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Omaha City Council, District 1

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    Pete Festersen
    (D)

  • Candidate picture

    Sarah Johnson
    (NP)

Biographical Information

What examples of police reform do you support?

In what specific ways will you increase the safety and availability of affordable housing in your community?

Is the new ORBT bus system working as well as expected? If not, what improvements need to be made?

Current Public Office, dates held Omaha City Councilman 2009-Present
Past Public Office, dates held Omaha City Council President 2013-2015
Education B.A. Connecticut College M.P.A. University of Nebraska at Omaha
Military experience None
Volunteer experience Saving Grace Perishable Food Rescue United Way of the Midlands Avenue Scholars Omaha Childrens Museum College World Series, Inc NE Early Childhood Collaborative NE Chamber of Commerce NE State Trauma Board Omaha Planning Board
I am supportive of community policing policies that proactively engage the community and build trust with law enforcement. I am an active participant working on police community relations with organizations such as the empowerment network and have actively supported city contributions toward violence prevention including the police athletic league for at-risk kids (PACE). In addition to such community partnerships, we must continue to improve accountability and transparency within law enforcement including civilian oversight, recently adopted standard operating procedure reforms, and an easy to access public complaint process that results in expedient review and decisive actions when discipline or firing of an officer is justified. I have also supported additional training for police officers and amended the city budget to include funding for mental health strategies as the need is great and law enforcement shouldn't be the first contact for those in mental health crisis.
Safe and affordable housing is a key issue for the future of our community. As chair of the City Council's planning committee I led the effort to pass the city's first landlord registry ordinance and increased the number of housing inspectors. I am currently working on affordable housing strategies to address the estimated 80,000 unit shortage in our community that will include changes to tax increment financing policy and partnerships with the development and philanthropic communities.
I have been very supportive of the new ORBT bus system as a first step towards modernizing our public transit system and I passed transit oriented development master plan amendments to help ensure its long-term success. As we continue to assess its ridership and make necessary adjustments, we need to encourage a variety of other public transit enhancements so we are able to serve those that are most in need of convenient access to public transit and so we can attract our future workforce.
Current Public Office, dates held n/a
Past Public Office, dates held n/a
Education Bachelor of Journalism - Broadcasting 2003 University of Nebraska Lincoln
Military experience none
Volunteer experience Co-founder of Mode Shift Omaha and served on the board of directors as vice chair and treasurer. Benson BID Board member and Neighborhood Association member. Benson Out Back group as well as Benson First Friday Green Team Clean up crew.
I think it's important to start by addressing the fact that Black and Brown people are disproportionately affected by police violence and are over policed in general. Racism is sadly still alive and well in Omaha. We need to look at what public safety really means and I'm all for more compassion and care and less cages and surveillance. At a bare minimum a Citizen Oversight Committee is crucial for building trust between the public and the OPD. I think it's also crucial to look at the root cause of crime and handle issues proactively rather than reactively. We shouldn't criminalize homelessness or panhandling. We should allocate more resources to mental health (like the CAHOOTS model in Eugene OR), housing, addressing poverty, keeping kids fed & engaged in school. Omaha recently hired a Vision Zero coordinator who will hopefully address road design to curb speeding so there is less police/public interaction in general. No new prisons! Remove SROs. Demilitarize the OPD. End cash bail.
With a shortage of about 80,000 affordable units we need to look at multiple angles to address this crisis with urgency. TIF is currently misused and I think that affordable housing needs to be mandated if we're giving away (or rather, not receiving) tax dollars to developers. I also think that we need to allocate City funds to allow a right to counsel for all of our renters. We need to end exclusionary zoning and allow ADUs to be built. Prohibit retaliatory evictions. Update our housing plan!
Due to the pandemic it's off to a subpar start; a lot of riders aren't wearing masks which needs to be addressed. One way the City can better support ORBT and Metro transit in general, is by treating sidewalks as part of the transportation network. Right now they're not prioritized when it comes to crosswalk maintenance & snow clearing. This is unacceptable as clear sidewalks & ADA curb cuts are key to accessibility. We also need to mandate TOD instead of making it optional, and add a N/S ORBT.