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Mayor Jean Stothert signed an executive order today, creating the Citizen Complaint Review Board. The board will provide an independent review of citizen complaints against a sworn Omaha police officer.“In the overwhelming majority of circumstances, our police officers use good judgment,” said Mayor Stothert. “When a citizen believes there has been misconduct, this is an opportunity for further review.”

Mayor Stothert, police management and the Omaha Police Officers Association have worked together for months on the structure and responsibilities of the Board. "The Citizen Review Board provides a layer of accountability and transparency to internal personnel investigations of the Omaha Police Department,” said Police Chief Todd Schmaderer. “I welcome the review as it extends the public's trust in the police department."

The Mayor will appoint five members to the Citizen Complaint Review Board; one from each police precinct area and one at-large. There will also be one alternate. Membership applications are available on the Mayor’s website, http://mayors-office.cityofomaha.org/. Applications are also available in the Mayor’s office, 1819 Farnam, #300.

  • Members must be registered voters and live within the Omaha city limits.
  • No one with a felony arrest or conviction will be appointed to the board.
  • There will be three non-voting advisors to the board; a representative of the OPD Command staff, a representative from the Human Rights and Relations Department, and one representative from the Law Department.
  • Members must participate in orientation and training.
  • Members must sign a confidentiality agreement.

The Board’s role and responsibilities will include:

  • The Board will have jurisdiction to review citizen complaints against a sworn officer if the complaining citizen files a “Request for Review”. (This form will also be available on the Mayor’s website and in the Mayor’s office after the Board is appointed)
  • Members will review the investigative process and results of the complaint and identify areas of concern.
  • Board members will serve in an advisory capacity only for purposes of reviewing processes and procedures. Members are not decision or policy makers for the City of Omaha.
  • The findings of the Board will be confidential.

"The Mayor sought input from all the various interest groups to come up with a fair and impartial process,” said OPOA President John Wells, who participated in the development of the CCRB.

“I would like to thank OPOA President John Wells and Police Chief Schmaderer for their input and support of the Citizen Complaint Review Board,” said Mayor Stothert. “This board will provide broader oversight than a police auditor. I believe an effective Police Chief is the best police auditor.”

Construction on Crossroads Village could begin this summer.Mayor Jean Stothert and OTB Destination founder Rod Yates have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to develop the mixed-use development at 72nd and Dodge. Construction on the $400 million dollar project is expected to begin in June, with the grand opening set for June, 2016. Crossroads Village will include new-to-market retail brands, luxury loft apartments, office space, a hotel, health and yoga club and green space.

The developer will provide the majority of the funding for Crossroads Village. The city will support the project with a combination of TIF, General Obligation Bonds and sales tax revenue. “The City has agreed to this unique financing plan to make this development possible,” said Mayor Jean Stothert.

The Omaha City Council will consider placing a $50 million bond issue on the May ballot to provide funding for the public infrastructure (streets, sewers, sidewalks, utilities, parking). This bond issue will not increase property tax rates. There will be no risk to the taxpayers; the developer will assume all risk for the bonds by funding a reserve fund for bond payments. City Council President Pete Festersen believes the Council will support the bond issue, “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to redevelop one of the most significant commercial properties in the city. It will revitalize the traditional heart of Omaha.”

LB 562, passed by the Nebraska Legislature allows for additional sales tax to be collected only on products purchased at Crossroads Village. An additional 1.95% sales tax could be added to those purchases. That money would help pay for development costs. This is the first time the City of Omaha has used this development tool.

“This project will provide thousands of jobs,” said Mayor Stothert. “Crossroads Village is good for the city, business and consumers.”

The City Council resolution will be on the agenda February 4th. There will be a public hearing February 11th.

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert will support legislation commonly called "Ban the Box". "This is an important step to provide equal employment opportunities," said Mayor Stothert. "This legislation will give all applicants the chance to be considered for jobs in the public sector."

LB932 would prohibit public employers from requiring job applicants to disclose their criminal record on the application.

The City of Omaha does currently ask for the applicant's criminal background on job applications. "We are not opposed to removing the question on our application," said Mayor Stothert. The city runs criminal background checks only when an applicant has been selected as a finalist for the position.

"We are working hard in Omaha to assist at-risk youth and young adults with job training and placement. Many of these applicants want and deserve a second chance and have the potential to be good employees," said Mayor Stothert.

Chief of Staff Marty Bilek testified on behalf of the Mayor before the Legislature's Business and Labor Committee Monday. LB932 was introduced by Lincoln Senator Bill Avery.

The message is clear. Do your part.

Mayor Jean Stothert participated in Saturday's rally, "Turning Point, A United Call for Peace and Progress". The Empowerment Network organized the event in response to the recent murder of 5-year-old Payton Benson. Payton was killed ten days ago when a stray bullet pierced the walls of her home, struck and killed her.

"Do your part is a call to action to each of us," said Mayor Stothert. "If you are here today, it's a commitment to do your part. It will take parents, neighborhoods, teachers, community partners, police officers, business leaders, pastors, elected officials. It's not one of us. It's all of us."

City Councilman Ben Gray attended the rally with Payton's mother, Tabatha Manning. "Tabatha Manning is amazing," said Gray. "I thought I knew a lot but Tabatha has taught me some things about love, peace and forgiveness. In love, we are going to move forward to develop our community. We are going to keep our eye on the prize."

Other families who have lost loved ones spoke emotionally about their loss. In 2012, 16-year-old Eriana Carr was shot and killed. She was a student at Benson High School. Her mother spoke at the rally, "My daughter was at home. It's sad that we don't have answers for these kids. She loved her community. I'm willing to do my part."

Someone killed Jamelia Hasseltine in 2011. Her sister told the crowd, "We need to come together with one voice, one demand for the violence to stop."

Police Chief Todd Schmaderer has pledged the Omaha Police Department would work non-stop on Payton's case. Today, he said thanks to the community stepping forward to provide information, six people are in jail in connection with this case. The Chief said he is confident the case will be solved. "I want this to be a case that crystalizes the way we work together. I'll let my actions down the road speak for me," said Chief Schmaderer.

Others attending the rally included City Council President Pete Festersen, Councilmembers Aimee Melton and Ben Gray, state senators, teachers, OPS Board of Education President Justin Wayne, pastors and other community partners.

"At the end of the day, we all want the same thing," said Douglas County Treasurer and Empowerment Network Board Chairman John Ewing. "No one should have to experience the loss of their child or parent to gun violence."

Mayor Stothert re-signed the Empowerment Network Pledge for Peace displayed at the rally, "We are here today at the end of a week of events to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, to call for peace and progress, to recommit to the pledge many of us have signed. I believe Dr. King would ask each of us here today to make our city a place of peace. I ask each of you to do your part."

The Omaha Planning Department announced a reorganization today, to improve customer service, efficiency and training of the city housing inspectors.

The Housing Inspection (Code Enforcement) section will move from the Housing and Community Development Division to the Building and Development Division. This change will bring all code enforcement functions into the same division. All inspectors will report to Assistant Planning Director and Superintendent of the Building and Development Division Jay Davis.

“This is part of our ongoing evaluation of the Planning Department. We have listened to input from property owners about housing inspections and the need to improve our process,” said Mayor Jean Stothert. “This change will address complaints and provide better, faster service and follow-up.”

The housing inspectors will work closely with the building, electrical, plumbing and mechanical inspectors. The Planning Department has written standard inspection procedures and policies, created easier to understand code-based notices and will expand the use of Accela software. (Accela is a web-based permitting system. Citizens, builders and developers can log onto omahapermits.com to apply for and track building permits and inspections.)

Inspectors will also participate in a new training program. “We will be implementing a very aggressive program to provide inspectors with the education and tools to properly perform their jobs. Our work is too complex to not equip the inspectors with the proper tools,” said Davis.

The Planning Department will form a Task Force of property owners, neighborhood groups and community organizations to help develop new strategies, programs and processes to make Omaha a safe and healthy community.

On the opening day of the Nebraska Legislature, Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert shared her 2014 goals and legislative priorities with state senators.

Mayor Stothert invited senators to lunch Wednesday to pledge her commitment to work with the unicameral on issues important to the City of Omaha and the taxpayers. “We are all partners, working together for positive changes in our communities and our state. I look forward to working with all of you,” said Mayor Stothert.

The Mayor told the group her top priority will always be public safety and the arrest of Nikko Jenkins has led to the important discussion about prison reform. “We support legislation to keep prisoners convicted of violent crimes from automatically getting “good time” for early release,” said Mayor Stothert. “We have made recommendations on reforms that would require monitored, supervised release for violent offenders, to improve public safety in Omaha and other cities across Nebraska.”

Mayor Stothert and Police Chief Todd Schmaderer support GPS monitoring of violent offenders after release to provide additional protection for the community and more opportunities for prisoners to make a successful transition after prison.

In 2014, the City will also evaluate methods to pay the enormous cost of the CSO project without causing excessive hardship to citizens. Mayor Stothert supports a proposal from Omaha Senator Heath Mello to allow cities with unfunded mandates to receive incremental increases in sales tax revenue to help pay for the sewer project.

City Council President Pete Festersen and council members Garry Gernandt, Rich Pahls and Aimee Melton attended the lunch at the Nebraska Club in Lincoln. Mayor Stothert also introduced Police Chief Todd Schmaderer, Planning Director James Thele, Public Works Director Bob Stubbe, Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Dana Markel, Finance Director Steve Curtiss, City Clerk Buster Brown, City Council Chief of Staff Jim Dowding and City of Omaha Lobbyist Jack Cheloha.

The Omaha City Council will consider a series of proposed bond issues to be included on the May 2014 ballot. First reading on the ordinances is Tuesday January 7. The public hearing will be held January 14.

The City issues General Obligation bonds to fund projects in the Capital Improvement Plan.If approved by the City Council, Omaha voters will be asked to give the City the authority to issue bonds in the amount of $92,024,000. The bonds would fundprojects 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).

"Approval of these bonds will not raise your taxes due to previously issued bonds being retired," said Mayor Jean Stothert. "Omaha voters haveapproved bond issues for more than thirty years. I encourage the City Council to pass these proposals and give voters the opportunity tovote.”

Approval of these bonds will allow the city to proceed with multiple projects including:

  • Purchase of new fire trucks and medic units
  • Rehabilitation of older city parks including Adams, Levi Carter and Hanscom
  • Multiple road widening and resurfacing projects
  • Redevelopment of 16th Street, Dodge to Leavenworth

Voters approved similar bond issues in 2000, 2006 and 2010. (see attachment for bond history)

A vote for the bonds would give the City the authority to issue bonds and sell bonds until December 31, 2022.

Omaha’s busiest intersection will be resurfaced this year, thanks to the continuing partnership with the State of Nebraska to improve state highways within the Omaha city limits.

Governor Dave Heineman announced today that the City of Omaha will receive $6 million in funds. The majority of the money will be used at the 90th and West Dodge intersection. The most recent traffic survey (October 2011) shows 107,596 vehicles drive through the intersection daily.

“You can imagine the wear and tear on the road and the need for repairs,” said Mayor Jean Stothert, at a news conference at the State Capitol. “Without this help from the state, the project would not be possible right now.”

This is the second time in six months the State has awarded funds to Omaha for road repair. In July, Governor Heineman announced the City would receive $6.4 million; those funds paid for ten resurfacing projects, including Dodge Street from 52nd to Turner Boulevard. That work started in September and was completed in October, more than a month ahead of schedule.

The 90th and Dodge project is scheduled to begin after the 4th of July. “This will be a major resurfacing project that will require a lot of coordination,” said Public Works Director Bob Stubbe. “It will be very similar to the work completed last fall on Dodge Street in the midtown area.”

“Taxpayers expect and deserve good roads,” said Mayor Stothert. “The additional six million dollars allows us to continue these road improvements in 2014. Thanks to our partnership with the State of Nebraska, we can complete major projects on state highways and dedicate our own city funds to improve neighborhood streets.”

Four other Nebraska cities will receive state money for road repair, including Lincoln. “I want to give the money to these mayors. I know they’ll do a good job,” said Governor Heineman. “Omaha and Lincoln are on the move and that’s great news for Nebraska.”

Besides the 90th and Dodge intersection, these other roads will be repaired or resurfaced:

Dodge Street, 68th to 84th

Dodge Street, 12th to 22nd

Dodge Street, 26nd to 68th

Dodge Street, Farnam to Happy Hollow Blvd.

Dodge Street, Turner Blvd to 22nd

90th Street, Dodge to Embassy Drive

Military Avenue 64th to 66th

Military Avenue 66th to 72nd

Military Avenue westbound 72nd to Fort

Military Avenue eastbound 78th to Fort

The projects were selected by the Nebraska Department of Roads and Omaha Public Works. To qualify for the state funds, the work must be done on a state-ownedhighway within the city limits, the road must need repair and be ready for construction.

Omaha firefighters first tried to save two young children from their burning home. Now, they will lead a fundraising campaign to help the family.

Wednesday morning, dozens of firefighters fought the fire in a mobile home near 129th & Maple. Two brothers, 3-month-old Brandon and 3-year old Gabriel Rodriguez died in the fire. Their one-year-old sister Adrianna and mother, 18-year-old Champaigne Harn survived. Champaigne is being treated for severe smoke inhalation, Adrianna has been released from the hospital. The Omaha Fire Department continues to investigate the cause of the fire.

Thursday, the Omaha Professional Firefighters Association made the first contribution to a fund to assist the family. "Our community is so very generous," said Omaha Fire Captain Trevor Towey. "We know giving people live in Omaha." Firefighters started the"Fire Fatality Benefit Fund", making a $1,000 donation. Towey can't remember the last time, if ever, firefighters assisted a family this way. "Many of us have kids. We feel the pain of the family. The firefighters there Wednesday know they did everything they could at that scene."

Fire Chief Bernie Kanger says the fire investigation is continuing. Kanger says there was a smoke detector in the mobile home but it did not have batteries. He encourages anyone who needs a smoke or carbon monoxide detector to call the Omaha Fire Department for a free detector. Firefighters will come to your home and install the equipment.

Chief Kanger says the firefighters involved in the fire are taking the deaths of the children very hard; the fire chaplain arrived at the scene and the Omaha Fire Department provided counseling. "On any fire call, we leave the fire station with every intention to save everyone. In this case, that didn't happen," said Kanger. He said the first firefighters were on the scene two minutes and 45 seconds after the 911 call, even in that short time, the fire was burning out of control. The heat from the fire was so intense, it burned holes in the fire hoses.

Donations to the Fire fatality Benefit Fund can be made at theOmaha Fire Fighter Credit Union, in person or by mail,4630 S. 143rd Street in Omaha, 68137. Donations can also be dropped off at any Omaha fire station. "Every single Omaha firefighter will know what to do with that money," said Captain Towey.

The Empowerment Network invited me to participate in the annual "State of North of Omaha", I outlined many areas of interest to the audience. Here is a recap:

2013 has been a year of change in our city.I believe change is progress and I want to give you a brief progress report and look ahead to the exciting changes coming to north Omaha in 2014.

Many of the Empowerment Network strategies focus on economics, education, healthy families and sustainable neighborhoods. We are all partners, working together for change and we are committed to making our great city an extraordinary city.

After two years of study, community input and planning, 2014 will be the year we see real progress with the 75 North project. 75 North expects to complete the purchase of the former Pleasantview Homes from the Omaha Housing Authority in the next two weeks. HUD has approved the sale, moving this development forward.By February, we will see plans and renderings.By summer or early fall, 75 North expects to break ground on this ‘ground-breaking’ community redevelopment concept.

75 North is modeled after a successful development in Atlanta.The model is now being copied in other cities by “Purpose Built Communities”. The goal is always to provide high-quality housing, improve academic achievement and provide services. This concept changed a high-crime, high-poverty Atlanta neighborhood into a new community, offering a better quality of life. That’s the vision of 75 North.Omaha Public Schools, the Urban League, Charles Drew Health Center and Salem-Baptist church, private investors like the Sherwood Foundation and support from leaders like Warren Buffett will make this change possible.

When asked about the mission of “Purpose Built Communities”, Mr. Buffett said, “I like things that change people’s lives.” So do I.75 North intends to be that change.

Developments like this can be sparks. They create new interest in the surrounding neighborhoods. Wrapped around 75 North is Prospect Village, a neighborhood rehabilitation project managed by the Omaha Planning Department.This is a neighborhood in decline. Existing homes are deteriorating and there are many vacant lots.Beginning next year, we will build 80 new homes, rehab 36 existing houses and make energy, health and safety upgrades to twenty more.This is your city’s commitment to making Prospect Village a more stable neighborhood.

I would like to thank the Empowerment Network and many community partners who are working with us to bring this project to life.

While these are two exciting examples of large projects, one led by private partners, one led by the city, there are improvements underway in many neighborhoods.

In 2014, I budgeted more money for demolition, so we can tear down dangerous houses.That’s a response to your input, telling me demolition is important.

At my Town Hall meetings this fall, I heard a lot about our city parks in north Omaha. We made many park improvements in 2013 and more are planned next year.Miller Park golf course will open once again in the spring under city management and the First Tee program will expand, creating even more opportunities for young golfers.At Benson Park, we will build new trails and picnic areas. We are raising money for a new splash pad and playground. Improvements like these help create sustainable neighborhoods.

We also need good public policy to attract new business that creates jobs. We have recently made an offer to purchase the Ames-Locust property. If the owner accepts, this gives us a shovel-ready industrial site in northeast Omaha.

In 2014, the city will again support the Step-Up Summer Jobs program. We have committed $300,000. Last summer, nearly 400 young people worked and earned their own paychecks in jobs offered through Step-Up.

Since it started in 2008, this program has placed 2,400 people in jobs and provided the coaching and training they need to prepare for careers. The employers who hire our youth give these young people excellent performance reviews and 95% of the businesses say they will participate again.Step-Up provides a win-win for the employers and the employees. We know providing jobs leads to other positive outcomes.

Recently, I invited faith leaders from across our community, from all denominations, to join my Faith and Community task force. Nearly 40 pastors, representing many faiths, attended our first meeting. Most agreed, strong families build strong communities.Co-chairman of the task force Pastor Bruce Williams put it this way, “A Church is only as strong as the families in the church. If we have strong families, the community will be strong”.This is a very important partnership. Our diverse religious community has an important role in our city. I look forward to our next meeting in January and our work together to develop long-term strategies that will strengthen families and make our community stronger.

Education and health care are important to all of us in Omaha.

The National League of Cities recently picked eleven cities to develop and share ideas to help young black males succeed. Omaha is one of the lucky eleven.With the Empowerment Network and other partners, we have created the Omaha African-American Male Achievement Collaboration strategy.This is an opportunity to connect boys and young men, from kindergarten through high school with resources and role models in the very areas we have identified as priorities; employment, education, housing, faith and family.

We are also excited that we are one of 12 cities receiving a grant to expand access to health care for children and families. Many families may not know they are eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance program. Our goal is to get nearly 4,000 people signed up for these benefits. Northeast Omaha is our target area. Once again, our community health partners will help with this important goal.

As we begin a new year, another year of change, let’s work together on our challenges and our opportunities.