Showing posts with label gas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gas. Show all posts

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Spanning the Gulf betwixt skid marks, skid marks

When I was 7, I thought this commercial had it goin' on.

After 42 years, my opinion hasn't changed. No Nox against it at all.

Thank you! Thank you very much -- I'm here all week.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Feed the world firefighters

For Steve LeClair, the world's smallest violin just got smaller. And it's still playing "My Heart Bleeds for You."

Can he hear it?

I didn't think so. I'll bet years of sirens and fire alarms haven't helped his tin ear any.

TIN EAR may be an understatement. With Omaha facing an $11 million budget deficit and thousands of his fellow citizens already having their paychecks frozen, cut or eliminated altogether, the president of the city's firefighter union had the nerve. . . .

Wait, why should I soften the impact for you? I want you to come across LeClair's quote in the Omaha World-Herald just as I did -- cold. And I want you to get just as angry when you read it.

The notion of an extended wage freeze is a sore point for city employees who feel they've become the whipping boy for all of the city's budget woes. Too frequently, they say, their paychecks become an easy target when revenues slow down.

Employees say they deserve raises that let them keep pace with inflation.

“When you ask me to take zero percent in consecutive years, you're taking milk out of my baby's mouth and food off my table,” said Steve LeClair, president of the Omaha firefighters union.

In 2003, civilian workers in Local 251 accepted a virtual freeze. In 2004, police and firefighters had no raise.

The freezes helped avoid proposed layoffs, cuts in services and the closing of facilities. But the contracts also included raises in subsequent years and other costly provisions, some of which have contributed to the city's current $500 million shortfall in its police and fire pension fund.

Even considering those earlier freezes, the unions kept pace with inflation from 1997 to 2007. The cost of living rose an average 2.6 percent per year during that period, compared with average wage hikes of 2.6 percent for civilian workers, 2.8 percent for police and 3 percent for firefighters.
YEAH, THE MEAN, MEAN city fathers want to make Mr. Fire Union President take a pay freeze, thus making his widdle, biddy baby go hungry. So said the righteously indignant Mr. LeClair.

To a World-Herald reporter who recently took a 5-percent pay cut and watched dozens of his colleagues thrown into the unemployment line. I wonder how much milk got taken out of their babies' mouths . . . how much food off their tables?

But apart from the sheer offensiveness of LeClair's remarks to the newspaper, how incompetent can you get as a union president? How public-relations unsavvy?

Apparently, Jim Suttle is contagious. Somebody better quarantine city hall before the whole damn city comes down with a bad case of the stupids.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Dumb and dumber lease a car

This is so stupid, I don't know where to start.

Unless, of course, it's by just skipping writing anything and proceeding straight to banging my head against the wall.

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."

HE HASN'T been in office a month, but Mayor Jim Suttle -- who, indeed, has been anything but subtle -- already has established a firm routine . . . a modus operandi, if you will. Whatever the issue, we can count on Suttle to do stupid things, then leave it to his flack, former Channel 42 weatherman Ron Gerard (think the "Weird" Al Yankovic movie UHF here), to say stupid things by way of explanation.

Which brings us to the continuing saga of the mayor's overpriced hybrid SUV.

This morning, the Omaha World-Herald is reporting the interest rate on the city's lease for the official land barge comes to a cool 24 percent:
Jim Suttle's aides ignored the first rule of car shopping when picking the new mayor's SUV: Check the fine print.

The result: The lease on Suttle's Dodge Durango hybrid carries an interest rate of 24 percent.

That's nearly triple the average leasing rate and the rate paid for former Mayor Mike Fahey's leased SUV, based on a World-Herald review of both contracts.

The World-Herald reported last month that the Durango's annual payments were $15,717. That amount was later lowered by altering the payment schedule to $13,745. Even then, dozens of readers were left scratching their heads at the cost.

Suttle's spokesman defended the high interest rate, saying the city paid more to be able to return the SUV at a moment's notice, if needed, with no penalties. That's one feature of what's called a municipal lease, spokesman Ron Gerard said.

“It was one of the few options available,” Gerard said.

Suttle's transition team, however, didn't shop for other lease terms. Several readers asked why the city didn't buy the vehicle outright.

“The city doesn't have the money to buy vehicles,” Gerard said in an interview. “The city has an $11 million shortfall.”

Under the lease agreement, Omaha taxpayers will pay $14,000 in total interest over the four-year lease.

A leasing expert with the auto buying Web site called a 24 percent rate “outrageous.”

“Just simply looking at it from the market perspective, it looks like they paid too much for the premium,” said Jesse Toprak, a senior Edmunds analyst.
DUMB IS paying 24 percent interest for a mayoral land barge when the city's broke and cutting everything in sight. Dumber is explaining -- with a straight face . . . and perhaps a slack jaw -- that the reason the city's overpaying by thousands and thousands of dollars to lease a land barge is because it can't afford to buy one for $14,000 less.

Because, after all, “The city has an $11 million shortfall.”

Apparently, the city also has an IQ shortfall at city hall. Hang on folks, this is gonna be a rough ride.

P.S.: Damn, I almost forgot. Wanna know who was one of the geniuses negotiating the SUV lease for Suttle? This guy.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Hey, Rocky! Watch the new mayor pull
a hybrid (and your $$$) out of his hat

Omaha's broke.

Property-tax revenue is flat. Sales taxes are in the crapper. The police and fire pension fund is a half billion in the hole. City government can't cut departmental budgets fast enough.

And you can't go to the library on Sunday anymore.

THIS SAD state of affairs calls for decisive action, and that's just what Mayor Jim Suttle gave us on his first day in office. He has taken the bull by the horns and decided to spend $62,868 to lease a $40,000 SUV.

Ah, but it's not just any SUV. The mayor is overspending for a "green" SUV -- a 2009 Dodge Durango Hybrid. "Hybrid," of course, is tech-speak for "costs a crapload more money to get just six more miles per gallon."

Surely, though, hizzoner has valid reasons for spending $13,000 more to lease a too-big vehicle over four years than it would cost to just buy the thing. I am sure, when all is said and done, administration officials will outline the complex and nuanced decision making our civil-engineer mayor employed to reach a conclusion so brilliant that mere liberal-arts-major schmucks like me just can't comprehend it.

I NOW TURN to the Omaha World-Herald in search of elucidation and enlightenment:

In one of his first acts as incoming mayor, Suttle has leased a 2009 Dodge Durango Hybrid SUV for an annual cost of $15,717.

That’s $2,157 per year more than what former Mayor Mike Fahey paid to lease a 2008 Chrysler Aspen SUV. The city typically provides a vehicle for the mayor to use on official business.

A spokesman for Suttle said the new mayor wants to tout energy efficiency.

“We’re trying to increase awareness of the use of other forms of technology and different ways of at looking at things,” said spokesman Ron Gerard.

He said the lease, through GMAC, cost more because the nation’s lending collapse last year made leases more dif­ficult to get. The city also is paying more to be able to get out of the lease quickly, if needed, Gerard said.


Suttle decided to lease be­cause that is how the city tradi­tionally has handled mayor’s ve­hicles, his office said.

When asked why Suttle didn’t choose a less-expensive vehicle — even a non-hybrid — Gerard said Suttle had campaigned on increasing the use of alternative energy and driving a hybrid fit that message.
BOYS AND GIRLS, I'm no engineer, but I know bulls*** from Bullwinkle. And that ain't Rocky the Flying Squirrel the mayor's flack just pulled out of his hat.

If Omahans can expect four more years of this kind of fertilizer flung from the executive suite of the City-County Building, perhaps it's time for the mother of all community-garden initiatives. Or if the mayor is really all that hepped-up about "alternative energy," maybe he needs to dust off his slide rule and figure out how to run the Metro Area Transit bus fleet on hot air.

Hot air and fertilizer are two things Omaha is sure to have plenty of so long as Jim Suttle is engineering policy at city hall. And all it cost is Suttle's $98,000 salary.

Well, that and Ron Gerard's mental health. Because when it comes to the new mayor's decision-making skills, it looks like Matthew Samp just might be as good as it gets.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Ruh roh? Ruh rOPEC!

Why do I get the feeling that the America of 2015 won't much resemble the America of 2008?

And why do I likewise get the feeling the U.S. cities that weather the energy storm more or less intact will be the ones that get on the stick and get serious about mass transit -- particularly light rail and streetcars?

Probably, that feeling comes from having read
this Dan Dorfman column in The New York Sun:

Get ready for another economic shock of major proportions — a virtual doubling of prices at the gas pump to as much as $10 a gallon.

That's the message from a couple of analytical energy industry trackers, both of whom, based on the surging oil prices, see considerably more pain at the pump than most drivers realize.


Oil recently hit an all-time high of nearly $120 a barrel, more than double its early 2007 price of about $50 a barrel. It closed Friday at $118.52.

The forecasts calling for a jump to between $7 and $10 a gallon are based on the view that the price of crude is on its way to $200 in two to three years.

Translating this price into dollars and cents at the gas pump, one of our forecasters, the chairman of Houston-based Dune Energy, Alan Gaines, sees gas rising to $7-$8 a gallon. The other, a commodities tracker at Weiss Research in Jupiter, Fla., Sean Brodrick, projects a range of $8 to $10 a gallon.

While $7-$10 a gallon would be ground-breaking in America, these prices would not be trendsetting internationally. For example, European drivers are already shelling out $9 a gallon (which includes a $2-a-gallon tax).


Early last year, with a barrel of oil trading in the low $50s and gasoline nationally selling in a range of $2.30 to $2.50 a gallon, Mr. Gaines — in an impressive display of crystal ball gazing — accurately predicted oil was $100-bound and that gasoline would follow suit by reaching $4 a gallon.

His latest prediction of $200 oil is open to question, since it would undoubtedly create considerable global economic distress. Further, just about every energy expert I talk to cautions me to expect a sizable pullback in oil prices, maybe to between $50 and $70 a barrel, especially if there's a global economic slowdown.

While Mr. Gaines thinks there could be a temporary decline in the oil price, he's convinced an overall uptrend is unstoppable. In fact, he thinks his $200 forecast could be conservative, and that perhaps $250 could be reached. His reasoning: a combination of shrinking supply and increasing demand, especially from China, India, and America.
I'M GETTING THE FEELING, too, that there's an old, simple and reliable bicycle in my future.

Ironic, isn't it, that because the Chinese are becoming more like us -- at least in our extravagant, unsustainable way of life -- Americans ultimately will become more like the Chinese used to be until so very recently.