Council persons Jean Stothert and Franklin Thompson were in attendance, but there were the only two of the seven members present. At least one state senator was present, but, unfortunately, I didn't witness any other Republican activists present.
Because of the large group, and the probable concern that, if breakout sessions were held, most would attempt to go to the mayor's group, the q&a session stayed in the lecture hall, and all questions were directed toward the mayor.
The mayor and his staff led with the ongoing litany of maintaining Omaha's "quality of life", which appears to be their catch-all phrase / excuse for their expansive tax proposals.
One of the more interesting exchanges came when a member of the audience asked about the significant salary increases, or expansive new salaries of new members of the mayor's staff, as compared to the '09 / '10 budgets, as well as other budget comparisons, and the mayor became noticeably testy about making budget comparisons. He blurted something to the effect that this is this year, and that was last year! A remarkable admission again that "it's my way. . . period"!
Another lady asked about audits, and the mayor stated that, yes, his departments are doing audits! Asked when the public might see the results, again the mayor curtly responded that he has specific criteria for analyzing the results of those audits, but, again, that's for he and his staff to determine. Obviously, unless one is an engineer, or one of his exorbitantly salaried staff, one is just too stupid to understand!
During the presentations of the police, fire, and parks departments., pictures were displayed of old equipment that needed to be replaced. However, minimal facts were presented of a serious plan of physical equipment replacement. The mayor's "kick the can down the road" allegory is, needless to say, getting old. He says he isn't responsible for the current fiscal problems, blaming it on the poor decisions made over the past ten years. But who was on the council for the previous 4 years? Who was Director of Public Works for the city of Omaha prior to that? Who was it that said he had absolutely no idea of the extent of the fiscal crisis until he was sworn in as mayor in June of '09? Who promised not to raise property taxes in his campaign in the spring of '09? Yes, it was our esteemed Mayor.
The head of the Omaha restaurant assoc. expressed his concerns about the added 4% tax, when non-profits were being exempted. Another individual asked if the Mayor wasn't concerned about driving business (multiple restaurants are failing as a result of the current economy) to Council Bluffs and Sarpy Co. The mayor answered an abrupt "No"! In fact, he alleges that his proposed advertising campaign, using a portion of those funds, would bring added business to them! More fantasy?
One might think that, with a responsible Mayor, there might be at least an attempt, despite the need to potentially raise some additional revenue, a greater attempt might be made to offer at least a modicum of fiscal restraint by showing a firmer managerial approach to restraining costs. When confronted with personnel costs, the mayor essentially shrugs his shoulders and says that his hands are tied by negotiations and contractual requirements! In other words: this mayor is essentially a tool of the dominant unions in city government, and is telling the Omaha tax paying public "Screw You!"