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February 15, 2011


Beutler and Buffington debate — Beutler wins round 1

by Deena Winter

Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler

Mayor Chris Beutler and Republican mayoral candidate Tammy Buffington debated each other today during the Lincoln Independent Business Association’s noon luncheon.

Tammy Buffington

I thought Beutler clearly won the debate. A few nuggets of interest:

• Beutler said “arguably the most important issue” in Lincoln right now is street needs. This surprised me, since during his four years he has not really offered a solution. He did kick in some city dollars to complement federal stimulus dollars for roads. But he has not acted since getting authority from the Legislature to implement urban growth districts on the city edge — where projected sales tax revenue would be used to obtain bonds to fund infrastructure, similar to tax increment financing districts. He did say he’s working on a financing plan that will likely include a series of small bond issues. That’s news.

• Beutler seemed to get rattled when Buffington criticized his $2 million creation of a Development Services Center in city hall and $6 million purchase of the Experian building. Beutler said all the money spent on leases for city offices will be enough to make payments on the Experian building — although he didn’t mention the estimated $10 million cost of moving, for which the city doesn’t have a plan. “It was a steal,” he said of the Experian building. “The only problem is filling it.”

• Beutler said of the arena project: “It’s happening with the utmost transparency.” That was an overstatement, given the recent approval of a pre-construction contract that won’t allow the actual bids to be made public, only scorecards of each company that bids.

• I was surprised Beutler got so irritated when Buffington suggested the city might not want to take state or federal funds — with all their strings attached — to build the south or east beltways and instead should look for efficiencies in city government to do the projects. “My opponent is not in the realm of the real,” he said. He’s right, the city could never pay for those projects itself, but no need to attack her for making a rookie mistake. She shot back that perhaps the city could have built the south beltway instead of the arena project.

• Beutler seemed to try to take credit for building momentum to reform the Commission of Industrial Relations (which settles wage disputes between cities and unions and enforces the law requiring public employees’ to keep up with their peers’ in other cities) when he said, “we have built up an armada of opposition.” I don’t think he can take credit for that — while he has complained about the CIR since taking office, Republicans on the City Council and up in Omaha have made a lot more noise than he. Nevertheless, he also predicted, “You will see change this year.”

• Most unexpected question asked by a panel of local journalists: How big a problem is illegal immigration in Lincoln? Beutler said it’s not a problem here.

• Beutler claimed crime has dropped 21 percent since he took office — which I’ve never heard before.

Click here to see some video from the debate.

15 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jason Christenson
    Feb 15 2011

    To be fair, I don’t think he said illegal immigration is not a problem here, he said it’s not a problem to be dealt with by local government.

  2. in the real
    Feb 15 2011

    I think Tammy Buffington won even though Beutler has the uper hand.

  3. Feb 16 2011


    You do your readers and your candidacy a great disservice with your hopelessly skewed, anti-Beutler agenda. You talk about Beutler getting “rattled” and “irritated” as if Buffington had him on the ropes. What’s noticeably absent from your commentary – undermining the last remaining shreds of your credibility – is when you fail to acknowledge in any way that Beutler completely dominated the debate and that Buffington sounded barely qualified to make a run for Airport Authority.

    How much complaining have you done about Beutler’s failing to solve all of Lincoln’s roads problems in his first term in office? He lays out a plan to start moving the city forward on this issue, and – rather than giving him credit – you immediately fall back on the same tired attacks for failing to do precisely what Mayor Deena would have done.

    By the way, if Beutler was truly “irritated,” it was only by his opponents ignorance about the city budget. Buffington talked about $180 million like it might turn up under the couch cushions if we just looked hard enough. You excuse Buffington’s laughably irresponsible approach as “a rookie mistake.” But, to be a rookie, you had to show enough skills to at least make the pros. With Buffington, we’re talking about an amateur all the way – one who doesn’t know what she’s talking about and isn’t up for the job.

    You’d say the same thing if you weren’t pandering to readers AND to those Republican voters you’re counting on for support. This wasn’t round one. This was a TKO.

    • Really?
      Feb 16 2011

      $180 vs the $800 million with interest arena…. hmm – I think the beltway could have been built already with funds the mayor is pulling out of couch cushions – and then build the arena that will take more than our lifetimes and our grandchildrens to pay for. We live in a city of what approx 250,000 people….tell me how much our community will bleed funds to pay for his extravagant budget management!

  4. Roberta
    Feb 16 2011

    Hard to swollow lunch with all the BS being spread

  5. Feb 16 2011

    I wasn’t implying Buffington had him on the ropes — she did not — but he did seem to be rattled a couple of times, and that surprised me, since he clearly had the upper hand in the debate.

  6. Roger C
    Feb 16 2011

    While there is not much Kyle Michaelis and I will agree on, I have to agree with his comments here. Ms. Buffington’s comment about the city trying to finance the S. Beltway was not, in my opinion, a “rookie error”, but rather a statement showing her ignorance of the city’s budget. This is one example of many of her incompetency to run for this position, based on at least 2 interviews I have heard of her and her comments to the media.

    • Gene
      Feb 16 2011

      I agree. What’s unfortunate is that she runs two businesses here in Lincoln and is probably pretty competent and intelligent in that aspect. She’s just really unprepared for this.

      I really don’t understand how in a state as conservative as Nebraska is, the NE GOP puts up the lamest candidates for major offices.

  7. Fletch
    Feb 16 2011

    Wow, I don’t think Ms. Buffoon could have been more unimpressive. This is going to be a landslide victory for the mayor.

  8. John Duhon
    Feb 16 2011

    Oh I guess Deena hasn’t heard that crime has went down 21% so it MUST NOT be true.

  9. Lincoln
    Feb 16 2011

    Tammy took a real beat down. It was difficult to watch. The Mayor is doing a pretty solid job and Tammy is a very weak rookie to try and take him on.

  10. law
    Feb 17 2011

    Fletch or flatulence or whatever your name is, how typical that a “compassionate” liberal like yourself fires off a weak personal attack instead of contributing anything intelligible to the debate. Thank goodness for spell check or we would probably have to suffer through misspelling also.

    If Buffington did so poorly, why was the Mayor so angry, and why did his chief of staff try to maneuver to a position to distract the opponent?

    Buffington may not understand perfectly how highway funding works, but I bet she will know a lot more by the next debate. Maybe she was more focused on his misrepresentations about CIR and streets. How long has he been mayor? And yet he is only now starting to work on CIR reform curiously close to an election.

    If the streets are a priority, why is 56th street such a wreck? I drive on that main street every day and it has been getting worse for two years! I can barely make it between South Street and A Street. That is crazy. I have lived in Lincoln since 1986 and I can’t remember a time when streets were so horrible.

    Some may think Buffington had a rough 1st debate, but she is not a slick politician, she is a business owner and can bring fiscal responsibility back to Lincoln government.

  11. Feb 18 2011


    What was it that convinced you to rewrite this article? Your new headline suddenly declares “Beutler wins round 1.” That wasn’t there before. And, look at how you’ve added the statement that “Beutler CLEARLY won the debate.” If Beutler’s victory was so “clear,” why didn’t you say so until after being challenged to admit the obvious by readers?

    I suppose even you had to realize the gaping hole in your commentary when the Lincoln Journal-Star’s editorial came out and mocked Buffington’s performance. But, that hardly excuses your attempt to rewrite history as if you’d been upfront about Buffington’s weakness all along. With that kind of disrespect and manipulation of your audience, you’re going to be an excellent politician.

  12. PM
    Feb 18 2011

    Deena “Transparency” Winter, are you going to approve Kyle’s comment or not?

  13. Feb 18 2011

    Sorry, Kyle, I wasn’t up at 12:18 a.m. to approve your comment. The reason I added who I thought won is that some readers and a radio host seemed to think that since I didn’t say who I thought won, that meant I thought Buffington won. My blog was meant to hit on some of the most interesting things said. But I’m happy to say who I thought won, if you want to know.


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