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Omaha Mayor (2017)

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    Heath Mello Executive Director, Nebraska Career Education and Innovation Foundation

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    Jean Stothert Mayor, City of Omaha

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Biographical Information

What are the top three issues you feel must be addressed in the next four years and how will you do so?

What steps should the City of Omaha take to expand economic growth?

Are there services or operations that you think the City and County should consider merging and why?

What are Omaha’s most pressing transportation needs? If elected, how would you address those needs? (Online only)

What, if any, changes would you like to see to the current waste collection system? (Online only)

Address PO Box 456 Omaha, NE 68101
Current Public Office, dates held N/A
Past Public Office, dates held Nebraska Legislature, District 5, 2009-2017
Education Bachelor’s in Political Science, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Military experience N/A
Volunteer experience Local Board and Committee Memberships: South Omaha Neighborhood Alliance South Omaha Business Association South Omaha Environmental Task Force Q Merchants Association inCOMMON Community Development Omaha by Design Executive Committee, Heartland 2050
My three top priorities as Omaha’s next Mayor are to modernize our transportation and infrastructure; to reinvent City Hall to build the economy of the future; and to reduce crime in all zip codes.

To address maintenance for our current roads and to develop a 21st Century transportation system, I’ve proposed an “Omaha Infrastructure Bank” that would serve as a public-private partnership financing mechanism.

Second, Omaha faces a chronic lack of vision in planning for the future of our economy. We must capitalize on our innovation-driven higher education institutions and growing entrepreneurial ecosystem and startup community. Through collaborative partnerships, the metropolitan area could become a national leader in creating and supporting 21st Century jobs in advanced industries.

Thirdly, in all corners of the city, I hear concerns about crime. We must build on our 21st Century policing techniques, including data analytics and predictive software, and body-worn cameras for every officer. An independent staffing analysis will help improve response times. Most importantly, we must address the root causes of crime, such as lack of access to living wage jobs, affordable housing, and reliable transportation.
Our goal should be to foster a culture that encourages entrepreneurship and innovation, and gives start-up businesses the freedom they need to succeed. We must assist, as a city, the small businesses and entrepreneurs that drive so much of our local economic growth. This begins with embracing an “economic gardening” approach to help our existing small businesses with innovative technical assistance and market research. Our city also has a unique opening to capitalize on our manufacturing industry that must continue to be an economic driver in a rapidly changing economy. Proactively working to develop productive relationships between emerging and existing businesses and City Hall is key to our city's growth and economic development.
I would look to merge individual services through a consensus-building approach. Anything less than having consensus on any merged service will make it almost impossible to achieve the desired results for both the city and the county. I believe the City of Omaha and Douglas County should be constantly evaluating opportunities to merge similar services that affect the same taxpayers. However, since I believe any merged service should be done through consensus, I do not believe the City of Omaha or Douglas County should try to unilaterally try to take over each other’s responsibilities. This “my way or the highway” approach is detrimental to building a positive working relationship between city and county offices and employees.
Ranked by one national nonprofit as the “seventh worst” in the nation for its poor roads, Omaha has nothing but opportunity to improve. Yet as a city, we remain at a standstill. I believe that additional local funding, along with state and federal funding streams where available, is necessary to keep Omaha moving in a modern, future-focused direction. Our residents deserve better than to drive over the same potholes year after year or to have their own streets ground into gravel.

As mentioned, I’ve proposed creating an “Omaha Infrastructure Bank” that would serve as a public-private partnership financing mechanism to address both infrastructure maintenance and new systems development.
I believe that changes to our system will be most successful when residents are provided the opportunity to share their input. A study would help facilitate this.

As Mayor, I will lead on exploring economic development opportunities with glass recycling. Because we now ship glass out of town for recycling, we are missing an opportunity to bring in a glass manufacturer to assist with our glass recycling needs.

Another issue is size of recycling bins. I support larger recycling containers if that will help people recycle more. However, some people, due to the size of their house, don’t want a very large container. I believe that we must provide several options to help people recycle more easily.
Address 440 Regency Parkway, Ste 132 Omaha NE 68114
Current Public Office, dates held Mayor, City of Omaha - Sworn in June, 2013
Past Public Office, dates held Councilmember, Omaha City Council, 2009 - 2013 Member, Millard Board of Education 1997 - 2008
Education B.S. degree in Nursing, Seattle Pacific University.
Volunteer experience Millard Board of Education, NE Medical Guild, Metropolitan Area Planning Authority, League of Municipalities, American Nurses Association, Salvation Army Board of Directors, NE Humane Society Friend, South Omaha Business Association, Millard Rotary.
I believe the three most important issues facing Omaha are improving public safety, ensuring our transportation systems are well maintained, modern, and safe, and, keeping taxes as low as possible while providing the highest quality city services that taxpayers deserve.

Our relentless and daily focus on public safety has included the addition of 56 new police officers and restructuring of some police department operations. We are making progress. Omaha’s homicide rate at the end of 2016 was the lowest in 13 years and gun assaults are down.

My vision for the future of transportation in Omaha and the metro is to provide reliable, safe, efficient and well-managed transportation systems that move residents, employees, and commerce across a wide variety of transit modes. The City of Omaha will soon have doubled the amount of funding dedicated to street resurfacing and repair since I first took office four years ago.

Finally, an ongoing challenge in Nebraska is our level of taxation, especially compared to neighboring states; those with whom we compete for economic development opportunities. We have lowered Omaha’s tax rate twice since I’ve been mayor. Our first tax cut was the first property tax rate reduction in 14 years.
An ongoing challenge and opportunity for any city is job creation and neighborhood development, especially in our urban core. More jobs and better opportunities have a positive effect on public safety, civic engagement, housing opportunities, and Omaha families. We are strongly supporting job training and work initiatives that create opportunity such as the Greater Omaha Chamber’s REACH program for small and disadvantaged companies, Heartland Workforce Solutions, and the Step-Up Summer Jobs program. In terms of general economic development, we benefit from growth among our young professional and young family communities, enhancing the city’s transportation system, reducing tax rates, and leveraging civic partnerships.
One specific area of merger and cooperation that I strongly support is to merge the existing crime labs operated by the Omaha Police Department and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. Although there is currently good cooperation, more can and should be done to improve these services to taxpayers. I have been advocating for a merged and accredited, full service crime lab at the University of Nebraska Medical Center Campus. This has been supported by the Douglas County attorney, the Omaha Police chief, and several local public officials. The savings could be significant from operating one crime lab with one management structure, one location, and centralized laboratory equipment.
High quality transportation and related infrastructures are critical for a growing city like ours to provide a system that stimulates commerce and everyday living. Our capital improvement program for the next six years that includes approximately $320 million dollars for transportation projects will help address these ongoing needs. We are actively engaged in supporting the Metro Transit Bus Rapid Transit System project and we’ve improved parking options. In addition, Omaha is growing to the point where a modern street car system makes sense. Although years from completion, it will further develop our urban core, reduce traffic congestion, and connect Omaha’s most popular venues. We can get this done without a property tax increase.
Waste Management collects solid waste, recyclables, and yard waste from about 140,000 households each week in Omaha. The current contract with Waste Management - in place since 2006 - expires in 2020 and they have advised us they are open to re-bidding so we can improve services more quickly. I believe it is time for an overhaul of the current system and we have been working toward this for more than a year. I support a modern collection system, using covered, wheeled carts and natural gas trucks with automated collection arms. My goal is to have reliable service, technology upgrades, and environmentally-sound collection and disposal, without increased taxes.

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