I never saw this coming. You have to believe that.
The response to my first post about Jean Stothert exploded like it was in a Michael Bay movie. As one could imagine when it comes to a liberal political post about a local politician, half of the comments on the blog proper and on various social media sites were encouraging. Things like “Good read” or “Interesting.” Half were “WHAT ABOUT BENGHAZI, YOU LIBTARD!?” Never change, Internets…
But one person reasonably and responsibly engaged me in dialogue, challenging in particular my comment that Stothert only runs against things and has no real accomplishments to trumpet. He directed me towards the Mayor’s web site. Sure enough, on the front page was a “Letter to Citizens on Mayor Jean Stothert’s First Anniversary.” The said letter included a series of items considered positive accomplishments. If you read it, you may be inclined to believe that the Mayor DID, in fact, have some nice things in her first year.
Of course, that’s only true if you don’t investigate what it is she’s claiming. (Which local TV/radio/print didn’t, simply running content straight from her PR letter.)
Hold on to your britches, friends…
Inaccuracy Number One
The letter begins earnestly enough, with a simple statement of purpose:
My first and most important responsibility as Mayor will always be to keep our citizens safe.
Huzzah! No disagreements on that. One would hope this safety would be extended to our black citizens, seeing as how we are considered the most dangerous place in America for them.
The letter then gets specific:
Police Chief Todd Schmaderer and I share the goal to reduce violent crime and we are showing real progress in reducing gang and gun violence. I am happy to report that the number of shootings is trending down.
Here’s the thing: I want this to be true. The idea that somehow because someone is from the other party you hope they fail and the people they represent are harmed is dumb dumb dumb. If the Mayor is keeping us safer, that’s FANTASTIC, I wouldn’t care if she belongs to the Republican, Democrat, or Jedi party. But something about what the letter said didn’t sound right. Not just the odd language of “trending down,” but the fact that seemingly every day I’m hearing about a shooting.
So I went to the Omaha Police Department’s web site and pulled the stats.
It turns out the claim the Mayor’s office made is something that rhymes with pulpit. Check out this chart.
Reasonably, you can’t pin July to September 2013 statistics on the incoming Mayor. Barely in office, it’d be ridiculous to assume that those stats are on her one way or the other. Heck, even that next quarter (October to December) is hard to justify. But the first quarter of THIS year means her staff and plans had been in place for six months. Look closely and you’ll find her “Letter to Citizens” is either intentionally misleading or accidentally wrong.
While there have been less HOMICIDES during the three quarters with viewable stats (26 compared to 31), that DOES NOT MEAN SHOOTINGS ARE DOWN. Shootings where the victim survives don’t fall into that homicide column (which may or may not be trending down). Non-homicide shootings fall into the “Assault” category.
To extract just those numbers:
Assaults in Q3 2013: 432
Assaults in Q3 2012: 394
Assaults in Q4 2013: 376
Assaults in Q4 2012: 342
Assaults in Q1 2014: 317
Assaults in Q1 2013: 284
So… Where is the evidence that SHOOTINGS are going down? It looks like assaults (again, which contain nonhomicide shootings) are going UP…
In fact, there is NO evidence to conclude SHOOTINGS are going down.
Had the Mayor’s statement claimed that the number of HOMICIDES has decreased by 5, that would be provable. But she’s trying to overreach and claim SHOOTINGS are down, which they are not.
Assaults are up 10%. Just because someone doesn’t DIE when shot doesn’t mean they weren’t shot.
But since the Mayor claims safety is number one, let’s look at the bigger picture:
- Overall crime is up 10% in the first quarter of 2014.
- Since Stothert took office, crime is up an average of 6% monthly.
- This is particularly troubling because the summer months tend to be more violent.
Simply put: The statement “the number of shootings is trending down” is UNPROVABLE and WHOLLY INCORRECT.
Inaccuracy Number Two
Setting aside the origins of the deficit Stothert’s administration inherited (which had to do with contracts negotiated by the City Council Stothert was a part of), there was one claim that really irked me.
Worse yet, early projections by the outgoing administration had the 2014 budget underfunded by approximately $19 million dollars. We went to work and ended last year with a surplus over $13 million dollars. Despite flat sales and property tax revenues for 2014, we managed down this year’s shortfall from $19 million to zero. This was accomplished with spending reductions, not new taxes.
She’s not wrong. She didn’t raise taxes. She did, however, leave in place the two taxes that she ran against in the election.
Heavily criticizing both the wheel tax and restaurant tax, Jean’s allies ran attack ads hammering Mayor Suttle. And now, the only reason we’re are NOT in a deficit is BECAUSE of those taxes. So while she didn’t introduce them and ran on repealing them, she’s benefiting from them. That just seems dirty and disingenuous to me.
Inaccuracy Number Three
Oh, this is a good one:
We’ve made progress on controlling costs with our public employee unions, especially in the areas of pensions and benefits.
After negotiating a contract so bad that it had to be redone, Stothert reached another agreement, which is still horrible. It’s the most expensive in the city’s history.
But it’s the misleading nature of this statement that irks me most. It’s essentially “I cleaned the mess I made, aren’t you proud?” It’s the sort of political sham that causes voters to be cynical.
Inaccuracy Number Four (Grab bag edition)
She tosses out a series of bullet points at the end, all of which sound pretty good. Except…sigh…it’s more sleight of hand.
Resurfacing of Dodge Street from 52nd to Turner Blvd
This project was in place before the Mayor took office. She’s taking credit for being present when it happened.
Introduction of the Prospect Village Redevelopment Plan
Sounds really interesting! Of course, introducing a plan isn’t actually the same as doing something. “I would like to introduce a plan to give all Ryans in Omaha a million dollars” probably wouldn’t amount to anything in reality.
Renovation of Gene Leahy Mall
Started before she got there. Again, taking credit for being present.
Development of Civic Auditorium site
She put the Civic Auditorium up for sale. I put a Spider-man comic on eBay but I can’t claim I’m “Developing Omaha’s art community.”
Development of 10th & Capitol, groundbreaking is scheduled later this month
Again, this plan began in 2011…
Creation of the Faith and Community Task Force
This one is just weird. I can’t find this group. I found a few press releases/videos of Stothert introducing the force and holding one meeting. No Facebook page. No link at the Mayor’s Web site. No twitter. No independent web site. This may well be a VERY good thing…but for a force designed to unite faith groups and the community, it’s confusing as to why they wouldn’t be available…to the community…
The Good Stuff
Here are the things the Mayor promoted that I liked:
- Voter approval of the $92 million bond issue to fund improvements in public safety, public facilities, streets, sewers and parks
- Increased budget for demolition
- Town Hall Meetings in all 7 City Council Districts
I’m mixed on the Citizen Complaint Review Board she created. Lots of evidence both for and against these types of groups. So that’s a bit of a “wait and see.”
When challenged by readers of my last Mean Jean post to examine her accomplishments, I did just that. I found mostly exactly what I thought I’d find given Stothert’s history: A distortion of facts that makes it look like she’s doing something when she’s really not.
I’m reminded of that famous quote, “You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.”
Turns out, the facts are not in the Mayor’s favor.