Published Monday, May 6, 2013 at 12:30 am / Updated at 3:36 pm
World-Herald editorial: Jean Stothert is best choice for mayor

This newspaper vigorously defended Mayor Jim Suttle during the 2011 recall election. Had he lost that vote, he would have been removed from office.

Our defense of Mayor Suttle was based on the principle that the Nebraska Constitution includes a recall provision for those times when an officeholder violates the law or engages in some other sort of malfeasance in executing his or her duties. This was not the case with the mayor. Tax increases and unpopularity are not reasons to recall a mayor.

Omaha voters made the right choice in 2011, and Suttle remained in office.

OWH Mayor's Guide
For profiles of the candidates, exclusive Q&A's, bios, campaign cash numbers, list of forums, World-Herald stories and more, visit the OWH Mayor's Guide.

Now we face an election that is an entirely different decision.

The choice facing Omahans is: Who will make the best leader, the best CEO, for the City of Omaha for the next four years?

The answer to that question is City Council member Jean Stothert.

Stothert has demonstrated a command of the issues facing city government, an assurance in public settings, an ability to get things done on the City Council and an interest in pursuing a more efficient city government, as opposed to the history of tax hikes that have been prevalent in the Suttle administration.

She has proven to be an energetic council member who has taken the lead on important, often thorny topics, including the contract with the firefighters union. In those negotiations, she worked with a bipartisan group of council members, coming back with a contract that, while not everything everyone would want, began making progress toward controlling health care costs and addressing the pension fund shortfall.

She has offered smart ideas about running City Hall more like a business, including performance audits of city departments and bringing back performance evaluations of city workers. She has talked about the need for a more customer-friendly government, particularly in working on economic development issues.

Stothert would represent Omaha well when dealing with businesses looking to locate or invest in our city.

As mayor, Suttle has been willing to deal with challenging issues, most notably the financial crisis that began in earnest in 2009. He utilized his experience from his engineering background in 2011 when Omaha was threatened with Missouri River flooding.

But his administration has made repeated missteps, starting almost Day One with the now-infamous lease of the “red SUV.” That gaffe was repaired by the generosity of the Anderson family and Performance Auto Group, but it never should have reached the point that it did. That early episode signaled what would become two of the mayor's biggest failings — the inability of his administration to communicate clearly and its failure to inspire public confidence.

Perhaps the most discouraging moment of the past four years was the awarding of secret pay raises to top city executives at a time when most Omahans were facing either salary freezes or reductions. The mayor awarded those raises even after promising to impose a salary freeze on his staff. He didn't tell the City Council or public about the raises. Instead, the public and council members found out only by reviewing budget numbers.

An interesting aspect of that situation is that the raises themselves, in particular the one for then-Finance Director Pam Spaccarotella, very well may have been deserved. Spaccarotella had led the charge in preserving the city's bond rating. But while the raises themselves may have been justified, it's the secrecy with which they were awarded that remains so disturbing.

Had Suttle told Omahans that these raises were necessary to preserve important employment relationships with key personnel, that would have been understandable to voters. Perhaps not embraced, but at least an action that was understood.

From the SUV lease to the backroom pay raises to his recent erroneous claim that the Omaha Steel Castings Co. move out of town was “falling apart,” Suttle has broken faith with voters and should not be returned to office on May 14.

Omaha voters should go to the polls and elect Jean Stothert.

New public employee pay data: Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy Counties, plus utilities
High court denies death row appeal of cult leader convicted of murder
Crack ring's leaders join others in prison as a result of Operation Purple Haze
A voice of experience: Ex-gang member helps lead fight against Omaha violence
Church is pressing its case for old Temple Israel site
OPPD board holding public forum, open house May 7
Intoxicated man with pellet gun climbs billboard's scaffold; is arrested
Saturday forecast opens window for gardening; Easter egg hunts look iffy on Sunday
Last day of 2014 Legislature: Praise, passage of a last few bills and more on mountain lions
The thrill of the skill: Omaha hosts statewide contest for students of the trades
A recap of what got done — and what didn't — in the 2014 legislative session
When judge asks, Nikko Jenkins says ‘I killed them’
Nancy's Almanac, April 17, 2014: Trees save money
'The war is not over,' Chambers says, but legislative session about is
PAC funded by Senate candidate Ben Sasse's great-uncle releases Shane Osborn attack ad
Teen killed at Gallagher Park was shot in head as he sat in SUV, friend who was wounded says
New UNO center strengthens ties between campus, community
Threat found in Millard West bathroom deemed 'not credible'
Nebrasks health officials to advertise jobs via drive-thru
Coral Walker named Omaha police officer of the year
Sarah Palin, Mike Lee coming to Nebraska for Ben Sasse rally
Prescription drug drop-off is April 26
Rather than doing $250K in repairs, owner who lives in lot behind 94-year-old house in Dundee razes it
NB 30th Street lane closed
State Patrol, Omaha police conduct vehicle inspections
< >
COLUMNISTS »
Breaking Brad: At least my kid never got stuck inside a claw machine
We need a new rule in Lincoln. If your kid is discovered inside the claw machine at a bowling alley, you are forever barred from being nominated for "Mother of the Year."
Breaking Brad: How many MECA board members can we put in a luxury suite?
As a stunt at the Blue Man Group show, MECA board members are going to see how many people they can stuff into one luxury suite.
Kelly: Creighton's McDermotts put good faces on an Omaha tradition
A comical roast Wednesday night in Omaha brought fans of Creighton basketball laughter by the bucketful. This time it was McJokes, not McBuckets, that entertained the Bluejay crowd.
Kelly: New $24M UNO center embodies spirit of newlywed crash victim
Jessica Lutton Bedient was killed by a drunken driver at age 26 in 2010. Thursday, the widowed husband and other family members will gather with others at the University of Nebraska at Omaha to dedicate a permanent memorial to Jessica.
Breaking Brad: How much would you pay for a corn dog?
The Arizona Diamondbacks have a new concession item: a $25 corn dog. For that kind of money, it should be stuffed with Bitcoin.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
The Jaipur in Rockbrook Village
Half Off Fine Indian Cuisine & Drinks! $15 for Dinner, or $7 for Lunch
Buy Now
PHOTO GALLERIES »
< >
SPOTLIGHT »
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
WORLD-HERALD ALERTS »
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for Omaha.com's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »