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Warren Buffett dives into local politics to fight streetcars

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett has broken his practice of staying out of local politics, prompting his hometown of Omaha to abandon a planned streetcar project.

Buffett wrote to the editors of the Omaha World-Herald this week to meet with the mayor to lobby against the $306 million project and urge the city to allow a referendum.

However, the city authorities are proceeding with the construction of trams. That’s because he believes Mutual of Omaha’s plans to include a $600 million headquarters tower downtown will spur development.

Warren Buffett

File photo of Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, during an interview by Liz Klaman of Fox Business Network in Omaha, Nebraska, Monday, May 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File) (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, Files/AP Newsroom)

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In the letter, Buffett said he had decided to make an exception to his policy of staying away from local issues, but said, “Let a wealthy 92-year-old tell you what’s good for your future. may be uncomfortable for many people.” He said he wanted to consider streetcars because they would be “extremely expensive if they were implemented.”

“Residents could be served much better by extending or centralizing bus service,” Buffett said. Backed by massive public subsidies, trams keep running unconsciously, and mistakes are literally thrown into the cement.”

Buffett did not respond to questions about his letter on Thursday.

Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting

Investors line up for Berkshire Hathaway’s first in-person annual meeting since 2019 in Omaha, Nebraska on April 30, 2022. (Reuters/Scott Morgan)

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The proposed tram will depart less than 20 blocks from Buffett’s Midtown home for decades, passing the headquarters of his Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate on its way downtown.

Mutual of Omaha officials said the new tramway was an important part of the plan when it unveiled the new office tower, as it would provide convenient access to the new headquarters. The company declined to respond directly to Buffett’s criticism on Thursday.

The city is using new tax revenues from other anticipated developments along the tramway to pay for the project. And the city council has already approved the bond to pay for it.

Buffett said he would vote against the project if given the chance, but the city doesn’t need to hold an election. There have been few, and we have made progress.

portland streetcar

A gift-wrapped Portland Streetcar. Omaha is considering a joint purchase with Portland.


Omaha Mayor Gene Stozert told the Omaha World-Herald that he met with Buffett on Wednesday to discuss the city’s streetcars and development.

“I have a lot of admiration for Mr. Buffett,” Mr. Stozert said.

Buffett’s headquarters staff is just about 20 people, and even if a streetcar were to pass through the front door, it’s only about seven blocks west of his office, so it’s unlikely that more people would take the streetcar. I guess.

But the conglomerate, led by Mr. Buffett as chairman and CEO, includes BNSF railroads, Geico Insurance, several major utilities, and various manufacturing and retail businesses such as Dairy Queen and Precision Castparts. It owns more than 90 companies among them. Berkshire also owns approximately $300 billion worth of stocks, including large investments in Apple, Coca-Cola and Bank of America.

ticker safety last Change change %
BRK.A Berkshire Hathaway 467,587.00 -1,138.01 -0.24%

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