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Mayor Jean Stothert | City of Omaha

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The mayors of Omaha and Council Bluffs unveiled plans Tuesday to rebrand and expand Omaha B-cycle into Council Bluffs.. The new name is Heartland B-cycle,becoming only the second multi-state bike sharing program in the country.  

"Bike sharing achieves many goals,” said Mayor Jean Stothert.  “It’s safe, convenient, good for your health and the air quality.  It's also a business recruiting tool that helps our community remain competitive with other cities that want to attract and retain talent."

Now in its fourth season, Omaha B-cycle, will add 20 new kiosks across the region, bringing the total to 31 in the Omaha metro area. The system is currently operating five kiosks in Aksarben Village/UNO campus and six kiosks in downtown Omaha with a total of 57 bicycles. Six of the new kiosks (with bikes) will be installed around Council Bluffs. 

The B-cycle program is made possible through private and corporate sponsorships, becoming self-sufficient through individual rides and memberships. “Offering bikes downtown exceeded our expectations in interest and ridership,” said program director Ben Turner. “In the last year we have installed six stations downtown and ridership has skyrocketed. This next expansion is a natural evolution of B-cycle becoming a permanent part of our transportation system throughout the region.” 

The Iowa West Foundation is one of the organizations providing funding for the expansion. “The expansion of B-cycle into Council Bluffs and throughout the area exemplifies our long held position that partnerships and cooperation among metro area communities is critical to the success of this region,” said Pete Tulipana, President and CEO of the Iowa West Foundation. “Residents and visitors alike desire amenities that improve their quality of life, and projects such as B-cycle do just that. In the strategic plan of the Iowa West Foundation, we cite an intended outcome of ‘strong healthy families’ in the region. Our initiative and support of the B-cycle expansion takes us closer to this intended outcome. Congratulations to B-cycle and all its partners.”    

Other organizations providing funding include The Nebraska Environmental Trust, Peter Kiewit Foundation, Sherwood Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield Nebraska, CHI Health, The Wellmark Foundation, Union Pacific, University of Nebraska Omaha, and the National Park Service.  

One of the first downtown bike stations is on the plaza at Omaha City Hall.  "I know the bike sharing program is a success because I can see the rack from my office window and it's often empty," said Mayor Stothert.  

A new Heartland B-cycle location will be the ConAgra campus. “ConAgra Foods is thrilled to add B-cycle stations to our campus in downtown Omaha,“ said Chris Kircher, Vice-President of Corporate Affairs and President of the ConAgra Foods Foundation. “B-Cycle will provide a convenient and fun new way for our employees and the general public to get around our campus and visit nearby attractions. In addition, the availability of bicycles fits nicely with ConAgra Foods’ commitment to health and wellness and sustainability.”  For more information on Heartland B-cycle go to heartland.bcycle.com

 

New Station Locations:

Council Bluffs:

Tom Hanafan River's Edge Park

Ameristar

1st & Broadway

Broadway & Main

711 S Main St

Pearl St & Willow Ave

 

Omaha:

50th & Underwood

10th & Dodge

15th & Howard

14th & Farnam

9th & Jones

15th & Dodge

Elmwood Park

24th & Lake

10th & Cass

12th & Harney

10th & Farnam

Lewis & Clark Landing

Durham Museum

7th & Jones

 

 

 

 

 

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert has named the first members of the Omaha Municipal Land Bank Board of Directors.

The Nebraska Legislature authorized local land banks in 2013, allowing cities to establish land banks to acquire delinquent properties. The Omaha Municipal Land Bank was created by Omaha city ordinance and approved by the City Council in July.

“Land banking is another tool that gives us the ability to redevelop all over the city; north Omaha, south Omaha, Millard, all neighborhoods can benefit by creating more affordable housing and safe neighborhoods,” said Mayor Jean Stothert.   

State law requires each member of the Board of Directors to represent one of the city’s seven city council districts, demonstrate expertise in community and economic development and have specific professional experience in one of the following sectors:  Banking, Real Estate Development, Chamber of Commerce, one realtor, one representative of a non-profit corporation involved in affordable housing and one member to represent owners of multiple residential or commercial properties.

Mayor Stothert solicited recommendations from City Council members,  reviewed approximately 60 applicants for the board and interviewed nearly 20 candidates.  In addition to the seven voting members required by law, five non-voting members have also been selected.

 

LAND BANK BOARD OF DIRECTORS:

District One: Tom McLeay, Real Estate Developer Representative

McLeay is President of Clarity Development Company, a partner at Smith, Gardner & Slusky Law Firm, and a member of the Metropolitan Omaha Property Owners Association.

District Two: Ken Johnson, At-Large Member

Johnson is President and Managing Member of K.E. Johnson Consulting, LLC.  He serves on the Board of Directors for 75 North Redevelopment Corporation and the Omaha Small Business Network, Inc.  Johnson is a retired City of Omaha employee.  He worked for 20 years as the Economic Development Manager.

District Three: Jamie Berglund, Non-Profit Corporation-Affordable Housing

Berglund is a member of the Omaha Housing Authority Board of Commissioners and President of the Metro Area Continuum of Care for the Homeless.  She is employed by the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce as Senior Director of Community Development.

District Four: Spencer Danner, Banking

Danner is a Community Reinvestment Officer with Mutual of Omaha Bank. He serves on the Omaha 100 Board of Directors.  His previous volunteer service includes Habitat for Humanity, Family Housing Advisory Services, Urban League and Omaha Economic Development Corporation.

District 5: Randy Lenhoff, Realtor

Lenhoff is the Chief Executive Officer of Seldin Company and Chairman and CEO of World Group LLC.  He has been a licensed real estate broker in Nebraska since 1980. 

District 6: Scott Semrad, Multiple Residential/Commercial Properties)

Semrad is the co-founder and Manager of Urban  Village Development Inc.  The company has renovated and managed more than 20 apartment buildings since it was founded in 2008.

District 7: Cathy Lang, Chamber of Commerce

Lang is a member of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce.  She is the Chief Operating Officer and Vice-President of Accelerate Nebraska. Previously, Lang was Director of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development and Commissioner of Labor.

NON-VOTING MEMBERS:

Mike Riedmann, President NP Dodge Real Estate Sales Inc

Julie Stavneak, J. Development Company

Julia Plucker, Attorney, partner Heartland Strategy Group

John Heine, Commercial Real Estate Broker, Investors Realty

Diane Battiato, Douglas County Register of Deeds

The Mayor’s appointments will be forwarded to the Omaha City Council for approval. “This is an extremely qualified Board of Directors,” said Mayor Stothert.  “I encourage the Council to support my appointments so the Board can begin its work this fall.”

 

 

The Mayor’s appointments will be forwarded to the Omaha City Council for approval. “This is an extremely qualified Board of Directors,” said Mayor Stothert.  “I encourage the Council to support my appointments so the Board can begin its work this fall.”

For the second consecutive quarter this year, the City of Omaha budget shows a projected year-end surplus.

The report released Wednesday shows revenues are over budget by $2,230,459, due primarily to increased sales and motor vehicle taxes.  Expenses are under budget by $3,879,504. The expense reductions are primarily in personnel and healthcare costs. 

"Every city department is managing its budget, and for the first time in years, the Omaha Fire Department is on target," said Mayor Jean Stothert. “We anticipate the second half of the year will show continued sales tax growth and expense management.”

Second Quarter 2014 Revenue Highlights:

  • Motor Vehicle Taxes - $1.0 million surplus
  • City Sales and Use Tax - $2.0 million surplus
  • Utility Occupation Taxes - $1.3 million shortfall
  • Restaurant Tax - $0.75 million shortfall
  • Building Licenses and Permits – $0.5 million surplus
  • Charges for Services - $0.65 million surplus

 Second Quarter 2014 Expense Highlights:  

  • Fire Department – on budget
  • Police Department - $1.6 million under budget
  • Public Works Department – on budget
  • Retiree Benefits - $1.1 million over budget (pension, healthcare, COBRA)
  • Outside Agencies - $1.4 million under budget

“The increasing sales tax and motor vehicle tax revenue is encouraging,” said Finance Director Steve Curtiss. "This shows people are becoming more confident in the economy.  Our forecasts show this trend will continue in 2015." 

Based on the first half of the year, the Finance Department projects a year-end surplus of $6.1 million.

The United States Transportation Department will award Omaha nearly $15 million to help develop the Bus Rapid Transit system, connecting downtown Omaha to major shopping areas, medical centers and the University of Nebraska-Omaha. The BRT has been identified as a locally-preferred option in studies of the city's transit system. 

The TIGER grant, (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) will pay for approximately half of the projected $30 million project. The remaining money will be raised through private sources.

Transportation Secretary Foxx made the grant announcement Monday in Turner Park at Midtown Crossing, "I come bearing good news. With TIGER, we look for innovation, and the so-what factor,  How will it improve the quality of life, mobility and access to jobs," said Secretary Foxx.  "This will be the first BRT in the state of Nebraska.  This is a marker for the rest of the country."

The BRT will provide faster service than busses, limited stops, bike racks on every vehicle and will operate seven days a week.  

"This is a very important announcement and a major step toward a complete and modern transportation system in Omaha," said Mayor Jean Stothert.  "The Department of Transportation's commitment of $15 million demonstrates support of local initiatives that improve opportunities for the families who live here and the businesses that locate here."  

It's expected that more than 2,700 passengers will ride the BRT on opening day, more than 1,000 new jobs will be created, 1,350 new residents will live along the corridor and the system will generate $450 million in new development. METRO Executive Director Curt Simon calls the BRT comfortable, convenient service. "I know we can and we will deliver on the confidence you have placed on us," said Simon.

This year, the Department of Transportation is awarding $600 million in TIGER grants for 72 projects.  This is the first time a Nebraska community has received a TIGER grant. Secretary Foxx compared receiving a TIGER grant to being admitted to Harvard; it's that competitive. He also called on Congress to pass the Grow America Act to help repair and build roads and bridges.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Omaha City Council passed the 2015 budget Tuesday, overriding only one veto. The Council added $175,000 for library materials, taking the money from the city’s contingency reserve fund.

The Council was not able to override the Mayor’s vetoes on budget amendments for a Complete Streets Active Living Manager, a sustainability contract and exhibits for the Great Plains Black History Museum.  Those amendments were all funded with money from the contingency reserve fund, which the Mayor opposed.

In August, after the Mayor’s recommended budget was delivered to the City Council, the Douglas County Assessor revised the total property valuation for the City of Omaha, resulting in an $800,000 increase to the general fund.  Mayor Stothert asked the Council to put half of the money into contingency reserve and half into the 2015 street repair budget, addressing criticism from City Council Vice-President Ben Gray and community members about the condition of streets in north and south Omaha.

“If we have unexpected revenue, I have always said we should save it, pay down our debt or return it to the taxpayers,” said Mayor Stothert.  “In this case, I did suggest additional spending on street repairs to address the specific concerns raised by Councilman Gray at a news conference, at a City Council meeting and during a meeting with me.”

The Mayor’s recommended budget increased the contingency and cash reserve funds to a historic high.  The final budget passed by the City Council today includes a reduction in the city’s savings account.

The Council voted 5-2 to override the Mayor’s veto of the library amendment. The Mayor’s recommended 2015 budget, including all funding sources, slightly increased funding for the library.  “The library is well-funded,” said Mayor Stothert. “Every director can overspend a line item in the department budget, so if the Library Director wants to buy more materials, he can. The budget just needs to balance at the end of the year.”

The amended total budget, passed by the Council includes the Mayor’s property tax rate cut, the first in the city in 14 years. The Mayor called the vote “very positive” for the City and shows the 2015 budget is fiscally sound. 

Mayor Jean Stothert vetoed four budget amendments passed by the City Council, citing the need for saving, not spending.

The Mayor vetoed the amendment to create a “Complete Streets Active Living Manager” to be employed in the Public Works Department.  The amendment for the $60,000 position was proposed by council member Chris Jerram to replace the current Bicycle-Pedestrian Coordinator which will be eliminated at the end of the year. “It is unnecessary to create and fund a new position. There is a vacant position in the Planning Department that is already budgeted in 2015.  The person we choose will have experience with all modes of transportation and well-established relationships in the community,” said Mayor Stothert.

The amendment to fund exhibits at the Great Plains Black History Museum with $40,000 has also been returned with a veto.  The amendment was proposed by council member Ben Gray. The Mayor points to the ongoing disagreement over control and management of the Museum as well as other available funding sources provided by the City, including turnback tax. Over the last three years, the Museum has received more than $32,000 through the turnback tax.

The Mayor vetoed Chris Jerram’s amendment to spend $50,000 on a contract for sustainability consulting, noting the Planning Department’s Sustainability programs are evident in current and planned projects, including development of a Complete Streets policy, planning for mass transit improvements, ensuring neighborhood connectivity through street and trail connections and assisting LiveWell and B-Cycle expand their bike rental stations.

Also, the Community Development division develops garden sites on city-owned land with neighborhood associations and local gardening groups, operates an energy conservation grant program for lower income homeowners and landlords renting to lower income tenants,  a rehabilitation program to retain older housing and an infill housing program for older neighborhoods. The building and development team works with the State Energy Office to update the Omaha and State Energy Code.

The Mayor also vetoed an additional $175,000 appropriation to the Omaha Public Library for materials.

The 2015 library budget is slightly up from 2014 (0.3%) including the Wage Adjustment Account.  As with all departments, the Director has the ability to spend more on materials as long as he decreases spending on other line items. 

“Each of these budget amendments takes money out of the contingency reserve fund.  It is my goal to increase that fund and demonstrate to our bond raters that we can pay our debt and build up a healthy cash reserve.  Unexpected revenue should be saved, not spent,” said Mayor Stothert.

The only amendment returned without a veto will add eight additional police recruits to the recruit class already scheduled to begin in 2015 ($341,701), additional funds for street repair and resurfacing ($200,000) and increasing the contingency reserve fund ($141,701). This amendment was proposed by Council President Pete Festersen.

“Public safety is my number one priority.  With the graduation of 36 new police recruits just this past week, we are no longer at a “10-year low” but close to full authorized strength. Police Chief Todd Schmaderer and I plan to increase the number of sworn officers to 825 in 2015 and 840 in 2016,” said the Mayor.  “The City Council’s actions will not increase the sworn strength beyond our goal of 840 officers in 2016.  It simply allows the Chief and me to move even faster to achieve our goals.”

The current plan is to begin a recruit class in the summer of 2015 and a second class in December, 2015.

The costs included in President Festersen’s amendment will be covered by the unexpected estimated increase in Omaha’s total property value, resulting in an additional $800,000 in the General Fund.

As a matter of procedure, Mayor Stothert has also vetoed the 2015 budget as amended by the City Council.

The Council can vote to override the vetoes at the next scheduled meeting on September 9, 2014.

 

Omaha, NE - After nearly a decade of negotiations, the Omaha Police Department and the Douglas County Sheriff today announced a new, cooperative agreement to share crime lab services.  "Both departments already provide excellent investigative services," said Mayor Jean Stothert. "This agreement will provide an even higher level of service, at no additional cost to the taxpayers. It eliminates the redundancies of two crime labs."

The agreement defines the duties of each department's forensic lab, it does not affect the crime scene investigators of either department.

The Omaha Police Department will operate an Electronic Forensic Analysis Squad.  The unit will examine computers, cell phones and other electronic devices for both agencies. "I am especially looking forward to the formation of the Electronic Forensic Analysis Squad," said Police Chief Todd Schmaderer. "In this day and age of cell phones and computers, the examination of these devices for violent, property, and white collar crimes is essential.  In nearly every crime, there is a cell phone we need to dig into."

OPD will also do all the ballistic testing for both agencies.

The Douglas County Sheriff's crime lab will perform controlled substance analysis and blood alcohol analysis for both departments.  OPD currently outsources this work and will pay the county $135,000 annually to help pay for two additional chemists and other related costs. The county lab technicians will also perform trace evidence analysis.

"This co-operative agreement will enhance communication between the Sheriff’s Office and OPD in other areas of the investigative process," said Douglas County Sheriff Tim Dunning. "This agreement will also now ensure that all chemical evidence for all agencies in Douglas County will be from one source and assure uniformity in the investigative process as well as prosecution."

Dunning said he has pursued shared services for at least nine years, working with many mayors and police chiefs. 

"As many of you know the City has had many Chiefs during that period of time. New Chief, new discussion, next Chief, new discussion and that drill went on until the next chief and you can imagine how frustrating it was to start the discussions over and over," said Sheriff Dunning.  "As I have said before if you don’t mind who gets the credit you can accomplish anything."

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said prosecutors will benefit from the agreement, "Our job is to provide justice for the community. This agreement will help us achieve that goal."

The agreement must be approved by the Omaha City Council and the Douglas County Board of Commissioners.  It is expected to take effect January 1, 2015.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer pledged a thorough investigation following the shooting of a robbery suspect and a member of the TV show COPS production crew at a fast-food restaurant Tuesday night. “We are striving for unprecedented transparency in this investigation,” said Chief Schmaderer.

Officers shot and killed the suspect 32-year-old Cortez Washington.  38-year-old Bryce Dion was killed by friendly fire.  Dion was a Sound Supervisor for COPS.

The Chief provided this chronology of the incident:

At 9:05 p.m. Omaha Police officers were dispatched to a robbery at Little Caesar’s Pizza at 637 North Saddle Creek. Detective Darren Cunningham also responded to that call. The suspect in this robbery was described as a white female.

At 9:20 p.m., Detective Cunningham called for back-up to the Wendy’s at 43rd and Dodge for a robbery in progress.  Chief Schmaderer says it is not clear yet if Cunningham saw the robbery as he drove by or if people in the parking lot flagged him down.

Those back-up officers, Brooks Riley and Jason Wilhelm arrived at Wendy’s 15 seconds later. The COPS production crew was riding with Riley and Wilhelm.  All three officers went into the restaurant, the COPS photographer Michael Lee and sound tech Dion followed, recording the officer’s response. 

Inside Wendy’s, officers confronted Washington, who was armed with a handgun. Photos released by OPD show Washington pointing the gun at the officers. Three witnesses inside the restaurant told police they saw Washington fire the gun at Officer Riley and Detective Cunningham.  The officers returned fire, hitting Washington.  Despite his injuries, Washington was able to get out of the restaurant and collapsed in the parking lot. Police recovered the gun in the parking lot and determined it is an airsoft pistol that fires plastic pellet bullets.  The Chief explained the gun looks and functions like a real handgun and provided photos showing the similarities.  The witnesses told police they heard the heard the shots from Washington’s gun and saw the slide recoil.        

As the first shots were fired, Dion took shelter in the entryway of the restaurant.  He was hit by an officer’s bullet as Washington fled out that same entryway.  COPS photographer Lee crouched in the dining room, held his camera overhead, recording the incident. 

“Based on the video evidence, officers had no choice other than to respond the way they did,” said Chief Schmaderer.  “Officers courageously entered into a hostile environment to save lives.”

COPS crews have been in Omaha since June, riding with police officers, producing segments scheduled to air this fall.  Chief Schmaderer explained why he agreed to let COPS document the daily work of officers, “We’ve had some rough times and we’ve overcome that.  I accepted their invitation because I wanted the city to see how professional we are. It was a very professional response by the officers who entered the restaurant last night.  Personally, I will live with this forever.  If I had known this would happen, of course I would not have done it.”

COPS Executive Producers Morgan and John Langley arrived in Omaha Wednesday afternoon and described Dion as one of their best. “He did something he loved and was passionate about,” said Morgan Langley.  COPS crews are trained and wear bullet-proof vests.   

“Crime is democratic, it happens in every city, it is not a reflection on Omaha,” said John Langley. “COPS is a true reality show. It happens as it happens.  Unfortunately, it’s a highlight and a low light.” 

Chief Schmaderer and Mayor Jean Stothert both offered condolences to the families of Dion and Washington, as well as the COPS staff. “The production crews have developed a close relationship with the officers that they ride with each and every day.  Just as the officers face the dangers of policing with honor, courage, and integrity, so do the production crews of COPS,” said the Chief.

“I am proud of the leadership in the Omaha Police Department, and its focus on community relations. Our entire community can be confident that Chief Schmaderer will lead a thorough and transparent investigation,” said Mayor Stothert.

The officers involved have been placed on paid administrative leave, as required by OPD policy. Detective Cunningham is a 10-year OPD veteran, assigned to the Detective Bureau.  He is 37-years-old.  Officers Riley and Wilhelm have both been on the force for four years and are assigned to the Uniform Patrol in the Northeast Precinct. Riley is 34-years-old; Wilhelm is 39.

Cortez Washington was on parole for a robbery charge in Missouri. He was convicted in 2011 and sentenced to seven years.  His criminal record also includes Tampering with a Motor Vehicle, and Resisting Arrest, also in Missouri.

As required by state law, a grand jury will investigate the incident, in addition to the police investigations.

 

Mayor Jean Stothert notified the Omaha City Council today that the Douglas County Assessor has determined that the total property value in the City of Omaha will be higher than expected in 2014.

The Certification of Taxable Value and Value Attributable to Growth Statement for tax year 2014 shows the total property value, as of August 20, 2014  is $28,018,390,210.

The revised total of $28 billion is approximately $300 million over the estimated property valuation included in the recommended 2015 budget and will result in a General Fund increase of approximately $800,000. This total does not include the value of property included in the 2014 annexation package passed by the City Council this week.  The annexations will be effective September 3, 2014.

Mayor Stothert urged the City Council to appropriate half of this additional revenue, approximately $400,000 to the Contingency Reserve Fund. The Mayor’s 2015 budget already includes adding $750,000 to the cash reserve fund and $650,000 to the contingent liability fund. She also asked the Council to allocate the remaining funds to road repair and resurfacing, primarily in north and south Omaha.

“We need to invest in our roads,” said Mayor Stothert. “I have already increased the budget for street repairs and resurfacing to more than seven million dollars in 2015.  By allocating part of this new revenue to the road repair budget, the Council will send a strong message to citizens that we recognize the city-wide need for repairs.” 

The final 2013 City of Omaha budget report has been completed, showing a year-end surplus of more than $11 million dollars.  The surplus is the result of increased revenue and expense reductions.

“The taxpayers expect us to spend their money carefully,” said Mayor Jean Stothert. “This surplus shows we can operate more efficiently and still provide excellent customer service.”      

As required by the City Charter, the surplus is included in Mayor Stothert’s recommended 2015 budget currently pending before the City Council.

The 2013 budget report shows revenues increased $1,734,762 over projections.  Expenses came in under budget by $9,366,977 for a total surplus of $11,757,311.  “The surplus helps us achieve our budget goals for 2015; pay down our debt, increase the cash reserve to an historic high and return money to taxpayers with the modest property tax cut  the Mayor has proposed,” said Finance Director Steve Curtiss.

Highlights of the year-end report include:

  • Sales tax revenue:  $1.1 million under budget
  • In lieu taxes and Licenses and Permits: $2.7 million over budget
  • Property tax revenue: $0.6 over budget
  • Business taxes:  $2.5 million under budget
  • Omaha Police Department: $5.3 million under budget
  • Omaha Library: $0.5 million under budget
  • Omaha Fire Department $1.3 million over budget
  • Mayor’s Office, City Clerk, City Council, Law, HR, Human Rights and Relations, Finance, Planning, Public Works and Parks and Recreation collectively: $1.3 million under budget

In addition to the final 2013 report, the Finance Department has also completed the 1st quarter report for 2014, showing a similar outcome; revenues are up and expenses are down.  In the first three months of the year, revenue is up $2.3 million. Expenses are under budget $2.7 million.  The Omaha Fire Department is currently $0.9 million over budget primarily due to Injured on Duty pay and sick time.  The department is expected to end the year on budget.

Based on the first quarter performance, the Finance department projects a 2014 budget surplus of $5,095,256.

“We are continuing a positive trend.  Through good budget management in all city departments, we anticipate another year of savings for the taxpayers,” said Mayor Stothert.