Mayor Stothert removes budget muzzle from Omaha city officials -
Published Thursday, July 18, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 7:05 am
Mayor Stothert removes budget muzzle from Omaha city officials

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert said Wednesday that Fire Chief Mike McDonnell and other city officials are free to publicly discuss their budgets — lifting a directive she imposed last month to clear all budget and public safety talk in advance with her office.

“She verbally gave permission'' this week to department directors, said Carrie Murphy, mayoral spokeswoman.

Stothert also told a public forum in Millard what her plans are for fire spending in 2014.

McDonnell, who has a tense relationship with the mayor, declined to comment Wednesday night until he receives written notice that Stothert's directive was rescinded.

Stothert said he won't be getting it in writing.

“McDonnell needs to act like a city department director and stop playing games,” she said. “No other director needs approval in writing.”

Murphy said Stothert, who has said she wants her administration speaking with one voice, lifted the order on discussing the budget because the process of preparing her spending plan was complete.

Stothert signaled what she intends to propose on the fire budget next week, when the 2014 budget is formally presented to the City Council.

In order to limit department spending to $90.6 million next year, Stothert will propose:

Removing two fire rigs from service.

Laying off 16 firefighters.

Demoting eight staffers.

Lowering the number of workers assigned to the main office.

Returning others to regular firefighting duty.

Eliminating three assistant fire chiefs and an assistant fire marshal.

Stothert's spending proposal does not include an agreement with the fire union to soften a contractually required paramedic training program.

Any changes to that program, which sits at the center of heated debate on fire spending, would require union approval.

The potential layoffs and other cost-cutting moves proposed by Stothert would violate the labor contract and spark a court battle, fire union President Steve LeClair has said.

But the mayor is confident her proposal lies within her authority and will not undermine public safety.

Stothert also considered but apparently has rejected a separate proposal for an $88.7 million fire budget that would have terminated 27 firefighters and removed four rigs from service, among other cuts. Stothert has described this as “the most severe” option.

The union contract protects most fire employees from layoffs, but Stothert said the city can still get rid of some of the latest hires, who qualify as probationary employees.

Omaha has roughly 650 firefighters on the job, up from close to 630 at the beginning of the year.

The Fire Department was expected to spend about $91 million in 2013, according to one projection this year. That was well above Stothert's initial $83 million target for next year's fire spending, which she set after taking office in June.

Many of the department's expenses are linked to wages and benefits required under the labor contract, potentially limiting Stothert's options to find big savings without eliminating employees.

New UNO center strengthens ties between campus, community
Threat found in Millard West bathroom deemed 'not credible'
New public employee pay data: Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy Counties, plus utilities
Nebrasks health officials to advertise jobs via drive-thru
Coral Walker named Omaha police officer of the year
A recap of what got done — and what didn't — in the 2014 legislative session
'The war is not over,' Chambers says, but legislative session about is
Sarah Palin, Mike Lee coming to Nebraska for Ben Sasse rally
Prescription drug drop-off is April 26
Database: How much did Medicare pay your doctor?
Rather than doing $250K in repairs, owner who lives in lot behind 94-year-old house in Dundee razes it
PAC funded by Senate candidate Ben Sasse's great-uncle releases Shane Osborn attack ad
Teen killed at Gallagher Park was shot in head as he sat in SUV, friend who was wounded says
NB 30th Street lane closed
State Patrol, Omaha police conduct vehicle inspections
After all his bluster and bravado in the courtroom, Nikko Jenkins found guilty of 4 murders
Bernie Kanger formally promoted to Omaha fire chief
U.S. House incumbents have deeper pockets than their challengers
Nancy's Almanac, April 17, 2014: Trees save money
Ex-Iowan behind landmark free speech case recounts story in Bellevue
Gov. Heineman signs water bill; sponsor calls it 'landmark legislation'
Senate candidate Shane Osborn to include anti-tax activist Norquist in telephone town hall
Kelly: New $24M UNO center embodies spirit of newlywed crash victim
High school slam poets don't just recite verses, 'they leave their hearts beating on the stage'
Attorney: Man accused of trying to open plane's door needs psychiatric evaluation
< >
Breaking Brad: At least my kid never got stuck inside a claw machine
We need a new rule in Lincoln. If your kid is discovered inside the claw machine at a bowling alley, you are forever barred from being nominated for "Mother of the Year."
Breaking Brad: How many MECA board members can we put in a luxury suite?
As a stunt at the Blue Man Group show, MECA board members are going to see how many people they can stuff into one luxury suite.
Kelly: Creighton's McDermotts put good faces on an Omaha tradition
A comical roast Wednesday night in Omaha brought fans of Creighton basketball laughter by the bucketful. This time it was McJokes, not McBuckets, that entertained the Bluejay crowd.
Kelly: New $24M UNO center embodies spirit of newlywed crash victim
Jessica Lutton Bedient was killed by a drunken driver at age 26 in 2010. Thursday, the widowed husband and other family members will gather with others at the University of Nebraska at Omaha to dedicate a permanent memorial to Jessica.
Breaking Brad: How much would you pay for a corn dog?
The Arizona Diamondbacks have a new concession item: a $25 corn dog. For that kind of money, it should be stuffed with Bitcoin.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
Dr. Welbes Natural Health Clinic
$129 for 2 LipoLaser Sessions with Additional Complimentary Services ($605 value)
Buy Now
< >
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »