Friday, July 23, 2010
The Mayor's Budget Hearing Sham
Our contributors were at the first of Mayor Suttle's four budget hearings last night. At best, last night's 'dog and pony' show was a poor excuse for a 'public hearing'. It was simply a way for the mayor to say he was listening, similar to the budget shows he's conducted in the past.
The 'event' was also attended by two council members, Jean Stothert and Tom Mulligan. Where Mulligan went after the presentation we're not sure but Jean Stothert stayed around and was well received by those sharing their thoughts with her.
The mayor protected himself by simply making a four minute address and then letting his department directors discuss what was clearly already in his budget document/presentation. Nothing new here. We will say that the 150 or so folks there last night were very polite in their treatment of the mayor's department directors.
Suttle said that we were here to listen and learn as we work together to confront Omaha's financial challenges. In the Obama vein of blaming his predecessors, Suttle said that we have inherited the current situation because of 'short-term' decisions made 10-11 years ago, that decisions were pushed to the future. His finance director followed up with charts showing low property tax rates up until their double digit one of last year.
Yes, Suttle continues his 'they kicked the can down the road' rhetoric as he tries to justify his huge and unwarranted tax increases. Somehow he ignores his utter dumbfounded silence while he served on the city council from 2004 through his 'eureka' discovery of the city's dire financial position on May 15th of last year. Seems to us he had plenty of time to not kick the can down the road when he voted for four budgets, but he was probably too busy attending funerals and every event possible during those four years in anticipation of his run for mayor. How could he have been bothered by the city's finances?
What the citizens didn't get was a truly public give and take with the mayor. After a nearly 50 minute presentation by his appointees, the public was told they could visit with them and ask them questions in various parts of the building. When some screaming erupted about talking to the mayor he said he'd be around.
The mayor quickly ended up in the area outside the auditorium where about twenty people tried to express their opinions and get answers from him. While the mayor retained his composure, he really didn't hear anyone and just reiterated his budget rhetoric.
In the end the mayor's 'budget hearing' was simply a 'dog-and-pony' show that accomplished virtually nothing for anyone other than himself, giving him the opportunity to tell the public how he had held the hearings. Frankly, it was a waste of his time, his directors' time and the public's time.