Lincoln City Council Primary Candidate: Bennie Shobe
Twelve candidates, including three incumbents, are running for the three Lincoln City Council at-large seats. Voters will cast a ballot for three candidates in the April 6 primary election and six candidates will advance to the General Election on May 4. 10/11 NOW sent a questionnaire to all candidates and we did not edit responses. View other candidate profiles here.
- Name: Bennie Shobe
- Occupation: Program Analyst with the Nebraska Department of Labor, incumbent city councilor
Why are you running for a seat on the city council?
I am running for re-election to continue to serve as a voice for working people in Lincoln. I want to model civility in government. I want to serve as a bridge for members of our community who do not have experience working with city government -- to help them have their questions answered and concerns addressed.
What are your key issues in this election and why are they important to address?
I will prioritize improving housing options for Lincolnites. I want to maintain a safe and inclusive community that reflects the priorities of all residents. I will work to repair existing infrastructure and am excited to plan for new growth as the city emerges from the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.
Higher property tax valuations continue to lead to higher property tax payments in the city of Lincoln. Does this concern you? Why or why not?
I am concerned. Higher property tax valuations in part result from the low supply of housing stock in a growing community. Assessments reflect market value, and while property owners anticipate changes in the value of their property over time, rapid increases in assessments and the subsequent property taxes owed have added uncertainty to an already stressful year. Higher values are good when selling a home, but challenging when owners are planning to remain in their homes and aren’t able to budget for such rapid increases. City government does keep property valuations in mind when preparing both short- and long-term plans for city growth and we need to continue working to address this issue.
Do you support a recent effort by the Lincoln City Council to keep an emergency declaration in place for Lincoln during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Yes. Keeping the emergency declaration signals to both the state and federal government that the city of Lincoln seeks to remain eligible for any available assistance they may be able to provide. Both the state and federal government have resources that the city can use to mitigate harm and enhance opportunities for a rapid recovery for the residents of our community.
Would you do anything differently in terms of the city’s response to the pandemic?
Considering the public health information that was available to the city at the time and everyone’s limited experience with a global pandemic, I would not change much. In hindsight, we possibly could have engaged in more community outreach and education surrounding transmission vectors. But, as we see with the latest CDC recommendation regarding social distancing for K-12 school students, public health recommendations are constantly being refined as new data is made available.
Did you support a recent effort to recall Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird and four city council members?
No, I did not. The ability to recall an elected city official is a legal option and guidelines for it are outlined in the Lincoln City Charter, but I did not support it. I understand that the recall efforts mounted in the fall of 2020 were an expression of dissatisfaction with actions taken by elected officials, but I do not believe that using a special election to address dissatisfaction with council members, or the mayor, made our community better. As a currently serving city council member, I receive communications from residents of our community on a daily basis and discuss them with my fellow council members. We take those concerns seriously and consider them when making decisions for the community. Our opinions may differ, but that does not mean that we aren’t listening.
Does Lincoln have an affordable housing shortage? If so, what do you think should be done to fix it.
Lincoln has a housing shortage, which includes affordable housing. In recent years, wages earned by workers in our community have not kept pace with housing costs, which are driven by demand. Historically, wages grew when low unemployment -- which Lincoln continues to experience -- exists, but that has not happened. City government should take steps to incentivize the maintenance of existing housing stock and encourage the development of more housing units, including “workforce housing” in an effort to stabilize the housing market and allow wages to catch up with other aspects of the economy.
The most recent budget in Lincoln came with $12 million gap filled by fee increases in 15 different areas, as well as department budget cuts. Do you support the effort made by the council? Would you have proposed other changes?
Yes, I did support those efforts. Those adjustments were a thoughtful, measured, fiscally conservative effort to address the unknowns of an economy entering a global pandemic. The need for city services did not disappear when the pandemic arrived -- in fact, residents of our community also faced uncertainty surrounding their employment and the ability to meet their financial obligations. In addition, the city moved from a two-year to a one-year budget cycle. This temporary move provides both data and time to review the city budget for other adjustments.
If re-elected as council, how will you apply your experience to address future budget negotiations?
I will use my experience reviewing and approving previous city budgets to better explain the process to members of our community. I am looking forward to presenting residents’ concerns about spending that is currently planned and sharing their ideas for improvements to the budget during my conversations with other members of the council and the mayor’s office.
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