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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:


Combs is a community liaison nurse coordinator at the Nebraska MedicalCenter. His responsibilities include patient care, developingrelationships in the community, and facilitating health carescreenings and services for minority and under-served populations.In 2013, Ira was recognized by President Obama as a "Champion ofChange: for leading extraordinary efforts in prevention and publichealth. He has an extensive professional and volunteer record incommunity service and health education.


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


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


Determan is the Security Director at Alegent Creighton Health ImmanuelMedical Center. He is an emergency preparedness consultant and thehead boxing coach at Victory Boxing Club in south Omaha.He is a neighborhood watch captain, a member of Omaha 360 and theSouth Omaha ViolencePrevention organization.


Lecuona's professional experience includes work in city and stategovernment. He was a member of Mayor Mike Fahey's staff, working as acommunity liaison in south Omaha. He is currently the ExecutiveDirector of the Council Bluffs Community Education Foundation. Helives in Omaha's southwest precinct.Butch has been involved in many volunteer organizations includingthe Latino Mentoring Council and the South Omaha Community CareCouncil.


Wright is a retired Air Force Officer. He is a graduate of theUnited States Air Force Academy and the Air Force Institute ofTechnology. He served in Viet Nam and was stationed at the StrategicAir Command before his retirement.
He has also taught at Bellevue University and now owns his owncomputer 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 anda list of unsolved homicides, go tohttp://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.




Benson Community Garden        


Expansion of Neighborhood Garden


Benson Gardens Neighborhood Assn


Meeting & Outreach Signage Project


Benson Neighborhood Assn  


On Common Ground Project


City Sprouts


Student Summer Employment Prog


Country Club Hills Assn

$ 816              

Monument Sign & Rock Garden


Dahlman Park Neighborhood Assn                  


Park Revitalization Project


Deer Ridge Park Neighborhood Assn


Tennis Court Renovation


Elkhorn Station Main Street              


Old Towne Elkhorn Beautification

Escalante Hills Homeowners Assn


Hazel’s Trail and Tree Removal


Field Club Homeowners League                                              


Historic Street Lights Phase 3


Ford Birthsite Neighborhood


“You Are Here”**


Gifford Park Neighborhood Assn


Neighborhood Market                 


Hanscom Park Neighborhood    


“You Are Here”**

Leavenworth Neighborhood  Assn             


“You Are Here”**


Leawood West Homeowners  Assn


Commons Revitalization


Metcalfe - Harrison Neighborhood Assn 


Playground improvements


Midtown Neighborhood Assn


ReTree Midtown 2104


Miller Park - Minne Lusa Neighborhood Assn              


Fun in the Park event


Montclair West & Kingswood Neighborhood Assn


Neighborhood Green Park improvements


Old Market South Neighborhood Assn         


South 10th Street Historical Sign Project


Prairie Lane Neighborhood Assn        


Park Beautification Project 

Redick Avenue Neighborhood Assn  


CPR and Fire extinguisher training


Skylark/Cryer Neighborhood Assn


Neighborhood Green Space Improvements


Sunny Slope - Sunny View Neighborhood Assn  


Grills for Neighborhood Park


Westwood Heights Neighborhood Assn         


Citizen Patrol


Willow Wood Neighborhood Assn     


Park Landscaping


**Joint Public Art Project


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-workersWednesday 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.

"Iam 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.

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert and Police Chief Todd Schmaderer welcomed 40 new recruits to the Omaha Police Academy Monday. Mayor Stothert has pledged to provide the resources necessary to keep the city and it's citizens safe.

"As Mayor, my biggest responsibility and first priority is public safety," said Mayor Stothert. "Public safety starts with the police department and it's leadership. We are focused on community policing and crime-fighting strategies to address the long-standing problem of gun violence in our city. Each of you can help us reach our goals."

Nearly 2,000 people applied for the 40 seats in the class. Chief Schmaderer described it as one of the most diverse classes in the department's history. There are 33 men and seven women, 19 are minorities. Chief Schmaderer told the class they will represent the City of Omaha at all times, not just when they are on duty and in uniform. He said the academy will put them to the test. The class will graduate in August, followed by 15 weeks of training on the street.

"It is an honor to be selected for the Omaha Police Academy. The training you receive will prepare you for a rewarding career in public service. You will have the opportunity to change lives and save lives," said Mayor Stothert.

The class will bring the police department to its authorized strength of 804 officers. Additional recruit classes are planned in 2015 and 2016.

Mayor Jean Stothert has appointed Diane Duren to the Metropolitan Entertainment & Convention Authority Board of Directors for a 5-year term effective May 9th, 2014. Duren will succeed Jim Vokal whose term expires on the same date.

Duren is Executive Vice President for Union Pacific Railroad and is responsible for strategic planning, human resources and administration. Duren also serves as Corporate Secretary for Union Pacific Corporation’s Board of Directors. “Diane’s business and management skills are critical to the successful management of the CenturyLink Center Omaha, TD Ameritrade Park Omaha and the Omaha Civic Auditorium,” said Mayor Stothert. “She will provide executive-level experience and innovation to the Board.”

Duren joined Union Pacific in 1985 and held a variety of positions in the Finance and Marketing & Sales departments. Prior to her current position, served as Vice-President & General manager-Chemicals in Marketing & Sales.

Duren has served on the Board of Directors for numerous community organizations including the YWCA, the Arthritis Foundation, the American Red Cross, National Grain Trade Council and Farm Foundation. She currently serves on the Children’s Hospital and Medical Center Board and Girl Scouts-Spirit of Nebraska. In 2012, the Women’s Center for Advancement named Duren an honoree at the annual Tribute to Women. She has been recognized by Profiles in Diversity Journal as one of the “Women Worth Watching in 2011” and received the Creighton University College of Business Alumni Merit Award.“Diane is a trusted and respected leader in our business and civic communities,” said Mayor Stothert. “I am pleased to appoint her to this important volunteer position.”

The Mayor and Omaha City Council alternate appointments to the MECA Board. The next appointment will be made in May 2015 by the City Council.