect for the committee and their testimony, what that meant I don’t know as I could not see that. Maybe he meant there was overkill by all coming or blaming CIR for their own failure to stand up to the unions. Senator Brad Ashford told me the CIR needed some changes but that Lincoln leaders allowed these raises and to go back to them for that discussion. I intend to do so.
    At Cook and Emnery’s request, I also received an e-mail from Rick Hoppe stating Beutler was attacking the problem for other unions. He was careful to say what they have told LJS about the firefighters raises. Then he said the Mayor has not threatened to raise property taxes but we know that happened later. Throw all the bums out! .

  7. Jason Christenson
    Feb 9 2011

    Today the Audit Advisory Board voted to go ahead with the StarTran audit. The next meeting will be in two weeks to start laying out the scope of the work to be done.


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