While Maria Bartiromo was showing the Scarecrow there's hope for him yet sans cerebellum, the Omaha City Council was busy Tuesday sending another message to straw men everywhere.
Abandon all hope.
I sat on the council's marathon budget-deliberation story for the better part of a day, wondering if their eventual vote in favor of a "budget" (as opposed to a budget) would smell any better after it had aired out overnight and most of the day. The answer is no.
FROM THE Omaha World-Herald:
Mayor Jim Suttle was skeptical today about whether the Omaha City Council's budget plan is based on realistic numbers.
“It was very chaotic yesterday,” Suttle said in an interview with The World-Herald. “We have to now see how it all adds up.”
After nearly nine hours of debate and maneuvering, a divided council Tuesday approved a 2010 budget that includes Suttle's property tax hike to pay city debt but makes more than $10 million in changes, including a 2½-day voluntary employee furlough and a new satellite TV fee.
The approved budget now goes to Suttle for review and any possible vetoes.
Suttle said he will study the council's changes and is willing to work with council members. But he said he's concerned that some of their ideas won't bring in as much money as they hope.
If revenue sources fall short next year, he said, the city could end up having to repeat this year's round of cuts to swimming pools, libraries and other services.
“I don't want to repeat this summer, next summer,” Suttle said. “I'm really guarded about that.”
Some council members also were dissatisfied with the budget, but for different reasons.
The budget was approved on a 4-2 vote after a debate that stretched until nearly 11 p.m. Council members Pete Festersen and Jean Stothert voted against it because it contains a tax increase to pay debt on projects such as the Qwest Center Omaha.
That tax increase would cost the owner of a $100,000 house an extra $24 a year.
An $11 million shortfall in the budget was addressed with the help of a new, $50 inspection fee for satellite TV dishes and the voluntary furlough plan for all city employees. Both were proposed by Councilman Chris Jerram.
Initially, the budget did not pass. Councilman Franklin Thompson voted with Festersen and Stothert to reject it, citing the tax increase.
Thompson later switched to become the deciding vote in passing the measure.
“I do believe the council has been cornered, but I believe this council has done everything it can to do the right thing,” Thompson said. “My constituents are going to be disappointed in me.”
YOU GOT that right, Franklin. I'm your constituent, and I'm disappointed that Ben Gray was the only grown-up on the city council. I'm disappointed Gray was the only council member to realize the city had already cut into the bone . . . and that it was time to tell taxpayers to bear their share of the burden of self-governance.
And now the council has passed a sham of a budget, one that kicks the fiscal can down the road for a date with another crisis in a few months.
Voluntary furloughs? Lord God, what kind of insanity is that?
Most of the council declared they couldn't expect property owners to pay enough more in taxes -- about $52 extra a year when all is said and done -- to cover the city's budget shortfall and debt-service obligations, yet they expect city employees to voluntarily forfeit 2 1/2 days' pay?
That's not just your average, everyday insanity, that's some heavy-duty, patently unjust insanity.
TO MAKE THIS short and not-so-sweet, the council-passed Omaha city budget is the biggest fiction you're likely to see until the next Glenn Beck Show. And the council members to blame for it have proven themselves unworthy of their office.