In a few days, Omaha will host the annual meeting of Berkshire Hathaway investors and it always marks a time of the year when Omaha, Buffet, and his company’s are a bit more prominent than usual in the media. That and the fact that baseball is in full swing which means, yep, the college world series! So, when I saw Laura Rittenhouse’s recent article in Forbes, asking if Warren Buffett was still relevant, my internal voice said, uh, yeah!
So, why would I lunch with Mr. Buffett if given the opportunity? Well, besides the fact that we would probably enjoy an Omaha steak in an old-school, dark wood paneled institution, it would be fun to talk about things he does not normally get asked about.
See, we’ve never met but I’m Dundee Girl remember. So, I’m from Omaha, and not just from Omaha, but from Dundee, which is a pretty small neighborhood that’s not such a secret anymore. In fact, other than the houses and parks, its resemblance to the ‘hood of my youth is fading, to be replaced with trendy restaurants and bars. Dundee was really the first suburb of Omaha back in the day. Now it’s practically considered downtown and certainly in-town if that language were used in Omaha.
Mr. Buffett was born the same year as my Mom, which if you follow my blog, she is the reason I started writing Dundee Girl. I love the stories and memories that my Mom had from Omaha and I would love to hear Mr Buffett’s thoughts on how Dundee and Omaha have grown and changed. He probably would not say it but a lot of those changes I’m sure he had something to do with behind the scenes.
I have worried on occasion what will happen to Omaha when he is gone, a very long time from now but I still wonder sometimes. He has a very public planned legacy in conjunction with the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, but what about his hometown. Does he have plans for it? From the stories, probably more myths, around town, he is a proponent of people working hard and building something, not handouts, which really is the Omaha way, at least the Omaha I grew up in.
I would ask him about Omaha’s growing divide between the have’s and the have not’s as the city has sprawled to the West, unfortunately mimicking other parts of the country and leaving the now ‘inner-cities and neighborhoods’ struggling with schools, crime, and affordable housing.
He’s into real estate now but I have not seen any hints of the return to the city mixed-use (residential, business, entertainment) walk-able projects that are so popular in Atlanta and other cities now that could breath new life into areas. Actually, the AKSARBEN (Nebraksa spelled backwards for those in the know) project is probably the closest and that is ok, but not what I have in mind or have experienced in other cities. Truthfully, I still wish Aksarben was a race track but that’s a story for another day.
I would ask him how the city can recover from the public school’s pension fund catastrophe as that is hitting so many of my friends who would be nearing retirement in a few years. So many of Omaha’s teachers did not diversify even though every piece of financial planning advice has focused on that for years now, yet still with a $771 million pension shortfall, it’s a disaster of epic proportions for my hometown in so many ways, this is the group of educators focused on my state’s poorest students that need the most support and we’ve let them down.
And we would talk about the devastating flooding in Nebraska and neighboring states that have destroyed farmlands, ranches, and lives. The repercussions of which the country has not even began to feel yet. I’ve talked to farmers and friends and for many this may be the end of a way of life. I was a child in the ’70’s when so many lost their farms including my aunt and uncle and it still brings tears to my eyes.
So, my short list of topics has already made this a long imaginary lunch and I was just getting started. So, I may never meet the man whose house I would walk by as kid, and even back then would ponder why he didn’t move into a bigger house, but I would really love for him to weigh in on some of these topics. My town needs his level-head and wisdom right now.