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Mayor Jean Stothert | City of Omaha

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(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.

   

(September 16, 2019) – Mayor Jean Stothert will hold her annual series of Town Hall meetings this fall beginning September 24th.  In the last six years, Mayor Stothert has hosted 46 Town Hall meetings.           

“Town Halls give taxpayers the opportunity to learn about important city issues, offer input and ask questions,” said Mayor Stothert.  “This year, we will be talking a lot about developing a long-term strategy to improve and maintain our roads and the transition to the new trash collection system in 2021.  It’s so important to meet people personally so we can work together on issues that affect all of us.”

 

SEPTEMBER 24 -  City Council District 2                                                                                       

Adams Park Community Center                                      

3230 John A Creighton Blvd                                                            

6:00-7:30pm                                                               

                                                           

SEPTEMBER 30 - City Council District 6                                               

Montclair Community Center                                    

2304 S. 135 Avenue                                                         

6:00-7:30pm                                                               

           

OCTOBER 3 - City Council District 4                                                                                                       

Our Lady of Guadalupe Hall                                        

23rd & O                                                                           

6:00-7:30pm

                                                                       

OCTOBER 7 - City Council District 1           

Laura Dodge Elementary School

3520 Maplewood Blvd

6:00-7:30pm

 

OCTOBER 22 - City Council District 7

Sunny Slope Elementary School

10828 Old Maple Road

6:00-7:30pm         

 

NOVEMBER 18 - City Council District 3

Subby Anzaldo Columbus Park Community Center

1515 S. 24th Street

6:00-7:30pm         

 

NOVEMBER 21 - City Council District 5

Sandoz Elementary School

5959 Oak Hills Drive

6:45-8:00pm         

(September 16, 2019)

A Vision Zero coordinator will be hired in 2020 to implement recommendations made by the Vision Zero Task Force. Mayor Jean Stothert created the task force to study Vision Zero strategies to reduce and eliminate traffic deaths in Omaha.

Traffic fatalities and serious injury crashes are trending upward in Omaha, recently surpassing homicides. In 2019, Omaha police report 12 homicides, 18 crash fatalities and 115 serious injury crashes (through 9/9/19).

In 2018, OPD investigated 37 fatalities and 137 serious injury crashes.

The Task Force has presented a series of recommendations to the Mayor in five categories:

Enforcement/Safety
Design/Construction
Legislation
Public awareness and education
Data Collection
Recommendations:

ENFORCEMENT/SAFETY

  • Increase enforcement during periods of highest fatal and serious injury crashes
  • Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) data (2010-2017) shows most fatal crashes occur between 9:00 pm and 2:59 am (40%).  Most serious injury crashes between 3:00 pm and 9:00 pm (39%) Identify priority safety corridors for safety improvements where the most harmful crashes occur. 50% of the fatal and serious injury crashes in Omaha occur on just 6% of roads

DESIGN/CONSTRUCTION

  • Incorporate speed reduction and other safety features as part of the Complete Streets review process 
  • Amend the Transportation Master Plan to include priority safety corridors and review other local plans to coordinate planned investments along these corridors
  • Prioritize improvements to sidewalks and other active transportation facilities on corridors with high crash rates involving vulnerable users and along transit corridors
  • Expand scope and amount of local safety funds in the CIP for safety-related projects and improvements on priority safety corridors

LEGISLATION

  • Support state legislation for primary enforcement for seat belt use and distracted driving and requirement for back seat passengers to wear seat belts (LB39 & 40, introduced by Sen. Hilkemann. Transportation and Telecommunications Committee took no action in 2019)

EDUCATION/AWARENESS

  • Improve coordination between safety campaigns, branding under “Vision Zero Omaha”.
  • Focus on impaired driving (alcohol, drugs, distracted) and vulnerable users (motorcyclists, pedestrians, bicyclists

DATA

  • Update crash reporting standards and co-ordination including a city-wide database and annual reporting mechanism
  • Disaggregate data for traffic fatalities and serious injuries by race and ethnicity to allow for better analysis and to improve the ability to address potential equity concerns

“The task force has made thoughtful, appropriate recommendations and we will evaluate each one to determine effective next steps to improve the safety of everyone who uses our roads, and ultimately reach the goals of vision zero,” said Mayor Stothert.

In addition to the recommendations, the task force suggested a Vision Zero Coordinator develop an action plan, coordinate actions between city departments, develop an implementation timeline and be the liaison with neighborhood groups, school districts, health care providers and other stakeholders. That new position is included in the 2020 budget.

“The key to reducing deaths through Vision Zero is community involvement. This means every citizen, whether a motorist, passenger, cyclist, or pedestrian, commits to practice behaviors on and along roadways that work to prevent needless deaths and injuries,“ said Task Force Chairman Tom Everson. “Our personal actions complemented by creating an infrastructure that works to reduce the effects of crashes, along with stepped-up enforcement in high-crash corridors will go a long way towards the goal of zero deaths and serious injuries on Omaha streets."

Sweden created the Vision Zero model in 1997. Vision Zero cities meet four minimum criteria:

  • A clear goal of eliminating traffic fatalities and severe injuries
  • Mayor’s commitment to Vision Zero
  • A Vision Zero plan or strategy is in place, or a timeline for implementation
  • Key city departments (including police, transportation, and public health) are engaged.

Mayor Stothert’s Active Living Advisory Committee encouraged the mayor to consider Vision Zero and name the task force. The group met monthly beginning in March 2018.

“Vision Zero is a common-sense goal we should strive for,” said Mayor Jean Stothert. “Public safety is our primary responsibility and priority. The only acceptable goal is zero deaths."

 

VISION ZERO TASK FORCE MEMBERS:

Tom Everson, Executive Director, Keep Kids Alive Drive 25

Mike Helgersen, MAPA Transportation and Data Manager

Andy Wessel, Douglas County Health Department, Community Health Planner

Pell Duvall, Duvall Consulting

Eric Koeppe, President and CEO National Safety Council of Nebraska

Rob Reynolds  C.A.R. Alliance for Safer Teen Driving

Kevin Carder City Planner (Transportation & Data), Long Range Planning Division, City of Omaha

Derek Miller, Long Range & Mobility Planning Manager, City of Omaha

Nick Gordon, Traffic Operations Engineer, Omaha Public Works

Ryan Wiesen, Assistant City Attorney

Kathy Bossman, Assistant Omaha Fire Chief

Sgt. Jason Menning, Omaha Police Department Traffic Division

Steve Scarpello, Omaha City Council Staff Assistant

 

 

(September 11, 2019)

Following a crash that seriously injured a 9-year old riding a scooter, scooter companies Lime and Spin will be required to take additional safety precautions and improve public education.

"The injury to the child is a very unfortunate incident and we wish him a speedy recovery," said Mayor Jean Stothert. "This is an important reminder to parents and adults that the use of scooters by minors is strictly prohibited. Riders must be 18-years-old and have a valid driver’s license. This is part of the contract all riders agree to when they use the app and participate in this pilot."

The pilot will determine if scooters will be allowed in Omaha at the conclusion of the pilot.

As a further precaution to prevent underage riding, users must now scan their driver's license; Spin has already added that requirement, Lime will start tomorrow. Both companies will be required to increase public education so all riders understand the safety and age requirements, and where and how to ride. The maximum speed may also be reduced from the current 15mph. These changes would be implemented for the remainder of the six-month pilot which ends November 15.

One of the criteria of the pilot is the scooter companies must show that scooters provide healthy and safe transportation options.

After discussing the pilot today with Chief Schmaderer and Chief Olsen, the city attorney, planning director and manager of parking and mobility, Mayor Stothert said all agree the pilot should be completed. An evaluation of all citizen feedback, injury reports, law enforcement concerns, and data about the use of scooters will be used to prepare a public report and determine if long-term scooter program will be implemented, with city ordinances that must be followed.

(August 27, 2019)

The City Council unanimously approved Mayor Stothert’s recommended $1.1 billion 2020 budget, including the $419.6 million General Fund.  The budget maintains a low property tax rate and prioritizes public safety and street repair. City department spending will increase only 2.2%. 

The current property tax levy is 47.922 cents per $100 valuation.

“This is the seventh consecutive budget that our property tax rate was either lowered or left unchanged. I am very proud of this record,” said Mayor Stothert.

Council members proposed four budget amendments. Mayor Stothert signed three of the amendments, to increase funding for PACE, Keep Omaha Beautiful’s Trees for Omaha program and an additional housing inspector.  She sent the fourth amendment for the Nebraska Center for Workforce Development and Education back to the Council unsigned because the organization did not complete the required application process that all non-profit organizations must complete to be considered for community service funds. That application requires a budget, a list of the organization’s officers and benchmarks for the program.

2020 Department Expense Highlights:

  • Increase the Omaha Police Department budget to $159.5 million
  • Increase the Omaha Fire Department budget to $110.1 million
  • Increase street resurfacing budget to $12.6 million
  • Add employees in street maintenance, sewer maintenance and housing inspections
  • Add funding for new Fall Cleanup and expanded Spring Cleanup and begin the public education and outreach program to prepare for changes in solid waste collection that will begin in January 2021
  • Maintain financial commitments to employment and job training programs; Step-Up, Way to Work and Heartland Workforce Solutions
  • Funding for qualifying community service programs that support Mayor Stothert’s strategic priorities including job training and workforce development, public safety, economic development and neighborhood improvement

“We have a very good budget that everybody agrees with,” said Mayor Stothert.