Showing posts with label Jim Suttle. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jim Suttle. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Looking down on bikes from the Tower of Babble


This is America. This is 2013. Everybody's a radical.

Especially our dominant stripe of "conservatives."

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the kind of radicalism I'm talking about like this:
b : favoring extreme changes in existing views, habits, conditions, or institutions
c : associated with political views, practices, and policies of extreme change
For all of human history, mankind has had to recognize a simple constant -- there are limits. To everything. We are not gods, though some have aspired to the job, and though over millennia we have managed to expand our human ones, the expansion has come at great cost, and that expansion of limits has not meant elimination thereof. 

Like many of their party cohorts, a couple of "conservative" Republican candidates for mayor of Omaha never got the memo about the limitations inherent to the human condition. Apparently, Dan Welch and Dave Nabity think Almighty God has decreed that Americans have a limitless right to burn limitless amounts of petroleum in a limitless number of automobiles on a limitless expanse of concrete and asphalt.

IN A political culture as deeply silly and shallow as our own, this inevitably leads to an assault on . . . bicycle lanes. Do reporters at the Omaha World-Herald even try to keep a straight face when covering politicians exercised over the Civic Menace of Bicycle Lanes? God, I couldn't. 
The Omaha mayoral candidates were all over the road Tuesday on those two big-city issues, with several questioning the wisdom of Mayor Jim Suttle's decisions to hire a bike czar and to develop bike lanes downtown.

Republicans Dan Welch and Dave Nabity both criticized Suttle for parts of his bike initiatives, including the hiring of a czar from California for $65,000.

“Not wise,” said Welch.

“Out of touch,” said Nabity.

Both men questioned the bike lanes. Welch said he drives Leavenworth Street every day and believes that the lanes are tough on traffic.

“I haven't seen a bike yet, but we're backing up traffic,” Welch said.

Nabity agreed: “It was a lot of energy about something that wasn't really moving the ball down the field.”

Suttle, the only Democrat in the race, stood by his bike-friendly initiatives.

He said that when he became mayor, he decided to adopt an all-inclusive transportation policy that took into consideration all modes of movement, including foot traffic, trolleys, buses and bikes.
I GUESS nothing screams "raging irresponsibility" like making an effort to reduce the amount of complex hydrocarbons and carbon dioxide we daily spew into the atmosphere over our fair city, save a bit of money we'd otherwise be dumping into our gas tanks, conserve a limited natural resource and burn a few pounds off of our limitless backsides.

For the sin of championing conservation, Jim Suttle has earned the ire of self-proclaimed "conservative" mayoral candidates, pontificating from their political towers of Babble and apparently as in love with the notion of the human ego unrestrained by notions of excess or modesty as the most committed utopian revolutionary.

All you need is gas.

Make cars, not bikes.

Power to the Porsche.

Because that's how we roll.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Well, that's done with


Unbelievably, Jim Suttle survived his own campaign. Not to mention Tuesday's mayoral recall election in Omaha.

This is testament to the basic decency and even temper of the local electorate, as well as to fate handing hizzoner such an obviously self-interested and vaguely creepy lynch mob. It helped that the recall campaign's money man blatantly wanted Suttle's job for himself.

And the prospect of Dave Nabity as Omaha's mayor is enough to drive a man to . . . Council Bluffs.

Iowa, that is.

Gamblin' joints, trailer parks.

Suttle lived to fight out another couple-odd years
at city hall -- or a couple of odd years, take your pick -- by 51 percent to 49. It shouldn't have been that close. (See "Recall People, Creepy" and "Nabity, Dave.")

But it was that close, and it would be hard not to lay that one right at the clay feet of Forward Omaha, the moniker for Suttle's anti-recall effort, and its insane scheme to round up the homeless at local shelters, bus them to the election commissioner's office to register and vote, and then pay them $5 to "train" as "canvassers."
Wink wink, nudge . . . know what I mean, know what I mean?

That a move as smooth (not) as that was a godsend to the recall forces is evidenced by the election mailer above. Several of those went out in the campaign's waning days. And ads like this one began to flood the Omaha airwaves:



SEE WHAT I mean?

Without Suttle's political "friends" handing Nabity's Citizens for Omaha's Future the baseball bat it used to bludgeon the mayor, the spread -- again -- really shouldn't have been just 2 percentage points. Not even close.

At the outset of the recall effort, an Omaha World-Herald poll found that only 47 percent of respondents favored recalling Suttle, despite his 33-percent approval rating. Some 39 percent in the survey favored ousting the mayor, while 14 percent just didn't know.

Not only that, but according to the World-Herald's poll story Oct. 24, just about everybody had at least some misgivings about the whole thing:

If a recall election were held, Suttle might benefit from uncertainty over his potential replacement. The poll found that a large majority was concerned “somewhat” or “a lot” about voting in a recall election without knowing who the next mayor would be.

That concern was expressed even by about half of those who said they would sign a recall petition or vote to remove Suttle.

THAT WAS A LOT for the anti-recall forces to work with. They squandered it. More precisely, Forward Omaha squandered that public-opinion largess -- all in one swell foop, as a popular Omaha disc-jockey used to say decades ago.

If all the mayor's men had managed to pick up just half of the undecided vote -- which you kind of figure could break that way unmolested -- Suttle wins in a cakewalk. Instead, the undecideds went roughly 10 percentage points to 4 percentage points for the recall-istas.

When Forward Omaha showed up at the homeless shelters with those school buses, the only bum's rush ended up being that of undecided voters into the "throw the bum out" camp. No doubt that brought a smile to even the angriest recaller's face.

In the end, though, the anti-Suttle camps garnered fewer votes by Tuesday night than signatures collected on recall petitions, and just 8,000 more votes than the final number of names verified by the Douglas County election commissioner back in December. Basically, the Mayor Suttle Recall Committee and Citizens for Omaha's Future didn't accomplish too much during the electioneering phase of the recall effort.

NOT ACCOMPLISHING much, however, beats beating yourself every time. Except in Omaha, by God, Nebraska, where the Good Lord watches out for little
children, fools, drunks . . . and Jim Suttle.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

As inevitable as the January cold



Two comments and a question about Omaha's mayoral recall election next week:

First off, you knew this was coming, didn't you? The mailer (above) by the people seeking to recall Mayor Jim Suttle, I mean.

It was inevitable the second the supreme idiots in charge of Forward Omaha -- the largest
anti-recall group -- decided it would be a fine idea to bus the homeless to the election commissioner's office to register and engage in a little early voting. Well, that and get paid $5 for "training" as election workers (wink . . . smirk).

Second, I really, really hope the Nebraska State Patrol finds probable cause for arresting these morons for something, that they are prosecuted, that they are convicted, and that the judge throws the book at them . . . though misdemeanors the charges be. Political stupidity of that magnitude -- particularly that which sullies the electoral process -- ought not to go unpunished by the universe.

I'll probably still vote to retain Suttle in office, but it'll be a close call after this fiasco.

The main reason to vote "no" in my book is the threat of a
Mayor Dave Nabity. That eventuality would
soooooooo be deep into "abandon all hope" territory for this fair city.

Still, one must harbor at least a couple of grave doubts about Suttle after he failed to immediately fire --
not just demote -- anyone connected to the bus-the-homeless abomination.


And now the question:
The pro-recall mailer above directs folks to this video on Tom Becka's KFAB-radio web page. How is it, exactly, that some recall-istas came to be staking out the election office from a perfect vantage point for taping the homeless folks come off the buses wanting to know where the hell their $5 was?

Just asking.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Brother, can you spare a vote?

There's really only one rule that matters as you try to save an elected official's job amid people hell-bent on throwing him out of office prematurely.

That would be "don't give people more reasons to recall your boss."

Let's just say that with friends like Forward Omaha, Mayor Jim Suttle doesn't need enemies. But as it turns out, the enemies on Suttle's payroll are a hell of a lot more dangerous that the ones who have been out to get him for months now.

Forward Omaha's argument to keep Suttle in the mayor's office is, simply, that barring malfeasance or criminal activity, people really have no good reason to kick an elected official to the curb. We have these things called "elections," and they ought to be respected.

GUESS WHO just associated the specter of "criminal activity" with the mayor? And guess who never got the memo about digging-abort procedures in the event of a hole?

And guess who was trying, it would seem, to turn every homeless person in Omaha into a "no" vote on the recall, either by hook or by crook?

And guess whose harebrained scheme just blew up in Jim Suttle's face?

It's all in this morning's
Omaha World-Herald, these tales of yet more homeless roundups, yet more shady promises of turning -- wink wink, nudge nudge -- society's ultimate outcasts into respectable campaign canvassers overnight. Frankly, one would be forgiven for thinking this had to be a case of vote buying and election fraud, because the whole notion is otherwise just too incredibly moronic to be legit:
When campaign workers called the Open Door Mission and asked if they could load up homeless people and drive them to the election office — with the promise of $5 and a job — they were told “no” two days in a row.

It appeared to be an attempt to “exploit” the homeless and it was wrong, said Candace Gregory, head of the Open Door Mission.

The refusals, however, didn't stop Forward Omaha from sending three buses to the homeless shelter Wednesday and loading up about 10 men before a staff member with the shelter intervened, Gregory said.

(snip)

The campaign handed out fliers to the homeless people Wednesday that clearly urged voting “no” and included a sample ballot with the “no” marked.

“I strongly agree they have the right to vote, but not in this circumstance, where they're told to ‘Vote this way and you get this (money),'” said Gregory, who noted the mission provides its clients with transportation to polling places on Election Day.

She also said many of the homeless people did not make the distinction that the $5 was payment to attend a training seminar. Some thought they'd get the money if they voted.

Noelle Obermeyer, a spokesman for Forward Omaha, said the person who called the Open Door Mission was a volunteer. She said the volunteer did not tell anyone in a leadership position in the organization that the mission had rejected the request.

She also said the fliers distributed were not produced by Forward Omaha and were not handed out with the organization's approval.

“Leadership didn't know about these things,” said Obermeyer.

WHAT? This strains credulity, to be charitable.

"Leadership didn't know about these things"?

The fliers distributed weren't a product of Forward Omaha?

Nobody said anything to anybody about the homeless shelter telling the anti-recall group to take a hike
two days running? We're really supposed to believe this?

Not credible. Not credible at all. People are gullible, but gullibility has its limits.

And Forward Omaha just blew right though them.

THE MAYOR doesn't need to send over a staffer to be the group's new overseer. The mayor needs to send over a staffer to can every Forward Omaha official who left fingerprints on what may be a debacle of criminal proportions.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Can you help a mayor out?


I'd like to have been at the Forward Omaha staff meeting that birthed the bright idea of busing the homeless to vote early in Omaha's mayoral recall election . . . and then paying them $5 for "training" on how to canvass voters.

I really would have liked to be there. That kind of stupidity -- a public-relations
(at a minimum) gaffe of such complete idiocy that it almost makes one wonder whether the recall-istas have a point -- doesn't come around all that often. It's kind of like a total solar eclipse of dumb . . . you kick yourself if you miss it.

Anyway, the Omaha World-Herald, in this afternoon's paper, tells the tale of why Mayor Jim Suttle is probably as good as dead. And why Omaha is on the cusp of sliding from everyday, ordinary chaos into real chaos -- the kind where there are fistfights at City Council meetings and lawyers trying to figure out how a city can file for bankruptcy.


NO, REALLY. Read this and stand in awe:
A decision to bus homeless people to the election office by Mayor Jim Suttle's campaign has prompted an investigation by the Nebraska State Patrol and an apology from the mayor.

Suttle says his campaign will no longer bus the homeless to the election office on the same day they are paid $5 to attend a get-out-the-vote training seminar.

But Suttle says he stands by his decision to offer a ride to people in east Omaha who wanted to cast an early vote in west Omaha. But he says the busing plan should never have been mixed with the training seminar.

He says he did not know about the combination until after the fact.

“Unfortunately, someone from Forward Omaha decided to combine the dual efforts to assist voters and recruit election day workers. This was a mistake,” said Suttle.

The busing controversy ignited criticism around Omaha, amid reports from a witness at the election office that the homeless men and women were coached on how to vote and were paid $5 after — or before — they cast a ballot.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said he asked the Nebraska State Patrol to investigate the incident, because he wants to ensure that people have confidence in the election process. “It seems to be a question of perception. It's important people believe in the process. If there isn't any impropriety, that's fine,” said Kleine.
ACTUALLY, I was once at a staff meeting where something that spectacularly dumb was floated. The only difference was that particular spectacularly idiotic brainstorm was allowed to eventually blow itself out before the public could get a hold of it.

You can read all about that one, at a radio station we'll call Pope FM to protect the guilty, here. Nevertheless, I'll give you just a little taste from the 2002 diary:

Honestly, I desperately want to give the station a contemporary, non-dyspeptic sound. I desperately want to reach out to young people. But in such a short time, you can only do what you can do with the resources you have. And you have to be deliberate in what you're doing.

Buying a Humvee, I don't think, can be described as exercising due deliberation.

That's right, ladies and germs, Don wants to get someone to donate the scratch for a Humvee -- the Pope FM Humvee -- which we then would have painted like the Vatican flag to play off the theme "The Church Militant."

I am the only convert left on the staff, and I can't convince these zealots how badly that might piss off people who have no clue what the Church Militant is. So much so that we wouldn't have the opportunity to explain it (and so much so that it might not make a difference when you do).

And then we will face the reaction of the Protestants. ;-) As a friend comments about such things, "Their zeal consumes them."

Apart from the PR-nightmare possibilities, I can think of a lot neater things $35,000 could buy instead of a used Hummer.

IN THIS CASE, like I said, the plan was allowed to quietly die despite the initial enthusiasm. Sometimes, the good Lord is just looking out for you.

And sometimes He's not. Enter Forward Omaha and its guy, Suttle.

It's amazing how self-absorbed some folks, some entire organizations, can be. It's amazing how unaware some folks can be.

You take a nasty, nasty recall battle. Add a seriously divided city. Throw in the Age of the Tea Party. Season liberally with an ongoing, severe budget crisis brought on by severe recession.

Add a bunch of homeless people -- some of them seriously down on their luck, others seriously chemically dependent, yet others seriously mentally ill. All of them not exactly civically engaged.

Round them up at a local homeless shelter to go vote early, if not often. Bus them out to the 'burbs to vote at the election commissioner's office. Make sure they vote the right way. Give them a fin for "training."

Doug Einung, 54, of Omaha stood in line with one busload of men and women for about 35 minutes Wednesday. He said the homeless were repeatedly urged to vote “no.”

“Everybody was getting directions from her, and she was telling them to vote ‘no.' And, some of them, they weren't paying attention. They'd get up close (to the voting booth) and one guy asked, ‘How are we voting again?' And she'd say, ‘No,' ” said Einung, who described himself as a conservative who supports Suttle's recall.

Einung said one of the men in the group smelled of alcohol.

But Einung said he heard no talk of money.

One homeless man, Michael Sergeon, had initially told reporters on Wednesday that he was paid $5 to vote. A few minutes later, Sergeon retracted his statement, saying he was paid $5 to hand out campaign brochures.

WHAT'S THERE to be misunderstood? More importantly, what is there in any of this to convince Omahans that booting Suttle, taking the budgetary hit from all those elections and reaping -- possibly -- the whirlwind wouldn't be an improvement over a mayor who puts his political life in the hands of the Keystone Kops?

To employ the lofty language of political science . . . holy crap!

Let's not even get into the persuasive art involved in some scruffy dude trying to hand you a "Vote No" brochure between requests for "anything to help a brother out" and a smoke.

No, I'm looking at the newspaper, and watching the local news on TV, and I'm starting to think I'm back home in Louisiana. Just what Omaha always aspired to.

The Mayor Suttle Recall Committee might have started the race to the bottom by hiring some champions of the world as petition circulators, but Forward Omaha may have just emerged a winner. This, of course, means Jim Suttle may have just emerged a big loser.

Well, I hear Louisiana's former governor, Edwin Edwards, is getting out of the federal pen. Maybe somebody can slip somebody a little somethin', bend a few Nebraska state laws and get him on the mayoral ballot.

Time to embrace the chaos, 'cause chaos is what we're likely to get.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Beware this New Year's resolution


We're screwed.

Omaha's embattled mayor, Jim Suttle, has a New Year's resolution as he steels himself for a recall vote this month. It's to better listen to us, the citizens of this fair city.

Like I said, we are so screwed. I mean, we thought the city was broke. That things were bad enough to recall Suttle for, among other things, not listening to us. Wait until he
does start listening to the vox populi -- we ain't seen nothin' yet.

Trust me, the city will be bankrupt in a week if the mayor is sincere about all this listening stuff.


FOR YEARS, the Omaha taxpayer has railed about high property taxes. The Omaha driver has railed about high wheel taxes. The Omaha consumer has railed about our high below-average sales taxes.

During all those years, nobody cared that city hall was making sweetheart deals with the police and fire unions to buy labor peace (and defer pay raises) in the name of holding the line on property taxes, because that's what the voters wanted. It was the municipal version of taking out a home-equity loan to pay down the credit cards --
after all, what could go wrong?

We're entitled, don't you know? Since the last economic slump -- the one before this, the mother of all modern economic slumps -- the Omaha voter has demanded, and gotten, almost-annual property-tax cuts.
And then. . . .

Chickens. Homaha. Roost.

You know what started to fly then. In fact, it started to hit the fan. The tax revenue stopped flowing, and the bills kept on coming. The city pension fund was about broke.

"Cut the budget!" the angry voter says.
"Not THAT part of the budget!" a hundred angry neighborhood associations and civic groups demand.

"Where's my property-tax cut?"

"Fill the damn potholes!"

"Don't close my library!"

"The cops and firefighters are making out like bandits! Stop giving away the store!"

BUT WAIT . . . the cops and firefighters won't agree to that. The contract fight will end up in arbitration. Omaha will get screwed in arbitration -- it always has. Take the concessions the mayor got.

"The cops and firefighters are making out like bandits! Stop giving away the store!"

No, really, this is the best we can do. We bargained the Cadillac owners down to a nice Chevy.

"The cops and firefighters are making out like bandits! Stop giving away the store!"

You're not making sense. The Commission of Industrial Relations will not rule kindly for the city. That's almost a lock.

"Recall the cop-coddler!"

IF IT were me in the mayor's office, I'd be tempted to resign and let the next sucker try to figure out -- after carefully listening to the fine citizens of Omaha -- exactly how one goes about letting the people have their cake and eat yours, too.

Good luck to Mayor Suttle. He's going to need it, particularly if he survives the recall election.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

And they all shine on. . . .


It's a drag, man.

Coups. D'etat, da city, da whatever. Recalls, free for alls, agitation, confrontation, conflagration -- they're all a drag, man.

The Mayor Suttle Recall Committee is a drag. Recall-committee member John Chatelain is a drag. Recall "money man" Dave Nabity is not only a drag, he's harshing all of Omaha's mellow.

And from the first time that they really done us -- ooh, they done us -- they done us good. I heard that on a record somewhere, and somebody ought to have a bed-in to protest this crap. At least that way, we wouldn't have to go far when the recall-istas wanted to do us good . . . again.

Personally -- being that I'm still a work in progress when it comes to peace and love and enlightenment -- I'd prefer to have a protest action built around "Everybody's got something to hide except me and my monkey," then have 28,720 chimpanzees all flinging their feces at John Chatelain, Dave Nabity (right) and their trusty flack Jeremy Aspen in a bit of symbolic political theater.

But like I said, that's just me. And my monkeys.


IF IT SEEMS that I might be a bit around the bend, here, just keep in mind that reading the Omaha World-Herald is getting to be a drag, too. Like, I mean, look:
A civil war has erupted within the group pushing for Mayor Jim Suttle’s recall.

A member of the Mayor Suttle Recall Committee — Omaha attorney John Chatelain — accused possible mayoral candidate David Nabity on Wednesday
of trying to “take control” of the committee to “enhance his mayoral ambitions.”

He said Nabity tried to exert control over the committee by raising the bulk of the money for the group from his friends and possible supporters.

Nabity acknowledged he plans to start a second pro-recall committee but vehemently denied Chatelain’s charges. He said the new committee will include businessmen who want to be involved in government and campaign affairs in Omaha long after the recall has ended.

“I’m afraid Mr. Chatelain has a warped sense of the facts, and his comments are so far off-base that it’s not worth responding to,” said Nabity, who added that Chatelain was angry because of run-ins they had during the campaign.

A Republican, Nabity is not a newcomer to politics or controversy. He ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for governor in 2006.

Last year, he helped to form a group of businessmen and women called the Omaha Alliance for the Private Sector. The group has been highly critical of Suttle and the city’s contracts with firefighters and police unions.

IT'S PRETTY BAD when there's just too much hate for one target to accommodate, you know?

Watch out! Knife
fight!

It became clear Wednesday that Nabity has provided crucial support to the group.

Nabity has said he was not a part of the group, but he acknowledged Wednesday he has been a key fundraiser for the group, persuading his friends and supporters to donate to the campaign. He also acknowledged he was instrumental in bringing a national recall expert to Omaha — Paul Jacobs — to help manage and organize the paid circulators.

Nabity said the group came to him for help.

But Chatelain said Nabity came to the group, saying he had friends who wanted to donate and who wanted the committee to hire paid circulators.

Nabity raised about $200,000 of the $287,000 the committee eventually collected, Chatelain said.

It was after Nabity raised the money and hired Jacobs that he began to try to “take control” of the group, said Chatelain.

At one point, Nabity asked Chatelain to step down. Nabity then said if he wasn’t allowed to put his people in charge of the recall effort, he would take “his donors” and start a new committee, Chatelain said.

“At this point, we began to suspect that Mr. Nabity was putting his own mayoral campaign team in place and wanted to control the recall campaign through it,” Chatelain said in a written statement.

WHAT CAN I say about this kind of insanity? Nothing. At least nothing beyond telling folks to step back, stay safe and enjoy the show.

Fortunately, I don't have to -- and it's just total Instant Karma that this is happening this week -- because the great, late John Lennon already did:
Instant Karma's gonna get you,
Gonna look you right in the face,
Better get yourself together darlin',
Join the human race,
How in the world you gonna see,
Laughin' at fools like me,
Who on earth d'you think you are,
A super star,
Well, right you are.

Well we all shine on,

Like the moon and the stars and the sun,
Well we all shine on,
Ev'ryone come on.
AND JOHN is just getting warmed up. He also has some questions for the Mayor Suttle Recall Committee:
You say you got a real solution
Well you know
we'd all love to see the plan
You ask me for a contribution
Well you know
We're all doing what we can
But if you want money for people with minds that hate
All I can tell you is brother you have to wait
Don't you know it's gonna be alright?
BUT NO. The recall-istas are not interested in making sense and addressing public concerns.
Ev'rybody's talking about
Bagism, Shagism, Dragism, Madism, Ragism, Tagism
This-ism, that-ism, is-m, is-m, is-m.

Ev'rybody's talking about Ministers,

Sinisters, Banisters and canisters
Bishops and Fishops and Rabbis and Popeyes,
And bye bye, bye byes.

Let me tell you now
Ev'rybody's talking about
Revolution, evolution, masturbation,
flagellation, regulation, integrations,
meditations, United Nations,
Congratulations.
ME, I'M sick of arguing. I'm sick of being sick of the perpetually outraged.

And all I am saying is give Jim a chance.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Better recalls through magical thinking


So, Mr. Recall-Petition Circulator, what's the deal here? Why are you trying to get rid of Mayor Jim Suttle?

Long story short, it's all about taxes. Omaha can't afford a spendthrift, tax-crazy mayor like that!

Here's the deal.
You see, Jim Suttle . . . mumble mumble . . . uh . . . broken promises . . . uh . . . union deal that cost taxpayers a million dollars. OK, I'm gonna skip some of this stuff . . . mumble mumble . . . you can read it for yourself, but they sayin' it's gonna cost $900,000 to recall him out of office, but that's a bunch of bullcrap . . . mumble mumble . . . he ain't worth supportin'.

It's all perfectly clear, and it's all brought to you by "consultants and people running the campaign who are kind of, you know, conservative . . . fiscal conservative types from D.C. and stuff."

So just rest assured that the recall people ain't full of bullcrap or nothin' like Jim Suttle. I mean, would they lie to you?



PAY NO ATTENTION to those media people behind the curtains telling you about a 2-percent restaurant tax.

No! No! It's a 15-percent tax! Yeah . . . that's the ticket!

Seriously, man. Would a petition-consulting company that's "all over" lie to you, Mr. Voter? No!

And not only would such a big company. . . one that's "like a conservative, libertarian, sort of tea-party effort" . . . not only would it not lie to you about a 15-percent tax, it'll help defray the cost of a recall vote just to show you that the guys in charge are as swell a bunch of guys as ever tried to run a mayor out of office.


TRUST US, the taxpayers won't have to pay a dime for a slew of special elections.

How? Ancient Chinese secret . . . money men!

"Well, if we run with a spring election it won't cost anything extra. But we do have backers that, if they say it's gotta be a special election, we have backers that are willing to pay it."

Who are these backers of whom you speak?

"Well, I'm not sure who all these money men are, but they're, they're the ones who are behind this."

Oh.


AS IT turns out, the "money men" are . . . the federal government! Just the kind of fiscal-conservative, libertarian, tea-party solution that we need!

I don't know why we never thought that the conservative, libertarian, tea-party recall organizers would have all the federal-funding-of-local-elections bases covered.

See, a recall vote would be mostly paid for with federal money "because it's an election."

It all makes so much sense if you don't think about it.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Why am I not surprised?


An anti-recall group is sending out postcards to people whose names appeared on recall petitions asking if they intended to sign on to the campaign to remove Mayor Jim Suttle from office.

Noelle Obermeyer, co-treasurer of Forward Omaha, said Monday that postcards were mailed last week to some petition signers, although she didn't know the exact number. She said the postcards ask people to call the Forward Omaha office to report any potential problems.

“We've had people call back and say, ‘I signed the petition, but I didn't know it was to recall the mayor,'” Obermeyer said.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Omaha's stinking, steaming pile of recall


Sometimes, I'm so right I disgust myself.

I didn't want to be right.

But it looks like we're going to have a mayoral-recall election in Omaha. From the number of signatures, it even looks like there's a chance we'll actually throw Mayor Jim Suttle out of office.

Let the unbudgeted hemorrhage of city funds begin. Special elections ain't cheap.

Anyway, this is what I wrote here July 3, 2009:
OK, I'll start by saying this: Omaha, generally, is a city that can withstand idiot politicians without missing a beat. The Big O's new mayor, however, is going to put us to the test.

Sometime in the next four years -- if not the next four months -- I predict we'll not only cry uncle, we'll be crying "Walt Calinger." If not "Fred Conley."
AT THE TIME, I wasn't particularly enamored of the new mayor. He was not off to a good start.

He wasn't leading on budget matters, and he seemingly was doing his best to make the worst impression. And you know what they say about not getting a second chance to make a good first impression.

Well, now Jim Suttle knows what they mean, too.

If you regularly read this space, you know I've taken my shots at the mayor -- really hard shots at the mayor. Really, he did not get off to a good start in anybody's eyes.

Ironically, though, I think Suttle has been gaining his footing this year. He's been starting to lead, and he is acting responsibly on the city's budget problems, realizing we can't cut our way out of the financial thicket the city finds itself in.

The money has to come from somewhere, and in a commonwealth, that would be your pocket.

OBVIOUSLY, the spoiled teen-agers who make up way too much of the city's electorate think otherwise. But having no plan, no foresight and no clue is no excuse to call off a good temper tantrum.

No matter who has to pay for it.

Recall elections were meant to be a last resort for the electorate. Now, in this age of unending political warfare, it's a first-strike option when the chips don't fall your way. And it's deadly when wielded by people whose good sense is only underperformed by their maturity and intelligence.

I call it the downside of universal suffrage. Government of the people, by the people and for the people is only as good as . . . the people. And when the people have it in their minds to be a bunch of spoiled brats, you're kind of hosed.

But that's where we are in Omaha, by God, Nebraska. Folks seemingly have come to the conclusion that sh*tting in their own bed is how you run a city and, in that respect, they display much less sense than my dogs.

Nornally, I'd say, "Well, it's their bed." But it's not.

The recall-mad people of Omaha are sh*tting in my bed, too. And yours.

Perhaps it's time to make that fact well understood.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

It helps to know thy enemy


Suttle recall spokesman Jeremy Aspen explains to the Omaha press that
the Republican Guard committed volunteers have crushed the mayor.

In case you were inclined to mistake the Mayor Suttle Recall Committee for serious people with legitimate concerns and a well-thought-out plan for righting what's wrong with Omaha, your last illusion just disappeared.


In its place is a clear picture of a bunch of spoiled, angry asshats taking the money of gullible, equally irate Omahans and using it to throw a very public and -- at times -- very funny temper tantrum.

Take Saturday morning, for example. A gaggle of petition circulators in Elkhorn spotted some easy marks walking down the street and started selling hard the notion of how Omahans needed to get rid of that no-good, tax-raisin', outta-touch scalawag Jim Suttle.

One of the people they were trying to convince to throw the bum out, however, was . . .
the bum. Mayor Jim Suttle.

IT'S ALL in this morning's Omaha World-Herald:
Recall petition workers unwittingly made their pitch to Suttle Saturday morning as he took a chilly walking tour of the Elkhorn business district with a small group of local boosters.

“He thought it was kind of funny,” said his spokeswoman, Aida Amoura.

The three recall backers — two men and one woman — approached the group.

Suttle played along for a while, said Elkhorn businesswoman Jennifer Pospichal, who described the exchange this way:
“What are you guys working on?” Suttle asked.

“We're trying to recall the mayor,” one man said.

Pospichal said it was obvious that the recall worker, who told Suttle he was not from Omaha, didn't realize whom he was talking to. She asked him if he was interested in meeting the mayor. When the recall worker said he was too busy for that, she motioned in Suttle's direction.

The man looked shocked, said Pospichal, an officer of the Elkhorn Station Main Street group.

“It was really hilarious,” she said. “He just turned in his tracks and started walking on the other side of the street.”
OBVIOUSLY, the guy -- the whole bunch of recall backers -- had no clue who Suttle was, or that they were trying to get the mayor to sign up to recall himself.

The recall committee wants you to believe these people are eminently qualified to tell Omahans -- who
can recognize their own mayor when they bump into him on the street -- why their mayor is a bum. And then cajole them into signing a recall petition, triggering a special recall election that the city can't afford.

Which, of course, likely would end up raising taxes that much more, because the money has to come from somewhere. Just like mercenary recall workers, I guess.

What may be even funnier than some clueless carpetbagger asking the target of a recall petition to sign on the dotted line was how recall spokesman Jeremy Aspen tried to spin the unspinnable:
Aspen said the non-Omahan who spoke with Suttle was a paid worker who helps “coach” other petition circulators as they seek potential signers. Actual circulators must be Nebraska residents.

For Suttle and the recall workers to show up at the same place Saturday was a coincidence, Aspen said, but it illustrates that Suttle opponents are working hard to get the nearly 27,000 signatures needed to force a special election. The recall group has until Friday to turn in its petitions.

“It does demonstrate our presence,” he said.

IT DEMONSTRATES something, all right.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

We can haz brain???


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.

(snip)

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.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Leadership today

This one sentence from an Omaha World-Herald story today about the city's budget crisis (and one lonely councilman's quest for a necessary property-tax hike) sums up, I think, exactly why we are so hosed:
[Mayor Jim] Suttle said today that he would support Gray's proposal if the rest of the council gets behind it.
I DON'T KNOW what more to say about a guy who would run for mayor of a large city, presumably because he wanted to make the hard decisions . . . but only if the city council makes them for him.

Pardon-toi mon Français, but that's just chickens***. Totally, staggeringly, irrevocably chickens***.

Omaha deserves better than this. Even if, as proven by election results, it doesn't want any better than this.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Brother, can you spare a book?


Because the mayor is feckless, the city council is spineless and Omaha taxpayers are shameless, the city's library system has been decimated.

And that same level of public non-service will be creeping across all of city government. Soon.

From a story this evening on KETV, Channel 7:


A day after the cuts are finalized, the reality is made clear for the libraries --the downtown branch will no longer be open on the weekend. Homeless shelter outreach programs disappear. Book trading between branches is severely curtailed. The Florence branch closes. Homework Hot Spots program disappears.

Mary Mollner is one of 53 to lose a job. More than a mentor, Mollner helped senior citizens connect to a 21st century world and she helped the jobless reform their resumes and find work.

"We bring the world of information to them and they come to us," Mollner said, fighting back tears.

Mollner's ideals of educating and enlightening aren't lost.

"During this time off, I'll go out and volunteer," Mollner said.

Teenagers like Samantha English turned to the library after school for homework help and book clubs.

"The programs here are fun. They actually get you out of trouble," English said.
ONE BRANCH'S HOURS are being reduced by 19 hours a week. Another's by 14.

And on the reductions in service go -- another 19 hours here. Four hours there. Two hours over there.

And at the main library downtown, a 21-hour cut per week. It will be closed all weekend starting Sept. 8.


I would suggest that high-school teachers start accepting Wikipedia as a legitimate reference source.

MEANWHILE, the head of Omaha's firefighters union has grudgingly negotiated a two-year pay freeze with the mayor. The deal stipulates that firefighters will get a raise in Year Three no matter what happens with the economy.

It also says they'll get makeup raises on top of their regularly scheduled raises if the fiscal picture improves. Would that my wife -- who had to take, without benefit of negotiation, a 5-percent pay cut plus five days' furlough -- could get to "sacrifice" to such an extent as our firefighters.

About the only thing hard times are showing us in the 21st century is to what extent we all figure every man -- and woman -- is indeed an island, contra John Donne. Librarians get fired, city services get slashed and the little (and big) things that make up a city's quality of life take a beating, all because people who damn well have enough money to live in a six-figure house say they'll be damned if they pay another $25 . . . or $50 . . . or $100 a year in property tax.

And because the best other alternative the mayor could come up with was a Rube Goldberg "entertainment tax." One that would hurt a struggling industry enough -- and thus garner enough angry opposition -- that its demise at the city council's hands was a given.

And because Mayor Jim Suttle doesn't have the cojones to implement an occupation tax that's been on the books since the early 1980s.

And because the city council ran out of creative alternative ideas before it even had a one. That is, apart from a recent proposals to furlough every city worker still standing for two-weeks.

BASICALLY, hard times came and no one stepped up. No one -- not government, not business, not taxpayers.

No one.

And we're officially hosed. Except, ironically, for the hose jockeys. They're making out just fine.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

You can get anything you want . . . .


I've been scarce around these cyberparts, off fighting another skirmish in the ongoing war against cyberobsolescence. Mine.

Or, more precisely, my computer's.

A flat-screen monitor Mrs. Favog and I found at an estate sale for $40 suddenly decided the other day to follow its former owner to the Great Beyond. Or to Florida -- whatever.

Having been burned by our quest to get some LCD magic for (next to) nothing, my better half and I trekked to Nebraska Furniture Mart in search of some brand-new monitor goodness . . . some 22-inch widescreen goodness. As if we had a choice.

Computer-monitor makers still might be cranking out 4x3 displays these days, but the Mart and Best Buy weren't selling them. When in Rome, and all that, you know.

And I love me some wide-format computing. You used to have to hook up multiple monitors to get this kind of virtual workspace.

And the picture. . . . oh, dear me, can a Blu-Ray burner for the old Dell be far behind?


OF COURSE, being that we're talking computers -- particularly 4-year-old ones -- you know the path to widescreen goodness had to be a bumpy one. Very. The road to planned obsolescence is never an Autobahn experience for the poor consumer, who just wants a lot for a little.

Like me and that estate-sale flat-screen.

First, the fargin' integrated video controller, I discover when I hook up the new monitor, wouldn't support widescreen monitors. So everything had that funhouse-mirror look -- the video version of getting the news from home via a phone call from Mama.

Well, I figured that might happen. So I head down to Best Buy to get me an inexpensive video card. Excuse me . . . graphics card.

I can put it in. I can put anything in a computer. Hell, since we got our first one in 1993, I've replaced everything there is to replace inside a computer tower except the power supply and motherboard.

But there's a problem. My Dell Dimension 3000, which I didn't think was that old or decrepit . . . is. And it features an undersized (by today's standards) 250-watt power supply. Most video -- er, graphics -- cards won't give you a crappy black-and-white kinescope view of the world for under 350-watts of the Omaha Public Power District's finest.

ON THE OTHER HAND, it might cause your computer to melt down.

And not only that, most of the graphics cards Dell says are compatible with my model of computer most certainly aren't compatible with the tiny-ass power supply they put in my computer. Power supply, anyone?

To go along with the new monitor and a new video -- OK, graphics, GRAPHICS!!! -- card.

What was a $40 estate-sale bargain so far had turned into a $192 Nebraska Furniture Mart shopping trip. It was threatening to ring up another $65 for a video card and at least that much for a bigger power supply.

Face it, if we all had to constantly rebuild our automobiles just to be allowed on the Interstate, we'd all be taking the bus. But that's the "world of personal computing" in a world that eats the computer-deprived for lunch.

AFTER A DAY of back and forth on the graphics-card issue, I opened up the Dell to see who was full of it -- the folks in Round Rock, Tejas, and their system specs and upgrade recommendations, or . . . the folks in Round Rock, Tejas, who maybe put more power supply in my "old" Dimension 3000 than I thought.

As it turns out, the folks in Round Rock, Tejas, were full of it. And they did put a puny 250-watt power supply in the computer . . . as promised. And it looked like not just any off-the-shelf power supply would fit in that thing.

And it looked like the only place I'd find a graphics card that wouldn't suck up more juice than old Dell could give was online. Trouble is, I was sick of messing with the damned thing -- which was lying half taken apart on the dining-room table.

So we went to the one place in town that carried a 250-watt card and happily paid too much for it. And here I sit, in widescreen bliss . . . $250-odd poorer.

BUT THIS ISN'T about my computer.

It's about how the city of Omaha has gutted the public library system -- and is about to gut God knows what else -- all because some loud taxpayers, and some feckless city council members, think you can run a city on $40 estate-sale, flat-screen computer monitors and not have to pay the piper at some point.

It's about how folks still expect the city to cut, cut and cut some more even when the budgetary fat is gone and the muscle ain't looking so good anymore.

It's about how cops aren't being hired, one library branch will close for the rest of the year (at least) while others slash their hours (and staff) and youth-recreation programs in poor neighborhoods are being axed (great combination, eh?) all because a bunch of loud-mouthed, right-wing yahoos are raising holy hell from somewhere east of Eden and west of the 'hood. Because it would just be completely scandalous and unreasonable to expect people who live in $100,000 houses to pay $25 more a year in property tax.

From the Omaha World-Herald on Wednesday:
Although libraries and other services drew strong support, Festersen said he thought the common theme for many average citizens was their opposition to tax increases.

Council members are cool to Suttle's proposed entertainment tax and property tax hike, and they are looking for ways to cut spending further. They are set to vote on the budget Sept. 1.

Suttle and the council face a projected $11 million shortfall next year. The mayor also is trying to close a $12 million revenue gap in the current budget.

The hearing followed weeks of bad news on the city budget: The temporary closing of Florence Library, and cuts in library hours at other branches. Layoffs of 130 civilian employees. The grounding of the police helicopter for the rest of the year. Swimming pools closing early for the season.

Earlier Tuesday, Suttle announced furloughs in the Mayor's Office, saying all members of his staff will take eight unpaid leave days before the end of the year.


(snip)

Doug Kagan, chairman of the Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom, urged the council to cut spending.

“Don't tell us about sacred cows that cannot be touched. Sacred cows make the best hamburger,” Kagan said.
IT SEEMS we have a couple of dynamics at work here in the "don't tax you, don't tax me" contingent.

One group wants a really great computer monitor but sees no real need to pay for it. The other, exemplified by the Nebraska Grumblers for Screw You, already has a computer monitor and figures a Big Chief tablet is good enough for everybody else.

The common good is not a popular notion these days. Obviously.

Which brings us back to, you guessed it . . . computers. In Wednesday's Omaha paper.
Really.
Florence is part of northeast Omaha, lying within an area bounded by the Missouri River, Redick Avenue, 45th Street and the Washington County line. It includes the Ponca Hills area.

The decision to close the library has upset residents of all ages.

Teresa Miller, 20, and her brother Jonas, 15, were checking out story and music CDs when they heard the news Tuesday.

“That's weird to close a library,” Jonas said. “I mean, you need books, right?”

It never occurred to Teresa that her childhood library had a shortage of customers. She said the Florence library probably has fewer visitors because it is smaller than most branches.

“I like the small things,” she said, adding that she's frustrated that she'll have to use more gas to drive to a different branch.

For Craig and Deborah Johnson, a stroll to their public library is a family affair they hate to see end.

As a reporter approached the couple, they already were asking, why Florence?

“Things are going downhill real fast,” said Craig. “A snowball effect.”

Both he and his wife have been laid off from jobs as, respectively, equipment operator and office clerk. Tuesday, the couple walked to the library — their 2-year-old and 6-year-old in tow — to search for employment via library computers. The little ones also signed on to a computer.

The older Johnson children use the library as well, often taking a break to go across the hall to play basketball or participate in some other activity at the Florence recreation center. A senior center also is in the complex that contains the library.

Paying for bus fare to go elsewhere is an expense the Johnsons said they didn't need.

Hartline on Tuesday was at the senior center arranging a volunteer visit. She is a frequent library customer and also stops weekly at the post office a few blocks away.

“It's very upsetting,” said Hartline. “We are just as deserving of community facilities as any other part of Omaha.”
SURE YOU ARE. But Doug Kagan would rather you have this really cool $40 estate-sale, flat-screen computer monitor.

Just don't expect him to throw in a couple of bucks toward fixing it.