The union that represents laborers in the city’s street maintenance division has refused to endorse either of the two candidates running for mayor on Tuesday.
The union is called the Public Association of Government Employees, or PAGE, and represents about 500 blue-collar, clerical and technical workers. It also represents laborers who were the subject of our special report last week, detailing the bullying and infighting that have plagued the streets division for years.
PAGE President Jeff Stump said the union doesn’t think either of the mayoral candidates is qualified.
“We feel Tammy Buffington doesn’t have the experience and her views on the commission (CIR) and unions are not something that we agree with and as far as Mayor Beutler we can’t endorse him because of issues in the street department that he has failed to address after a year and a half.”
Those issues, he said, are bullying, harassment and inadequate training — all the things detailed in our special report.
The union also declined to endorse a candidate in District 1, northeast Lincoln. Stump said they didn’t endorse Democrat Doug Emery because “he’ not a qualified candidate” and after promising not to “come after our pension” Stump said the first thing Emery did after getting elected was start working on reducing city employees’ retirement benefits.
“The first thing he came after was our pensions,” Stump said.
The union endorsed the Democrats in two districts: Jonathan Cook in southwest Lincoln and Carl Eskridge in northwest Lincoln. The union did not endorse anyone in the southeast Lincoln district, where incumbent Jon Camp is running against newcomer Bobbi Kosmicki.
“We just don’t feel that we know enough about them,” he said.
Republican Mayoral candidate Tammy Buffington today put out a bombastic press release regarding Mayor Chris Beutler’s recent hiring of former Speaker Kermit Brashear to lobby for the city.
I’m just going to give you the whole press release. Here it is:
I opened my paper yesterday to discover that our mayor is once again spending MORE of the taxpayer’s money. He has decided to hire a former State Senator, a successful Omaha attorney to help with the city’s labor negotiations. It will cost us $350/hour with a projected total of $50,000 for the four weeks of work. This is more than half of the mayor’s yearly salary. Is this how our mayor stays away from the important work of the city? Pay others to do his work? He told a group last evening that they are welcome to come to city hall because he has many assistants to help them. Are these the 19 aides that he has hired at an average salary of $114,000 plus benefits and an additional 12% yearly retirement with no match?
Our mayor is painting the success of Lincoln in such glowing terms and accepting all the credit for this success. Has he ever thought that the reason we have a low unemployment is that citizens of Lincoln are hard working. Faced with a struggling economy and loss of jobs, many are going out and finding whatever they can to make ends meet. Spouses are going back to work instead of staying home with their children. People are making sacrifices. They are cutting back on luxuries. They are paying their bills as best as they can. Wouldn’t it be better for this mayor to find ways to cut back and put money back into the hands of the taxpayers? Wouldn’t it be better if he was a leader of this community and settled the union issues himself? Would that mean that he might not be able to take money from the unions in this election? Would it mean that he would have to hold the line on raising our taxes if he is elected?
I guess the voters will decide in 5 weeks if they like his leadership or if they want to try someone new that will look for ways to cut the budget and return the money to the taxpayers.
The LIBA PAC is not the whole LIBA organization. While I am disappointed that they endorsed my opponent, I am not surprised. This is the opinion of a few individuals, not the whole organization. I firmly believe that through this campaign as I meet with small business owners and the majority of the LIBA members as well as more Lincoln citizens, I will show them the distinction between a career politician who only knows how to tax and spend and a small business owner that has concerns for Lincoln’s city debt.
One of my first actions will be to audit every department for efficiency and track where all the money is going. The incumbent mayor has led this city from a $1 million city debt to a $6.2 million debt in four years. Do we really want more of the same for 4 more years?
Let’s be reminded of LIBA’s mission statement of supporting candidates who promote fiscal responsibility and free enterprise, not a larger and more imposing government. As the people’s candidate, I’m out to prove myself to the people of Lincoln that I am the best choice for Mayor of Lincoln.
The Lincoln Independent Business Association Political Action Committee has voted to endorse Chris Beutler for re-election as mayor of Lincoln.
“Mayor Beutler received the LIBA PAC endorsement because he has worked tirelessly on several LIBA issues and succeeded in making Lincoln a better place to live and raise a family,” said Mark Schorr, LIBA PAC Chair. “LIBA has long advocated for an audit advisory board, staffing reductions, cuts to StarTran, a reduction in the 200 percent city employee retirement match, an increase in funding for the south beltway and reform of the Commission of Industrial Relations. Our report card shows Mayor Beutler has accomplished
all of these goals to varying degrees.”
LIBA credited Beutler with creating the city’s Audit Advisory Board, cutting StarTran and reducing city staffing by 120 full-time equivalents.
“Mayor Beutler is the first mayor to work at, and successfully reduce,
the 200 percent employee retirement match,” LIBA said in a press release. “Under his leadership, the city provided funding for, and purchased, south beltway right-of-way. While these issues are important, the mayor has also helped to tackle one of LIBA’s largest priorities, significant reform
to the CIR.
LIBA said his greatest accomplishment is “perhaps” his leadership and advocacy for a new arena — and bringing numerous groups together to support it and maximize local labor and suppliers.
“Because of these and other successes, we believe Mayor Beutler is ready to lead the city another four years,” the press release said.
The LIBA PAC endorses candidates who promote free enterprise, a healthy business environment, reduced government spending, and low taxes for the citizens of Lincoln.
Lincoln mayoral candidate Tammy Buffington today said if elected, she would do performance audits of mayoral staff and make real cuts in the mayor’s personnel budget.
Mayor Chris Beutler announced last week that he and his 19 directors and aides would take a .5 percent pay cut, saving the city less than $11,000.
“We’re long past the point of making symbolic gestures that won’t help solve our budget problems and put tax dollars back in the voters’ pocketbooks,” Buffington said in a press release. “My staff will be subject to performance audits and the mayor’s office will be no different than any other part of city government. The mayor’s office won’t get special treatment and have salary advantages that other city employees don’t have.”
Buffington again criticized the mayor and his cabinet and aides’ retirement benefit of 12 percent of their salaries — with no matching funds required — given the mayor’s push for other employees to reduce their 2-to-1 match to a 1-to-1 match.
“The mayor must think that he and his top staff don’t have to play by the same rules as other city employees,” Buffington said. “It’s this sense of government entitlement that voters are getting tired of and want to see changed. The last three mayors have been from the same party and some senior staff have been in multiple administrations and real change is needed and expected by the voters,.”
Beutler held a press conference this morning to explain that his administration is proposing to reduce retirement benefits for future directors, aides and mayors, but not current ones.
Here’s a link to the LJS story.
The city contributes 12 percent of Beutler and his directors and aides’ salaries into their retirement fund, with no match required. That’s more generous than any city employees get — even though Beutler has worked for nearly two years to try to convince employee unions to take less generous benefits. He was only able to convince them to agree to less generous benefits for new hires only.
Beutler now says his law department says he can’t change the benefits for current staffers. But since the directors and aides work at the pleasure of Beutler, I would think they could change it — but hey, I’m not a lawyer working for Beutler. Do they have contracts? Not that I’m aware of.
Today, I called on Beutler and his staffers to take a less generous retirement benefit, to set an example for other employees — heck, he could give the difference to charity.
Meanwhile, his Republican opponent for mayor, Tammy Buffington, has finally spoken up on the issue, issuing a press release saying Beutler has been dodging the issue since it came up last week, telling a radio talk show host he didn’t know whether he could change the benefits immediately.
“Now it looks like even the union members are getting the short end of the stick by this mayor,” Buffington said in her release. “ How many workers in Lincoln get money contributed to their pensions without having to put a cent of their own money into the fund? “
“Even union members aren’t getting what the mayor gives himself and his buddies,” she said. “I don’t know of any private business in Lincoln that can afford that kind of generosity and still stay in business.”
She said she thought Beutler called a press conference Monday morning to “show leadership.”
“This announcement just shows he’s keeping our dollars and leaving us with change,” she said.
During a radio show this morning, Mayor Chris Beutler acknowledged that he and his cabinet and aides still get a very generous retirement benefit but said “eventually” those will be adjusted.
Eventually? Beutler first went public with his plan to reduce city employees’ retirement benefits in July 2009. Last year he got all but one city union to agree to reduce the match for new hires (from a 2-to-1 match to a 1.3-to-1 match). All the while, he and his cabinet have continued to take an even more generous deal.
According to data from the city, Beutler and his aides and department heads get about 12 percent of their salary in retirement compensation annually. And I’ve recently learned they get the city contribution whether they contribute a match or not. So that’s a better deal than any city employee gets. They get about 12 percent of their salary (most of the directors’ have six-figure salaries) and don’t have to match it to get it.
But now that Winterized has publicized the fact that Beutler never reduced his own retirement match, even while lobbying city employees to do so, he’s acting as though he’d always intended to change it.
“We need to follow through and adjust all of the pension ratios eventually,” he said on Jack & John today. “We haven’t gotten to some narrow categories but that process will come down to everybody in the end. We’ve been working with the broad categories, the big things… .”
So we are to believe that even though he has had since July 2009 to adjust the benefit for himself and his cabinet and aides, he just hasn’t gotten around to it? Wouldn’t a better approach have been to announce that he wanted to reduce retirement matches for city employees, and he would be the one to go first?
The radio host asked Beutler whether he couldn’t have just unilaterally made that change, and Beutler said he didn’t know.
“But we will get there,” he said. “It’s coming.”
Don’t believe me? Hear it here.
During his closing comment at the LIBA mayoral debate Tuesday, Mayor Chris Beutler mentioned that Lincoln’s crime rate has dropped 21 percent since he took office.
That stat surprised me — I just hadn’t heard that before. So I contacted the police chief to get more specifics — was he talking overall crime, violent crime, property crime?
Chief Tom Casady said Beutler was referring to the FBI’s so-called “part one offenses” — the most commonly reported crime data nationwide: murder, forcible rape, aggravated assault, robbery, burglary, auto theft and larceny. Those are the ones I’d be most interested in.
You can see the specific data in the police department’s annual reports, right here.
And the FBI annual report of national crime statistics is available here.
Click here to see Casady’s chart of Crime Statistics.
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.
The campaign manager for the Republican candidate for mayor has left the campaign, just over a week after Tammy Buffington announced her campaign.
Buffington said Mick has agreed to consult for her as needed. She is the only candidate so far who has emerged to challenge Democratic Mayor Chris Beutler.