Updated Monday, May 6:
The General Election is Tuesday, May 7. See our Elections page for a SAMPLE BALLOT and a complete list of current articles.
Note that there is a new article about candidate Mark Whitehead, published Monday, May 6.
Tuesday, April 9, was the Primary Election for several local government entities. Click HERE to see / get the Official Sample Ballot.
This article focuses on one of the candidates for the three at-large City Council seats – Mark Whitehead – on Tuesday’s ballot – for an explanation, read note [tippy title=”Why these three candidates”]We decided to focus our research on the three of the four Republican candidates for office because time was very short. We’re no different from other voters; we’re busy and want more information before going to the polling place. We needed a quick “filter” to narrow our focus due, simply to the short fuse. Of course, we started with our principles (click here to read about them ) and then considered recent actions/non-actions by the City Council, and finally the political landscape.[/tippy]
- To read the article we published about candidate Roy Christensen, click HERE.
- To read the article we published about candidate Trent Fellers, click HERE.
In preparing to vote in Tuesday’s election, we found basic background information about each candidate from a variety of sources, which includes the candidates’ campaign websites, their mailers, and from news stories.
BASIC BACKGROUND and Additional Information:
- See the embedded images (bottom of the article), which is a mailer sent out by Mr. Whitehead’s campaign. To see a mailer sent out by the Lancaster County GOP, which features all three Republican candidates, see the article about Roy Christensen, here.
- In addition to the information available through campaign materials and the candidate’s website, we are aware of the following:
- Mr. Whitehead was recommended by Adam Hornung as his replacement on the Council when he resigned in November, 2012 (Hornung needed more time for a new job he’d taken at a hedge fund.)
- There was controversy and some heated political debate in local news earlier this year, when some Lincoln entities, including Common Cause Nebraska, Nebraska Appleseed, the League of Women Voters, and Nebraskans for Civic Reform, reportedly worked with Lincoln City Attorney Rod Confer, to a draft a referendum for the May 2013 ballot that would ban City Council members from holding City contracts. Mark Whitehead, owner of Whitehead Oil, had recently been awarded a contract with the City, with a bid 30% lower than competitors. Whitehead and others contended that the effort was politically motivated and backed by Mayor Chris Beutler. In February, the Council voted to place the measure on the May general election ballot.
- Mark Whitehead’s father, Bus Whitehead, has long been considered a Nebraska Husker basketball legend and a Lincoln business man, active in politics. Bus passed away in 2010.
Mark Whitehead campaign filings page on the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure website
Mark Whitehead’s Journal Star candidate profile page
We found that several important issues had not been covered in any of those sources and decided to make efforts to contact each of the three. Linda was able to speak directly with Roy Christensen and Trent Fellers on Monday, and received a call back from Mr. Whitehead on Tuesday after we left a message for him on Facebook.
We’ve updated the article to reflect the results of Linda’s conversation – update applied @5:00pm Tuesday.
Rationale behind the question: Two of the three candidates (Trent Fellers, Mark Whitehead) have campaign literature which features the direct statement, “I will not vote to increase taxes”. Roy Christensen’s campaign material featured the statement, “We need to hold the line on taxes”.
Is such a blanket statement a good idea? Let’s just say, we’re skeptical on the subject.
In talking about tax policy and appropriate use of City funds, Whitehead talked about the issue of streets and roads in general and why it is a concern.
One of the biggest infrastructure issues looming in our future is the need for a south beltway. With all of the traffic on Highway 2, large trucks are channeled into downtown Lincoln, which increasingly causes problems.
We’re going to have build some new infrastructure in the future and the south beltway is just one example. So, street maintenance is not the only issue when it comes to spending and allocation of taxes.
When it comes to taxes and spending, there are lot of problems with the way funds are currently allocated which were originally intended to be used for both street maintenance and new construction. For instance, funds originally intended for street maintenance have been allocated towards snow removal and other areas.
Increasing amounts of sales tax are being collected in Lincoln, and with the opening of the event center and the amount of new retail activity in the downtown area, those revenues are likely to continue to increase. If sales tax revenues do continue to increase, there will be more money to pay for maintenance and new projects.
Another area of funding allocation regards the sales tax on motor vehicles. The portion of those revenues collected by the State are allocated for roads, as was the intention for local portion of those revenues, but the local portion has in recent years been allocated to the General Fund and spent elsewhere. They should be reallocated to roads.
So, inefficiencies need to be reduced and proper reallocation needs to occur in many areas of tax and fee collection and various sources of revenue specific to roads is just one of them.
So, if funds are to be reallocated from the General Fund and are currently being spent elsewhere, how would Mr. Whitehead propose to fill the gaps reallocation would create?
Well, of course, we need to maximize taxpayer value. What we need to hammer home is that the City has no money that it doesn’t take from taxpayers.
For example, you have the City going out and buying a building – the Experian building – that they knew at the time was larger than they needed and now they are in a position where they seem to actually be engaging in a strategy to increase the size of government in order to fill the space. That’s not efficient – that’s going in exactly the wrong direction from where the City needs to be going.
Another problem with the approach the City has taken is its decision to lease unfilled space, competing directly with the private sector (real estate market).
It’s troubling that even when City policy seems to be moving in the right direction, problems ensue and the benefits are reduced or even negated. For example, when the decision was made to privatize downtown parking, that seemed to be a step in the right direction. However, the City, not the private company, decided to switch over to a credit card system of payments, which resulted in a doubling of the rates.
The rates were doubled because the system chosen required that credit card charge amounts, individually, could be no less than $1.00.
Previously if you put $.25 in the meter, you could park for 30 minutes. Now, $.25 gets fifteen minutes. Essentially, in order to make that $1.00 minimum requirement seem “reasonable”, the rates were doubled, even if people use change.
Whitehead questioned what sorts of studies were done or specific efforts were made to review available systems, the costs, and their relative impact.
Privatizing seemed like a good idea, but then City officials made poor decisions that negated the potential benefits, increasing cost for citizens.
Rationale behind the question: The referendum petition drive, which garnered many more signatures than required by law, had two legal effects: 1) the ordinance voted on by the City Council could not go into effect and 2) the City of Lincoln is required to put the ordinance on a ballot so Lincolnites may vote on it. Nearly a year later, no vote has been conducted.
Whitehead believes the City Council has not handled this issue at all properly – the City Council should have put the matter in front of voters for the April 9 Primary. The people have clearly spoken on the issue. Therefore, he believes the City is currently operating in violation of the law.
Does Mr. Whitehead believe that there should be some provision in either State statute or City code imposing a deadline on how long City officials have to put any such matters on a ballot?
Although it shouldn’t be necessary – City officials should be doing their jobs properly, meaning they should put such a referendum on the ballot at the first opportunity – it may be a good idea to put some legal requirement on the books to ensure when officials don’t act appropriately that such matters are handled in a timely manner.
Rationale behind the question: Please see our page dedicated to this issue, which includes many links to previous articles and other sources of information.
Whitehead doesn’t agree with the pursuit of such policies, primarily because they interfere with the free market system: the market will work if it is allowed to work.
Regarding the significant amount of central and long-term planning associated with the recent policies of the City, Whitehead believes people should be allowed to go and live where they want. The idea of trying to force people into the center of the city is trying to fit square pegs into round holes.
By implementing the current scheme of policies, which is to discourage growth in the suburbs around the City and encouraging the concentration of people in the City center, is to create a lot shortage around the outskirts, which makes the purchase of lots much more expensive.
Current development policy isn’t forcing people to move downtown, it’s forcing them to move to Hickman and Waverly. So, when people buy a lot there, the gains for Lincoln’s economy are lost to the small towns around Lincoln.
So, the policies aren’t forcing people to move downtown, they don’t have to live in Lincoln, it’s simply forcing them out of town.
One example of the kinds of policies currently in place is the impact fee – a significant charge levied on new construction. This is “penny wise and pound foolish” and they need to be eliminated. Impact fees are simply driving up the cost and driving people away.
Note that there is a new article about candidate Mark Whitehead, published Monday, May 6, click HERE to read it.