Monday, April 12, 2010

The Next Council Member?

Some of our contributors observed the Omaha City Council's interview of the five candidates for Council District 7 last Tuesday. Not surprisingly, their/our impression was pretty much the same as it was at last week's Chamber of Commerce/Metropolitan Builders candidate forum, at least as concerns the best and worst candidates. Clearly, Scott Yanhke did the most outstanding job. Clearly, odds-on favorite Kudym did the worst.

Each candidate was asked a series of 'structured questions' (meaning the same one) by each council member. Then there was a series of 'lightening round' questions as Council President Gernandt referred to them. We're not sure that some of the questions had much to do with being a council person.

Essentially, Councilman Grays structured question was, "Give me a specific case in which you conformed to a policy with which you didn't agree." Jerram's structured question was, Tell us of a time when your active listening skills really paid off for you." Stothert asked, "Can you tell us the toughest challenge you've faced?" Festerson, asked one of the more relevant questions, "What are the top priorities for District 7 and for the city as a whole?" Gernandt, asked what the candidates might want to share over and above their submitted resumes.

While the lightening round questions were not structured each of the council members still asked the same question(s) of each candidate. Gray asked each candidate their opinion of the reason for youth violence and the solution to the problem and whether making tougher laws and incarcerating was the best solution. Stothert asked one of the most relevant of questions when she asked if the candidates had made any commitments to support the police or fire union contracts and if any had been endorsed by any union or organization. Festersen probed the candidates as to their sense of what the city's role was in job creation. Jerram asked why each candidate was interested in serving and asked them to answer the question in regard to their past voting record as an expression of that interest. Thompson tried to get the candidates to assess how they would balance the citizens desire for services against balancing budgets.

Here's our assessments and grades for the candidates' performances:

Summary of responses:
  1. KRAFT: On specifics as to examples of past decisions, he was unspecific because most of his examples came from his legal representation of folks and he obviously didn't want to risk disclosing confidences or breaching attorney/client privileges. Said the toughest challenge he had faced was death of his mother. On specific challenges, he said he "didn't know what specific challenges are," but mentioned financial, police and fire union contracts, sewer projects, making Omaha a destination city and youth crime. He told Gray he had concerns about being overly tough on crime rather than smart on crime. Said he had received no union endorsements and made no commitments. On the budget, he told Thompson that the city needs to look at efficiency first but wouldn't rule anything out including raising taxes. GRADE = C
  2. MULLIGAN: Very specific in response to priorities for District 7 and the city. Said, 1) Get streets back in shape, 2) Get streets in subdivisions in shape since they've suffered much deferred maintenance, and 3) consummate union agreements. On specific challenges he cited dealing with service disruptions in Louisiana after hurricane as part of his job at Union Pacific. He told Thompson that it was important to put aside party affiliations and make decisions in best interest of the community. To Gray, he cited his involvement in YMCA and other youth organizations. He told Stothert he had no endorsements and had made no commitments on union contracts. He said on budget issues the city needs to look at public works and he'd like to do a 'ride-a-long' just as is done with police. GRADE = B
  3. KUDYM: Told Stohtert toughest challenge was three years ago when wife was diagnosed with cancer. Told Jerram his listening skills were honed in dealing with many State Farm clients and assessing their needs. Couldn't answer Gray's question as to when he had to deal with a policy that he didn't agree with. He told Festersen the top priority for District 7 and the city was the city's financial situation has to be strengthened, so no specifics for his district. Said he had made no promises on contracts but understood the AFL-CIO was backing him. On Gray's question about crime, Kudym said the city needed grassroots efforts to resolve. He told Thompson that he hoped taxes didn't need to be raised but that may be the reality. Of all the candidates, Kudym's were the most nebulous and unspecific. GRADE = D
  4. REGAN: Shared her commitment to District 7, noting she had lived their most of her life. Talked about listening skills developed in her business and while serving as a teacher and answered questions with specifics for the most part. Said council member need to be open and "take the middle ground". On specifics for District 7, she said 1) condition of roads and 2) keep district growing and vibrant. Said she had made no commitments on union contracts and had received no endorsements. On taxes she told Thompson that the city needed to look at efficiency studies, i.e., for police department. She probably didn't win any friends there. Told Gray that city couldn't arrest its way out of crime and that there is a need to work with youth. She told Jerram that, "People who don't vote don't have a right to an opinion." She told Stothert that the most valuable credentials for a council person was honesty, willingness to listen and openness. GRADE = B-
  5. YANKE: Told Gernandt that he had a strong sense of working cooperatively and colloquially. Talked about having to deal with teaching from textbooks he didn't necessarily agree with. He told Thompson that he was offended by the efforts of the Nebraska State Republican Party to make phone calls in the district on his behalf and he disowned that effort. He told Festersen that his top priorities for District 7 were quality of life, looking at contracted service opportunities, street maintenance and how to provide efficient services. Said he would be more conservative in order to avoid tax increases. Toughest challenge was losing two parents within a week's time. He gave Ben Gray the best answer to his question about youth violence talking about how as a teacher while in west Omaha drove a child home to North Omaha (with parent's permission), got young people more involved through Junior Achievement. He said the city needed real life skills to deal with crisis level situation of violence in community. Said he had made no commitments and had no endorsements other than the uninvited one of the state GOP. On job creation, he told Festersen that city was fortunate to have David Browne at the Chamber, that the council needs to network with the chamber and that he advocated getting organizations involve to explore bringing jobs to Omaha. GRADE = B+

With the above it was clearly obvious to us that Scott Yanhke is the best candidate to fill Sigerson's council seat and that Gary Kudym is the worst. Clearly, Yanhke won't get the appointment because he is a Republican. Kudym still has the support of Terry Moore and the AFL-CIO. Gernandt is solidly behind him. There may be a realization among some that Kudym may not be the most educated appointment in which case Regan will no doubt be the most likely alternative to get the appointment tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

It's lightning, no lightening. Quick and spontaneous.

Anonymous said...

Yes Miss Grammar...

It's also "not", not "no". If you're going to be condescending, at least get YOUR act together first.

But thanks for being pompous.