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Mayor Jean Stothert | City of Omaha

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Omaha, NE -  Negotiations on the purchase agreement on the Ames-Locust property have been extended 90 days to review the environmental study of the property.  The environmental study was part of the purchase agreement reached with property owners Virgil and Virginia Anderson.  The City agreed to pay $1.9 million for the property, contingent on the results of the environmental study.  That evaluation began immediately after the agreement was signed.  The results show the cost to clean up the property will be tens of millions of dollars more than anticipated.

 "This is an important development with the potential to attract new business and jobs to north Omaha. We proposed to acquire this property for $1.9 million, less than the $3 million asking price, with the understanding we would likely have additional costs to create a shovel-ready site for developers," said Mayor Jean Stothert. "However, the projected cost of the clean-up requires a reevaluation of this site and a second look for other available properties in the area. Taxpayers cannot be on the hook for a multi-million dollar bill."

Mayor Stothert has asked Congressman Lee Terry to explore federal funding to assist with the cleanup.  Congressman Terry shares the Mayor's desire to develop the Ames-Locust site. He is consulting with environmental experts to identify potential funding sources with federal dollars.

Financing for the original purchase price includes $500,000 in City funds, $450,000 from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development Site and Building Development Fund, and one million dollars from the Omaha Development Foundation.

The Ames-Locust property is a 68-acre site in northeast Omaha, 11th Street to 16th Street, Locust to Ames.  Both the City and the Greater Omaha Chamber of commerce have been contacted by businesses interested in the property for industrial development.

 

One of the best-loved summer pastimes will be free this summer for kids 8-14 years old.  Omaha Parks and Recreation announced the "Junior Golf Club of Omaha" Friday night at the Spring into Summer event at Elmwood Park.

It works like this: When you join the club, you will sign up for a golf clinic, taught by one of our golf pros. You will learn the fundamentals of the game, course safety and golf rules and etiquette.  After you complete the class, you'll receive a Junior Players Card.  You can play any of the city's four nine-hole golf courses for free on weekdays, and on weekends if you are with one adult who pays the usual fees.

Free clubs and other equipment will be available to club members who play at Westwood Golf Course at 129th and West Center.  

"The Junior Golf Club gives kids an opportunity to participate in one of our country's favorite sports.  They will learn respect, etiquette and patience and have fun doing it.  We're happy to make this opportunity possible," said Mayor Jean Stothert.

Participating golf courses are: Westwood, Warren Swigart at 3865 Parkview Drive, Spring Lake at 4020 Hoctor Blvd., and Steve Hogan Golf Course at 6315 N. 30th Street.  

Free golf will begin May 27th. For more information go to http://www.cityofomaha.org/parks/home/discovery-guide.

Mayor Jean Stothert introduced the members of the new Citizen Complain Review Board Thursday. The mayor chose five members and one alternate from a pool of 165 applicants. "The community support for Citizen Complaint Review Board is apparent by the number of people who applied to serve.  We had 165 applications, far more than we anticipated," said Mayor Stothert. 

One member was selected from each of the city's four police precincts, one at-large and the alternate.  The members are:

NORTHWEST PRECINCT - IRA COMBS

Combs is a community liaison nurse coordinator at the Nebraska Medical Center. His responsibilities include patient care, developing relationships in the community, and facilitating health care screenings and services for minority and under-served populations. In 2013, Ira was recognized by President Obama as a "Champion of Change: for leading extraordinary efforts in prevention and public health. He has an extensive professional and volunteer record in community service and health education.

SOUTHWEST PRECINCT - KRISTINE SCHANBACHER

Schanbacher is an associate attorney at Kutak Rock.  She earned her Bachelor's and Law degrees from Northwestern University where she studied Policing in  America. She also worked for the United States Attorney in Chicago. Kristine is a new resident of Omaha, moving here in 2013.

NORTHEAST PRECINCT - JUDITH HILL

Hill is a life-long resident of Omaha and lives in the house where she grew up.  She is the Director of Development for the Charles Drew Health Center. She has been employed at Charles Drew since 1991.  She is also the Program Director for the Infant Mortality Reduction Initiative-Omaha Health Start and helped create the "Fathers for a Lifetime" program.

SOUTHEAST PRECINCT - JOHN DETERMAN

Determan is the Security Director at Alegent Creighton Health Immanuel Medical Center.  He is an emergency preparedness consultant and the head boxing coach at Victory Boxing Club in south Omaha. He is a neighborhood watch captain, a member of Omaha 360 and the South Omaha Violence Prevention organization.

AT-LARGE MEMBER - FERNANDO "BUTCH" LECUONA

Lecuona's professional experience includes work in city and state government.  He was a member of Mayor Mike Fahey's staff, working as a community liaison in south Omaha.  He is currently the Executive Director of the Council Bluffs Community Education Foundation.  He lives in Omaha's southwest precinct. Butch has been involved in many volunteer organizations including the Latino Mentoring Council and the South Omaha Community Care Council.

ALTERNATE MEMBER - JOHN WRIGHT

Wright is a retired Air Force Officer.  He is a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy and the Air Force Institute of Technology.  He served in Viet Nam and was stationed at the Strategic Air Command before his retirement.
He has also taught at Bellevue University and now owns his own computer consulting business. John is a resident of the northeast precinct.

"The board we have selected is very diverse in age, ethnicity, personal and professional backgrounds," said Mayor Stothert.

The Citizen Complaint Review Board will provide an independent review of citizen complaints against a sworn police officer if they feel misconduct has occurred. The members of the board will review complaints and have the ability to make recommendations to the Mayor and Police Chief Todd Schmaderer.  The board will not discipline officers and will not solicit citizen complaints or review any case under investigation by a Grand Jury or outside agency.

Board members say they applied to give back to the community and make the board successful.  Board member Judith Hill said, "I've sat quietly by on the sidelines all my life.  This is an opportunity for me to get off the sidelines.  I am an excellent critic and you can be assured we will be successful."

"I feel an obligation to my community," said Ira Combs.  "What if there hadn't been a camera at Creighton University Medical Center or at 33rd and Seward? There are people at both ends of the spectrum and we have to give everyone a fair shake."  Combs referred to two police excessive force investigations.  In both cases, officers were disciplined and fired.  In several cases, arbitrators ruled the officers should get their jobs back.

The lawyer in the group, Kristine Schanbacher said, "I will learn a lot about this community.  We can further foster the positive relationships between the Omaha Police Department and the community."

Each member will go through eight hours of orientation and training with the law, human relations and police departments. Representatives of those departments will also serve as non-voting members of the board, to advise members on legal and policy matters.

Board members will also sign a confidentiality agreement.  However, they will provide the results of their reviews with the citizens who file complaints.  A quarterly public report will also be available to the public.

Chief Schmaderer told the board, "Police-community relations are on very solid ground."

Citizens who wish to file a "Request for Review" can fill out the request online at http://mayors-office.cityofomaha.org.  Forms are also available in the Mayor's office at 1819 Farnam.

 

 

 

A Crime Stoppers tip that leads to an arrest and charges in Omaha murder cases will now be worth $25,000, 25 times higher than the reward now paid.  "Violent crime in our city is not acceptable," said Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer, announcing the reward.  "Going from $1,000 to $25,000 is a statement.  Violent crime will not be tolerated."

Anonymous donors are providing the money to pay the higher rewards.  Crime Stoppers Board Member Doug Parrott called the increase a dramatic change in the program and said the board believes larger rewards will lead to more tips and arrests, making Omaha a safer city.  Parrott called the donor's gift "sustainable".

Families of Omaha men, women and children killed by gun violence, attended the announcement today, standing with pictures of their loved ones. Janee Hadan, a 24-year-old mother was killed outside a southwest Omaha club in December. 15-year-old Rodney Orr died in a drive-by shooting at 29th and Parker in 2006, and just a few days ago, someone shot 29-year-old David Taplett outside the Stage II nightclub at 30th and Bedford. "This happened in front of witnesses.  Work with us, let's not let the suspect kill someone else," said Chief Schmaderer.

Mayor Jean Stothert thanked the donors for their partnership.  "We know Crime Stoppers works.  We believe these large rewards will help our police department close cases.  We also believe it will be a deterrent," said Mayor Stothert.

The reward for felony assault shooting tips and arrests will also increase to $10,000; for cases like the shooting this week of 16-year-old LaShana Westbrook.  Someone shot LaShana outside the QT at 72nd and Military Tuesday morning.  Police do not think she was the intended target. "She didn't do anything wrong.  Help us solve this," said Chief Schmaderer.

The Chief also reported that police have made arrests in six of the seven homicides this year.  The Chief said seven homicides in four months, while too many, shows progress is being made.  "If you're a gang member, loading up to do a shooting in Omaha, you better ask yourself, 'How strong are my ties to everyone in this vehicle?.  Will our relationship last forever?'"

Crime Stoppers tips are always anonymous.  For more information about reporting tips and a list of unsolved homicides, go to http://www.omahacrimestoppers.org.

 

 

 

 

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert will restructure and expand  the services of the  Community Relations team.

Barb Farho has been promoted to Director of Community Relations and Youth Development.  Farho currently serves as Education Initiatives Director, a position she has held since 2009.  She facilitates projects and partnerships with government and community groups that focus on positive youth development and student success.  Her responsibilities include grant administration to support youth initiatives and family stability.

In her expanded role, Farho will address community issues and serve as a liaison between community groups and the Mayor.  She is currently leading the Access to Health Care grant, awarded to the City of Omaha by the National League of Cities to identify and enroll eligible children in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIPS) program. Farho is also assisting with the Omaha African-American Male Achievement Collaboration technical assistance grant, also awarded by the National League of Cities.

Farho serves on the Omaha Public Schools Strategic Plan Steering Committee and Facilities Master Plan Steering Committee, D2 Center Board of Directors, Collective for Youth Board of Directors, United Way Community Investment Team and the Millard Public Schools Business Advisory Council.  She will earn $70,000 a year, a portion of her salary will be paid through grants.

James Wright will join Mayor Stothert’s staff as Community Outreach Director.  Wright is currently the Constituent Service Representative/Special Projects Coordinator for United States Senator Mike Johanns.   He has also served as Director of the Nebraska Office of Violence Prevention, Constituent Liaison for Congressman Lee Terry and a research assistant for Mayor Hal Daub.  James will  develop community outreach programs, assist neighborhood groups and alliances, troubleshoot citizen concerns  and coordinate appointments for city’s volunteer boards and commissions.   Wright will be paid $65,000.  He is active in the Omaha community. He is a member of the board for Nebraskans for the Arts and volunteers at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

“One of my goals in 2014 is to improve the taxpayer experience. Working with neighborhood and community organizations, problem-solving and customer service are important services we provide to taxpayers,” said Mayor Stothert.  “Barb and James have the experience, skills and professional networks to provide excellent service to our citizens.”

The Director of Community Relations and Youth Development and Director of Community Outreach are redesigned positions and will not increase the Mayor’s office budget. Farho and Wright will join the current community relations team, Cameron Gales and Joel Cota and the Mayor’s Hotline staff Drey Hicks and Steve Solario.  

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert will award grants to 26 Omaha neighborhood associations, for a total of $75,000.

The response to the 2014 Neighborhood Grants program exceeded previous years.  A total of 46 applications were received and considered.  “This response demonstrates the strength of our neighborhood associations and their willingness to work with the City on projects that we are proud of,” said Mayor Jean Stothert.

The grant requests were reviewed by a committee including community members, representatives of the Parks, Planning and Police Departments and the Mayor’s grants team.  Each proposal was judged based on how it will improve quality of life, the availability of matching or in-kind funds for the project and the overall budget.   The average grant awarded is $2,885.

 

GRANT RECIPIENTS:

 

Benson Community Garden        

$3,377

Expansion of Neighborhood Garden

 

Benson Gardens Neighborhood Assn

$288

Meeting & Outreach Signage Project

 

Benson Neighborhood Assn  

$800

On Common Ground Project

 

City Sprouts

$4,995

Student Summer Employment Prog

 

Country Club Hills Assn

$ 816              

Monument Sign & Rock Garden

 

Dahlman Park Neighborhood Assn                  

$2,300

Park Revitalization Project

 

Deer Ridge Park Neighborhood Assn

$4,315

Tennis Court Renovation

 

Elkhorn Station Main Street              

$2,610

Old Towne Elkhorn Beautification

Escalante Hills Homeowners Assn

$2,500

Hazel’s Trail and Tree Removal

 

Field Club Homeowners League                                              

$5,000

Historic Street Lights Phase 3

 

Ford Birthsite Neighborhood

$5,000

“You Are Here”**

 

Gifford Park Neighborhood Assn

$4,994  

Neighborhood Market                 

 

Hanscom Park Neighborhood    

$3,600

“You Are Here”**

Leavenworth Neighborhood  Assn             

$3,015

“You Are Here”**

 

Leawood West Homeowners  Assn

$1,509  

Commons Revitalization

 

Metcalfe - Harrison Neighborhood Assn 

$881

Playground improvements

 

Midtown Neighborhood Assn

$5,000

ReTree Midtown 2104

 

Miller Park - Minne Lusa Neighborhood Assn              

$1,844

Fun in the Park event

 

Montclair West & Kingswood Neighborhood Assn

$2,400

Neighborhood Green Park improvements

 

Old Market South Neighborhood Assn         

$5,000

South 10th Street Historical Sign Project

 

Prairie Lane Neighborhood Assn        

$3,494                                  

Park Beautification Project 

Redick Avenue Neighborhood Assn  

$2,183

CPR and Fire extinguisher training

 

Skylark/Cryer Neighborhood Assn

$4,050  

Neighborhood Green Space Improvements

                                                                                                      

Sunny Slope - Sunny View Neighborhood Assn  

$695

Grills for Neighborhood Park

 

Westwood Heights Neighborhood Assn         

$3,785

Citizen Patrol

 

Willow Wood Neighborhood Assn     

$549

Park Landscaping

 

**Joint Public Art Project

Association

The Omaha Personnel Board will consider a significant change on the City’s job application at its meeting Thursday April 24.

In the State of the City address in February, Mayor Jean Stothert reported Omaha would take a lead role to “Ban the Box” on job applications.  “This is an important step to provide equal employment opportunities,” said Mayor Stothert. “With approval from the Personnel Board and the Omaha City Council, our job application will no longer ask the applicant to disclose a criminal background.  The exceptions will be applicants for police officers.”

The City of Omaha Human Resources Department will conduct a criminal background check only when an applicant is notified that he or she is a finalist for a position. 

Mayor Stothert also supported legislation passed by the Nebraska Legislature and signed by Governor Dave Heineman this month to “Ban the Box” from initial job applications for public employers.

The Omaha Personnel Board meets at 9:00 a.m. in the Omaha Douglas Civic Center, in the Legislative Chambers.  The agenda is available at http://www.cityofomaha.org/humanresources/public-documents/personnel-board.

The two-year study of Omaha’s transit system has identified a combination of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and Urban Circulator in the central Omaha area as the best option for the future of mass transit in central and downtown Omaha. This system, called the Locally Preferred Alternative, includes a 7.98 mile BRT line between downtown, midtown, the University of Nebraska Medical Center, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Crossroads and Westroads.

It also includes  a 3.22 mile Urban Circulator line between north downtown, downtown, midtown and UNMC. Studies show these transit improvements could lead to more than one billion dollars in new development, thousands of jobs and significantly increase the residential population in downtown Omaha.

The Metropolitan Area Planning Agency’s transportation committee agreed Friday to open a public comment period on the plan before the second phase of study begins this summer. That analysis will evaluate the combination of the Bus Rapid Transit and the Urban Circulator, the environmental impacts, engineering and financing plans. “We will not commit to anything without solid answers about costs and funding,” said Mayor Jean Stothert.  “We will not support the project if it requires a general tax increase.  It will take a committed public, private, philanthropic partnership to make the project a reality and we will work with these groups as the study progresses.”

“The City wants to be fiscally responsible and find a way to grow our tax base while making use of existing city services and infrastructure without increasing taxes.  The Locally Preferred Alternative looks to achieve this goal,” said City Transportation Planner Derek Miller.

The transit study was initiated to identify a safe, efficient affordable, attractive and connected transit system that offers convenient, accessible and affordable mobility for Omaha residents.  It evaluated several alternatives including enhanced bus, bus rapid transit and Urban Circulator.  A no-build option was also considered.

The BRT proposal includes advanced bus service, room for 40-90 passengers, custom stops and shelters, and room for bicycles on the front of the bus. It would operate seven days a week with 19 hours of service on weekdays   The Urban Circulator would accommodate 130-160 passengers per vehicle, it would share travel lanes and stops with buses, operate in mixed traffic and have room for bikes on board.

The Locally Preferred Option is part of Metro Transit’s overall plan to improve ridership and connectivity in the area. “We are currently evaluating our regional transit network to improve ridership and connectivity in all areas of the city,” said Metro Executive Director Curt Simon. “The Locally Preferred  Alternative will strengthen the central core of Omaha and will become the backbone of our entire transit network.  Future projects will build off of this core to provide upgraded services to other parts of the city.” 

The second phase of the study is expected to begin July 1.  The projected cost is $1.2-$1.5 million dollars.  The study will be paid for primarily with federal funds, private donations and in-kind support from local agencies.

Omaha Fire Chief Bernie Kanger thanked his family, mentors and co-workers Wednesday night as he officially became Chief of the Omaha Fire Department.  Mayor Jean Stothert administered the oath of office in a ceremony at the Omaha-Douglas Civic Center. "I think that all of us in this room can agree that the successes we have in life are not so much our own, but they are shared with the people that helped us achieve that success," said Chief Kanger.

Mayor Stothert appointed Kanger interim Chief in August.  He was named permanent chief last month. "Chief Kanger shares my goals for excellence in public safety and administration," said Mayor Stothert.

Kanger joined the Omaha Fire Department in 1991 as a firefighter.  He was serving as a Battalion Chief when Mayor Stothert named him interim Chief.  His career in public service includes fire protection and prevention, suppression, hazardous materials mitigation and medical services.  He earned a Master of Science Degree in Executive Fire Service Leadership from Grand Canyon University in 2008 and a Bachelor of Arts in Fire Service Management from Western Illinois University in 2002. He is a veteran of the United States Air Force.  He has also served on the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the National Fire Protection Association and the Elkhorn Suburban Fire District Board.  He has been a FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Team manager and was been deployed after Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita and Hurricane Dean. 

"I am excited about what is in store for the Omaha Fire Department. We have an incredibly talented and committed group of men and women. Everyday these individuals arrive at work ready to provide the high level of professional and compassionate service that the citizens expect and I demand," said Chief Kanger. "We are working very hard to provide those services efficiently, and with the understanding that the Omaha Fire Department wants to be part of the City’s budget solution not their budget problem." 

"Chief Kanger has superior operational training to lead by example," said Mayor Stothert. Since December, the Chief has responded to numerous multi-alarm fires including the dorm fire on the UNO campus, a deadly mobile home fire in December and a business fire two weeks ago near 74th and Maple.  He also led the rescue and recovery operation at the International Nutrition plant when it collapsed in January. 

 

 

Omaha's public access television channel, KPAO is on the air!  Mayor Jean Stothert and members of the Omaha City Council cut the ribbon Monday, formally opening the new state-of-the-art television studio at 47th and "F". The station will produce and broadcast local programming, focused on city issues.  "We want to promote the city," said John Fullerton, a member of the Cable Television Access Corporation Board of Directors.

Two years ago, the Omaha City Council voted unanimously to invest in and make a commitment to public access television.  Mayor Stothert was a member of the City Council at that time. "We could see the opportunity to expand public access television in Omaha," said Mayor Stothert. "Our success will not be measured by ratings and revenue.  We will be successful by setting a standard for public access, a standard in programming, production and education. Our responsibility will be to provide programs people want to watch." 

KPAO Station Manager Jim Nelson, an Omaha broadcasting veteran, will provide in-studio training for citizens who want to produce programming for the station.  Education is one of Nelson's priorities, to ensure high quality programs.  ""TV is about how it looks,  if it doesn't look good, you don't watch," said Nelson.  Nelson encourages neighborhood associations, community groups, and students to develop content for KPAO.   "We are limited only by our imaginations," said Omaha City Councilman Ben Gray, also an Omaha broadcasting veteran.

"At a time when we have so many entertainment and information choices on the air, on-line and on our phones, public access is a choice viewers make very intentionally," said Mayor Stothert. "Since it's inception, public access has provided a platform for the exchange of ideas and debate over controversial issues, community information and local entertainment. Public access is your channel, it's everyone's channel."

KPAO is on Cox Cable Channel 22 and CenturyLink Channel 89.  You can also follow KPAO on Facebook and at http://www.cityofomaha.org/citycouncil/cable-television.