Buffett jumps into local politics to fight streetcar

OMAHA, Neb. – Billionaire investor Warren Buffett broke with his practice of staying out of local politics to urge his hometown of Omaha to abandon its planned streetcar project because he says it’s too expensive and not as flexible as buses.

Buffett wrote a letter to the editor of the Omaha World-Herald and met with the mayor last week to lobby against the $306 million project and urge the city to let residents vote on it.

But city officials are moving forward with the streetcar because they believe it will spur development, including Mutual of Omaha’s planned $600 million headquarters tower downtown.

Buffett said in his letter that he decided to make an exception to his policy of staying out of local issues even though “it can be off-putting to many to have a wealthy 92-year-old tell them what is good for their future.” He said he wanted to weigh in on the streetcar because it’s “going to be hugely expensive if implemented.”

“Residents can be far better served by extended or more intensive service by the bus system,” Buffett wrote. “As population, commerce and desired destinations shift, a bus system can be re-engineered. Streetcars keep mindlessly rolling on, fueled by large public subsidies. Mistakes are literally cast in cement.”