Wednesday, August 25, 2010

There's no 'I' in 'team.' There are some in 'idiots.'

I was all ready to start out this appeal for civic common sense with a high-falutin' reference to John Donne and "never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee," yadda yadda yadda.

Then it occurred to me,
"This is Nebraska, stupid. John Donne? Really?" I mean, John Deere, maybe. But John Donne. . . ?

But I get ahead of myself.

The deal here is that Omahans' taxes are going up. Why? The city, like most cities these days, is tapped out.
Broke. In the red. It's called a budget deficit.

To balance the books, being that the city already has cut the budget to the bone the past two fiscal years, Mayor Jim Suttle proposed tax increases -- a property tax hike . . . a dining tax . . . a higher wheel tax, including one on those who work in Omaha but don't live here.

The city council made some additional budget cuts but passed the tax increases Suttle asked for, more or less.

And in this age of the tea party, it goes without saying people are furious.

The council should have cut the budget more! Government is too big! Balance the budget!

How? Who the hell knows, just do it. Cut off the freeloaders! Just not me and mine.

PEOPLE ARE so mad, there's lots of talk now about recalling Jim Suttle, as reported by KETV, Channel 7:
A group said Wednesday it will hold a news conference to announce the formation of a committee to explore the possibility of recalling Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle.

Under the title Recall Mayor Suttle, the group will announce its intentions Thursday morning at Anthony's Restaurant in Omaha.

The announcement comes one day after the Omaha City Council approved a budget plan that includes a new, 2.5 percent restaurant tax, a property tax increase of at least 2.3 cents, a wheel tax increase, and a wheel tax expansion, requiring those who live outside the city, but who work in Omaha to pay.

The Metropolitan Omaha Property Owners Association will attend the meeting. MOPOA said a poll it commissioned weeks ago showed dissatisfaction with the mayor's handling of the budget.

But political experts said such an effort likely wouldn't be driven by the masses.

"My sense is that it's more that maybe Suttle hasn't been responsive enough to some of the local business interests, and they want to make it clear that they really are calling the shots," said University of Nebraska-Omaha political science professor Dr. Loree Bykerk.
IT GETS BETTER. Says Joe Jordan over at Nebraska Watchdog, one of the people behind the latest recall effort aimed at Suttle is Jim Cleary -- the guy who spearheaded the last successful recall of an Omaha mayor, back in 1987:
Nebraska Watchdog has learned that at least part of Jim Cleary’s decision to work for the recall of Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle was made by the numbers, polling numbers.

On Monday Nebraska Watchdog reported exclusively that Cleary, who was one of the key players in the successful 1987 recall of former Omaha Mayor Mike Boyle, is now working behind the scenes with a group of Omahans who are in the early stages of formulating a strategy to recall Suttle.

Nebraska Watchdog is told that an early August poll was a key factor in persuading Cleary to get involved. According to the poll of 400 likely Omaha voters, 70% said the city was on the wrong track and 67% disapproved of the way Suttle, who was elected in May of 2009, is handling his job.

Those polled also strongly disagreed with Suttle’s 2011 budget plan which initially included a 9 percent property tax increase and a 4 percent restaurant tax. On Tuesday the City Council lowered the property tax increase to about 5 percent, trimmed the restaurant tax to 2.5 percent, and found an additional $13.5 million in budget cuts. In a statement issued following the Council’s decision the Mayor would not say if he intends to pull out his veto pen. ”I will review (the Council’s) changes to the recommended budget and will respond within an appropriate timeframe, “said Suttle.

According to several sources the recall group is expected to announce Thursday that it is forming an exploratory committee which will begin laying the groundwork for its anti-Suttle campaign.

That committee will examine the pros and cons of a recall effort, prior to launching an official petition drive. In order to recall Suttle, the Mayor’s opponents would first have to acquire the signatures of 26,642 registered voters in the City of Omaha. Those signatures must be gathered within 30 days. Sources close to the recall tell Nebraska Watchdog that a petition drive might be timed to coincide with Election Day November 2nd. That would allow those gathering the signatures to set up operations near polling places in Omaha where registered voters are casting their ballots.

Nebraska Watchdog contacted Cleary to ask him about several of these items but Cleary refused to comment.
WELL, I GUESS it was too much to ask that the national snit fit and every-man-is-an-island nervous breakdown (see, I worked in the Donne thing after all) would somehow bypass the place where I live. Insanity is afoot, and it's catching.

Nevertheless, the moment "calls for a stupid and futile gesture on somebody's part," and I guess I'm just the guy to do it.
Here goes.

There is a fine line between a progressive, livable city and a dungheap that proves itself totally resistant to economic growth and successful self-governance. Indeed, civilization itself is a thin veneer over the barbarian rabble we once were . . . and could be again.

Over a couple of centuries, Americans have developed municipal services like police, fire departments, parks, libraries and social-welfare programs because we figured we needed them. Because we thought they made the places where we lived more orderly, more livable.

These things evolved all across America because we decided, for the overall good, that everyone should have a right to certain services, certain "safety nets" -- that by investing in our communities, we were investing in our, and our children's, future.

This is not the case everywhere in the world.

In some locales, those who have, keep it. All of it. And those who have not . . . have nothing. They're just flat out of luck.

Some such places we call the Third World. Other such places we call "banana republics."

They all got there when enough people -- at least enough people with means -- decided that "me" was a lot more important than "we." That is the thin line between "the American way of life" and the abyss.

I'M NOT getting through to you at all, am I? I completely lost you at John Donne, didn't I?

Well, this is Nebraska, so let me put it to you this way:

What do you think would happen if there was an "I" in "team"? Yes, I'm talking football.

What do you think would happen if Zac Lee and Niles Paul decided that giving Bo Pelini 100-percent effort was just excessive, and that instead, they'd give just 73 percent, but only when it would directly benefit their individual stats?

How do you think that would reflect on the Huskers' win-loss record?

Do you think Nebraska would be fielding a product worth the price of admission? You think anyone would care to take up residence, so to speak, at Memorial Stadium if the whole program went to hell in an every-man-for-himself hand basket?

What if bunches of first- and second-team players adopted the same attitude? Decided they were in football just for themselves? Rejected Pelini's expectations that they'd all do their bit in the name of the common good?

And what if Pelini came under suspicion for demanding players all do their part for the team?

WHAT IF Jim Cleary were Nebraska's athletic director and decided that Pelini was just a "tax-and-spend" football coach and recalled him? Well, you'd probably end up with a replay of the Bill Callahan era, that's what.

Which, of course, would be a lot like what happened to Omaha after Cleary engineered the recall of Mike Boyle -- several years of civic stagnation, instability and a revolving-door cast of mayors.
And there's more!

With your electoral snit-fit, we'll include years of political mayhem and strife for free . . .
all because we know you wouldn't pay for it anyway!

So, go ahead. Take care of No. 1. Recall that big-tax mayor who's so incompetent he can't do the fiscally impossible, and so arrogant he opted for the socially responsible instead.

Go ahead. Pitch a fit; sign a petition. I can't think of a better prescription for what ails us.

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