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Mayor Jean Stothert | City of Omaha

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(October 24, 2017)

Omaha’s bond ratings will remain unchanged.  Moody’s Investors Service has reaffirmed the current Aa2 rating while Standard & Poor’s AA+ rating will continue.  Both agencies gave the City a stable outlook, citing strong City management and Omaha’s economy, but once again singled out the unfunded pension liability as the significant area of concern. 



Strong city economy, sizable tax base, low unemployment

Strong city budget management

Increased revenue due to annexation

Labor contracts in place

Annual budget surpluses

Unfunded pension liabilities



Strong city economy, low unemployment

Strong management, good financial policies, conservative budgeting

Strong budgetary performance

Revenue growth

Annual budget surpluses

Unfunded pension liabilities


Both companies acknowledge recent pension reforms negotiated with the civilian, firefighters and police unions but say the city must achieve further pension reform.  

“Our unfunded pension liability prevents us from earning a AAA bond rating,” said Mayor Stothert.  “Despite the progress we have made over the last four years, we must work with our employee unions to further reduce the unfunded pension and do it faster.”

In January, Mayor Stothert announced a four-year agreement with the Omaha Police Officers Association that includes additional employee pension contributions beginning in 2018; the Mayor agreed to match those contributions.  Each will contribute an additional .75%. 

The current agreement the Mayor negotiated with the civilian’s union includes the city’s first cash balance pension plan. New employees hired on or after January 1, 2015 participate in this plan. Employees hired before that date  remain on the existing defined benefit pension plan but with substantially reduced pension benefits and an extension of the number of years required to achieve normal retirement. The City increased its contributions to the pension fund by 7% over the term of the agreement.

The Civilian Pension Fund is currently 55% funded, the Police and Fire Pension Fund is 52% funded. The bond rating companies want both plans funded at 80% or more.

In its Credit Opinion, issued October 18, Moody’s states, “We expect management to continue to work towards pension reform to mitigate the city’s elevated pension burden.”

S & P said, “We could raise the rating if the city is successful in implementing additional pension reforms”. The S & P Report was issued October 19.

“Bond ratings are an important measure of our financial health,” said Finance Director Steve Curtiss.  “As we continue to work on solutions to our pension liability, we are maximizing our ratings.”

Mayor Stothert, Finance Director Steve Curtiss, Comptroller Al Herink, City Attorney Paul Kratz and Chief of Staff Marty Bilek met with both bond companies on October 13.


(October 17, 2017)

Omaha will join a growing number of U.S. cities studying and implementing Vision Zero, a strategy to reduce and eliminate traffic deaths.

The Active Living Advisory Committee, created by Mayor Jean Stothert’s Executive Order in 2014, provided an overview of Vision Zero to Mayor Stothert in July. She asked the committee to prepare a recommendation on next steps.  The Committee’s recommendation, received this month, is that Omaha become a Vision Zero City. The committee recommends further study and development of a Vision Zero strategy by a task force created by the Mayor and a timeline to present a final report.

Sweden created the Vision Zero model in 1997.  The idea is now spreading to cities in the United States including Columbia, Missouri, Minneapolis, Austin, Denver, Fremont, California and others.

Vision Zero cities meet four minimum criteria:

  • A clear goal of eliminating traffic fatalities and severe injuries
  • Mayor’s commitment to Vision Zero
  • A Vision Zero plan or strategy is in place, or a timeline for implementation
  • Key city departments (including police, transportation and public health) are engaged.

According to the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety, there were 12,155 vehicle crashes in Douglas County in 2016, 36 fatalities and 6,116 injuries. (

“Vision Zero is a common sense goal we should strive for,” said Mayor Jean Stothert.  “Public safety is our primary responsibility and priority.  The Active Living Advisory Committee has presented an excellent recommendation and we will proceed.”

The Active Living Advisory Committee recommends a final report within 9-18 months.

"A vision zero goal prioritizes human life as we make decisions on transportation design, education, and enforcement. It also promotes interagency coordination of safety analysis and implementation,” said Committee Chairman Mark Stursma. “I would like to personally thank Mayor Stothert for her leadership on this important initiative.  The goal is zero, but if even one life is saved it will be a worthwhile endeavor.”

Members of the Active Living Advisory Committee are:

Mark Stursma, Planning Director, City of Papillion (Committee Chair)

Ben Turner, Omaha B-cycle Executive Director

Andy Wessel, Douglas County Health Department

Christopher Rolling, Civil Engineer, Olsson Associates

Tom Everson, Founder - Keep Kids Alive Drive 25

Pell Duvall, Duvall Consulting

More information about the Active Living Advisory Committee and the Vision Zero recommendation is available at:

(October 12, 2017)

Two new recycling drop-off locations opened today in Omaha, expanding the number of sites that accept glass to nine.

“As our city grows, the need for this service has increased and we are responding to you,” said Mayor Jean Stothert.

The expansion is possible through a partnership between the City of Omaha, Keep Omaha Beautiful, and Ripple Glass of Kansas City, Missouri.

The new locations are HyVee at 178th & Pacific and Fresh Thyme at 14949 Evans Plaza. These new containers are bright purple and follow the Ripple Glass theme used in a five-state area. Omaha’s other glass containers will also be converted to the purple theme.

In late 2016, Keep Omaha Beautiful wrote a grant for approximately $14,000  to the Nebraska Recycling Council to purchase new collection containers.  The council received the grant funds from the Nebraska Environmental Trust, a beneficiary of the Nebraska Lottery.

“The Nebraska Environmental Trust is very pleased to be a partner in this project to recycle glass in Nebraska’s largest city, Omaha.  Every bottle that is recycled is one less bottle in a local landfill,” said Nebraska Environmental Trust Executive Director Mark Brohman.

“The Nebraska Recycling Council was excited to provide Nebraska Environmental Trust grant funds to Keep Omaha Beautiful for these containers, and support their partnership with our friends at Ripple Glass,” said Nebraska Recycling Council Executive Director Julie Diegel. “Glass recycling in this large population center is more convenient than ever, no more difficult than a trip to the grocery store and it will have a profound impact on resource conservation, economic development, and landfill longevity in the region.”

In 2016, more than 1,200 tons of glass were collected for recycling at drop-off locations. (The City discontinued curbside glass recycling collections in 2006 due to hazards from broken glass and contaminants when it is not separated from other recyclables.) The glass is shipped to Ripple Glass where it is manufactured into new products.  Last year, the city paid River City Recycling approximately $79,000 to empty the recycling containers and prepare the glass for shipment to Ripple. 

“Ripple Glass is excited to expand our partnership with the City of Omaha to provide residents with convenient locations to recycle their glass,” said Regional Business Manager Sarah Luebe. “All of the glass recycled in Omaha is processed and made into fiberglass insulation and new bottles, which reduces waste, conserves landfill space and supports area businesses.” 

“It has been exciting to see so many different organizations come together to help make this expansion of the City’s glass recycling program happen. With more glass collection drop-off sites spread throughout Omaha, we are making it much easier for residents to recycle their glass and demonstrate their commitment to diverting material from the landfill,” said Keep Omaha Beautiful Executive Director Chris Stratman.

Stratman says when the new containers are used to capacity,  an additional 350 tons of glass will be collected annually.

The other recycling sites in Omaha are at these locations:


20801 Elkhorn Drive

26th & Douglas (NE corner)

75th & Corby

River City Recycling - 6404 S. 60th

Firstar Fiber - 10330 I Street


2725 N. 62nd Street

Heartland of America Park - 800 Douglas

Information about the City’s recycling program is available on and in the fall edition of “Wasteline”, which will be available online Friday October 13 at   The Wasteline publication will be delivered to homes next week.

To learn more about Ripple Glass and its recycling process, watch this video:



(September 26, 2017)

The Omaha City Council will consider an ordinance to prohibit all types of occupation or use  on certain medians.

Mayor Jean Stothert asked the Law and Public Works Departments to recommend a strategy to address increasing numbers of people using the medians.  The result of that request is the Median Prohibition Ordinance.

The ordinance applies to medians within 200 feet of an intersection.  High traffic volume, a posted speed limit of 30mph or higher or certain width and incline requirements would also be considered. Signs would be posted at intersections that meet the specific criteria listed in the ordinance.  Examples could include 72nd and Dodge, 120th and West Center, and Saddle Creek and Leavenworth.   The ordinance does not apply to sidewalks or private property. 

“This ordinance attempts to minimize the risk to everyone who uses our city streets,” said Mayor Jean Stothert.

Statistics provided by the Traffic Engineering Division show 74% of all pedestrian crashes happen at an intersection.  The majority of those crashes occur on collector and arterial streets where the posted speed limit is 30mph or higher.

“I don’t believe we have to wait for someone to be injured or killed to act,” said Assistant City Attorney Ryan Wiesen. "We believe this is about the preservation of human health and safety."

The proposed ordinance includes exceptions for street maintenance or repairs, law enforcement, utility, communications, and cable companies with permits for infrastructure installation, maintenance or repair, and pedestrians crossing the street who stop temporarily on the median for safety purposes.

The ordinance is modeled after a Colorado Springs law, enacted in February 2017.

The ordinance will be on the City Council agenda for first reading on October 3.


(September 20, 2017)

Mayor Jean Stothert has selected Dr. Franklin Thompson, a veteran Omaha City Council member, community leader and educator, to lead the City of Omaha Human Rights and Relations Department.

Dr. Thompson’s areas of expertise are race relations, human relations, multicultural education, conflict management and counseling.

“I have worked with Dr. Thompson for eight years, first as colleagues on the Omaha City Council and later as Mayor,” said Mayor Stothert.  “He has the unique mix of professional, academic and management skills to assist citizens and lead the staff of the Human Rights and Relations Department.”

The Human Rights and Relations (HRR)  Department investigates discrimination complaints and civil rights violations, conducts community outreach to promote diversity, provides administrative support to several volunteer boards and commissions, administers the certification process for the Small and Emerging Business program and monitors city contracts for compliance with the city’s economic inclusion requirements. 

“While making our city great is often viewed in terms of the resources invested in erecting brick-and-mortar structures and getting businesses to relocate to the metro area, the real test of community- building is realized when we put our best efforts into helping people realize that our lives, our goals, and our dreams are interdependent on one another,” said Dr. Thompson. "In order to build Omaha, you have to build people too."

After four terms, Thompson retired from the Omaha City Council after representing District 6 from 2001-2017. He joined the UNO faculty in 1993 and is a tenured Associate Professor in the College of Education. His previous academic experience includes Director of Diversity at Creighton Prep High School and teaching and counseling positions at Blackburn and Burke High Schools.

He holds an M.S. in counseling psychology, an Ed.S to be a school principal, and an Ed.D. in school superintendency. He has published numerous articles and facilitated national workshops on race relations, human relations and multicultural education.

Dr. Thompson will initially work part-time as the Human Rights and Relations Director until the end of the year to complete his teaching responsibilities at UNO.  In January, he will transition to full-time employment with the City of Omaha and a part-time teaching position. His annual salary will be $140,000.

"I don't think we could hire a better person for the job," said Mayor Stothert. "I want Omaha to be a more inclusive city and that's one thing this department can have a big role in."

In June, after leaving the Omaha City Council, the City of Omaha Pension Board approved Thompson’s monthly pension.  Dr. Thompson will return the pension payments already received, approximately $4,300, to be eligible for the full-time appointment to Human Rights and Relations Director.  He will begin the new position immediately.

An Assistant Human Rights and Relations Director will also be hired.  The job posting is available at  The application deadline is October 3.

(September 7, 2017)

The City of Omaha, Omaha Police Department and University of Nebraska Medical Center have reached an agreement to move additional police crime lab services to UNMC.

“Our goal is independent, efficient and timely evidence testing,” said Police Chief Todd Schmaderer.  “We have a proven track record with UNMC.  This agreement enhances our crime lab services and has opportunities to expand even further.”

UNMC will initially provide drug testing and will continue DNA testing which has been the practice for more than 15 years. Blood alcohol and urine toxicology testing are expected to be added by the first of the year.

UNMC’s lab is an accredited lab, one of several key factors in the decision.  “The crime lab of the future should be independent, full-service and accredited.  That’s what we gain at UNMC, all three,” said Mayor Stothert.

Currently, OPD contracts with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office for crime lab services at an annual cost of $135,000.  Chief Schmaderer has notified Sheriff Tim Dunning that the interlocal agreement will be terminated in 90 days, as required by the agreement.  Schmaderer expects the move to UNMC to be cost-neutral for the city, though the new agreement is based on a free structure, not an annual fee.

“UNMC is recognized nationally for its quality of work,” said Mayor Stothert.  “This agreement provides the tools and the independent staff we think are so critical. The evidence needed to achieve a conviction rate that matches our high arrest rate will be reliable and accurate. Juries will trust the evidence.”

City Prosecutor Matt Kuhse called the agreement phenomenal and necessary and said he has supported the partnership with UNMC for a long time. “Juries are increasingly skeptical of crime labs connected with an agency that also collected the evidence,” said Kuhse.

 “The University is proud to expand the diagnostic laboratory testing services for our community. We have provided quality diagnostic crime lab services for the city, several counties and the state for many years. This expansion of services is particularly important at this time, with the opioid epidemic that is sweeping our country and the resultant need for more testing of this type, said UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D. “We are honored to assist the city in this endeavor, as we always strive to be a resource to organizations that can benefit from our services."

"We will leverage our experience in chemical preparedness to help meet the needs of the city,” said Dr. Gold, noting that the lab equipment UNMC will be using is the same sophisticated equipment that has made the medical center a national leader in the bio and chemical preparedness field. 

“Any such testing would be done in a timely manner, usually within 5-7 days,” said Steven Hinrichs, M.D., professor and chair of the UNMC Department of Pathology and Microbiology. “If it’s determined that the test results need to be expedited in a more timely manner, we will perform the testing within 24 hours.”

Chief Schmaderer said the short turnaround time for test results is critical for police investigators and prosecutors.  “Timely turnaround is very important for suspects and in the courtroom,” said Schmaderer.

“One of our disappointments with Douglas County has been the time lag to get testing back.  Prosecutors want to see the evidence before charging decisions are made.”  He estimated the current wait time for test results is often two weeks or more.

The agreement between the City and UNMC will take effect October 1, if approved by the Omaha City Council. The ordinance creating the crime lab agreement will be on the council agenda for first reading on September 12. The vote is expected September 26.

After approval, Dr. Hinrichs said UNMC would rapidly implement the necessary services to meet the increased volume of cases coming to the lab which will likely include additional staff.  The University also plans to offer a new Master’s Degree program in Forensic Science.  Dr. Gold said the program could be approved this fall, student recruiting would begin in the spring, with classes beginning in the 2018 fall semester.

Chief Schmaderer and Mayor Jean Stothert have advocated for an independent crime lab for several years.  They tried unsuccessfully to negotiate with Douglas County to move all crime lab services to the UNMC campus.  “We attempted to do this with all three parties, but it did not work out.  I made the decision to move ahead. I am disappointed, but we would welcome Douglas County if they want to join us.  We hope someday to have them on board,” said Schmaderer.

(September 6, 2017)

The City of Omaha and the Elkhorn Suburban Fire Protection District No. 2 have reached a tentative agreement to continue to provide fire, rescue and medical services to the Elkhorn Suburban Fire Protection District No. 2.

Mayor Jean Stothert, Omaha Fire Chief Dan Olsen, Elkhorn Suburban Fire Chief Travis Harlow and Elkhorn Suburban Fire District Board President Bill Armbrust negotiated the terms of the agreement Wednesday. The tentative 10-year agreement must be approved by the Elkhorn Suburban Fire Protection District Board of Directors and the Omaha City Council.

Last week, the Elkhorn Suburban Fire Protection District announced it would not renew its current contract with the Omaha Fire Department when it expires in 2018, and would instead re-establish an operational fire department to cover approximately 36 square miles in western Douglas County. Both sides agreed to return to negotiations this week.

“We all share the goal to provide excellent fire and medical services to the citizens of both jurisdictions,” said Mayor Stothert.  “We are pleased that we will continue to work together.”’

”The goal of the Elkhorn Suburban Fire Protection District is to provide the residents and property owners within the District with excellent fire and rescue services at a reasonable cost whether that be through a contract with the City or a re-established fire department,” said District President Bill Armbrust.  “We believe the negotiated terms of this contract with the City shall achieve that goal for the District.”

Specific details of the agreement will be announced after the board and council have been briefed.

(August 11, 2017)

The 2016 end of year financial report shows the year ended with an $11.1 million dollar surplus.  The surplus grew from $9 million reported in mid-March.

Revenue slightly exceeded projections, all departments were under budget and funds held in the wage adjustment account were paid after successful contract negotiations with the Omaha Police Officers Association (OPOA).

Projections show the 2017 fiscal year will also end with a surplus, estimated at $2.6 million.  The second quarter report released today shows most city departments will end the year at or under budget.  Sales tax revenue, motor vehicle taxes, restaurant tax and building permit revenue are estimated to be over budget.

“These financial reports show we carefully prepare every department’s budget and monitor spending throughout the year,” said Mayor Jean Stothert.  “The city’s general fund budget is funded by the taxpayers and a public accounting of how we spend your money is your right and our responsibility.”

End of year expense projection highlights:

  • Retiree health care expenses-over $1,583,353
  • Public Works-over budget $167,076
  • City Clerk-over budget $53,833
  • Law - under $294,652
  • Finance – under $328,405
  • Planning- under $96,503
  • City Council-under $57,161
  • Parks, Police, Fire, Convention & Visitors Bureau are expected to be at budget

 End of year revenue projections remain unchanged from the second quarter report:

  • Motor Vehicle Taxes-$1.5 million surplus
  • City Sales and Use Tax- $1.6 million surplus
  • Restaurant Tax - $435,819 surplus
  • Building Permits -$503,301 surplus
  • Utility Occupation Taxes - $3.8 million under (Revenue decline is due to decline in use of land lines)

“I am especially pleased to see the building permit revenue continue to increase,” said Mayor Stothert. “In the last four years we have issued more than 61,000 building permits for a total value of $3.2 billion.  This is an indication of our strong local economy.” 

The projected overrun in the City Clerk’s department is due to the retirements of longtime City Clerk Buster Brown and Deputy City Clerk Sandy Moses.  Public Works is over in the facilities category, and the largest overrun is due to increases in health care claims for retired city employees.

“Health care expense is a variable and is difficult to accurately predict,” said Finance Director Steve Curtiss.  “Despite the larger than expected increase in retiree claims, overall health care spending is down and we continue to save in this area.”

As required by the City Charter, an end-of-year 2017 surplus must be carried over to the 2019 budget or used for cash reserve. 

(July 28, 2017)

Mayor Jean Stothert returned to Omaha Friday after participating in the National League of Cities conference in Washington D.C. this week.

She has now been briefed by the Public Works traffic division on the plans to remove the pedestrian crossing signals at 51st & Farnam and 52nd & Chicago.

Mayor Stothert directed that both signals will be turned back on today.  In addition, the study period  will be extended to collect additional data at both crossings during the 2017-2018 school year.

“Safety is always our number one priority,” said Mayor Jean Stothert. “An additional year of study will provide more comprehensive information to make such an important decision.”

Additional traffic and pedestrian counts at various times over the next year will provide data to satisfy the federal mandates in the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).  The study criteria must meet the federal guidelines.

At the conclusion of the school year, Mayor Stothert and the traffic engineers will present the results of all studies to the neighbors and Dundee Elementary School parents.  She also plans a neighborhood meeting next month to review the citywide traffic signal master plan. A date will be selected soon.

Over the next 10 years, the City will implement the $35 million plan to modernize and upgrade the traffic signal system to improve safety and efficiency for all users. The City currently has 1,000 traffic signals using outdated technology.

The Federal Highway Administration will pay 80% of the total project cost. To qualify for the federal funding, each signal must be evaluated to determine if it meets the requirements of the MUTCD.

The initial phase of the evaluation, which is currently underway, involves 200 signals.

Area school principals were contacted in September for input on the use of these crosswalks and the impact on student safety.  The City Council’s Public Works Committee was briefed in January 2017. Council members Jerram, Festersen and Melton were members of this committee .

In April 2016, the traffic division installed counters on the signals to accurately count the number of pedestrians using the crosswalks.  The counters collected data from April 16-May 2, prior to the end of the school year.

The MUTCD warrants for these crosswalks requires a count of 20 pedestrians in peak hours of the day.  During the evaluation period (April 16-May 2), the average number of pedestrians using the crosswalks was 17 for an entire 24-hour period, far below the MUTCD requirement.

The pedestrian count is the base measurement for this evaluation, traffic counts and gaps in traffic are also considered. A gap in traffic is the time between the passage of one vehicle to the next.

Plans to remove four signals at other locations are not affected by the Mayor's decision to re-evaluate the signals at 51st & Farnam and 52nd & Chicago.  They do not meet the federally required warrants. Those signals are true traffic signals, unlike the two pedestrian crossing school signals.  Those locations are:

120th & Arbor

108th 7 Oak

73rd & Mercy

84th & Spring

(July 6, 2017)

Omaha’s new lake and recreation area needs a name.

Currently referred to as Dam Site 15A, the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District developed the flood control reservoir and public recreation area northwest of 168th & Fort.  The Omaha City Council approved an interlocal agreement in 2012 that allows the City of Omaha Parks Department to manage the dam site and surrounding park when it opens next spring.

The park will include a 4.5 mile concrete walking trail around the lake, playground, boat ramp and potentially a baseball field.  Funds for the park are already included in the Capital Improvement Plan.

The City Naming Committee, established by city ordinance in 2010, will recommend a name to submit to the Park and Recreation Board and the  Omaha City Council for approval.  The committee includes three members appointed by the mayor and six department directors required by the ordinance (Police Chief, Fire Chief, Parks Director, Planning Director, Public Works Director, and Library Director). The appointed members are Douglas County Commissioners P.J. Morgan and Marc Kraft and Mike Kennedy.

This will be the first time the committee has met to name a park since the ordinance has been in place.

From now until July 24th, suggestions to name the lake and park can be made by email, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  The committee’s recommendation will be sent to the City Council by mid-August.

City ordinance 38803 specifically outlines the process for naming public property:

“Upon an application for a naming or renaming of a park property, any person or body reviewing, providing a recommendation on, or disposing of such an application shall take into consideration the following criteria:

(a) In naming or renaming city park property, consideration shall be primarily given to the following purposes: to honor and commemorate noteworthy persons associated with the city; to celebrate local history, places, events or culture; to strengthen neighborhood identity; or to recognize native wildlife, flora, fauna or natural features related to the community and the city.

 b) If an application is made to name or rename public park property after an individual,   

this person shall have

(1) Demonstrated excellence of contributions to the city's development, community service, personal sacrifice for public service or national defense, or efforts to foster equality among the citizens of the city.

(2) Historical significance locally, nationally or globally with significant local or regional ties.

(c) Denial of an application may be appropriate if such naming or renaming may tend to bring disrepute upon the community for any reason, or would not be looked upon favorably by a majority of city residents.

(d) Titles, rank, or religious designations shall not be allowed on a public park property named for an individual. A nickname will also not be allowed, unless such person is best known by that nickname.

(e)  In the case of naming or renaming a park or natural environmental feature after any person, such naming or renaming shall be prohibited until the person has been deceased for a period of at least five years. As an exception to this provision, the name of such person may be approved if such person shall have provided direct significant contributions of lands, funds, goods or services to the city, and/or parks and recreation department, or is being recognized for a foundation gift(s), and if such naming or renaming receives unanimous votes of approval by the parks advisory board and the city council.”

Other dam sites developed by the NRD and managed by the Omaha Parks, Recreation and Public Property Department include:

Zorinsky, named for former United States Senator and Omaha Mayor Ed Zorinsky

Standing Bear, named for Ponca Chief Standing Bear

Cunningham, named for former U.S. Congressman and Omaha Mayor Glenn Cunningham

Youngman, named for Omaha World-Herald war correspondent Lawrence Youngman. Youngman’s daughter was a principal donor to the park.