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Mayor Jean Stothert | City of Omaha

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(March 1, 2019)

Text of Mayor Jean Stothert's State of the City speech

 

 

 

Each year, we measure our progress against our goals, share exciting changes ahead for the city we love, and focus on the challenges before us.

Those we serve are confident and optimistic. Omaha is an extraordinary city.

The people we live and work with every day, our neighbors, friends and family, make this possible.

I want to thank everyone who is doing their part to make Omaha the city it has become, and I believe our future is even brighter.

This year, I am especially pleased to report the impressive strides we have made to make Omaha a safer community.

Our commitment and the investments we have made to improve public safety are paying off. I appreciate the City Council’s valuable ideas and support.

We track seven categories of crime and all seven decreased last year.

In 2018, there were 22 homicides in Omaha, the lowest per capita in 20 years.

When compared to ten comparable cities, Omaha recorded the lowest number of homicides; fewer than Wichita, Tulsa, Kansas City and Minneapolis.

Last year, our police department solved 91 percent of all homicides; a ten-year high, and a clearance rate much better than the national average of 53% for cities our size.

The number of shootings also continues to be low; 100 injured in 78 incidents in 2018.

These are not just numbers that look good. These are trends that show strong progress.

Declining crime rates, a high clearance rate, a reduction in complaints against officers, and strong police community relations. Chief Schmaderer calls these our city’s vital signs, and our vital signs are good.

This is especially encouraging since our city has experienced strong population growth and expanded city borders.

We’ve added about 35,000 residents through annexation in the past six years.  So, better results for a larger city.

Unlike other achievements or milestones however, there are no celebrations or high fives for improvements in our crime numbers.

Too many lives are still affected by senseless violence.

Our progress has only made my resolve stronger, knowing we can improve this most important aspect of our service to the public. 

We will press on, full speed.

So, why did this progress occur and how can we continue to improve?

We have sharpened the focus and created strategies that bring us to where we are today. We have increased the number of sworn officers from 804 to 902. This summer, we will open the new fifth precinct headquarters in Elkhorn. The traffic division, bomb squad and swat team will also be based here. Precinct boundaries will be redrawn, and a new class of recruits will complete their training to coincide with the grand opening.

The new precinct and increasing the number of police officers is part of our strategic plan to provide the necessary resources for excellent police services throughout the city.

The level of public engagement by our police department has led to a high level of community cooperation and support.

This public trust encourages citizens and organizations to assist with our crime prevention and enforcement efforts. They are as responsible for our progress as anyone.

Public safety starts with every Omaha police officer.

The officers assigned to our uniform patrol are on the front line.

Their daily work supports our public safety goals, and we can attribute our declining crime rate to their commitment and professionalism.

Uniform patrol officers who work in each of our precincts are here to represent the hundreds of officers who are patrolling your neighborhoods today, answering your calls to 9-1-1, and attending your neighborhood meetings.

Officers Ray, Keenan, Buckley, and Schlotzhauer, thank you!

It’s always a pleasure to recognize those who are dedicated to serving our city.

Will you please help me thank Chief Schmaderer, his command staff, and these officers?

We are a safer city because of our results-oriented police department.

There are of course, hundreds of city employees in other departments that provide critical public safety services.

Since February 4th, our street maintenance staff has worked 24/7 to keep our streets open and safe.

It takes a team to keep the city open during severe winter weather.

The street maintenance staff is represented today by employees who have been plowing snow and patching potholes all winter, and their supervisor, Street Maintenance Engineer Austin Rowser.

Gentlemen, thank you for your constant work in winter’s worst conditions.

Today seems like the perfect opportunity to share a national recognition.

We have just learned that the American Public Works Association will recognize the City of Omaha with its Excellence in Snow and Ice Control Award for 2019.

This award is given to recognize best practices in snow and ice removal while minimizing environmental impacts.

Congratulations to this hard-working team.  

We are certainly ready for spring! 19 days and counting!

Public safety is also ensuring safe and healthy housing.

The public saw firsthand the work of our housing inspectors at Yale Park apartments last September.

These inspectors completed more than 9,000 inspections in 2018, resulting in safer housing and improved living conditions for thousands of people.

And of course, the first responders of Omaha’s fire department.

In 2018, the Omaha Fire Department responded to more than 54,000 emergency calls.

We have installed new station alerting technology in our fire stations to greatly improve communication between 911 and first responders.

We will build two new fire stations, the first at 34th and ‘Q’.  

It will replace Station 31 currently at 25th and “L”.  We will soon ask the City Council to approve the land purchase.

The second station is planned along the 72nd and Cass corridor, replacing station 53 at 80th and Dodge.

We will continue to purchase and replace fire trucks, medic units, and other equipment necessary to improve public safety.

And effective today, March 1st, the Omaha Fire Department has earned a Class One Rating by the Insurance Services Office.

This is important because a Class One Rating can have a significant impact on your homeowner’s insurance rates.

Of the 46,000 fire districts rated by the Insurance Services Office, less than 1% earn a Class One Rating.

The rating is based on many factors, including the number of fire stations and fire apparatus in a city, training and fire prevention programs, code enforcement, and personnel.

In just the last two years, 41 fire academy graduates have joined the Omaha Fire Department. In April, another class of recruits will graduate.

Congratulations to Chief Olsen, his command staff and the Omaha firefighters here today representing all three shifts.

The firefighters, housing inspectors and street maintenance staff all provide services that ensure your safety, every day, every emergency.

Another area of great importance is the Omaha economy.

This includes strong wage growth, low unemployment, very encouraging business expansion, and new development.

Great American cities have growing and thriving downtowns.

Cities that are struggling have downtowns that are cut off from newer parts of their city, and that leads to economic stagnation and decline.

Downtown Omaha is in the midst of one of the most significant growth periods on record.

So many important milestones have led us to today, beginning with the Gene Leahy Mall in the mid 1970’s.

When I visited Omaha for the first time 27 years ago, there was no CHI Health Center Arena, no TD Ameritrade Park, Kiewit University, First National Tower, String of Pearls along Abbott Drive, or Bob Kerrey pedestrian bridge.

No Heartland of America Park, Holland Performing Arts Center, Gavilon or Gallup campus.

Every one of these developments has impacted the growth of downtown Omaha.

Yesterday, we broke ground on the $300 million dollar riverfront project.

Importantly for taxpayers, about 80% of the cost will be funded by private donors.

That money has already been committed by our generous philanthropic community.

We are thankful to the Downtown Riverfront Trust and its donors, led by Mogens Bay and Ken Stinson.  This type of partnership just doesn’t happen in other cities.

Thank you for your vision and leadership.

I believe this will be one of the most significant projects in Omaha’s history

It reflects the generosity of donors, the beauty of the riverfront, and our faith in the future.

This project will be Omaha’s new signature and I can’t wait to enjoy it with my grandchildren.

But, that’s not all that’s happening, far from it.

The ConAgra Campus – a $500 million development featuring retail, residential, a hotel and green space in the first phase.  A plaza will connect to the Old Market, and that is very important.

The Highlander 75 North in North Omaha – an exciting project that has created affordable housing, commercial space, and a community center to an area of our city that needs quality investment.

We are excited about the opportunity to receive a $25 million federal grant. Omaha is one of four finalists being considered to receive “Choice Neighborhood Funds”.

If selected, this grant would fund the North 30th Street Transformation Plan.

With the work already underway at Highlander and neighboring Prospect Village, the stage is set for transformation of North 30th Street. 

The Millwork Commons project in north downtown will transform an old industrial area into commercial space, with local company “Flywheel” as the first tenant.

This $300 million project is a great example of how both growth and preservation can benefit our city.

The Kiewit Global Campus is part of the Builders District in north downtown and will be home for up to 650 Kiewit employees.

The Capitol District - this downtown project is already open for business with a new Marriott hotel and entertainment district.

Each of these projects realizes our goals to make downtown Omaha the economic engine of the region, to offer a great quality of life, unique civic and cultural resources, and open public spaces.

And there’s more – in west Omaha, Heartwood Preserve –the 500-acre housing, office, retail and entertainment project near Boys Town.

When fully built out, it will include over 2,000 new homes, apartments and condos with a project value of over $1 billion dollars.

Avenue One at 192nd and Dodge will be another billion dollar mixed use development.

AkSarBen Village - now home to HDR, and the Blackstone District, continue to grow and attract new residents, businesses, and customers.

The historic Blackstone Hotel is being renovated and will again be a grand centerpiece of the neighborhood.

“Linkedin” has committed to a new location at Sterling Ridge in west Omaha.  Within three years, “Linkedin” may double their current payroll in Omaha.

And, we are actively working with interested developers on the Civic Auditorium site, and Crossroads.  Stay tuned!

Another important measure of growth is the number of building permits we issue each year.

In 2018, we issued more than 14,000 permits, for a total valuation over $800 million.  

That brings the total to 93,000 building permits valued at $4.6 billion, since I have been Mayor.

Our neighboring cities are also doing well and that is so important for us and the greater metro area.

This includes amazing new technology and community-driven projects in Sarpy County and the “Rivers Edge” campus in Council Bluffs. These projects all spur even more development, grow our economy, create jobs, and generate recreation and event opportunities.

Just imagine how the impressive riverfront project – and all the development underway, will change Omaha as we see it today.

New energy, new life, new opportunities, new work, and new entertainment and leisure activities. It’s all exciting, isn’t it?

I love reading city ranking reports to see what others think of Omaha.

Omaha is number one on the list of “Five Up and Coming Tech Hotspots”, according to Livability.

Zip-Recruiter lists Omaha as a number one city for college graduates to start their careers.

And “US News and World Report” lists Omaha as one of the ten most affordable cities in the country.

For Omaha to continue to excel, the services and industries that drive investment and talent must also remain strong.

One good example is Eppley Airfield.

A well-managed and thriving airport is critical to economic growth and livability.

More people than ever used Omaha’s Eppley Airfield last year, more than five million passengers.

More airlines offered more service and travelers responded.

Ten years ago, Eppley had 17 non-stop destinations.  Today, there are 34. As you know, one of the most necessary services we provide to taxpayers will change significantly when we choose a new contractor for solid waste collection.

The new contract will be awarded this year and a new system must be in place prior to the end of 2020 when our current contract with Waste Management expires.

This is a critically important decision that impacts all of us, and could double our current annual costs.

That’s why we started planning in 2016, with an analysis of the environmental and economic impacts of yard waste collection and disposal.

We held a series of public open houses and equipment demonstrations, completed a pilot of 2,500 households to test covered carts and automated trucks, solicited input through telephone surveys, and collected e-mail feedback from thousands of citizens.

The four bids we received are being reviewed now, and I will make a recommendation to the city council soon.

We need a modern, safe, efficient, and environmentally friendly collection system that we can afford.

We will choose the best system possible within our current budget.

I will not support a tax increase to pay for this contract.

We also need modern, safe and efficient transportation options.

I’m really excited about “ORBT”, the Omaha Rapid Bus Transit system.

ORBT will offer convenience and technology on the initial route on Dodge Street from 10th street to Westroads.

The construction of the ORBT stations will begin this spring and the first bus will be on the road in 2020.

At every transit stop, there is an opportunity for new, dense development.

We are in the process of asking for your input on the best type of development along the route.  Three more public meetings will be held this month to solicit your feedback.

ORBT is just one piece of the future transit needs of our city.

Omaha is one of eleven cities selected to participate in the “Smart Cities” initiative.

The goal of smart cities is to use technology to improve city services. Our focus is transportation.

A steering committee, chaired by myself and Werner Enterprises CEO Derek Leathers is studying three initiatives:

First- a “smart district” in Omaha to test new technology,  second - a series of pilot projects, and, third- a unified regional transportation plan.

Expect an announcement in the next few months!

A reliable transportation system starts with maintaining our infrastructure.

This year, we will continue our aggressive street resurfacing program.  We have 69 projects on our 2019 schedule.

In addition, the City Council has adopted our Capital Improvement Program (CIP) which will provide over $320 million for transportation projects over the next six years.

Road repair and resurfacing will remain a priority.  Since I have been mayor, we have already resurfaced 640 lane miles, at a cost of $58 million.

An important service we provide to taxpayers is the Mayor’s Hotline, for citizen opinions and complaints.

Last year, we resolved 39,000 requests ranging from potholes, to trash collection, and just about anything else you can imagine.

Six weeks ago, we launched another hotline communication tool -- “Omahahotline.com”.

Users can easily report their concerns and track the status.

Already, more than 1,400 reports have been received on this new website.

We are now working on a new app that will put more city services at the fingertips of residents and visitors.

We want your interactions with city government to be positive.

We are in the customer service business and these hotline tools offer good, responsive, customer service.

Of course, we have challenges.

We are currently working on steps to improve the safety of rental housing.

Last fall, we took unprecedented action against the owner of Yale Park apartments for unsafe and substandard housing.

The conditions were horrendous; conditions no one should live in.

We relocated the refugee families that same day, a complicated task.

I want to thank all of our partners who helped care for these families during an uncertain time, especially the city staff at Adams Park and Columbus Park Community Centers.

Orinthian Everett and Pam Perry are the center managers.

They’re here today with their teams so we can say thank you for truly going above and beyond to make the best of a traumatic experience.

We have to make sure nothing like that ever happens again.

We must ensure that the property owners who do a great job do not experience burdensome regulations, or expensive fees that will result in higher rents.

I will work with the City Council to pass an ordinance that focuses our attention on non-compliant landlords, and not punish those who maintain their property.

There has been a great deal of attention lately on public pension plans.

While we have made progress – significant progress- to improve the outlook of the pension plans our employees and retirees rely on, more must be done.

We cannot let the pension financial liabilities that have built up over decades, diminish quality retirement plans. And, we cannot expect the taxpayers alone to take on these costs.

Regarding property taxes, we must continue to control costs, make only wise investments, and reduce the tax rate when we are able.

I am proud that we have lowered the tax rate twice in the last five years.  The City of Omaha portion of your property tax bill, is just 21%.

We share the responsibility, along with other units of local government and schools, to help reduce high property taxes.

This is especially true with property values increasing as they are now.

I am pleased the Nebraska Unicameral will consider major property tax relief legislation.

The state has the policy authority and financial resources to enact major structural changes in how we fund local government, but local control and flexibility must be preserved.

I would like to thank you – the City Council – for your ideas and hard work.

I believe we run local government as it is meant to be run, full transparency, shared goals and a co-operative approach.

We work towards what is best for taxpayers, and when we don’t see the issues the same, we are able to work out our differences with respect.

Together, based on feedback from our citizens, we have changed the fireworks ordinance and developed a new cost-sharing policy to pay for unimproved streets.

We have increased our investment in workforce development, increased recruiting in South Omaha for the successful Step-Up Jobs Program, and with our partner, the Salvation Army, our new “Way to Work” program is providing jobs to persons who are homeless.

I also want to recognize the hundreds of citizen volunteers who serve on city boards, commissions and advisory groups.

Some are required by state law, others by city charter, ordinance, or a mayor’s executive order.

The advisory groups I have created provide input in many areas, active living, millennials, LGBTQ+ and Native American communities, and military service.

Later this month, I will receive the recommendations from the Vision Zero Task Force.

Vision zero is a common sense goal we should strive for to reduce traffic deaths.

The Millennial Advisory is recruiting volunteers to serve on city and community boards and add a young professional’s point of view.

The LGBTQ+ advisory is studying models for a community resource center.

Thanks to all of you for your ideas and enthusiasm.

It is an honor to serve as mayor, to work every day to help our citizens and city reach their full potential.

There are so many positive things happening in our city right now and our future is very bright.

Thank you to everyone who shares responsibility to impact our city and make it better. You are making a difference.

The unique, co-operative spirit that is found in Omaha is taking us to new places.

 

 

(February 15, 2019) 

A national mentoring organization has recognized Mayor Jean Stothert as a finalist for the 2019 Excellence in Mentoring Awards in the Public Elevation category. The MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership award recognizes individuals who use their influence and public platform to support mentoring opportunities for youth. MENTOR Nebraska and its partner mentoring programs presented Mayor Stothert with the award at a ceremony February 13th.

“I am grateful to MENTOR Nebraska for nominating me for the Excellence in Mentoring Award,” said Mayor Stothert. “I support mentoring and MENTOR Nebraska because a commitment to mentoring is a commitment to the future of our city.  I am proud that Omaha has many organizations that support the mission of mentoring and the opportunities we are creating for young people in Omaha.”

Mayor Stothert has supported youth mentoring in Omaha for more than ten years, first as a mentor to an elementary age student. She helped MENTOR Nebraska recruit more than 50 businesses for the Corporate Mentoring Challenge, a challenge that encourages Omaha businesses to create or expand mentoring within their organizations and to encourage their employees to participate in youth mentoring programs. Mayor Stothert further supports the mentoring initiative through her continued participation in Mayors for Mentoring, a national network of mayors across the country partnering with affiliate mentoring organizations and coalitions to mobilize their communities around youth mentoring. In addition, she has awarded MENTOR Nebraska a $10,000 grant to be used for mentor recruitment events.

Mayor Stothert is an outspoken advocate for youth mentoring. “Mentoring is such a simple way to make a personal connection with young people,” said Mayor Stothert. “The investment we make today as mentors and role models provides opportunities for success in school, sports, and community service." 

“Mayor Stothert is a passionate leader who wants to create a culture of mentoring in Omaha,” said Deborah Neary, Executive Director of MENTOR Nebraska. “She understands the long term benefits mentoring has on a community and the importance of working together to elevate mentoring. The support and time Mayor Stothert has dedicated to mentoring clearly demonstrates that she is a champion of mentoring.

About MENTOR Nebraska

MENTOR Nebraska’s work is research-based and collaborative with the ultimate vision to bring about systemic changes that will allow mentoring programs to serve more youth with higher quality services. This is achieved through standardized background checks, data collection and evaluation, and training and technical support.

MENTOR Nebraska will continue the important work of raising awareness, standards, and numbers around mentoring, but now formally extend this work outside of Omaha and across the state of Nebraska. Training, support, technical assistance, and background checks will be provided to nearly 200 mentoring programs around the state. For more information about MENTOR Nebraska, visit www.mentornebraska.org.

(January 30, 2019)

Four companies have submitted bids for the City of Omaha solid waste contract; bids were opened today.

The bidders are: 

FCC Environmental

Waste Connections of Nebraska

West Central Sanitation

Waste Management of Nebraska

Bid documents required interested companies to bid on a collection system that uses automated trucks and covered carts to collect garbage, recyclables and yard waste. Bidders provided costs for six options, including a 3-cart system, 2-cart system, separate yard waste collection, yard waste and solid waste collected together, weekly and bi-weekly recycling collection.

The attached chart includes the collection bids for all six options.

“The bids received are within the estimates we expected and most show our costs will nearly double to continue the service we now provide,” said Mayor Jean Stothert. “This decision will impact every taxpayer for the next ten years or more and we will ask the Council to approve a contract that provides services that meet our needs, at a price we can afford,” said Mayor Stothert.

Bidders also provided costs on carts, an annual fall and spring cleanup, the optional yard waste sticker program and additional carts if requested.

 

PROVISION AND DISTRIBUTION OF CARTS:

FCC: $2,987,319.60

Waste Connections of Nebraska: $3,038,242.00

West Central Sanitation: $2,877,681.00

Waste Management of NE-$6,210,633.00

 

SPRING AND FALL CLEANUP:

FCC: $185,500.00

Waste Connections of Nebraska: $171,750.00

West Central Sanitation: $217,500.00

Waste Management of NE-$343,190.00

 

YARD WASTE STICKER PROGRAM (PER STICKER paid by resident):

FCC: $40.00

Waste Connections of Nebraska: $1.50

West Central Sanitation: $2.00

Waste Management of NE-$2.00

 

ADDITIONAL CARTS (per cart, paid by resident weekly):

FCC: $1.75

Waste Connections of Nebraska: $1.38

West Central Sanitation: $1.56 

Waste Management of NE-$1.85

 

The City currently pays Waste Management approximately $15 million annually. That contract has been in place since 2006 and expires December 31, 2020. 

These are the next steps in this process:

Bids will be reviewed by the Public Works General Services Division for completeness and conformance to the bid requirements.

The Human Rights and Relations Department will review the Economic and Equity Inclusion Plans (EEIP).  City departments are to include EEIP plans in service contracts that are in excess of $10 million and when the contract period lasts 24 months or more. 

SCS Engineers will review the bids. The City hired SCS Engineers to provide services related to the development and review of the bid.

Following these reviews, a committee will evaluate the bids and submit an evaluation report to Public Works Director Bob Stubbe.

The evaluation will provide the Public Works Director with information to make a recommendation to Mayor Jean Stothert for the lowest and best bid.

Mayor Stothert, in consultation with the Director Stubbe, will then make a contract recommendation to the City Council, possibly in late March.

The City Council will vote later this year to award the contract.

(January 28, 2019)

Omaha neighborhood associations are encouraged to apply for the 2019 Mayor’s Neighborhood Grants program.

Mayor Jean Stothert will award $75,000 for neighborhood proposals that support and strengthen projects that improve the quality of life, impact the neighborhood environment, and help prevent crime.

In 2018, 32 projects receiving grants included equipment for citizen patrols, landscaping and trees, supplies for neighborhood cleanups, a pollinator garden, a baseball diamond, and “little free neighborhood libraries”.

For the second year, funds will be designated for the National Night Out Grants program. Grants up to $200 will be awarded to neighborhood associations that plan and host National Night Out events on August 6, 2019.

“The neighborhood grants program provides an opportunity to collaborate with our strong and creative neighborhoods,” said Mayor Jean Stothert. “The best ideas and projects often come from those who benefit the most, the neighbors!”

Neighborhood organizations registered and listed in the City of Omaha Neighborhood Directory are eligible to apply for grants up to $5,000.  Applications are available on the Mayor’s website, https://mayors-office.cityofomaha.org/neighborhoods.  

The application deadline is March 26, 2019.  Applications will be reviewed by a committee including representatives of One Omaha, Omaha Police, Keep Omaha Beautiful, the Planning and Public Works Departments and the Mayor’s Grants Team.  Final awards will be approved by Mayor Stothert. Grant recipients will be announced in May.

Over the last five years, Mayor Stothert has awarded neighborhood grants for a total of $375,000.

(January 26, 2019)

The owner of the Yale Park Apartments has a February 4th deadline to turn himself in, or the City Prosecutor plans to issue a warrant for his arrest.

Prosecutor Matt Kuhse plans to charge Kay Anderson with 100 counts of violating Section 48-53 of the City of Omaha Municipal Code.  Each count carries a $500 fine, six months in jail, or both. Kuhse said the most severe penalty could be 50 years in jail.

In September, City housing inspectors closed Yale Park Apartments at 33rd and Lake, documenting 2,000 code violations ranging from unsanitary conditions to gas leaks, electrical, and structural violations.  Kuhse said the charges address the “most egregious” violations. All are misdemeanors. The 500 residents, all refugee families, have been relocated to new housing.

“What I’ve seen, these are terrible, horrible living conditions that no person should live with,” said Kuhse.

Following the September inspection, Anderson had 30 days to begin repairs on the apartments. City ordinance allows for a 30-day extension, which was granted.  He then received an additional 30-day extension, which expired on January 17. As of January 25th, Anderson had not applied for any permits to make repairs. Anderson told housing inspectors he is out of town until February 4.

“What we often see is some type of progress.  Having seen none, this is the step we are taking,” said Kuhse.

“It’s been 127 days since the Yale Park inspection,” said Mayor Jean Stothert. “We intend to take the most severe criminal actions possible. This is serious, serious business.”

Chief Housing Inspector Scott Lane estimates repairs at Yale Park will cost $2 million to bring the apartments up to code.

“We don’t file criminal complaints at the drop of a hat. We want to file the most appropriate charges to get a conviction,” said Kuhse.  

(January 16, 2019)

 The City of Omaha plans to begin a pilot program this spring to test dockless shared electric scooters.

An RFP posted today outlines the pilot and the requirements for bidders.  The deadline to submit bids is February 8.

The pilot will help the City determine whether shared scooters support the City’s Master Plan goals, including to provide multimodal transportation options for enhanced mobility, create livable and connected neighborhoods, and attain a healthy and safe environment.

Up to three companies will be selected to participate in the pilot, scheduled to begin in late March and continue until mid-November.

“Dockless scooters have the potential to expand mobility options in Omaha. This pilot will give us the information we need to evaluate the long-term potential for this technology,” said Mayor Jean Stothert.

The companies selected will be required to pay $10,000 for a permit to participate in the pilot, plus pay the city 50 cents per day per scooter and 5 cents per day for each ride. Each company can have up to 500 shared scooters in Omaha during the pilot, with an option for 500 more.

Bidders will be required to provide safety records, a history of complaints against the company by users and cities where the company operates, public education and communication plans, pricing, including discounts offered for low-income users, user privacy policies, and insurance coverage (workers compensation, general liability, vehicle liability, cyber liability).

Bidders must also explain how shared scooters create and improve access to jobs for unemployed and underemployed people, if and how the company would contribute to local infrastructure improvements, outline strategies to work with Omaha’s Smart Cities initiative and existing Omaha transit providers Metro Transit and Heartland Bike Share.

 During the pilot period, Shared Scooter parking zones may be created; scooter parking may also be banned in designated areas. Park Omaha will enforce dockless scooter parking regulations.

There are currently about eight companies providing shared scooters in the United States, including Lime and Bird.

(January 16, 2019)

A new Warple is now live to measure public opinion on rental housing inspections and potential changes in city ordinances. 

The Warple, “Landlords and Rentals” is available on Mayor Jean Stothert’s website, at https://mayors-office.cityofomaha.org.  Users respond to five statements:

  • There should be more government oversight and/or regulations for rental properties.
  • Landlords should be required to register with the City.
  • There is enough oversight and regulation, nothing more needs to be done.
  • I support more taxpayer dollars to be spent to fund a significant increase in the number of inspectors to inspect Omaha rental properties. 
  • I think tenants need more education about their rights and responsibilities as a renter.

Warple’s technology allows participants to respond more than once, but only the most recent response is counted toward the current results. Previous submissions are saved to know how opinion may change over time.

In September, the City closed Yale Park Apartments after housing inspectors found more than 2,000 code violations ranging from peeling paint to carbon monoxide and gas leaks.  The tenants have been relocated to new housing.   The owner of Yale Park faces a January 17 deadline to apply for the appropriate permits and then start  repairs once the permits are approved.

 

The Yale Park inspection and subsequent actions initiated a discussion about rental housing and appropriate government oversight to ensure safe rental housing in Omaha.

Mayor Jean Stothert, the Planning Department and City Council Planning Committee continue to research and discuss a variety of options to provide safe housing and consequences for landlords who do not maintain property as required by city code. "It is our responsibility to assure the health and safety of our citizens. We need to continue the public conversation to develop a practical, long-term plan for the city of Omaha," said Mayor Stothert.

Warple has also been used to solicit public opinion on fireworks sales and use, yard waste collection and Oma-Gro, and recycling. Previous Warples are also on the website at https://mayors-office.cityofomaha.org/warple

Warple Inc. is an Omaha-based technology startup providing live, real-time, always current views of what people think. Warple is also a product, which gives everyone a voice and provides a way to see how their opinion compares to the collective public opinion.

(January 16, 2019)

A new website to report concerns to the city is now live.

Omahahotline.com is an additional option to report specific problems including code violations, graffiti, road problems, weeds, litter, and during the winter, snow and ice conditions.  The website can also be used to report concerns to Douglas County.

Citizens can sign in to report and track the progress of previous reports using social media accounts.  Users can also sign in as a guest.

For example, when a pothole is reported, the system determines which jurisdiction is responsible, City of Omaha or Douglas County, and routes the report to the correct department where it is assigned a unique report ID number.  The reporting citizen receives an email response which includes the ID number and confirms the details of the report.

“We are in the customer service business and this is good, responsive customer service,” said Mayor Jean Stothert. “We want every interaction with city government to be positive.  Omahahotline.com expands on the excellent services already provided by the Mayor’s Hotline staff.”

The Mayor’s Hotline staff takes reports by phone at 402-444-5555 and by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Reports can also be made on the City Sourced mobile app.

In 2018, the Mayor’s Hotline submitted 38,793 service requests to city departments.  The top five complaints were potholes, abandoned vehicles, snow removal, weeds, and litter complaints. In addition to service requests, the staff responded to 16,679 calls and emails that did not generate a request for service or repairs.  Monthly hotline reports are available on the Mayor’s website at https://mayors-office.cityofomaha.org.

Since August, Omahahotline.com has been tested by the graffiti and parks maintenance divisions. More than 1,000 reports have been entered during the test period.

The site was built by Douglas/Omaha Geographic Information Systems (DOGIS) developers and is locally managed. The cost to develop the site is $35,000 and is paid from the city’s General Fund. There are no additional fees or costs.

“This is an excellent example of using technology to provide services to our citizens.  The GIS team continues to create tools that provide useful information and data,” said Mayor Stothert. “Thanks to the team for their creative, cost-saving solutions that benefit taxpayers.”

(January 10, 2019)

The City of Omaha and the Salvation Army will launch “A Way to Work”, a work readiness program that will provide employment, training and services to homeless persons.  

“A Way to Work” expands our commitment to workforce development and training. We will bring the dignity of work to those who are willing and able,” said Mayor Jean Stothert.

Mayor Stothert first announced the city’s intent to develop an employment program specifically for homeless persons and panhandlers in the 2018 State of the City speech.  A program in Albuquerque, New Mexico, “There’s A Better Way”, provided an example of a successful program.

“We studied the Albuquerque model carefully,” said Mayor Stothert.  “Our program builds on ‘There’s A Better Way’, offering a good job and a good wage, tools for long-term success, and additional resources the Salvation Army is trained to provide.”

Participants in the program will be employed by the Salvation Army for a 90-day program that includes two days per week working at City of Omaha parks facilities at a rate of $10.00/hour. The City will provide transportation to and from the job sites in a van marked “A Way to Work”.

Initial participants will be selected by referral from the Siena Francis House, others will be recruited by the program administrator or can apply for the program. The Salvation Army will screen all applicants to determine their eligibility; all will be subject to a background check and E-Verify.

Up to six participants will be accepted for the program for each 90-day period.  

Following successful completion of the program, the Salvation Army will assist participants with employment applications and provide a letter of recommendation.  Participants may also have the opportunity for future employment with the Parks Department.

“We look forward to participating in ‘A Way to Work’ and providing work experience,” said Parks Director Brook Bench. “We always have seasonal job openings and those who successfully complete this program may be good candidates for future employment with the City.”

“A Way to Work” will be initially funded with $50,000 in Community Service Funds budget in the 2018 City of Omaha General Fund.  The Salvation Army will also contribute $50,000.  A full-time Salvation Army employee will manage the program.

The 2019 program will begin February 5th and conclude September 30. Mayor Stothert will include funding for a “Way to Work” in the 2020 budget.

“The goal has to be to end homelessness in Omaha and this is a major step toward that goal,” said Mayor Stothert.

(January 4, 2019)

A contract with Metropolitan Entertainment & Convention Authority (MECA) to manage the construction, operation, maintenance  and activation of the new riverfront parks will be presented to the Omaha City Council and the MECA Board of Directors for approval this month.

Under the agreement between the City of Omaha, MECA and the Downtown Riverfront Trust (DRT), MECA will manage the development of the Gene Leahy Mall, Heartland of America Park and Lewis and Clark Landing, and future operations and activation.  Activation includes creating, scheduling and managing events at the park.  Gene Leahy Mall will be the first park completed.  Construction will begin in March 2019 and is expected to be completed in 2021.

The City and the DRT will each contribute $3 million annually for ten years to a fund managed by MECA  for the operation, maintenance and activation costs.  The money in the fund will accumulate over the ten-year period for future park expenses. The fund will be separate from MECA’s CHI Health Center and TD Ameritrade Park Omaha budgets. The contract also requires that $500,000 from this fund will be set aside in a capital reserve fund each year for future capital expenses.

 “MECA has an established history of working with the City of Omaha and philanthropic leaders on major construction projects,” said Mayor Jean Stothert. “This agreement provides management of the park during construction and the important long-term activation to provide the entertainment and leisure activities that will make these parks a destination for Omaha residents and visitors.”

“We have experience tackling projects like this,” said Roger Dixon, MECA President & CEO. “Our past collaborations with the City on major downtown construction projects have benefited the community, and we welcome the opportunity to do it again.”

MECA successfully supervised the construction of CHI Health Center and TD Ameritrade Park Omaha within budget and manages both facilities.

“We plan to employ the same practices that have been proven to be operationally advantageous,” Dixon said. “We’re eager to get started and look forward to working closely with the City and Downtown Riverfront Trust.”

The Downtown Riverfront Trust is a private non-profit created to collect funds for construction and activation of the parks.  Similar non-profits were created to raise money for the construction of the CHI Health Center and  TD Ameritrade Park Omaha.  The Trust will contribute approximately $210 million in private donations for construction of the parks.

The City of Omaha will contribute $50 million for construction in each of the next three years; $15 million in 2019, $15 million in 2020 and $20 million in 2021, allocated in the Capital Improvement Plan.  The City will use Lease-Purchase bonds to cover the costs.  The bonds will not require a tax increase. 

The MECA Board of Directors will vote on the contract at its meeting on Tuesday, January 8.  First reading by the Omaha City Council is scheduled for January 15, the public hearing is January 29, the vote is expected February 5.

Following approvals, pre-construction work is expected to begin at the Gene Leahy Mall in March.

Highlights of the riverfront redevelopment plan, announced in June 2018 include:

  • Parts of the Gene Leahy Mall will be raised to street level, with a great lawn and pavilion for performances and events. Plans also include a dog park, sculpture garden, children’s playground and space for a restaurant.
  • The popular slides will remain, a third may be added
  • A space for popular summer events including the Taste of Omaha and the Summer Arts Festival
  • Features planned at Heartland of America Park include an amphitheater, botanical gardens, a rollerblading and ice skating ribbon and a park building for event rentals, offices and security
  • Lewis and Clark landing includes a two-acre playground, sports courts for volleyball, basketball and pickleball, urban beach, marina, a dedicated space for the annual Bridge Beats summer concert series, and a future discovery pavilion
  • An elevated promenade at the edge of the Missouri River is planned from Heartland of America Park to the Breakers, providing a safe space for biking, walking and jogging and a connection to the riverfront trail system

Project plans, photos and videos are available at http://riverfrontrevitalization.com.