Suttle back at work

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January 26th, 2011

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Omaha, NE – Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle is back at work, after apparently surviving a recall attempt Tuesday night.  Suttle’s opponents have not yet conceded, but their hopes are dimming.

Jim Suttle headed back to work after surviving a close recall election (Photo courtesy Mayor's Office)

Suttle called for “healing” and “reconciliation” Tuesday night, after he claimed victory over a recall drive that consumed the city for much of 2010.

“We were so close,” said Jeremy Aspen, spokesperson for the Mayor Suttle Recall Committee. That committee gathered almost 29,000 validated signatures back in November to put the recall on the ballot. With a margin in Suttle’s favor of 1,643 votes at last count, and about 5,000 provisional ballots remaining, Aspen said his group is not ready to concede.

“We’re at least optimistic that it could get within the one percent… where a recount would be necessary.”

The Mayor Suttle Recall Committee wouldn't concede the election to Jim Suttle, holding out for each provisional ballot to be counted (Photo Robyn Wisch)

Aspen said as the city saw in the tightly contested recall election, “every vote counted.”

But Suttle is eager to move on. In his speech Tuesday night, he said he understands Omaha’s frustration and respects the rights of his opponents to disagree with his policies, some of which left the impression the Mayor was not prepared to fight hard enough to cut spending before resorting to tax hikes to balance the budget.

But in an interview, Suttle said he brought financial stability to the city, and left the year with a $3.3 million surplus after facing a hefty shortfall. Businesses build surpluses, Suttle said, and city hall should follow their lead.

“Why do we have city government going into the budget with a deficit? You don’t do it that way. You do it the same way business does.”

Suttle said his administration is going to follow business accounting, modeling and principles “in everything we do from here on forward.” He said he hopes to put those principles “so deep into the city’s culture that they never change.”

Suttle also said he will keep one of the most divisive tax hikes in place – a restaurant tax that brought in over $4 million last year – unless the Nebraska Legislature allows the city to raise its sales tax by a half cent. It’s essential to stabilize revenue sources for the city, Suttle said, to maintain its AAA bond rating.

But Jeremy Aspen said he hopes the Mayor realizes his tentative win was not a validation of his policies.

“It at least has to resonate in his administration and throughout the city that there are other options, there are other ways to handle our budget and there are better ways to run the city.”

Aspen said his group is asking Suttle to take those ideas “into consideration and give them serious thought to really help move the city forward.”

Aspen added even if his group does concede, he doesn’t regret the cost and effort behind the recall. The Nebraska Legislature will hear a proposal Friday to tighten restrictions on getting recall elections on the ballot. Aspen says that would be an “affront” to citizens’ rights to petition their government.

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