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(January 23, 2020)

Mayor Jean Stothert will ask the Omaha City Council to authorize a transportation bond issue to fund a long-term pavement rehabilitation and reconstruction program. The bond issue will be on the May 2020 ballot.

“Fixing the streets is fundamental to everything else,” said Mayor Stothert. “The condition of our streets is a top priority for me and for our taxpayers. Our streets have been underfunded for at least 50 years. We can stop the deterioration of our infrastructure but it will take all of us to agree it’s worth the expense. Our needs are greater than our revenue.”

Last year, Mayor Stothert consulted with a team of independent engineering experts to evaluate current street infrastructure and estimate the cost to develop the city’s first pavement rehabilitation and reconstruction program.

The evaluation showed the City should spend $75 million annually (5% of the value of the total street infrastructure of $1.5 billion) to resurface 250 lane miles of road.  Currently, the City spends approximately $41 million a year and resurfaces approximately 125 land miles. This results in an annual shortfall of $34 million.  With the recommended level of funding, every lane mile in Omaha could be resurfaced over the course of its 20-year average lifespan.

A $200 million transportation bond would raise $40 million each year for five years, enough to cover the shortfall. It would require a mill levy increase to pay the bond debt, equivalent to approximately $35 a year for the owner of a $100,000 house. This estimate is based on 2020 financial projections and it is anticipated the increase will be lower.

“A bond issue is the only option that lets voters make the decision,” said Mayor Stothert.

Other options considered included an increase in the wheel tax, sales tax or property tax. Mayor Stothert will not support a tax increase that does not have voter approval.

There are approximately 5,000 lane miles of street in Omaha. Projects funded with bond revenue will include neighborhood and arterial streets in all seven City Council Districts.  The plan will also include additional funding for unimproved streets.  (see attached list and map)

THE BOND ISSUE WILL PAY FOR:

Street rehabilitation

Reconstruction and new construction

Residential asphalt resurfacing

Concrete streets and concrete panel replacement

Brick street repair

City budgets for the last ten years show the history of street resurfacing funding from a low of $2.8 million in 2010 to the current budget of $12.5 million.  Mayor Stothert has doubled the resurfacing budget since 2013.

2010: $2.8 million                          2016: $8.7 million                          

2011: $3.9 million                          2017: $10.7 million              

2012: $5.6 million                          2018: $11.7 million                        

2013: $6.6 million                          2019: $12.2 million 

2014: $6.9 million                          2020: $12.5 million

2015:  $7.3 million

 In the first six months of 2019, the City spent $13.25 million to repair approximately 67,000 potholes.  

“Potholes are a symptom of our aging infrastructure,” said Mayor Stothert. “A long-term funding solution will reduce annual repair costs but we have to make the financial commitment.  Without voter approval, we will continue to prioritize spending on road infrastructure, but we will never catch up and the funding gap will increase.”

The City Council must approve an ordinance to put the bond issue on the May 12 ballot.  The first reading will be on the January 28 agenda, a public hearing on February 4 and final reading and vote on February 11.  

In July 2019, Mayor Stothert, City Finance Director Steve Curtiss and city engineers developed “A Road Map to Better Streets”, including an examination of current and past funding and options for increased revenue.  The report has been presented at dozens of public meetings and is available on the city website. https://www.cityofomaha.org/images/pdf/Mayors_Road_Town_Hall-FINAL.pdf


(January 15, 2020)

The City of Omaha and Douglas County will recognize employees with the annual Martin Luther King award at a ceremony Friday.  A selection committee reviewed nominations made by the recipients’ co-workers.  A citizen chosen by the Human Rights and Relations Department will also be recognized.

The City of Omaha will recognize Omaha Police Captain Anna Colon. She joined the Omaha Police Department in 1999 and has worked in the Uniform Patrol Bureau, Gang Unit, Internal Affairs and Homicide.  She currently manages the Criminal Investigations Bureau-Special Investigations Section and commands the Officer Involved Investigation Team.

Captain Colon served in the United States Air Force for 24 years. Her military assignments included deployment to the Gulf Coast in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina and a humanitarian deployment to Guatemala to provide medical, dental and vision care to more than 8,500 people.

In 2007, Captain Colon volunteered to serve in Iraq where she worked at a field hospital that cared for critically injured soldiers and civilians. She received military recognition for this assignment, which resulted in a 98% patient survival rate.

Captain Colon retired from the Air Force in 2009 after serving as the Superintendent of the 710th Medical Squadron at Offutt Air Force Base from 2005-2009.

She is a member of the Black Police Officers Association, currently serving as Chaplain.  She is a member of the Latino Police Officers Association, Eastern Star, a PACE coach and volunteer at her church.

Deputy Police Chief Ken Kanger and Chief of Police Todd Schmaderer wrote in the nomination, “The acts by Captain Colon are the personification of Dr. King’s words, “Use me God. Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, and what I can do, and use it for a purpose greater than myself.”

The Douglas County recipient of the Dr. King award is Douglas County Department of Corrections Captain Leon Valquier.  Captain Valquier  has worked for DCC for 2003 and was promoted to his current position in 2019. His responsibilities include recruitment, training and wellness.

He is a member of the African American Corrections Officer Association, serving as Vice-President and President and a PACE soccer coach.

Sgt. John Deases, nominated Captain Valquier, saying “The dream/torch of Martin Luther King, Jr. still burns today. Captain Valquier carries that torch that burns brightly for diversity, equality and justice.  Through the efforts of Captain Valquier, the Douglas County Jail is a better place.  Many are called to do the right thing when it comes to the social injustices of our day. Without question, Captain Valquier has answered that call.”

“These two leaders make a difference each day.  Like Dr. King, they are committed,   inspiring,   and respectful,” said Mayor Jean Stothert.  “It is an honor to recognize their service on the job and in our community.”

The citizen award will be presented to Dominique Morgan, Executive Director of Black and Pink, the largest prison reform organization in the United States. Mr. Morgan works to dismantle systems that perpetuate violence on LGBTQ/GNC people, and individuals living with HIV and AIDS.  He is an NAACP Freedom Fighter Award recipient, a Young, Black, and Influential Award recipient for Advocacy, and he was recently voted a Ten Top Outstanding Young Omahan.

“Mr. Morgan has demonstrated incredible resilience by overcoming his lived experience of incarceration as a youth,” said Dr. Franklin Thompson, Director of the City of Omaha Human Rights and Relations Department. “He has made an inspiring 180 degree turn in his life, and is now dedicated to the cause of social justice and reform. The success story of rising from the ashes of a hardscrabble past and becoming a role model for the young people of our community cannot be overstated. I believe Martin Luther King Jr. would be proud of Dominique's contribution to the Omaha community.”

The City-County Dr. King Employee Celebration will be held Friday January 17, 2020 at Noon in the Legislative Chambers.


(January 10, 2020)

No community is immune from the threat of school violence.  In 2011, a Millard South student shot and killed a school administrator and himself and injured the school principal.

“We live in a new world, which requires new actions,” said Mayor Jean Stothert. “The safety of our students, teachers, staff, and everyone  who uses our schools and school campuses is critically important to all of us. The best strategies to enhance school safety are communication and prevention.”

Following a practice becoming common around the country, Omaha Police took the lead to form the threat advisory team, a partnership between law enforcement agencies, seven metro school districts, Lutheran Family Services, and Regional 6 Behavioral Health Care.

The team coordinates crisis response, performs school safety assessments, and provides threat assessment training.

It also developed the anonymous reporting system, Safe2HelpNE, which is now live and operated by the Boys Town National Hotline.  In the first week, dozens of reports have been received.

“School safety is a priority for all of us,” said Omaha Deputy Police Chief Greg Gonzalez. “Our number one goal is get students the help and resources they need to enhance school safety.” 

There are three ways to make an anonymous report:

By phone: 531-299-SAFE (7233)

By website: www.Safe2helpNE.org

By mobile app

“This tip line will be unique to this region and most of the country because the people answering the phones are experts at Boys Town’s certified crisis center, they are trained to respond to bullying, suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety and other mental health crises,” said Gonzalez

If an urgent threat is reported to the hotline, law enforcement and school administrators are immediately notified.

“An anonymous reporting system is imperative to the next level of safety in our schools” said Millard Public Schools Superintendent Dr.James Sutfin.  “When you call, you get help.”

In the three weeks following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida in 2018, Omaha police investigated 71 school threats.

“While 71 may sound very high for a three-week time-frame, the concern is with the number of threats that were unknown,” said Mayor Stothert. “The threat assessment team will help identify those unknowns by recognizing persons who may be at risk of hurting themselves or others. They could be students, teachers, staff, parents or anyone with access to our schools.

Data from other states that use this type of anonymous reporting shows about 80% of the reports are mental health issues according to Boys Town Hotline staff.

“This service will ensure the safety of young people and they will get the help they need,” said Boys Town National Hotline Director Ginny Gohr. “What a powerful message to young people that their community cares.”

OPD stresses the tip line does not replace 911, always call 911 in an emergency.


(December 11, 2019)

Hundreds of men and women will spend the night in Omaha’s new Siena Francis House shelter on Thursday.

“Only in Omaha does this happen,” said Heritage Services President Susan Morris.

Heritage Services raised $18 million from donors to build the new 43,000 square foot shelter near 17th and Nicholas. The shelter has beds for 350 men and 100 women, far greater than the 262-bed building it replaces.  The opening of the new shelter is also the beginning of a shift in services for persons who are homeless.

“For 45 years, we have been working on solutions to a complex problem,” said Siena Francis House Executive Director Linda Twomey. She estimates more than 1,400 men and women are homeless in Omaha every night. “Building shelter beds is not the solution to ending homelessness. This building allows us to change our focus to services.  Everyone who comes through the door will work on leaving as soon as possible.”

“The vision for this project began in 2015 when a donor asked Heritage Services to consider building a new shelter,” said Morris. “Eighteen months later, after evaluation and thorough due diligence on the best model, design, then construction began with three important priorities . . . safety, durability and dignity.”

“The shelter will provide a safe, respectful, and friendly environment for everyone who comes here for help and support,” said Mayor Jean Stothert. “Our goal must be to end homelessness. To some, it may seem unreachable, but each step we take together gets us closer to that goal.”

The City of Omaha paid for infrastructure costs including the demolition of the former day service center and the cleanup of the property.  The 2019 Capital Improvement Plan included $2.5 million dollars in redevelopment bonds for the project.

Heritage Services also announced today that the Baright Shelter next door will be renovated for the Miracles Recovery drug rehabilitation program. The building will house and provide services for up to 32 women and 48 men.  Construction will begin this month and will be completed in August. Donors have contributed $12 million.

“Nearly everything we accomplish benefits from the leadership, financial support, and vision of these valued partners,” said Mayor Stothert.  “This is a day for welcome, thank you, and a celebration of new beginnings.”


(December 6, 2019)

After eight years of negotiations with the city employee unions, Mayor Jean Stothert has now achieved the long-term goal of administering a single health insurance plan for all covered city employees.

As of January 1, 2020, all employees, with the exception of rank and file firefighters, will be covered by the City’s preferred high-deductible health plan. The rank and file firefighters (members of IAFF Local 385) administer their own health care plan independent of the City, except for the City’s monthly premium contributions.  

“While serving as chair of the City Council negotiating committee in 2011, I set two long-term goals - to reverse the projected insolvency of the pension funds, and to establish one health care plan for city employees,” said Mayor Stothert.  “We achieved the first goal with unprecedented pension reform during my first term as Mayor.  In my current term, we achieved the second goal. Beginning next month, the City will for the first time in decades, administer only one health care plan.”

In 2018, the Omaha Police Officers Association (OPOA) became the first bargaining unit to move to the high-deductible plan which became the model for the other unions.  Since then, Police Management, the civilian bargaining units (Local 251, CMPTEC, Functionals, AEC), and Fire Management have all ratified contracts that include the high-deductible plan.  The Omaha City Council has already approved the police and civilian agreements and is expected to approve the fire management contract Tuesday.

“Employee health care is one of our most significant expenses,” said Mayor Stothert.  “The single plan we now offer will result in lower premium costs and a savings to our taxpayers.”

Previously, the City administered more than an estimated 30 different health insurance plans for current and retired employees.

The City projects $1.8 million in savings in 2020 as a result of the transition to the new plan, with additional ongoing savings in each subsequent year.

The contracts resulting in the health care transition also include 3% annual wage increases. To protect employees from additional out of pocket costs under the high-deductible plan, the City will also make an annual contribution to each employee’s Health Savings Account (HSA).  The HSA contribution varies depending on the bargaining unit.

The City also provides health insurance to retired employees until they are Medicare eligible at age 65.  Currently, 1,781 retirees are city insured.


(November 19, 2019)

Firstar Fiber’s bid to process recyclable products for the City of Omaha will be rejected and the City will rebid the contract with different terms.

The City notified Firstar today of its intent to reject the $4 million dollar bid. The bid equates to $200/ton, double the amount the City expected and greater than Firstar’s retail rate for its other customers, $110/ton.  

In a letter to Firstar Fiber CEO Dale Gubbels, Public Works Director Bob Stubbe wrote, “the bid exceeds the City’s budgeted estimate for the work to be performed and is therefore, being rejected.”

In September, the City advertised a Request for Bids to award a new 5-year contract for processing that would respond to uncertainties in the recycling market, and still be affordable and fair to taxpayers. The contract would have replaced the current agreement with Firstar Fiber, which ends December 31, 2020. The new contract could have been implemented as early as January 1, 2020 if the City had received favorable bids. Firstar Fiber submitted the only bid.

Firstar Fiber has been under contract with the City since 2006. The initial contract (2006-2015) required Firstar to pay the City based on the volume of recycled material.  The second contract (2016-2020) required Firstar to continue those payments.  Due to the plummeting recycling market, the City and Firstar amended the contract, requiring for the first time, the City pay Firstar $25.92 per ton to process recyclables, the same fee paid to dispose of solid waste at the landfill.  Monthly payments to Firstar started in September 2019. 

“We recognize the changes in the recycling business require us to pay for processing, but this bid is excessively high and would require significant cuts in our 2020 budget,” said Mayor Jean Stothert.

The processing contract is separate from the solid waste collection contract, recently awarded to FCC Environmental.  That contract includes $5.3 million for curbside recycling collection and takes effect January 1, 2021.

“We are committed to recycling, but we must have a fair price,” said Mayor Jean Stothert.

The City currently collects approximately 17,000 tons of recyclables annually for delivery to Firstar Fiber for processing. Volume is expected to increase to 20,000 tons or more with the switch to the new solid waste collection system and covered carts.

A new Request for Bids will be developed with new terms, which will include input from industry experts, including a longer term contract. 


(November 12, 2019)

"The arbitrator charged with deciding the appropriateness of Fire Chief Dan Olsen's termination of Steve Leclair has concluded that Mr. Leclair should be reinstated.

Chief Olsen and I vehemently disagree with her decision. I support Chief Olsen's decision not to allow this atrocious behavior from an employee sworn to protect the public.

The only true victim in this case - the African American woman who was sexually propositioned, racially insulted by LeClair stating "white power" to her, and then physically assaulted by him  has in our opinion, been victimized again. Racial and physical abuse by city employees will not be tolerated. This type of violent conduct against women will always be dealt with in the same manner, with severe consequences. As long as I am mayor, men who  work for the taxpayers and conduct themselves in this offensive and unacceptable way will face consequences.  Our community standard should be no less.

This case is about just one issue - should a city employee who was found guilty by a judge, who made the following admissions, continue his employment with the City: 

Admitted to the assault·      

Admitted to violating the union contract’s prohibition against conduct “unbecoming” of a firefighter

Admitted to insubordination when disregarding the fire chief’s orders

Admitted violating the public’s trust 

Admitted to using the phrase “White Power” immediately before assaulting the victim

The men who came to Mr. LeClair’s defense is disturbing to me and should be to all women.  This case is not about Mr. LeClair's historical conduct. Physical and sexual abuse will only end when men hold each other accountable.  There is only one victim in this case and it is not Steve LeClair.

Until this time, we have chosen not to release the video surveillance that captures Mr. Leclair's bar room behavior.  The public can decide if this type of misconduct should be tolerated.

The City is now reviewing its legal options including reversal or vacation of the order." -Mayor Jean Stothert


(October 8, 2019)

Mayor Jean Stothert will travel to France this week to formalize a Sister City Friendship Agreement with the Isigny-Omaha Intercom region along the Normandy Coast, including historic Omaha Beach.  

Mayor Stothert and Mrs. Anne Boissel, President Isigny -Omaha Intercom will sign the agreement at Isigny City Hall on October 16.

The announcement of the agreement and signing ceremony was first made on June 6, the 75th anniversary of D-Day. 

At Mayor Stothert’s request, the Omaha City Council passed a resolution September 24th supporting the establishment of the Friendship Agreement, which is the first step in the formal Sister City process.

“Omaha Beach is part of our country’s past and must always be remembered,” said Mayor Stothert. “History connects us, and the future will provide many opportunities for cultural, educational, business, and most importantly, the personal relationships which are fundamental to all sister cities. It is an honor for the City of Omaha to develop a Sister City relationship with this region.” 

Isigny-Omaha Intercom, a region of 59 townships will be the City of Omaha’s seventh Sister City.  The others are Shizuoka, Japan; Braunschweig, Germany; Siauliai, Lithuania; Naas, Ireland; Xalapa, Mexico; and Yantai, China.

“The iconic ties between Omaha and Omaha Beach in Normandy are rooted in history,” said Andrew Schilling, Vice-President of the Omaha Sister Cities Association.  “Based on that solid foundation, we at Sister Cities look to establish future exchanges and partnerships in the areas of education, culture, tourism, and business.  The Friendship Agreement opens an exciting door of opportunity between the Normandy region and the greater Omaha area.”

The Omaha Sister City Association made the initial contact with its counterparts in France, and learned there was shared interest in forming a sister city relationship In early March, a delegation of five Normandy mayors visited Omaha.  In April, a group from Omaha visited Normandy.  

Mayor Stothert will lead a delegation of 60 on the trip to Normandy October 11-18.  The group includes Chief of Staff Marty Bilek, members of the Omaha Sister City Association and Alliance Francaise d’Omaha.  The group will arrive in Paris Saturday October 12 and travel to Normandy on October 14.

 In addition to the official signing ceremony, the group will attend a flag-raising ceremony at the American Cemetery at Colleville sur Mer, and participate in wreath-laying ceremonies at the graves of Nebraska service members and at the National Guard Monument on Omaha Beach at Vierville.  The United States Air Force will commemorate the events with a fly-over of Omaha Beach by fighter aircraft of the European Command. The visit will end with a celebratory concert.  

“A great distance separates us, but a great friendship will connect us,” said Mayor Stothert. “I am proud to represent the citizens of Omaha as we recognize the historic importance of Omaha Beach and the sacrifices so many Americans made for our freedoms.”


(October 7, 2019)

Mayor Jean Stothert has named Deborah Sander as Director of Human Resources. Sander worked in the City of Omaha Finance and Human Resources Departments for 28 years until she retired in December 2018.

The Personnel Board recommended three finalists for the Human Resources Director position, including Sander. 

She will begin the new position October 21.   Her salary will be $162,000.

“Deb has made substantial contributions over more than two decades working for the City of Omaha. She has excellent credentials in finance, hiring and training, technology, employment and pension policies,” said Mayor Stothert. “I am excited to welcome Deb back. Her experience is an asset to the City of Omaha, the taxpayers and our employees.”

Sander held numerous positions beginning in 1990. She retired as Payroll Manager.

Before retirement, Sander managed the implementation of a new Human Resources Information System (HRIS).  The system replaced a 30-year old HR/Payroll system, eliminates paperwork and data entry and provides efficient management of all Human Resources processes including hiring, payroll, pension, and employee benefits. 

She also served as Chairperson of the DOTComm Oversight Committee (2012-2018)

The City of Omaha Pension Board approved Sander’s monthly pension in December.  To be eligible to return as Human Resources Director, Sander will return the pension payments already received.

Sander has a Master of Business Administration with emphasis on Human Resource Management from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Creighton University.    

She replaces Tim Young, who resigned in August.


(September 16, 2019)

The City of Omaha plans to purchase land in South Omaha to build a new fire station to replace Station 31. The move will improve emergency response coverage in the south Omaha area.  The City expects to break ground for the new station in 2020.

An analysis of Omaha Fire Department station locations completed in 2016 identified the need to replace Station 31, currently located at 25th and L. 

“We are constantly evaluating community needs and our response plans,” said Mayor Jean Stothert.   “The new location will improve our emergency coverage to the neighborhoods and businesses of South Omaha.”  

The new station will be built at 3404 Q, the property  is owned by Miami Partners, LLC. The purchase price is $730,000. Funding for the land purchase and station construction is included in the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).

The purchase agreement is on the September 17 City Council agenda for first reading.

“The modern station will be designed for efficiency and with the best interests of firefighter wellness and safety in mind. We look forward to the completion of this project,” said Chief Dan Olsen.

The 2016 analysis also recommended moving Station 53 at 80th and Dodge to a location between Dodge and Cass on 72nd Street. A site search is underway.

The Omaha Fire Department operates 24 fire stations.  The last new construction was Station 3 at 3126 S. 16th Street, which opened in 2001.