Omaha City Council Members "Hostage" Takers?

By: WOWT-TV Email
By: WOWT-TV Email

Appearing somewhat frustrated and exasperated, Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle Friday accused members of the City Council of holding the city's finances "hostage". Suttle is trying to find a way forward after 5 of the 7 council members rejected his contract with the Fire Union.

The latest wrinkle in the long-running effort to get a new contract with the Fire Union involves the Police Union.

The police labor unit has told the mayor it may file a lawsuit to split the joint police and fire pension fund into two plans. The Police Union is concerned that it will be left to carry more of the burden in fixing a funding shortfall the longer the fire union goes without a contract.

Suttle said Friday he is resubmitting the contract to the council with the hope that some members will have a change of heart. The Fire Union indicated earlier in the week that it will not re-open negotiations. The mayor says the city may be faced with higher borrowing costs if it cannot get in place a long-term plan to fix the pension shortfall which has been as high as $625,000,000.

Besides accusing the council members of holding the finances hostage, Suttle also accused some of members of "political posturing" -- a suggestion that, perhaps, their concerns about the fire contract are not really valid or legitimate.

The proposed contract with the fire union continues to be highly controversial with the public. Some council members want the term of the contract shortened. Other council members believe provisions surrounding health care coverage should be changed to strike a fairer balance between union members and the public.

By city charter, as the legislative body elected by city residents, the council -- not the mayor -- has the final say on whether the contract is agreed to.

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