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May 2, 2011


Buffington YouTube campaign video overblows budget gap — big time

by Deena Winter

A Democratic Facebook friend of mine was arguing with me the other day that local Republicans have a history of being just as brutal as Dems when it comes to dirty campaigns.

Tammy Buffington

As proof, he mentioned Americans for Prosperity pouring thousands into Lincoln to personally attack and try to unseat Sen. Danielle Conrad, former Republican Councilman Glenn Friendt attempting to covertly finance a smear campaign against former Democratic Councilman Terry Werner years ago, and some current YouTube videos of Republican mayoral candidate Tammy Buffington’s.

YouTube videos? I’d never seen them, so I checked them out. I found several. In one, she points out that while Mayor Chris Beutler often brags about cutting 120 city jobs, in reality only five were pure layoffs. The rest were basically vacancies left unfilled. She also has a video talking about how Beutler thinks it’s big stuff to rehab eight miles of roads in Lincoln when the city has more than 2,000 miles of roadways — but still wants to spend a whopping $14 million to rebuild about two miles of roadway and build a roundabout at 14th and Superior.

I didn’t think any of the videos were nasty: They focused on actual issues — as opposed to the character assassinations the state Democratic Party is financing.

However, I was intrigued by two of the videos about the city’s budget deficit. In both of them, Buffington says the city has a $720 million budget deficit. Holy hell that’s a big number! Just one problem: it’s not accurate. The city’s entire tax-funded budget is about $130 million. The actual projected deficit is about $6.3 million (although several expenses aren’t included in that estimate, so it’s probably larger).

Buffington and her campaign manager disagree with me: They say she’s referring to $600 million in street debt, the $60 million unfunded liability for police and fire pensions and the city’s $60 million backlog of sidewalk work. I agree with their numbers for the pension fund and sidewalk backlog, but I have no idea where they get a $600 million “unfunded liability” for streets.

They said it’s semantics: I say a “shortfall” is a lot different than adding up all the infrastructure work we wish the city could do, all the work we NEED to do and calling it a shortfall. You can decide for yourself.

See it here:

Now I know from experience it’s easy to trip over your tongue and make a mistake during a debate or a press interview (I myself accidentally said the city had a $200 billion — rather than million — infrastructure shortfall during a TV interview). However, this was a campaign video, not a live interview. Apparently, nobody in her campaign noticed the error before the video went up.

So while I don’t see the carpet bombing campaign that my Facebook friend sees in the videos, I do think Buffington shot herself in the foot.

17 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jason Christenson
    May 2 2011

    She’s not running a dirty campaign, she’s just incompetent.

    • ej
      May 2 2011

      That sums it up nicely.

  2. Fletch
    May 2 2011

    “Buffoon”ington. I don’t like to resort to name calling, but wow. I can’t imagine a worse candidate running for mayor.

  3. Mauberly
    May 2 2011

    720 million is roughly 100 times 6.3 million.

    720 million is roughly 100 million times 6.3.

    • May 2 2011

      I couldn’t think of a good way to say it in a headline… maybe I’ll just say a “big” mistake. You got a better idea?

      • Mauberly
        May 2 2011

        Her mistake involved multiplying by 100, not by *100 million* as the article states. It’s easy to slip a decimal or two when juggling big numbers. Good thing about blogging — this kind of problem is easily fixed. Not so easy to fix for a video or a newspaper article.

        (If the penny in Ms Buffington’s hand represents the $10,000 savings claimed by the mayor then 720 pennies is probably sufficient to accurately represent the current city government deficit. The ostensible 72,000 pennies in the video might stand for the eventual cost of the arena, assuming it gets finished.)

      • May 2 2011

        I believe she was off by $712.8 million.

  4. Dan Bretta
    May 2 2011

    Glenn Freindt’s antics have never been equaled by the Democrats in this city.

    Tammy Buffington made a slip of the tongue here…at least I hope nobody is stupid enough to think that our little ole city has a nearly billion dollar deficit.

    • Gene
      May 2 2011

      She said the same thing in two different videos, so I don’t think it was a slip up. Honestly, I think she was fed some bad information. She’s obviously smart enough to run a couple businesses, so I doubt she’d make a mistake like this all on her own.

      • Dan Bretta
        May 2 2011

        Oh..I didn’t realize there were two videos…I only clicked on the one Deena posted here. That’s not good.

  5. porcupine
    May 2 2011

    Maybe she was referring to the city’s future obligation? To pay back bonds etc? For all the city not just the arena?

    • May 2 2011

      That’s not a deficit… that’s debt.

      • porcupine
        May 2 2011

        Thanks for letting me know that there is a difference.

  6. Fletch
    May 2 2011

    It’s my understanding that she’s going to use those pennies to pay for the South and East beltways.

  7. Chanda Leer
    May 2 2011

    I think the $712 Shortfall is in reference to the unfunded liabilities that aren’t being taken care of – streets, sidewalks, and underfunded pension funds. That is a deficit, it’s just not reflected directly against the budget.

  8. May 3 2011

    Deena, In your last statement you said Tammy was off by 712 million however in your initial post you agreed with the 120 million in pensions and sidewalks. So, even if you only looked at that, we are 126+ million in debt and unfunded liabilities. As you stated, the city’s entire annual budget is 130 million, so, we are off by AT LEAST 1 year! How does anyone anticipate us coming out of this?

    Certainly that alone should be newsworthy enough to point out the irresponsibility of our current mayor.

  9. Huskerfan
    May 3 2011

    Tammy Buffington isn’t always strong on her numbers, remember when she said she could cut $180 million out of the cities $120 million annual budget


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