LINCOLN — Mayor Chris Beutler today lifted Lincoln’s mandatory water restrictions and said he will begin pardoning those who have been convicted of misdemeanors for violating the watering ban on certain days.
Lincoln’s watering restrictions have caused controversy because a violation of the ban is a misdemeanor, which can affect people’s ability to get a job or maintain professional licenses. The Lincoln Police Department has issued 400 tickets for watering violations and Lancaster County Court is allowing people who have received tickets to waive court appearances and pay $100 fines plus court costs.
Beutler said he doesn’t believe the violations should be a misdemeanor, but that was the only legal tool available to the city in a crisis caused by drought. He said it was better than allowing the city’s water supply to be threatened.
The mayor said he believes a financial penalty is still needed, but nobody’s job opportuniites should be jeopardized, so he said people who have been cited can apply for a mayoral pardon after they resolve their ticket and pay the fine.
Pardons would appear on a person’s record, allowing potential employers and licensing organizations to see that the person was exonerated.
Beutler stressed that violators must either appear in court on the date listed on the citation or waive the right to trial, plead guilty and pay the fine prior to the court date. Failure to follow this step could result in the issuance of an arrest warrant by the court.
Councilman Adam Hornung has said he will introduce an ordinance reducing the crime to an infraction, and said today he still intends to keep that option open, in case Beutler’s pardon plan doesn’t work out.
Beutler urged residents not to become complacent and advised people to leave dormant lawns alone.
Mandatory restrictions went into effect Aug. 9 due to historically low Platte River flows below 300 cubic feet per second. The river flow this week exceeded 1,000 cfs for the first time in nearly two months. The city’s goal for water use remains at 55 million gallons a day or less, and the average water use so far in September is 51.
The city last implemented mandatory watering restrictions in 2002.
The mayor said city staff will continue to evaluate the city’s short-term and long-term water supply and work on improvements to the city’s water management policy. He has directed staff to develop a new plan in the next two months so action can be taken on it before next spring.
Those who have completed the court process can request a pardon by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or sending a letter to the Mayor’s Office at 555 S. 10th Street, Lincoln, NE 68508. All requests must include the full name, address and contact information.