Though it’s already been approved by the council and signed by the mayor, Omaha’s new fire contract is still the subject of a heated debate between the people running for the city’s top job.
Only two of the five candidates — Mayor Jim Suttle and City Councilwoman Jean Stothert — were directly involved in efforts to draw up a contract, but just about everyone has something to say.
Businessman David Nabity and former City Councilor Dan Welch have both critiqued the timing of Stothert and Suttle’s announcements related to the contract. They’ve said Suttle waited too long to point out that the council-negotiated contract would create a $6 million hole in the city budget. And Stothert, they said, announced the successful negotiation of a contract weeks before sharing the details with the public.
Meanwhile, Suttle’s office says it wasn’t hiding any information — it just took time to make the proper calculations. Stothert said candidates trying to poke holes in the contract are doing so to win political points.
Despite the back and forth, all of the candidates say they don’t think the contract should be political.
Others say the continued conversations risk distracting people from other issues happening around the city.
“It’s point, counterpoint, and there’s spin and counterspin,” said Councilman Chris Jerram, who was part of the council team that negotiated the contract. “That’s unfortunately a part of the seedy side of politics, and I think that tunes out and turns off the electorate.”