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Mayor Chris Beutler

Mayor Chris Beutler

Count on learning a lot about city streets in the next few years if you follow city government issues.

Mayor Chris Beutler, elected Tuesday to his third four-year term, plans to make Lincoln streets a priority.

Residents will learn how much streets cost -- about $10 million for widening a mile of city street at the edge of the city.

And about what has happened with state and federal funding for roads -- federal funding hasn't kept up with inflation and the higher cost of road building.

City staff needs to put together a history of street funding so “everyone can see what is happening with the funding,” Beutler said the morning after voters gave him a third term.

“Obviously, at some point in time, someone has to get the job (of fixing streets) done,” he said, but raising local taxes for the revenue has its drawbacks.

Beutler and the City Council raised the wheel tax over several years to raise more money for roads.

“And you can see the result of that in the election period. They were all over us about the wheel tax,” Beutler said about his opponent’s campaign themes.

The always-thoughtful Beutler was back to city business Wednesday morning, looking ahead to what he can accomplish in the next few years with a Republican-dominated City Council.

Roads will be front and center because Beutler knows the public is concerned about them. 

“I think the public wants us to improve the quality of roads,” he said during an interview in his office.

And the mayor also knows the council, with a four-member Republican majority, will be amenable to looking at how to improve the street program.

For six years, the council has had a Democratic majority, making it more likely that Beutler could get approval for projects that appeal to a more liberal mindset -- environmental improvements, amenities like parks, libraries and neighborhood concerns.

Now Beutler must build a coalition, convincing a Republican or two of the merits of his proposals.

He said his first step will be to learn more about the two new council members -- Democrat Jane Raybould and Republican Cyndi Lamm -- their philosophies and what they see as important improvements to the city.

And he will touch base with the other council members as he looks for what new projects have support.

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Beutler is interested in the pragmatic.

“I’m very interested in doing what is possible, not in making points about different issues,” he said.

He will do the behind-the-scenes legwork “so that as we consider what to put on the runway we are doing both what the public wants and what can happen.”

A city recycling program, on hold during the campaign, will move forward, Beutler said.

One of the most obvious proposals that came out of a solid-waste task force was requiring garbage haulers to provide recycling to everyone.

It means residents would have to pay for recycling service whether or not they used it.

The mayor isn’t ready to talk about specifics yet, but promised, “You’ll see a discussion.”

Lincoln's voluntary recycling program diverts 21.8 percent of total waste from the landfill, which is below the national average.

Beutler said he is committed to finding a plan that "would bring us from the bottom of the pile."

Additionally, the city will continue with economic development, the selective use of tax-increment financing to encourage development and a focus on public safety, he said.

Beutler’s opponent, Andy Stebbing, made police -- their morale and a need for more officers -- a central theme of his campaign.

Beutler said he will look at that issue again, but said, “nobody from the police department, from the union, came to me and said morale was bad and we need more police.”

He thinks community policing -- having individual officers get to know people in their areas, learning who is having problems with mental illness or drugs and connecting them to resources so they don’t commit crimes, keeping youth engaged after school, knowing where possible gang activity is, building trust in the community – is the answer.

“I think we are on the right track with policing.

“You can always be a Ferguson and rely on the brute force of officers," said Beutler.

But the right answer, he thinks, "is having a good relationship with minority communities and neighborhoods and treating people right.”

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSNancyHicks.

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Reporter

Nancy Hicks reports on Lincoln city government, but she’s been following the leaders of local and state government for more than 40 years.

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