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Why City Council members wanted to spend $54,000 with the Lew Edwards Group regarding the proposed utility users’ tax

By: Stephanie Dumm, News Messenger Reporter
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The City Council approved a $54,000 professional service agreement with the Lew Edwards Group last week “to educate Lincoln residents about the city’s budget challenges and proposed utility users’ tax.” The News Messenger asked City Council members this week why the city is paying for those services. “We have some difficult choices to make as a community and it’s important the residents all have the opportunity to make an informed decision from a position of knowledge,” Councilman Paul Joiner said Tuesday, via e-mail. “The Lew Edwards Group has been retained because they have the knowledge, experience and expertise needed to communicate information about the city’s financial challenges efficiently, accurately and in the purely informational manner needed.” According to Joiner, “no one working for the city has any experience working with the tax measure” so it “would be unwise” for a reduced staff to “walk the tightrope between informing and advocating while all the while continuing to perform their already increased day to day responsibilities.” Councilman Kent Nakata replied that the Lew Edwards Group is being used for “educational purposes.” Mayor Tom Cosgrove said the $54,000 professional service agreement with the Lew Edwards Group is to “get the information out to the public in the proper way and make sure we follow all of the correct rules and guidelines. An educated vote by residents is why Councilwoman Linda Stackpoole said the $54,000 in General Fund money is being spent to educate citizens. “They will be educating about what the measure will provide, where the money will be used, and where General Fund revenue comes from,” Stackpoole said. “I’ve adopted the ordinance and put it on the ballot so that citizens can tell us what they want. I’m prepared to do what I need to do if the measure doesn’t pass. I just want them to be educated.” The News Messenger called and left messages for Councilman Spencer Short Monday and Tuesday. Short returned the phone call Wednesday morning, refusing to comment on the matter.