They shut down Dodge Street today over $20. Sorta. Let me explain…
A while ago, the mayor of Omaha, rightfully called an “ideologue” by a friend of mine and appropriately called “Mean Jean” by those who have suffered through civic interactions with her, wanted to cut property taxes. Not in a meaningful or important way. Not in response to some inappropriately levied assessments or because the populace was eyeing locally brewed craft beer like Bostonian tea during British rule. She wanted to do so because she wanted to say she did it. If your home is valued at $200,000, you saved $20. Huzzah! She did it! Whee! “Awesome! Wow!”
But, see, a funny thing happens when you are a draconian penny pincher who is more concerned with appearances than the actual services your local government provides. You cut corners. You worry more about bottom lines than about your citizens. For the third time this winter, snowplows were not out in advance of a storm we knew was coming. Every local weatherperson promised heaven’s cocaine would be powdering our streets in the morning, to the tune of inches. Not a dusting, but measurable snowfall. As of the afternoon, Dodge hadn’t been cleared. Nor had it been treated ahead of time. The result? A parking lot formed on the city’s main traffic vein, and the police shut it down.
Some people found this to be an irritation. Commutes that should take 15 minutes on a good day were stretching over an hour. That’s not great. But, you see, when you play with motor vehicles (which, until recently, killed more Americans than anything), people get hurt. The Mayor decided to gamble with your lives today. That’s not an overstatement. Not too long ago, a caravan I was traveling with was involved in an accident caused by less snow than we got today. A man died in that accident. This isn’t hyperbole here. Traffic accidents caused by bad weather can be deadly. So when Jean Stothert decides to hope that the snow isn’t that bad and that the totals stay on the small side of estimates, she is gambling that the weather won’t kill anyone. That is inarguable.
This isn’t funny. This isn’t about inconvenience, although let’s talk about that for a minute. For those less fortunate in Omaha, those living paycheck to paycheck with jobs on hourly wages, missing work matters. Being late matters. Getting into a minor car accident that costs you money in repairs matters. One of the essential functions of the Omaha government is to ensure the safety of its citizens and to facilitate commerce and employment through its infrastructure. Today, for the third time this winter, Jean Stothert said “Let’s roll the dice.”
And she’s on quite the roll too, isn’t she? This embarrassment is hot on the heels of a year in which this city had 50 homicides. That’s staggering. I mean, I only know this because the Omaha World Herald reported it. Because, and this is rather unusual and quite a coincidence, the Omaha Police Department website sorta kinda just stopped putting stats up.
I mean, how uncharacteristic of a person whose first act as Mayor was to institute a gag order. Why would her administration possibly oversee the police department’s sudden and inexplicable failure to make crime data readily available to the public as it was before. Every other year is broken down month by month, but for some reason, last summer (right when the homicide rate was spiking in August), it just stopped. It’s January. I’d love to hear why the last 5 months of crime stats aren’t there. Oops, I guess?
I ask you this: What is this person going to run for reelection on? The pensions are still a mess. She’s spending $10 million to tear down a historic building but won’t spring for snowplows when the city needs it. She presided over a horrific homicide rate. What in God’s name is she going to point to when it comes time for her to make her case for reelection?!
Oh. Right. She “cut property taxes.” Enjoy your $20 West Omaha residents.