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.”
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.
Lincoln’s Republican candidate for mayor had her first experience meeting the press today.
She was introduced by Councilman Jon Camp — who probably wished he were the one making the announcement, if it didn’t mean he’d have to give up his council seat.
Her three main issues are:
• “Massive” city debt — $720 million worth — although she couldn’t say what she’d do about that. Although to be fair, it’s not like you can wave a magic wand and make those debts disappear.
• Tax increases under Mayor Chris Beutler’s reign — she said there have been nine of them, although I can’t think of that many. There’s the voter-approved bar and restaurant taxes for the arena, a slight property tax increase and an expansion of the telecommunications tax. But she also listed impact fees (where developers have to help pay for the cost of bringing infrastructure to their projects) and utility rate increases, which I wouldn’t call taxes but they do hit voters’ wallets anyway.
• Ever-increasing salaries in labor agreements.
Buffington did fine with her speech, until it was time to answer reporters’ questions (which is the worst part of any press conference for the person behind the microphone).
She struggled when asked what she would do about the state-mandated system of setting public employees’ salaries (the ol’ CIR issue). State GOP Chairman Mark Fahleson helped her out by saying all Mayor Beutler has done on this issue is — to paraphrase — talk big and send a little ol’ letter to state lawmakers. Buffington would march up the capitol and really push for change, he was saying.
When asked whether she supported the bar and restaurant taxes that will help pay for the arena, she said she didn’t. She said she voted against the arena bonds. But she also said she’s excited about the project, which she referred to as “our situation.” That was somewhat confusing.
She was quite poised and well-spoken for a newcomer to politics — but she has a lot of homework to do before her first debate with Mayor Chris Beutler. Alas, the life of a non-incumbent. And kudos to any novice willing to enter the sometimes-brutal arena.
Looks like Mayor Chris Beutler will have an opponent after all.
A Lincoln businesswoman named Tammy Buffington will announce her candidacy for mayor of Lincoln tomorrow at the state Republican headquarters.
In a press statement, Buffington said she is entering the political arena because she is concerned about Lincoln’s current leadership.
“I was initially concerned because of health care reform. Clients would come to me asking how this was going to affect them. Then I looked at what was going on right here in Lincoln. On the surface, our city appears to have smooth sailing, but the bills are coming due. Recent union contracts strapped to the backs of local taxpayers are egregious. We cannot continue to let taxes, out of control spending, debt, and union contracts drive us to a point of no return.”
Buffington owns A+ Brokerage with offices in Lincoln and Imperial. She is a Lincoln native who attended Havelock Elementary, Dawes Middle School, and Lincoln Northeast High School. She graduated from Vennard College in Iowa in 1984 with a Bachelor’s degree in Education. She returned to Lincoln where she was first employed at Miller & Paine and later National Bank of Commerce.
She married her husband, Kip, in 1985 and they have one son, Caleb, now 20. Together, the Buffington’s also own Freeway Muffler Brakes of Lincoln and rental properties in Lincoln and Beatrice.