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The Omaha City Council voted Tuesday to rescind its February vote, asking voters to approve a $50 million General Obligation bond, part of the Crossroads Village financing package.The Council voted 7-0. The vote gives the Douglas County Election Commissioner the authority to remove the bond question from the May ballot.

The vote does not stop the plan for OTB Destination to develop the corner of 72nd and Dodge, just slows it down. "Yes, we want Crossroads redeveloped. Is this the best way to fund it?," asked Mayor Stothert. "We need to study it."

The economic and fiscal impact study of the project is still underway. The traffic and parking studies are being evaluated and may not be complete before early ballots are available in three weeks. Taxpayers have also raised concerns about using bonds to help pay for the redevelopment, "We all agree, take it off the spring ballot and re-evaluate," said Mayor Stothert.

The original financing plan for Crossroads Village included TIF, General Obligation bonds and a 1.95% additional sales tax on products sold at Crossroads Village, as allowed under LB 562.


The Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority voted Tuesday to extend the terms of its own board members from five to seven years; potentially in violation of MECA's contract with the City of Omaha.Mayor Stothert called the actions of the MECA board self-serving. "Trying to manipulate their own terms to stay on longer, I find egregious," said Mayor Stothert. The board voted 3-2 in favor of extending their terms.

MECA members are appointed for five-year terms. The Mayor and City Council alternate appointments. MECA Board member Jim Vokal's term will expire in May, Mayor Stothert has selected Vokal's replacement but has not announced her choice yet. Vokal, along with board members Dana Bradford and Jay Noddle voted for the extension. Members Willy Theisen and John Lund voted no.

MECA manages the CenturyLink Center Omaha, TD Ameritrade Park Omaha and the Civic Auditorium, all city-owned facilities. The Mayor said the board needs to be transparent. She supported LB778, legislation introduced to the Nebraska Legislature in January to require the MECA board to conduct business in public. In a letter to State Senators, the Mayor wrote, "I believe in transparent government operations. We cannot pick and choose or make exceptions about public information when we are spending the taxpayer's money."

LB778 did not advance out of committee and is not expected to pass this year. As a result, MECA agreed to work with the City to be more transparent in its operations. "If MECA is going to work with city officials and be responsible to taxpayers, this certainly doesn't help the relationship," said Mayor Stothert. "I don't think anyone managing public facilities can be autonomous."

Before Tuesday's vote, Mayor Stothert and the board were working on a new agreement, which included increasing board membership from five to seven members. Discussions with board members as recently as yesterday, did not include the idea of seven-year terms. "Out of common courtesy, I would expect them to tell me," said the Mayor. "We have 49 volunteer boards and commissions, appointed by the Mayor and City Council. There's not another board that feels like they can set their own terms."

Mayor Stothert says the city attorney will now determine the next step. "Anything is possible," she said, responding to a reporter's question about potential legal action against MECA.


The Omaha City Council will reconsider its vote to place the $50 million Crossroads Village General Obligation bond issue on the May ballot. The Council voted 7-0 on February 25 in favor of the ballot issue. If the council rescinds its vote at Tuesday's council meeting, the bond question will be removed from the ballot. The City Council vote will give the Douglas County Election Commissioner the authority to remove it.

The Crossroads Village developer, OTB Destination, proposed the General Obligation bonds to help finance the $400 million development. The bonds would pay for infrastructure, including streets, sidewalks and sewers. The developer has agreed to create and maintain a $4 million reserve fund to make the bond payments over the life of the bonds, if necessary.

“I support the Crossroads Village development, but we need to re-evaluate the financing plan,” said Mayor Jean Stothert. “We’re listening to taxpayer concerns about the bonds and I share their concerns. We need more information and more time to guarantee the taxpayers will be protected before we move ahead.”

The economic and fiscal impact study of the project is still underway. The traffic and parking studies are being evaluated and may not be complete before early ballots are available in three weeks.

The current financing plan for Crossroads Village includes TIF, General Obligation bonds and a 1.95% additional sales tax on products sold at Crossroads Village, as allowed under LB 562.

The Crossroads Village General Obligation bond is separate from the City of Omaha bond issue that will remain on the May ballot. “These bonds are essentials because they help pay for projects in our Capital Improvement Plan. Approval of these bonds will not raise your taxes due to previously issued bonds being retired,” said Mayor Stothert.

The City's $92 million bond issue will fund projects in five areas; streets and highways ($47,375,000), sewers ($13,616,000), parks and recreation ($14,511,000), public safety ($6,250,000) and public facilities ($10,272,000). Voters approved similar bond issues in 2000, 2006 and 2010.


Mayor Jean Stothert has selected Bernard Kanger as Chief of the Omaha Fire Department. Kanger has served as interim Chief since August 27, 2013. “Chief Kanger shares my goals for excellence in public safety and administration of the Omaha Fire Department,” said Mayor Jean 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 served on the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the National Fire Protection Association and the Elkhorn Suburban Fire District Board. He has worked as a FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Team manager and has been deployed after Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita and Hurricane Dean.

“My long term vision for the Omaha Fire Department is to be recognized as a regional and national leader in the delivery of fire and EMS services,” said Chief Kanger. “I would like to see our department on the cutting edge of promoting new ideas and solving difficult problems. I want to challenge the members of our department to be creative and explore new ways of providing efficient services to our community.”

Chief Kanger assumed responsibility for the Omaha Fire Department budget in August. “Chief Kanger took immediate steps to control costs and prevent another multi-million dollar budget deficit. I am confident the days of the Omaha Fire Department overspending by millions each and every year will end,” said Mayor Stothert.

Chief Kanger has started a number of initiatives following recent fire tragedies. After the deadly fire at the Maplewood Estates mobile home park, he named a task force to identify the number and locations of private fire hydrants in the city. Recommendations will be made to protect homes and businesses in these areas.

The Fire Prevention Bureau and the Omaha Planning Department are evaluating building codes and will identify necessary changes to reduce or eliminate fires such as the dormitory fire on the UNO campus and the third fire at the Hillsborough Pointe Apartments. A public education campaign on the fire hazards associated with smoking will also be produced for apartment and dormitory residents. “I want to build strong relationships with community leaders, neighborhood associations and members of the City Council. We are your Fire Department and we are committed to serve with kindness, compassion, and integrity ,” said Chief Kanger.

"The Omaha Fire Department needs new leadership to rebuild. Chief Kanger will move the department forward with innovative ideas, responsible financial management and collaborative teamwork. I am pleased to have him on our team,” said Mayor Stothert.


Its another big win for sports fans in Omaha!The 28th annual Triple-A Baseball All-Star Game will be played at Werner Park in July, 2015. The Omaha Storm Chasers will host the game, First National Bank is the title sponsor. "On the heels of our first national championship, to showcase our own Field of Dreams is truly incredible," said Storm Chasers Owner Gary Green.

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert and the mayors of Papillion and Bellevue joined representatives of the Pacific Coast League, the International League and Major League Baseball and First National Bank for the All-Star game announcement. "The fans and business community of Omaha are in for a real treat in 2015," said Pacific Coast League President Branch Rickey. "This game is special. You have an opportunity for see future hall of famers."

Minor League Baseball has hosted the Triple-A All Star Game since 1988. This will be the first time the game has been played in Omaha. All-Star week is scheduled for July 12-15, 2015.


Its another big win for sports fans in Omaha!The 28th annual Triple-A Baseball All-Star Game will be played at Werner Park in July, 2015. The Omaha Storm Chasers will host the game, First National Bank is the title sponsor. "On the heels of our first national championship, to showcase our own Field of Dreams is truly incredible," said Storm Chasers Owner Gary Green.

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert and the mayors of Papillion and Bellevue joined representatives of the Pacific Coast League, the International League and Major League Baseball and First National Bank for the All-Star game announcement. "The fans and business community of Omaha are in for a real treat in 2015," said Pacific Coast League President Branch Rickey. "This game is special. You have an opportunity for see future hall of famers."

Minor League Baseball has hosted the Triple-A All Star Game since 1988. This will be the first time the game has been played in Omaha. All-Star week is scheduled for July 12-15, 2015.

A unique partnership between Omaha and Council Bluffs to attract new business to the region has earned the cities the number one ranking in a nationally recognized business publication. Site Selection magazine lists Omaha-Council Bluffs first in its 2013 Top Metro list of cities with populations from 200,000 to one million. The magazine also awarded the Governor's Cup award to the State of Nebraska for creating business climates that attract investment and create jobs.

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert, Council Bluffs Mayor Matt Walsh, Omaha Chamber of Commerce President David Brown and Governor Dave Heineman accepted the awards Tuesday from Site Selection Managing Editor Adam Bruns.Site Selection magazine has awarded the Governor's Cup since 1988 to the state with the most new and expanded corporate facilities. This year, a second Cup was awarded, recognizing Nebraska as the state with the most qualifying new and expanded facilities per capita.

"This is very, very exciting news," said Governor Heineman. "For nine years, we have put a real focus on education and jobs. We want to make sure we are creating jobs in Nebraska. Having achieved this, we can't stand still. We have to figure out how to move forward." The Governor called it an enormous honor to win the Governor's Cup.

In January,the Greater Omaha Economic Development Partnership and Advance Southwest Iowa Corporation signed the partnership agreement to work together to recruit new business. "The regional collaboration is a real thing," said Bruns. "Looking at assets you have in the region and sending a message about what you have to offer."

Omaha Chamber of Commerce President David Brown said the two states have to function as a single entity to make sure there is a talented workforce and sites available for companies interested in relocation. "The region and the states are on the cusp of something very special," said Brown. "We have an opportunity to go great things over the next decade. Hang on the for the ride, its going to be great fun!"

The Chamber of Commerce also introduced Randy Thelan, Senior Vice-President for Economic Development. Thelan succeeds Rod Moseman, who retired in December. Thelan said,"On my fourth day on the job, its rewarding to see how Omaha celebrates a win."


Mayor Jean Stothert is asking Omaha businesses to "Step-Up" and help make the 2014 summer jobs program successful.

"A job gives teenagers and young adults more than a paycheck. Jobs help develop self-esteem, teach time management skills and how to work as part of a team," said Mayor Jean Stothert. "The employers who hire our youth give these young people excellent performance reviews and 95% of businesses say they will participate again. It's a win-win for everyone."

Since the Step-Up program started in 2012, more than 800 applicants have been placed in summer jobs. The goal in 2014 is to match 500 people with jobs. "We don't have to stop at 500," said City Councilman Ben Gray. "When young people are working, violence, crime and other negative behaviors go down, the data is clear."

"If job applicant 501 shows up at our door, you won't be turned away," said City Councilman Garry Gernandt.

Step-Up was expanded last year to Gernandt's south Omaha district. The goal is to reach more potential job applicants in his district this year and place at least 100 in jobs. Community partners including the Latino Center of the Midlands, the South Omaha Business Association and the Kroc Center will help publicize the program.

The City of Omaha supports Step-Up with $300,000 in federal funds; the overall fundraising goal this year is $1 million. Nearly half has already been raised. "When we have businesses, community groups and our philanthropic community providing money and jobs, that's when we are successful," said Empowerment Network President Willie Barney. "Everysuccessful American has had a summer job."

Job applications are currently being accepted online at stepupomaha.com. The deadline to apply is March 12. Applicants can live anywhere in the city and must be 14-21 years old. The Urban League of Nebraska offers assistance with completing the application at its computer lab. "One of our roles is readiness," said Urban League President Tom Warren. "That's a question we get from employers, is the next generation ready for the workplace? We help them develop the skills they need." The Urban League also provides coaches for Step-Up participants to support them on the job.

Salaries for jobs offered through Step-Up start at minimum range and go up. Jobs range from maintenance and landscaping to positions offered through business partners including American National Bank, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Coventry Health Care, UPS and Alegent Creighton.Barney says there are many success stories, including one Step-Up employee who recently graduated from Creighton University.

Businesses, groups and individuals interesting in providing jobs or funding to support Step-Up can find more information at stepupomaha.com.


Omaha's preliminary 4th quarter financial report shows a significant economic turnaround for the City and the taxpayers. After inheriting a $13 million budget shortfall in June, Mayor Jean Stothert has led the city to a $10 million surplus. The surplus can be attributed to revenue increases and expense reductions."Turning the deficit into a $10 million surplus was difficult. Every city department worked hard to accomplish this savings," said Mayor Stothert. "This was achieved through a variety of cost-saving measures, including a hiring freeze, delayed purchases and generally doing more with less. At the same time, we maintained or improved city services."

Every city department except fire is projected to end the year under budget. The fire department is still projected to be $6.2 million over budget; $5.3 million from the Contingent Liability Fund will be used to fund the fire department in 2013. This will allow the fire department to end the year only $0.9 million over budget in the general fund.

General fund revenues made a significant comeback in the fourth quarter. Led by an increase in building permits and licenses, general fund revenues are now expected to be only $0.6 million under budget for the year. "Sales tax collections in the 4th quarter were over budget and building permit fees for the year exceed the budget by 57%. Both are strong indications of an improving local economy," said Finance Director Steve Curtiss.

The final 2013 financial report is expected in June after an annual audit. The surplus will be carried forward to 2015, as required by the City Charter. It cannot be used in 2014 since that budget has already been approved by the City Council. "Taxpayers can expect us to manage the city budget carefully and responsibly," said Mayor Stothert.


One of the largest city-owned properties in Omaha is for sale. The City of Omaha today announced it will accept proposals to redevelop the Omaha Civic Auditorium site at 17th and Capitol.

The Request for Proposals asks for proposals for the acquisition, demolition, design, financing, construction and operation of a mixed-use project. The nearly nine-acre site was appraised at $10,015,000 (after demolition of the existing building) in November 2012 by Thomas E. Stevens & Associates. The actual sale price will depend on the size and scope of the project and how it conforms to the city’s master plan.“The Civic Auditorium site is one of the city’s largest and prime properties. Redevelopment of this site continues our commitment to build downtown Omaha into a vibrant residential, commercial and entertainment center,” said Mayor Jean Stothert.

The Civic Auditorium opened in 1954 and is currently managed by MECA, the Metropolitan Entertainment & Convention Authority. The City’s management agreement with MECA expires in June. The City is currently working with several entities to find a new home for events currently held at the Music Hall. An announcement is expected later this year. Omaha Park 5, on the southwest corner of the Civic property will remain on the property and will continue to be managed by the City.

Mayor Stothert has met with downtown stakeholders, developers and neighboring businesses to get input on the redevelopment plan. “We have studied the options for the Civic,” said Mayor Stothert. “The investment required to repair and upgrade the building is estimated to cost at least $29 million dollars. The best business decision is to sell it and attract new development to our downtown core.”

The RFP outlines preferred uses for the site, including retail, residential, civic and/or office space. The site is eligible for Tax Increment Financing. The City will accept proposals that include public financing assistance, however privately funded plans will get priority. “This is first-class downtown real estate,” said Deputy Chief of Staff for Economic Development Cassie Seagren. “We expect both local and national interest in this site.”

The deadline to submit proposals is June 4, 2014. Bids will be opened June 4. Interviews with development teams will begin July 18 with a decision expected by August 22.

To review the RFP, visit http://www.douglascountypurchasing.org


Four finalists have been selected after a nationwide search for Omaha’s next Fire Chief.

Fifteen candidates initially applied for the position, nine passed the preliminary training and experience test and were invited to the second phase of testing, which consisted of a structured interview and an oral presentation. The testing was coordinated by an outside contractor, IO Solutions and graded by a panel of fire chiefs serving in other cities.

From this testing, four finalists have been identified and their names have been forwarded to Mayor Jean Stothert. The finalists, in alphabetical order, are Assistant Omaha Fire Chief Steve Ausdemore, Assistant Omaha Fire Chief Shane Hunter, Interim Omaha Fire Chief Bernie Kanger and retired Omaha Fire Battalion Chief Joseph Mancuso.

Assistant Chief Ausdemore was hired in 1991. He has worked as a Firefighter, Firefighter/Paramedic, Captain, Battalion Chief and was promoted to Assistant Chief in 2010.

Assistant Chief Hunter was hired in 1997. He has worked as a Firefighter, Fire Apparatus Engineer, Captain, Battalion Chief and was promoted to Assistant Chief in 2012.

Interim Chief Kanger was hired in 1991. He has worked as a Firefighter, Fire Apparatus Engineer, Captain, Battalion Chief and was named interim Chief by Mayor Stothert in August.

Joseph Mancuso retired from the Omaha Fire Department in March 2013. He was hired in 1992 and worked as a Firefighter, Fire Apparatus Engineer, Captain and retired at the rank of Battalion Fire Chief.

In order to be considered for the job, Mancuso will be required to and has agreed that if selected, he will pay back all pension payments and other benefits received as a result of his retirement.

The City has a contract with IO Solutions to conduct testing for open positions and promotions within Omaha Police and Fire Departments. The City budgeted $182,000 in 2014 for IO Solutions’ services.

“A new Fire Chief is critical to moving this department forward in a positive direction,” said Mayor Stothert. “The selection process has been thorough, fair and objective. This is a very important position and I look forward to the interviews and selection of a new Chief.” Mayor Stothert and her Executive Team will interview the four finalists. A decision is expected to be announced by March 10th.