Let’s Hope Stothert Is More Principled
As A Mayor Than As A Campaigner

Omahans are entitled to—indeed should demand—a more principled, positive performance from Mayor Jean Stothert than they got from mayoral candidate Jean Stothert.

Stothert the candidate seemed to regard taxes as a sort of cancerous growth on the municipal body politic and pledged tax reduction over and over without specifying which taxes would be reduced and why, simply making vague references to more efficiency in city government, again without mentioning any specifics.

(Unfortunately, too many citizens are almost paranoid in their belief that taxes are too high and must be reduced, again without specifying which taxes and why.)

Candidate Stothert’s questionable tactics were referred to earlier in my columns.  Among them was her claim to be having been an outspoken supporter of the “pro-life” movement.

I interpreted this as a not too subtle effort to insert the issue of abortion into a municipal campaign where it had no place at all, hoping to appeal to the ”pro-life” anti-abortion vote, largely Catholic.

Argument Headlined, Final
Compromise Gets Scant Attention

A recent example of Stothert tactics:  She called a press conference at which two business executives recalled a meeting with Mayor Suttle in 2012, a meeting in which Suttle was said to have become angry and “shrieked” at the business executives.

The subject was the level of sewer-use fee which was being discussed as necessary to meet the cost of the federally-mandated creation of two separate sewer systems—one to handle storm sewer runoff, another to handle household and industrial sewage.

The executives calling on Suttle headed businesses used large amounts of water in the processing of their product, thus threatening that they would have much higher costs from increased sewer use fees.

A spokesman for Mayor Suttle noted—and was so quoted at the end of the story—that the meeting over which the business executives complained was followed by other conferences which resulted in a compromise settlement of the issue.

Candidate Stothert, of course, steadfastly refused to identify big-money contributors who supported her campaign by ads attacking Mayor Suttle.

One of the most puzzling aspects of the mayoral campaign was involved in a World-Herald editorial in which the newspaper endorsed Stothert but cited two noteworthy achievements by Mayor Suttle:  Saving the city uncounted millions of dollars by taking the painful financial steps necessary to restore the Omaha municipal bond rating to AAA status (it had fallen to AA) and effectively protecting the city from last year’s record flood.

‘Oracle of Omaha’ Endorsement Unimportant?

The editorial faulted Suttle for, as I see it, relatively trivial mistakes, then proceeded to endorse his opponent, the tax-reduction promiser.

Also puzzling was the slight attention which The World-Herald gave to Warren Buffett’s endorsement of Suttle’s candidacy—a story which began tucked away in the lower left-hand corner of the front page of the Midlands News section.

This is the same Warren Buffett whose every movement was, figuratively, covered for a week or so during the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting during which the “Oracle of Omaha”  was prominently active and being given massive media coverage.

How the “Oracle of Omaha” lost so much of his newsworthiness in such a short period is puzzling.  Perhaps the loss was influenced by the fact that his endorsement of Suttle was reported first by a broadcast station.

Let’s hope Stothert can be a more high-principled mayor than she was a campaigner.

* * *

What Happened To Jim Flowers?
Today A Focus On Media Performance,
Some Good And Some Not So Good

I’ll start with an example of the kind of journalism which helps offset the questionable or downright bad performance which news media, both broadcast and print, are too often guilty of.

A World-Herald “good news” performance was the prominence given to a story which appeared under this headline:  “Farming Gets Younger,” with this subhead:

“High crop prices and low interest rates are among the lures for a new generation of producers.”

It’s a trend I had noticed during a visit to the Sand Hills Golf Club last summer.  My guests and I took and afternoon off for a guided tour of the beautiful range country in the areas surrounding the golf course.

Youth Movement Extends To Ranchers, Too

We were pleased when our guide pointed out how many younger family members have returned to live on and manage the family ranches after getting a college education.

A less significant but interesting example of media performance:  Why didn’t the media give some attention to the quick and, insofar as I know, totally unexplained disappearance of longtime popular TV weatherman Jim Flowers?

Lack of some explanation has encouraged the spreading of a story which is certainly not flattering to Flowers and which, if not true, ought to be publicly refuted.  If true, it is certainly properly subject to public confirmation.

Will The Media Ever Get Poll Coverage Right?

Misuse of poll numbers continues:

The Los Angeles Times:  “Of those surveyed, 92% of Americans…”.  A promising start, concentrating on “those surveyed,” then a wild leap to a misleading suggestion that those surveyed were the same as all Americans.

And this in a World-Herald editorial:  “More than three-fourths of Americans tell the Gallup Poll…”.  More than three-fourths of Americans, of course, don’t tell a Gallup Poll anything at all.  The people talking to the Gallup pollsters represent a very, very small percentage of all Americans.

Then there are the too frequent examples of simple misuse of the language.  A prime example is the abuse of the verb “to plan” and its derivatives, as in references to “planning ahead.”

The simple word “planning” clearly implies planning ahead.  I know no case where someone has figured out a way to “plan behind.”

On the lighter side of news media malpractice:  A TV sports commentator was praising the performance of a high-scoring player in an important late-season college basketball game.

Ignorance Is No Excuse

The player, the TV commentator gushed, made points shooting either with his left hand or his right hand—a positively “ambivalent” performance.

My dictionary defines “ambivalent” as “having mixed feelings about someone or something; being unable to choose between two (usually opposing) courses of action.”

Presumably the commentator was trying to describe a player who proved that he is “ambidextrous”—the proper word to describe a person who is skilled in the use of either the left or the right hand.

* * *

Jays In Something Less Than Old Big East
But Potential For Moving Up Still Is There

The World-Herald recently carried a story which had an attention-caller reading “From small town to Broadway” (Omaha is a small town?) and included some upbeat comments from Creighton basketball coach Greg McDermott.

The story discussed the Bluejays’ move to what is left of the Big East Conference.

When I say “what is left,” I have in mind that the Big East now consists of seven Catholic schools which withdrew from the former Big East, taking the name with them, and adding three new members, including Creighton.

Some of the stronger members of the conference, including notably Louisville and Syracuse, non-Catholic schools, were left to find athletic conference homes elsewhere.

A Taste Of Broadway But Just A Taste

The Bluejays will have a chance to expose their Creighton athletic program and, more importantly, Creighton University itself as a splendid academic institution, in new settings.  But the only “Broadway” appearances on which the “small town” Bluejays can depend on are an annual game against St. John’s, which somehow has arranged to play its home games in Madison Square Garden, and another Madison Square Garden appearance (or appearances) during the annual Big East conference championships.

Otherwise, the Bluejays’ road games will be played in Indianapolis, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Milwaukee, Providence, Rhode Island, South Orange, New Jersey and Villanova, Pennsylvania.

The World-Herald’s comprehensive coverage of the history of the schools with which Creighton has chosen to affiliate included these facts:

Creighton will be the only Big East member which has never made the “Elite Eight” quarter-final round in the NCAA post-season basketball tournament.

Three of the ten schools in NCAA post-season championship competititon, dating back as far as 1943 in Creighton’s case, have won national championships:  Marquette in 1977, Georgetown in 1984 and Villanova in 1985.

I wish the Bluejays well both in their basketball challenge and their mission of spreading more widely the knowledge that Creighton is a splendid academic institution, hopefully attracting more students from more populous areas like those surrounding New York and Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia.

Good News In Doug McDermott’s Decision

Specifically, good luck to Coach McDermott in meeting his announced need for “recruiting bigger, more physical guards,” as a recent headline put it.

Good news for the Bluejays, of course, in the decision of All-American Doug McDermott to stay with the Jays for his fourth year rather than entering the NBA draft this year.

I would say the news is good also for Doug McDermott himself.  While helping the Jays in their debut in the Big East, he will also be learning more about what to expect when he turns pro.  He’ll certainly encounter more elbows—rough play—than has been the pattern in his three years in the Missouri Valley Conference.  The toughening up process will improve his qualifications for pro play while helping the Creighton offense significantly for another year.

* * *

Going To The Dogs Again

For this week’s upbeat column closer, a dog cartoon which Jackie discovered and which we think you might enjoy.

Since Jackie’s dogs, Sophie and Tucker, and Marian’s and my dogs, Claire and Charlotte, a very loyal to their owners but don’t read my column, they’ll never know that other dogs from time to time get column-ending treatment.  On second thought, Sophie and Tucker and Claire and Charlotte are not egocentric (they are, happily, owner-centric) and probably wouldn’t mind sharing some column-ending attention to cartoon-character dogs.

Charlotte would be especially receptive, I would think, since she recently had to wear a halo collar for a brief time.

# # #





This entry was posted in Column. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply