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June 10, 2014
A LETTER TO CITIZENS ON MAYOR JEAN STOTHERT’S FIRST ANNIVERSARY
One year ago today, I took an oath to serve you as Omaha’s 51st Mayor. It is an honor and responsibility. I am proud of the progress we have made this year and look forward to the challenges we face together.
On this anniversary of my first year in office, I would like to share what I consider to be significant accomplishments and look ahead to the next months and years.
My first and most important responsibility as Mayor will always be to keep our citizens safe. Police Chief Todd Schmaderer and I share the goal to reduce violent crime and we are showing real progress in reducing gang and gun violence. I am happy to report that the number of shootings is trending down. Looking ahead, we are hiring and training more police officers. A recruit class is currently underway at the Police Academy and will be on the street this fall. We plan additional recruit classes in 2015 and 2016 to bring the sworn strength of our police department to 840 officers. But, enforcement is only part of the crime-fighting strategy. Prevention is also important. We have hired a second gang specialist to work in south Omaha and we have increased community policing. Recently, we announced significant increases in the Crime Stoppers reward program to encourage the community to come forward with information that will help police make arrests.
You may remember soon after taking office last summer, we had to immediately fix the 2013 City budget. We inherited an approximate $13.5 million dollar deficit. Worse yet, early projections by the outgoing administration had the 2014 budget underfunded by approximately $19 million dollars. We went to work and ended last year with a surplus over $13 million dollars. Despite flat sales and property tax revenues for 2014, we managed down this year’s shortfall from $19 million to zero. This was accomplished with spending reductions, not new taxes.
Now we are working on the 2015 budget. You can expect a budget that maintains and even improves city services, without a tax increase. I will send our proposal to the City Council in July. In August, you will have the opportunity to comment on the budget at a public hearing.
We’ve made progress on controlling costs with our public employee unions, especially in the areas of pensions and benefits.
I kept my pledge to create the Citizen Complaint Review Board. Five volunteer citizen members and one alternate have been appointed and trained to investigate complaints made against police officers.
Many changes have been made at City Hall to improve service to you, our customers. I have reorganized and expanded my Community Relations Team and we improved the services of the Mayor’s Hotline. In the last two months, we have assisted with nearly 3,500 requests from citizens, a significant increase. The hotline staff is providing quality customer service and follow-up. You can also reach me through my website, mayors-office.cityofomaha.org, on Facebook and Twitter.
We’ve also reorganized city departments and staff, like the Planning Department, to improve customer service and efficiency. I hired Fire Chief Bernie Kanger to lead our Fire Department. Chief Kanger has the expertise to manage both the operations and the administration of the department.
There are many more highlights of the last year, including
- Resurfacing of Dodge Street from 52nd to Turner Blvd.
- Creation of the Faith and Community Task Force
- Introduction of the Prospect Village Redevelopment Plan
- Voter approval of the $92 million bond issue to fund improvements in public safety, public facilities, streets, sewers and parks
- Renovation of Gene Leahy Mall
- Increased budget for demolition
- Development of Civic Auditorium site
- Development of 10th & Capitol, groundbreaking is scheduled later this month
- Town Hall Meetings in all 7 City Council Districts
Thank you for working with us. Omaha is a great city. Together, we can make it extraordinary.