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NE Video Special: Welch rips fire deal

By   /   November 28, 2012  /   35 Comments

Joe Jordan | Nebraska Watchdog

OMAHA—It’s the first big fight of the mayor’s race.

Former City Council President Dan Welch, who is running for the city’s top job, tells Nebraska Watchdog the proposed contract between the Omaha fire union and the city is a “bad deal” for taxpayers.

Welch’s comments directly contradict his fellow Republican and mayoral hopeful Jean Stothert.

Stothert, a member of the city council committee which hammered out the deal, insists the contract—which has been approved by the union and now goes to the council for its OK— is a big plus and will resolve a number of longstanding issues between the city and the union.

In an editorial today, the Omaha World-Herald agreed with Stothert.

“It is a meaningful step toward resolving problems that have lingered for too long,” writes the paper.

But, in an on-camera interview with Nebraska Watchdog’s Joe Jordan, Welch blasts the contract as “more of the same.”


Contact Joe Jordan at joe@nebraskawatchdog.org.

To subscribe to News Updates from Nebraska Watchdog at no cost, click here.



Joe formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.

  • D. Mark

    Just because Jean Stothert and the Omaha World-Herald says it is a good contract doesn’t make it so! Anytime you have a contract that says a person can retire and put his pension in a fund and keep working at his regular pay, that could be a problem in the future. Both the police and fire contracts have this provision in them. I believe this will come back to HAUNT the City and the taxpayers in the future! This replaced the “spiking” that was in the old contract. What other contracts that the city signs, have anything like this in them? NONE!!!!! Also the city says that this will keep experienced personnel in the fire and police departments. IS THERE ANYONE THAT YOU CAN THINK OF THAT IS INDISPENSABLE ESPECIALLY AT THE TAXPAYER’S EXPENSE?

  • Kevin

    It may not be the best, but it is better than the contract that Suttle wanted the council to approve.

  • What is the response to the fire fighters deal by Mayor Suttle? Have not heard anything from the Mayor. Perhaps the deal will get only 4 council votes and Mr Suttle will veto? That is what I would do if I were Mr Suttle.
    And is this deal THAT much better than the one the City Council vetoed and we had to wait 16 months on? I doubt it.

  • Mike C.

    I have examined both. I see little difference. Stothert had to save face and agree to this, in an attempt to look “mayorly”. She is in way over her head. Dan Welch is the only candidate capable of handling the job.

  • ProgressiveOasis

    Of course the proposed fire union contract is a bad deal for taxpayers. Until the pension is replaced with a defined contribution plan like a 401k, taxpayers are on the hook for hundreds of millions in pension funding requirements.

  • Reality Check

    Mike C(avanaugh), of course you think Dan is most qualified. When he was on the city council he voted for the police union contract that gave massive pension benefits and allowed spiking. That’s right, Danny boy voted for one of the contracts that has the city stuck in this position.

  • Reality Check

    Progressive Oasis…you have an extra 600 million laying around to pay of the pension liability so we can go to defined contribution? That’s what it would take. It would mean MASSIVE property tax hikes. If we did it ten years ago when the pension was fully funded it would have been a realistic possibility. It is not now. Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is playing you for a fool.

  • ProgressiveOasis

    Reality Check,
    It wouldn’t cost anything near $600 million to buyout the city’s pension obligation by converting already earned pension payments to an annuity. That’s the way they do it in private enterprise when they discontinue a pension plan and go to a defined contribution plan. So the amount required would be the net present value of the cost of an annuity to approximate the string of monthly pension plan payments in the future. It wouldn’t be cheap and the better alternative might be for the city to eventually go bankrupt and pay the fire union pension plan only pennies on the dollar…just like many other cities are doing right now. The fire union won’t like it? Outsource their services to private contractors and see how they like that…a competitive bidding process to permanently replace them.

  • Reality Check

    The city has run the numbers and you are not even in the ballpark. The city is not going to fire all of the public union employees. It would STILL be on the hook for the unfunded pension liability. NO one wants to declare bankruptcy. All crazy, unrealistic Nabity ideas. We need to live in the real world.

  • John Davis

    Dan Welch approved the 2004 Police Contract that allowed spiking to put the pension fund in a $500 million dollar hole. We don’t need him in the mayor’s office

  • ProgressiveOasis

    Reality Check,
    I’d very much like to see the city’s “pension buyout” estimate if you think I’m “not even in the ballpark”. The NPV of $600 over the next 50 years has got to be at least 50% lower than the total…maybe less. I seriously doubt the current administration has done an RFP among the largest insurance companies to get a serious estimate of the annuity plan cost. If they have and, as your “I know it all” BS looks, post the numbers. Otherwise, you’re just a liberal government-union loving moron.

  • Guest

    The unions certainly don’t think I am their friend. Just know the best deal we can get when we can get it. Because of CIR restrictions this is a good deal at this time. Moving to defined contribution would mean dramatically higher property taxes. No way around it. No one in Omaha has the stomach to pay those taxes to buy out the union pensions.

  • resistwemuch

    It certainly appears to be a great contract for people who’s only educational requirement to be a fire person is a GED. Compare what a competent engineer (not a fire truck driver) makes compared to a fire officer. Tell me why the fire officer who may respond to a serious fire about 2 times a year makes 30 thousand more a year than a real engineer. I suggest that the city council publics all salaries of individuals who are part of this contract.

  • Reality Check

    The actual numbers to buy out the pensions and convert to 401 K look like this. It would cost the city $346 million and take 25 years. It would start off with a $1 million additional contribution per year from the city and quickly escalates over the 25 years. By year 25 the city would need to put in an additional $27.8 million. You also have to remember that in order to convert the unions would have to agree to the change or state law must be changed. In case you missed it, the legislature will be much more union friendly following this last election.

  • Dan Welch has gone to the republican school of election practices! Can we expect him to start questioning the mayors citizenship, and ask to see his college records?
    When the economy is good, unions and others do well. When the economy is trashed by wall street… They will punish those not responsible for it.

  • Jazzee

    this is the DROP program
    remember suttle said he eliminated spiking (lie not all of it) and how he complained of the enhanced pension fahey gave them? another LIE he gave them the DROP program….the deputy chief will retire with 600,000 cash, a monthly pension based on 100,000 plus, cheap health care and his payout for vacation and sick leave
    and suttle called this the ‘deal of the century’ LOL LOL yea for the Union thugs not the taxpayers

  • Jazzee

    hope so

  • Jazzee

    love your posts

  • Jazzee

    so has jean stothert and the rest of the clowns

  • Jazzee


  • Jazzee

    what convert to an annuity??? LOL LOL check your facts
    and google police/fire pension minutes…they ADMIT for 2011 they were nowhere near 8% return….the pension is 600 million in the hole still…..their words not mine

  • Jazzee

    so has gernandt and stothert ?????? they are all jerks

  • Jazzee

    jean lies..she pretends to be against something when she knows it has the votes…she is a friend of police and fire no fool here

  • Jazzee

    wonder why they aren’t paying the fire union president FULL TIME like the police union president….paid full time sgt pay…..check it out paying a city employee to do union thug business with tax dollars…wow but they took it away from the fire guys hmmmmm what does that tell ya all

  • The Real Bad Deal

    Really Jazzee. Tell me when and where. The 2004 Police contract mirrored the fire contrat. Huge pension benefits and spiking. Stothert has NEVER voted for a contract like that.

  • The Real Bad Deal

    Again Jazzee…shoe me when Stothert voted for a contract like the 2004 contract Welch voted for. Fact is she has not. Welch has. So has Gernandt.

  • ProgressiveOasis

    I can see where Reality Check, proggies and Omaha city hall have a little trouble with math. The net present value of $600 million over 25 years at 8%/year is less than $90 million. The idea it would cost $346 million to annuitize current fire union pension obligations is ridiculous to anyone but a moron. As for the union agreeing to it, it’s a simple negotiation…you accept the conversion or you get pennies on the dollar when the city files for bankruptcy. If you show the average fire fighter that has already earned a penion benefit of $1000/month that converting to an annuity gives him the same $1000/month then you get the approval versus here’s what you get when the city defaults on the pension funding…$100/month tops. Even a union member can follow that math.

  • Jazzee

    she didn’t have to vote for it..she was able to act tough knowing the votes were there…come on wake up she is a typical politician. don’t you get how it all works??????? they lie to the public all the time
    suttle got no ‘deal of the century’ for taxpayers with the police contract
    go search for the police/fire pension minutes they ADMIT for 2011 nowhere near the 8% return promised in fact….

  • Jazzee

    problem is it has to be changed by statute…..and the gutless wonders in the legislature are beholden to the UNION thugs

  • Jazzee

    gernandt always will vote for the thugs they know too much about him
    jean just plays the game as I said before..she KNEW the votes were there so she acts like a taxpayer friend
    it’s a game and all sides know it

  • Reality Check

    Wow…you are amazing? You can read minds. Stothert has been consistent. Deal with it.

  • The City Council deal is NO better than the Suttle deal.

  • Jazzee

    and the pension is NOT I repeat NOT getting the 8% return the losers all promised us …gosh lied to again us taxpayers

  • Much of the shortfall was due to returns being well lower than needed since 2008 to fund future payouts. Defined benefit plans are way to unwieldy to have them in the public sector or private sector. Way to much variability in future funding needs. The pension benefits are simply unaffordable to the taxpayers who by the way don’t have near as generous of a pennon on average. They are one major reason the city of Omaha is in much worse financial shape than 15 years ago. I am for a good and fair pension plan for fire and police, but we can’t afford Cadillacs in these times. I challenge anyone to find a better pension anywhere.

  • Believe the 600M is only the “underfunded” portion of the pension, actually believe it was 610M. But if doable, yes the net present value of the total future liability would fund an annuity IF it were possible in the mix of things.