In what many consider an early Christmas present to residents of Omaha, Judge Peter Bataillion ruled on Thursday the petition effort that gained nearly 29,000 signatures in a 30-day period was done in accordance with Nebraska law and may now move forward with a Mayoral recall election. Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle lost in his attempt to have thousands of citizens’ signatures thrown out due to what he called illegal petition activities. The Omaha City Council has scheduled the recall election for January 25, 2011.
The “Recall Mayor Suttle” campaign began in earnest in September with the support of local businesses and the Libertarian Party of Nebraska. The recall effort was initiated after Mayor Suttle–who ran an election campaign professing a business approach to government and lower property taxes–raised restaurant, property and wheel taxes. The Mayor also instituted a tax on non-Omaha residents who work in Omaha but live outside the Metro’s limits. Suttle was elected in May of 2009 by a 51% to 49% margin with 32% of registered voters casting votes.
Suttle, whose campaign motto was, “Jim Suttle isn’t Subtle about Omaha,” started his administration by demonstrating his lack of fiscal coherence by leasing a ‘green’ SUV at a finance rate of 24%, costing the city thousands of dollars a year over previous Mayors’ vehicles. He followed ‘SUV-gate’ by hiring a chief of staff with a 34% salary increase, a planning director with a 35% salary increase, a communications director with a 42% salary increase, a secretary with a 44% salary increase and a finance director with an 80% salary increase. Later, Suttle hired a bicycle and pedestrian coordinator–a new position–at $65,000 per year during a time the city couldn’t afford to repair its pothole-riddled streets. The new "Bike Czar" wasn’t even from Omaha, he was from California. A former bicycle parking coordinator.
Suttle remained deaf to city taxpayers’ outcries as police and fire union contract negotiations were underway, calling the bloated contracts “deals of the century.” Voters in Omaha justifiably realized that the Mayor didn’t understand the meaning of ‘deal’ and subsequently demanded his recall.
Despite strong backing by union leadership, local Democratic Party benefactors, and the only newspaper in town, an anti-recall effort failed in its attempt to thwart the citizens’ right to petition their government. The Omaha World Herald even went so far as to post an online database of every citizen that signed the recall petition and has since posted a list of persons that donated to the effort (the paper has yet to produce a list of contributors to the anti-recall group or a comprehensive list of its membership).
The Libertarian Party of Nebraska officially endorsed the recall, Party Officers served as petition circulators and members donated funds to the effort. The LPNE fully expects further attempts to intimidate the public through anti-recall election ads and police and fire union-funded initiatives meant to keep the union and special interest-focused Mayor in office.
The LPNE is committed to remaining active in the grass-roots endeavor to replace the tax-and-spend Omaha Mayor.