Suttle lobbies to save credit rating, create jobs

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September 21st, 2011

Omaha, NE – Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle has been on the move the last few days in an effort to save the city’s AAA credit rating as well as bring jobs to the Omaha metro.

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On Tuesday, Mayor Suttle attended the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and met with presidential advisors in Washington D.C. to discuss President Barack Obama’s plans for debt reduction and job creation. The conference invites around 1,200 mayors from around the country who govern cities of 30,000 or more residents. Suttle said for the first time in over two years, the President and Congress are listening to the agendas of those local governments which need an injection of money to invest in infrastructure and summer youth programs.

Mayor Suttle said it's the first time in over two years that the President and Congress is listening to the needs of local governments. (Photo credit WhiteHouse.gov)

“Get this money directly to the metropolitan areas, to the mayors in the metropolitan areas and don’t just leave it up to the governors to decide what to do with it,” Suttle said in an interview with KVNO News from Washington. “We need those dollars in the metropolitan areas. That’s where we put more people to work and get the economy, and get the engines going, state after state after state.”

The Mayor remains in Washington D.C. Wednesday. He’ll be speaking with the EPA officials and asking about a better system of cost-sharing, particularly regarding Omaha’s federally mandated sewer separation project.

But before D.C., Mayor Suttle was in Chicago on Monday, with Finance Director Pam Spaccarotella. The two met with credit agencies Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s to defend Omaha’s current AAA bond rating. Last month, Omaha officials were warned by Moody’s that Omaha’s rating could be downgraded after the S&P’s decision to knock down the United States’ rating.

Mayor Suttle said he made a strong case to the agencies and is confident in Omaha’s financial viability.

“We had an excellent story to tell,” he said. “And just the fact that our financials now are very strong, and we’re very much in the black, and that’s what they wanted to see.”

That “story,” according to Communications Director Aida Amoura, includes many steps taken by the Suttle administration.

“We’ve continued to cut spending in city government through performance-based budgeting,” Amoura said. “We’ve balanced our budgets, in spite of millions of dollars of cuts in that kind of aid, either from the state level or federal level, and this year, we continue to create efficiencies that improve the administrations vital city services. And we did it without tax increases, and we even established a plan for building our financial reserves.”

Amoura also said despite ongoing negotiations over the Omaha Fire Union contract, financial stability remains.

177 cities are having their credit reviewed. Some have been downgraded, including Los Angeles. Amoura said losing a AAA bond rating could increase interests on bonds, potentially costing taxpayers $6 to 8 million a year. The city of Omaha should be notified by Friday of the credit agency’s decision.

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