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Mayor Jean Stothert | City of Omaha

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(March 24, 2018)

A nationwide framework for Small and Emerging Business (SEB) opportunities is showing results in Omaha. REACH, the Midwest’s largest, multi-partner initiative designed to increase certified SEBs, today announced more than $6.1M in contracts realized in the past 30 months – contracts that have increased both access to construction projects and inclusivity.

“Many institutions and businesses, both large and small, have been seeking a way to assist small businesses and give back,” said Winsley Durand, executive director, REACH. “The REACH program has provided a vehicle that provides a collaborative and organized way for these firms to participate in helping to effectively grow our small business ecosystem.”

A program of the Greater Omaha Chamber, in partnership with community strategists, experts and entities, REACH reported more than $1.9M in financing and greater than $2.8M in bonding firms since the program’s inception. The organization has also grown Omaha’s certified SEBs by more than 100 firms, thanks to 6,400-plus hours of one-on-one consultation or group education sessions.

“Our partnership with the Greater Omaha Chamber’s REACH program has provided new opportunities for small and emerging businesses to grow and compete,” said Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert.  “Workforce development is a priority for our administration. Our investment in REACH is an investment in these businesses and their employees. The return on our investment is their success.”

Recognized for its "We Don't Coast" attitude, Greater Omaha is home to more than 30 communities and nearly 1 million people, with a youthful population (more than 40 percent are age 24 or younger), low cost of living and steady economic growth that outpaces the nation – attributes that provide fertile ground for growing SEBs.

REACH is made possible thanks to:

  • City of Omaha
  • University of Nebraska Medical Center
  • Metropolitan Community College
  • Seventy-Five North Revitalization Corp.
  • Catholic Charities Micro Business Program
  • Nebraska Business Development Center
  • Nebraska Enterprise Fund
  • Nebraska Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • Society for Marketing Professional Services

(March 20, 2017)

“The Civic Auditorium site is back on the market,” said Mayor Jean Stothert.

In an email to Mayor Stothert Tuesday, Project 19 LLC Member Zach Wiegert said it would “no longer pursue developing the Civic Site”.  Project 19 was the name given to the project by Tetrad Property Group.

“I had faith in Tetrad and I am disappointed that after almost four years, they cannot complete this project,” said Mayor Stothert.  “We have a lot of interest and investment in downtown Omaha and someone will develop the Civic site.  An interested developer has already contacted me today.”

The City issued the Request for Proposals (RFP) for development of the site in 2014 and selected Tetrad.  The company planned a $320 million mixed-use development that included a 355,000 square foot office tower to house a major tenant to be secured by the developer. 

Tetrad submitted a preliminary plat for the development in 2017. The Planning Board and the City Council approved it.

In February 2018, Tetrad proposed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that included more than $40 million in taxpayer contributions in addition to over $50 million in Tax Increment Financing and Enhanced Employment Area Occupation tax incentives.

Tetrad asked for:

  • Up to $50 million in TIF
  • Use of the Enhanced Employment Area Occupation Tax to finance maintenance of public areas on the site
  • The City would give Tetrad the land at no cost. The original agreement was for Tetrad to pay $20 per square foot, for a total cost of $7.9 million
  • The City would waive the costs associated with demolition of the auditorium: $3.273 million. Tetrad was originally to reimburse the City for the cost of demolition
  • Parking:
  1. City to build and pay for a new parking garage estimated to exceed $30 million
  1. First rights to lease the existing city-owned garage (Park 5) at no cost to Tetrad for 20 years, which would also displace people who currently lease parking in that garage. The

garage is currently 85% occupied

  1. Sublease the parking lot under I-480 at the same rate the city leases it from the state
  • Commitment of city resources to help secure a major office tenant. In the original proposal, Tetrad agreed to secure the tenant.

The City countered this month will an alternate MOU that would be more affordable for the City and the taxpayers.

The City:

  • Agreed to waive the auditorium demolition expenses to assist in the successful redevelopment

of the site

  • Required the developer to pay the $20 per square foot for the property, a condition of the original RFP. The City would agree to waive that amount with the successful commitment of a major office tenant to the site
  • TIF financing not to exceed 20% of the total costs of the project
  • Agreed to construct and operate the new parking garage (estimated to exceed $30 million) if deemed necessary by the commitment of a major office tenant, offered to the developer at a reduced rate for 5 years
  • Would maintain ownership and control of the existing parking garage (Park 5) and I-480 lot with spaces leased to the developer at a reduced rate for 5 years
  • Would consider use of an Enhanced Employment Area Occupation Tax to support the maintenance of public areas on the site

The City’s offer was conditional on the developer successfully securing a major office tenant with over 1,500 employees.

“I am the steward of the taxpayer’s dollars,” said Mayor Stothert. “We work with all developers, but we must be fair. Tetrad was asking for incentives far beyond what we have done for other developers.”

In its letter terminating the agreement, Tetrad also cited delays in the demolition of the Civic Auditorium and obstacles caused by new developments planned for other city-owned property downtown including the Riverfront, Gene Leahy Mall and Lot B, west of the CenturyLink Center.

“I don’t look at all the development downtown as obstacles, I look at it as progress,” said Mayor Stothert.

The City selected Tetrad to develop the Civic site in August 2014.  An auction to sell the contents of the Auditorium began in October 2014. In the Spring of 2015, Olssen & Associates was hired to develop the RFP for the demolition contract.  The City Council awarded the contract to DeNovo in February 2016.  Shortly after, DeNovo declared bankruptcy; the contract was then awarded to Spiritas which agreed to complete the demolition as scheduled.  The demolition was completed in July 2017, fifteen months later.

Mayor Stothert said the City will develop a new RFP for a mixed-use development as soon as possible. “All development is market-driven.  The landscape downtown has changed a lot since 2014. I feel strongly we will have another developer who will develop this great downtown location.”

(March 6, 2018)

Omaha’s next solid waste collection contract is expected to go out for bid by June.

The contract will include collecting garbage, recyclables and yard waste.  The current contract with Waste Management expires in 2020. It has been in effect since 2006.

Though still in development, the next contract will require automated trucks and covered, wheeled carts, which is a safer, more efficient system.

“We don’t believe any company will bid if we don’t move to the current industry standard of service,” said Mayor Jean Stothert.

Omaha’s contract is described as one of the largest procurement contracts in the country this year.

The current plan is to deliver three 96-gallon carts to every residential customer, one for garbage, one for yard waste and the third for recyclables.  There will be no cost to homeowners. After a 90-day trial, customers can exchange the large cart for a smaller size, most likely 45-48 gallons.  Customers may also opt out of one or more carts. For example, if a customer does not generate yard waste, that cart may not be necessary or wanted.

Public surveys conducted over the last year show 9.4 out of 10 households can be served with a 96-gallon cart. (SCS Engineers)

Another significant change in the next contract will be the amount of yard waste that can be left at the curb each week. The current contract with Waste Management allows year-round unlimited yard waste.

“This is not sustainable,” said Mayor Stothert. “There is a significant cost to taxpayers for unlimited yard waste collection, and it’s not sustainable in a long term contract.”

The RFB is expected to require all bidders to include two bids for yard waste collection; one bid for separate collection, a second bid for co-collection with trash. “The cost of yard waste collection will certainly be a factor as we select a new contractor,” said Mayor Stothert.  A decision on yard waste collections (separate or co-collection) will be made at a later date.  The collection contract does not include the disposal of waste, only the collection processes.

Several new options are being studied to help homeowners dispose of large volumes of yard waste, including a Fall cleanup similar to the Spring Cleanup offered each year, yard waste drop-off sites, and educational programs to reduce yard waste.

The RFB will also require bidders to have a modern fleet of vehicles that use an alternative fuel, likely CNG.

Waste Management currently picks up waste at 145,000 households each week.  The current cost is $9.19 per customer, per month, or a total of approximately $16 million annually which is paid from the city’s General Fund. The next contract is expected to cost significantly more, possibly double to an annual cost of $30-$32 million. The 10-year contract will have two five-year renewal options.

Nebraska state statute requires cities of the metropolitan class to provide “basic city services” at no additional cost to taxpayers, which includes solid waste collection. Omaha is the only metropolitan class city in the state.

The City hired SCS Engineers to assist with research, public outreach and development of the RFB. SCS expects there will be multiple bids.  The City Council approved the current contract with SCS for approximately $99,000. “This is a huge contract. We need the expertise of a company like SCS to help us develop the best bid possible. SCS is the best company to do that,” said Mayor Stothert.

The RFB is expected to be issued in May or June.  There will be a mandatory pre-bid meeting in June or July.  Bids will be due in August-September, and a recommendation on a new contractor will likely be made to the City Council by the end of the year.  Council members were briefed Tuesday on the status of the RFB development and will have the next 60 days to provide input.

After the Council awards the contract, it will take nine-15 months to phase in the new collection system.

Over the last two years, thousands of citizens have provided input through emails, letters, telephone surveys, a six-month test of an automated system, meetings with community groups, prospective bidders and cart vendors and a series of open houses and demonstrations.  That feedback is being considered as the request for bids is developed.

“We have a unique opportunity to modernize the City of Omaha collection system,” said SCS Engineers Vice-President Mike Miller.  “We want to get the best contract we can for the citizens of Omaha.”

For more information and resources, go to http://www.wasteline.org/future.htm.

(February 22, 2018)

A new feature on the city website gives citizens a real-time progress report on snow operations.

“This is an excellent tool to provide up-to-date information about street conditions in the winter,” said Mayor Jean Stothert.

City snow plows are equipped with AVL technology, Automated Vehicle Location. These plows, mainly single and double axle dump trucks that clear main and secondary streets, are marked on the map with white arrows within black circles. The locations update every 60 seconds.

“Today is a great day to demo this because we have an active operation” said Street Maintenance Engineer Austin Rowser.

City crews have been on a 24/7 schedule since early Tuesday morning and will continue at least through the weekend due to additional snow in the forecast.

Users of the new site can see which streets and neighborhoods have been plowed, where plowing is underway and where plowing has not yet started.

“It’s very important to offer a tool that shows where we are and the status of our operation,” said Rowser.

City plows have been equipped with AVL technology for about ten years; it has been used to monitor and manage plowing operations, and investigate citizen complaints and claims.  The City contracts with Verizon to provide the expanded technology for the public website. The site is also available on smart phones and tablets.

The City also has 20 companies under contract with approximately 175 additional plows to work in residential areas.  These trucks are equipped with GPS but are not yet connected to the new public system.

“We expect this site to evolve,” said Rowser. “Our goal is to have an address lookup so citizens can look up their address and get information about when the plow was on their street.”

The new site is easily accessed on the home page at cityofomaha.org.  Click on DOGIS snow operations on the menu.

(February 20, 2018)

Omaha’s Step-Up summer jobs program is expanding.

“Today marks a new chapter,” said Empowerment Network President Willie Barney. “We really want to thank the Mayor and City Council for the investment that will make expansion possible.”

The City has been a supporter of Step-Up since it started eleven years ago.  In 2014, Mayor Jean Stothert increased funding to $500,000 annually, this year, she doubled the City’s commitment to $1 million.

“We invest more money in step-up than any other jobs program because it works,” said Mayor Stothert.

Step-Up places youth and young adults, ages 14-21, in summer jobs.  In 2017, 1,600 people applied for work offered through Step-Up, 500 were placed in jobs or internships.  This year, with the increased in City funding, up to 700 can be placed in jobs.

“Police Chief Todd Schmaderer and I firmly believe there is a direct connection between step-up and a reduction in violent crime during the summer months.  We have an overall declining violent crime rate because of great relationships with community partners like the empowerment network,” said Mayor Stothert. “Now, I am asking Omaha businesses to support Step-Up with a financial contribution or a job opportunity. We depend  on our generous business and philanthropic community to make this program successful.”

Step-Up has been a summer only employment and training program since it started.  Now, Step-Up is partnering with Omaha Public Schools to identify the career interests of the students placed in summer internships, and enroll Step-Up participants in classes that align with their goals.

“If we know this works in the summer, we know it can work year-round,” said Step-Up Director Jami Anders-Kemp.

Omaha City Councilman and CHI Vice-President Pete Festersen announced CHI will fund eight scholarships for nursing assistants through Step-Up and Metro Community College, after completing the academic program, students will be offered full-time jobs.

Applications for summer jobs will be accepted through March 11.  Applications and information for employers is available at http://stepupomaha.com/StepUp2018/.  

(February 16, 2018)

Another Omaha Police recruit class graduated today from the police training academy, adding 27 officers to the department and adding to the historic level of police staffing.

This recruit class, called a “lateral” class is the largest of its type in more than ten years. Each officer has worked for another law enforcement agency and all are previously certified in the state of Nebraska.

“Or goal was to teach them how to be Omaha police officers. I’m pleased with this infusion of talent into our department,” said Chief Todd Schmaderer. “We believe in a culture of courtesy, proficiency and professionalism. These veteran officers have the ability to do that.” 

The officers completed 386 hours of training over 11 weeks.  “You are ready,” said Training Sergeant Ken Fox.

24 additional recruits are training now and will graduate in April, bringing the number of sworn officers to 860.  By the end of the year, Omaha will have 880 officers and in 2019, 900.

“The Omaha Police Department has earned the public’s confidence,” said Mayor Stothert.  “We set high standards  of  fairness,  respect,  ethics,  honor, and transparency.  The oath you take is your promise to uphold these standards and protect and serve our city.”

Recruit class Officer Jesse Gooden said, “We come from different backgrounds and have over 200 years of combined experience.  We have a devotion to law enforcement. Let’s make the City of Omaha proud of the Lateral Class of 2017.”

(January 29, 2018)

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert will again award neighborhood grants for projects that improve the quality of life, increase public safety, and help prevent crime in neighborhoods.

This year, the Mayor will award $75,000 for neighborhood projects. In addition, $2,000 dollars will be designated for National Night Out events, and $1,500 will be appropriated to the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Commission to produce a Neighborhood Alliance Resource Guide. Funds will also be set aside for a mini-grant program in the fall.

“The neighborhood grant program is an example of how neighborhoods and city government work as partners,” said Mayor Stothert. “Awards have helped citizen patrols buy equipment, neighborhood associations have purchased park equipment, improved lighting and created community gardens.  Each project provides a direct benefit to the neighborhood.”      

Neighborhood organizations registered and listed in the City of Omaha Neighborhood Directory are eligible to apply for grants up to $5,000.  

The application deadline is March 26, 2018.  Applications will be reviewed by a committee including representatives of One Omaha, Omaha Police, the Planning and Public Works Departments and the Mayor’s Grants Team.  Final awards will be approved by Mayor Stothert. Winners will be announced in May.

Over the last four years, Mayor Stothert has awarded 108 neighborhood grants for a total of $290,000.

(January 26, 2018)

An Omaha program designed to eliminate sex trafficking has reached a milestone.

Mayor Jean Stothert and members of the Coalition on Human Trafficking announced today more than 1,200 employees of local hotels and motels have been trained to recognize signs of trafficking and know how to report suspected traffickers. “Our goal is to become a no-trafficking city,” said Mayor Stothert. “This is an alarming crime that needs a comprehensive, community-wide partnership with government, law enforcement and the private sector.”

In 2016, the Coalition launched the “Realize, Recognize and Respond” campaign to train hotel and motel workers within a 50-mile radius of Omaha. The initial goal to train employees of 100 businesses has been exceeded. “We need to work together to make a difference,” said Sister Celeste Wobeter, chair of the Coalition’s Hotel/Motel Project. “The credit goes to the many dedicated volunteers.” 

The training program has been so successful, other cities want to duplicate it. Sister Wobeter said the Coalition is developing an agreement to share the program.

According to the Creighton University Human Trafficking Initiative, 900 individuals in Nebraska are sold for sex online multiple times each month, 675 in Omaha.  “Sex trafficking happens in our community and no zip code is immune,” said Meghan Malik, Trafficking Project Manager for the Women’s Fund of Omaha. “I-80 and I-29 facilitate the movement of traffickers.”

“This is a statewide effort, this crime has a lot of victims that need a lot of help,” said Glen Parks, Nebraska Human Trafficking Task Force Coordinator.

Earlier this month, Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson introduced a media campaign, “Demand An End”, which targets the customers of sex traffickers.  “We’re pretty confident we will have some prosecutions, people will learn that lesson firsthand,” said Peterson.

For more information about the “Realize, Recognize and Respond” training program, contact the Coalition on Human Trafficking at http://notrafficking.org.

If you suspect someone is being trafficked, please call 911.  If you are a victim of trafficking, text BE-FREE (233-733) for help.

(January 25, 2018)

Mayor Jean Stothert has expanded her Executive Team to include two new Deputy Chiefs of Staff for Economic Development and Development Services.

Kevin Andersen and Troy Anderson will work with the Mayor, City departments, developers, and the Greater Omaha Chamber to recruit new business to Omaha, expand existing businesses and bring new development projects to successful completion.

“Job growth and economic development has always been a top priority of my administration,” said Mayor Stothert.  “We have great momentum in Omaha right now. Kevin and Troy, along with our city planners and the economic development staff at the Greater Omaha Chamber will be a strong team as the pace of growth and development accelerates in Omaha.”

Troy Anderson joins the Mayor’s staff after serving three years as the Director of Planning in Fremont, Nebraska.  Anderson worked with the Greater Fremont Development Council to bring the $180 million Costco chicken processing plant to Fremont which is expected to create more than 1,000 new jobs. He previously worked in a variety of city planning, building and development services roles in Texas and Missouri.  He also has experience in the private sector. 

Anderson is certified as a property maintenance and housing inspector, and residential building, mechanical, electrical and plumbing inspector. He is a member of the American Planning Association and the American Institute of Certified Planners.

Anderson has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Arkansas and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Texas Arlington.

Kevin Andersen has worked as a planning consultant for JEO Consulting Group since 2014. His experience also includes the Nebraska Department of Economic Development where he worked on strategies for workforce development, downtown revitalization, community and business development and public facilities projects.

He was the lead planner for the Sarpy County Comprehensive Plan, and lead planner for the Blair Comprehensive Plan, which won an American Planning Association award. 

He is President of the Nebraska Planning and Zoning Association-Metro Chapter, a member of the Nebraska Main Street Network Board of Directors, has served on the Heritage Nebraska Board of Directors, and worked with Nebraska Innovation Zone Commission.

Andersen has a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is completing a Master of Community and Regional Planning at UNL. He is pursuing certification from the American Institute of Certified Planners.

In 2017, Mayor Stothert identified the need for an additional Deputy Chief of Staff to work directly with developers, 69 candidates applied for the position.  The second opening was recently created following the resignation of Cassie Paben.   Anderson and Andersen will earn $95,260 annually, both start work on February 5. 

(January 12, 2018)

An award that honors the vision of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. recognizes the achievements of two law enforcement officers and a community leader.

The “Living the Dream” award was presented today to Deputy Omaha Police Chief Greg Gonzalez, Douglas County Corrections Officer Tanya Burnside and longtime community leader Tommie Wilson.

Chief Gonzalez oversees the Executive Services Division, which includes training and recruitment.  He was instrumental in creating the PACE program, which offers mentoring through athletics to at-risk youth.  In 2005, the Latino Peace Officers Association created PACE (Police Athletics for Community Engagement); the program has grown to serve over 2,500 Omaha youth.  

“This award is about people and that’s why it’s special to me,” said Chief Gonzalez.  “I owe it to Dr. King to make the Omaha Police Department a better police force than when I joined. One day at a time, by building trust and galvanizing relationships, we will become one team.”

Lt. George Merithew nominated Chief Gonzalez.  He wrote, “He is an executor and a game-changer who demands fair representation and treatment in and outside his workplace. His values and ethics echo Martin Luther King’s hope for higher standards, just treatment, hope and inclusivity.”

Chief Gonzalez has served the citizens of Omaha for 23 years.

“These awards are especially meaningful because they come from our peers,” said Mayor Jean Stothert. “Each nomination describes a person with a passion for service, a commitment to fairness and equality, and a goal to make our community the model for diversity and inclusivity. I am very proud to work beside others who inspire us to do better and be better, not once a year in celebration of Dr. King, but as a way of life."

Corporal Tanya Burnside has worked for the Douglas County Department of Corrections since 2006. She is known for her compassion, inspiration and vision.  Her nominator wrote, “Tanya works diligently to promote a diverse work environment. Her vision includes everyone having the opportunity to achieve their personal goals and maximize their contribution to any organization.

22 city and county employees were nominated for the awards.

 “Omaha is a special place,” said Chief Todd Schmaderer.  “Martin Luther King would be proud of our relationships and how all work together to solve our issues.”