Wednesday, March 31, 2010

District 7 City Council Forum

For the most part yesterday's City Council Forum sponsored in part by the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce and the Metropolitan Homebuilders was short on substance. The questions that the 5 finalists were asked were given to them in advance but few showed that having the questions in advance made a difference when it came to directly answering the questions. Sadly, there was no public questioning of the candidates and only three questions for them to dance their way around. Even more sadly, not anyone from the news media covered the event.

We hope the public council interview will show more substance on the part of the questioners and interviewees.

On the other hand, the bottom line is that a Democrat will be appointed to fill Chuck Sigerson's seat and we still assert it will be Gary Kudym who was not only the most unimpressive presenter yesterday but also appears to be the most malleable to a bunch of incompetent Democrats whose majority will prevail. Given Kudym's response we'd suggest that they look to Kraft or Regan if they want a Democrat. However, they'd probably be frightened to have a lawyer on the council and they already have one female who thankfully challenges them more than they would like so another would be anathema.

At least we were there yesterday and here how we rated the candidates:
  1. Yahnke

  2. Mulligan

  3. Kraft

  4. Regan

  5. Kudym

Some will say we are partial to the top two who happen to be Republicans. The truth of the matter is they were the most prepared and answered the questions better than the others.

Our impressions:

Their Introductions:

Gary Kudym: Kudym had difficulty just introducing himself. He virtually had to read his introduction and seemed ill at ease doing so. He noted his similarity to Chuck Sigerson since he is a small business owner and State Farm agent.

Stephen Kraft: Did a reasonable job introducing himself. He talked about his 24 years as a Douglas County Prosecutor and said he was familiar with violence and had worked on establishing the first drug courts.

Scott Yahnke: Was will prepared. Showed good bi-partisan orientation by disclaiming robo call efforts by Nebraska State Republican Party to encourage Republicans to contact the council members by phone or e-mail on behalf of himself or Mulligan. Talked about his background of teaching in OPS for 33 years and being a licensed real estate agent for 10 years. Said as a council member he would be collegial collaborative in working with all citizens.

Thomas Mulligan: Made some fun in his introduction noting that his son had suggested a campaign slogan of 'a chicken in every pothole.' The funny fell short of getting any laughs. Mulligan noted prior political experience in serving as a board member of SID 236. He noted that he was former Mayor Leahy's paperboy and had watched his antics and that if elected he, Mulligan, would try to bring a sense of humor to the job. We found his presentation flat but he has a solid record of 35 years of service in management with the Union Pacific

Jeri Regan: An Omaha Marian High graduate who left the city but came back 25 years ago to work with her family in their insurance business. Didn't need to read notes to discuss who she was and her love for Omaha and desire to see it continue to grow. Was very complimentary about what has happened in Omaha over last 15 years.

As we noted, there were three questions. While we didn't take them down directly, we'll give you the general gist of the question and responses.

The Police Union Contract and amendments: Where do you stand on it and how do you finance it?

  • Kudym: Basically said he needed to read the contract and amendments. Said the city needed to work with the unions. A lousy answer but one that will make Suttle lackeys Jerram, Gernandt, Gray and Festersen happy.

  • Kraft: Said that the council needed to look at both sides. This would also appeal to the mayor and his gang of four (see previous answer of Kudym). Again, for having the question in advance, he failed to give a satisfactory answer.

  • Yahnke: Said the negotiations were going in the right direction. He talked about several specific issues regarding the pension program and noted room for improvement. Compared his OPS retirement benefits after 33 years with those of someone who was retiring from OPD after 20, noting huge disparities.

  • Mulligan: Provided a milquetoast response. No real answer considering he had question in advance.

  • Regan: Again, considering she had the question in advance, really didn't begin to answer the question.

The city's financial challenges: How do you balance the citizens' desire for services with tax increases and meeting the city's obligations, i.e. sewer separation contract?

  • Mulligan: Suggested the city needed to work smarter, asking "how do we improve efficiency?" Suggested city needs to ascertain whether additional services can be contracted out.
  • Yahnke: Asked how much do we want government to do for us? He would use that thought process in trying to balance services with taxes
  • Kraft: Said we need to look at efficiency. He said he was resistant to raising taxes but would rule it out. Said one way to bring more income to the city was to make it a destination city.
  • Kudym: In another pretty unsubstantive response said that the city needs to look at ways to increase revenue without raising taxes. He gave no examples and we're not sure what he meant.
  • Regan: Her answer was pretty non substantive. She suggested that the city needed to work with non profits and others as much as possible.

How do you define economic development and what part does city council have in partnering with Chamber of Commerce?

  • Yahnke: One of the best answers of the afternoon. Provided several thoughtful examples
  • Mulligan: Said that economic development equals jobs. He said that the city must maintain a favorable environment with a favorable tax base.
  • Regan: Talked a lot about the arts. Said the city needed good schools and art venues to attract jobs.
  • Kraft: In one of his more responsive answers said that the city needs to develop private-public partnerships. The city needs to use T.I.F. (Tax Increment financing). Sounding like Mayor Suttle said the city needed to work to create green jobs. Also said that the city needed light rail although he didn't begin to say how to pay for it.
  • Kudym: Long on rhetoric, short once again on substance


Anonymous said...

For each response, Mr. Kudym pulled out his "cheat sheet", put his head down, and in a soporific monotone, read his pre-determined responses to the questions. Am not sure if he ever raised his head to address the audience! Mr. Kudym, if selected, will be a mind-less puppet to the current Admini-stration! If in fact, he is selected, it is an affront to every "viable" voter in Council Dist. 7!

Lightfinger said...

Since we're going to get stuck with a Democrat, I think Kraft plainly showed he's the best of those three. If Regan thinks improving the arts will improve the job situation, she just doesn't understand Omaha. We are not Chicago or San Francisco, nor will we ever be.