Republican mayoral candidate Tammy Buffington today questioned why Mayor Chris Beutler has not kept his promises about complete transparency and accountability on the city’s $340 million arena project.
“What is he trying to hide?” she asked, referring to the recent exception granted to contractor Mortenson Construction, allowing them to avoid the city’s usual open bidding process for pre-construction services, which will account for much of the work.
“Chris Beutler has completely rejected transparency again in favor of deals done behind closed doors,” Buffington said in a press release. “He promised an open and competitive bidding process on the arena but he has clearly gone back on his word and is leaving taxpayers in the dark. Not only will the subcontractors be selected with no public view but the bids themselves will never be exposed to the light of day under the current contract. The public never gets to see the bids, including prices, even after the backroom deals are done.”
Buffington said the mayor’s decision runs contrary to the city’s established bidding process, under the city charter. Federal wage requirements — required since the city is using federal Build America Bonds to finance part of the project — now will also potentially mean a much higher price tag on the arena, she said, but the public will not get to see the actual bids.
“This is more of the same from Chris Beutler — negotiating special deals for special people, then handing us the bill,” Buffington said. “The mayor’s actions here have violated the trust of our taxpayers, our local contractors and the voters who supported the arena on his promise of transparency.”
For the first time in my life, I wrote a press release yesterday.
I’ve been on the receiving end of press releases for the better part of 20 years, during my journalism career.
The release just said I’m having a press conference on Thursday. And so began my life on the other side of the press release.
It was interesting because within minutes of hitting “send” on the e-mail, I got a call from Coby Mach, host of KLIN’s Drive Time Lincoln. He wanted to know what the press conference will be about. And he didn’t take my “no comment” for an answer; he pressed me further — like a good reporter should. Perhaps that explains why he was my best competition when I was a city government reporter for the Lincoln Journal Star.
So, yes, I’m having a “presser” tomorrow. And you, dear readers, will be the first to know why. On the record.