Jim Suttle and Jean Stothert continued to tussle over taxes Sunday as the two Omaha mayoral candidates marked the start of the 10-day sprint to the election.
Suttle accused Stothert of relying on “magic” when talking about her plans for the city budget and when criticizing him for raising taxes as mayor. Stothert accused Suttle of breaking a campaign promise made during his first mayoral bid, when he vowed to lower property taxes.
The war of words came during the taping of a debate that aired on Omaha television station KETV's Sunday morning show “Chronicle,” hosted by Rob McCartney.
Suttle and Stothert are honing their final arguments before the May 14 election, when voters will decide to either give Suttle a second term or give City Councilwoman Stothert a chance at the reins.
Suttle is a Democrat and Stothert is a Republican in the officially nonpartisan race.
Taxes have been at the forefront of this year's mayoral campaign, as Stothert has repeatedly criticized Suttle for a new restaurant tax and a hike in property and wheel taxes during his first two years in office.
Suttle has argued the tax hikes were necessary to save the city from bankruptcy.
He continued to criticize Stothert for telling voters that she hoped to not only repeal all three tax hikes but also to reduce the city's tax burden, while increasing spending on police officers and roads. Stothert has said she would like to hire additional police officers and spend more to maintain the city's roads.
Suttle argued that Stothert owed it to the public to say exactly where she planned to cut the budget in order to repeal the tax hikes and find money for more police officers.
“It's actually factual (budgeting) on my side, magic on my opponent's side,” Suttle said.
Stothert fired off her own verbal jab, noting that when Suttle originally ran for mayor, he promised to lower the city's property taxes. Instead, he ended up proposing a property-tax hike during his first two months in office.
She also emphasized that she has never promised to repeal any of Suttle's tax hikes.
“I said it was my goal and that will be my goal, but I never said it would be easy,” Stothert said.
The two also outlined two different approaches — and two different beliefs — concerning crime and its roots.
Stothert said she believed one of the best ways to reduce the city's crime rate was to improve education, especially among those mired in poverty.
However, Stothert noted that the city's mayor has little control over the city's school districts. Still, she said she would do everything in her role to improve education for the city's children.
“We need to do what we can to partner with our public schools and make sure they get the best education possible,” Stothert said.
For Suttle, the key to tackling crime was creating jobs.
The more people there are employed in some of the city's poorer neighborhoods, the more likely crime will be reduced there, he said.
That was a key goal, he said, behind his successful effort to develop an industrial park in north Omaha called Ames-Locust. It is the first industrial park being developed in Omaha in about a decade.
“The more we can put our areas with high unemployment into jobs, the more we will benefit,” Suttle said.
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