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Your priorities are my priorities. That will never change.Issues

COVID Response and Recovery

While our city has weathered the pandemic better than most, we still have much work to do. My 2021 Priority List for COVID Recovery provides a framework to get us there. The best part? Most of this work is already underway.

My 10-Point Pandemic Recovery 2021 Priorities

My priorities for COVID recovery include advocacy and support for vaccine distribution and an extended mask ordinance.  As a former critical care nurse, I know how important the vaccine is, and I encourage you to get the shots when you can. Additional priorities include support for job training and work transition efforts, as well as significant financial assistance for those with housing insecurity.

I will also continue working with the Mayor’s COVID Advisory Board, which has been operational since March 2020. This group of community leaders and health experts has provided pivotal guidance in decision-making and best practices for all of Omaha. Our 2021 priorities include youth services, small business support, mental health and health equity.

We have already used various funding sources for rent and mortgage assistance, food distribution, mental health services and emergency shelter for people impacted by COVID. We will continue aligning resources with needs as we move into the closing stages of the pandemic. You can read and print copies of the checklist HERE

What we’ve done so far

We activated our COVID Advisory Board in March 2020. Since then, we’ve worked closely with the Douglas County Health Department, the University of Nebraska Medical Center, and many other local partners and leaders to make the best decisions for the safety and well-being of our residents and community. 

From March until now, I’ve held over 25 news conferences with Douglas County Health Director Adi Pour to keep you informed about how COVID was impacting our community and steps we must all take to keep our community as safe as possible.

Our unemployment rate has dropped below 3.5% after jumping to over 9% last summer, but too many people are now underemployed or working multiple jobs to make ends meet. In 2021 and beyond, we will continue expanding support for job training programs and work transition efforts.  

We know our restaurants and small businesses have been seriously damaged by the pandemic, and to provide some relief, we waived all late fees on the city restaurant tax from March through December, 2020. I was delighted when we were able to provide a gift to the Food Bank of over $105,000, money from swimming pool admission fees, made possible by private donor support.
Safer Neighborhoods and More Confidence in Public Safety

No issue is more important than the safety and security of everyone who calls Omaha home.  The majority of our city general fund budget is dedicated to public safety, namely the police and fire departments.

Public Safety Budget Allocation

Percent of Omaha General Fund Budget Dedicated to Public Safety:

Omaha Police Department 36.7%
Omaha Fire Department 26.4%
Total 63.1%
Increasing Safety

One of our initial goals was to add nearly 100 new police officers for a total of 902 budgeted officers.  We have now met this important milestone and we’ve done it without increasing the city property tax rate.

We built and staffed a new police precinct in Elkhorn to improve response times and provide better service citywide.  Our department leadership has worked hard to build community trust by working with neighborhood and volunteer groups.  These partners are critical to our work in reducing crime and supporting our youth.

Together, We’ve Made Great Progress
  • More highly trained police officers are on the job now than ever before
  • Annual crime numbers for the most serious crimes (Part 1 offenses) are the lowest in a decade, even as our city has grown.
  • More crimes are being solved now than in the past.
  • Police response times for 911 calls have improved and are now better than we’ve seen in over 10 years.
  • Officer-involved shootings are the lowest on record

Going forward, our goal is to make a very good police department even better.

How We Will Increase Safety
  • Further reducing the incidence of crime, especially violent crime,
  • Expanding the department’s mental health co-responder program so more resources are directed at mental illness and its impact on illegal behavior.
  • Providing the best equipment possible, like body-worn cameras, so officers can do their job effectively and with greater transparency,
  • Hiring a more diverse police force,
  • Building stronger community/officer relationships, and,
  • Providing citizens a better way to voice issues regarding law enforcement conduct.

In addition to Omaha’s 902 sworn police officers, our city has 663 committed employees in the fire department.  These men and women dedicate themselves to public safety through lifesaving responsibilities like firefighting, training, education, and ambulance and emergency services.
Doubling Road Repair Work for Safer Driving and a Better City

Omaha’s decades-long frustration with potholes and rough roads, especially each spring when the freeze/thaw cycle damages roads quickly, required a bold initiative and the leadership to get it enacted.

Road Map to Better Streets

Voter approval of our “Road Map to Better Streets” plan in 2020 has provided funds for the start of new and significant road repair work that will continue for many years to come.

We had to move away from temporary road patching and commit to a long-term, comprehensive plan to dedicate more resources to finally fix the roads we all drive on each day.

Our plan was developed after extensive public input and community meetings.  We knew Omaha taxpayers had to be partners in the solution from day one.

Working together, we proposed one of the most significant financial and community improvement initiatives in history.  Omaha voters overwhelmingly approved our new roads program and a future levy increase to pay for it.

Our Focus for the Years Ahead

Here is what we are focused on in the years ahead:

  • Managing city finances well so we can postpone the voter-approved levy increase for street repair as long as possible,
  • Doubling the amount of road repair work done in Omaha each and every year,
  • Requiring reliable and competitive bids so more road repairs and resurfacing can be accomplished with the funding available,
  • Providing $6 million in new funding each year to address Omaha’s “unimproved streets”. These are streets that were not initially built to current city standards by subdivision developers,
  • Eliminating government regulations that slow down road repair projects, and,
  • Ensuring faster approvals and more funding for unimproved street repairs in high poverty areas.

All of the long overdue work on our roads will require our patience and it will take some time to feel like we are really catching up.

This new program will require daily management and oversight to get the work done right.  I am proud to have proposed this successful initiative and I would be even more proud to manage it for Omaha for the next four years!
Job Growth & Economic Development

While most of the economic news focuses on the many large and important development projects currently underway in our city, I am just as excited about the small businesses that are hiring, relocating, and growing right here in Omaha.

Omaha Ranked #5 in the Country

A recent study ranked Omaha #5 in the country in their report “Best Cities for Young Professionals”.  The work ethic, low unemployment, cost of living, exciting downtown, professional growth opportunities, and recreational and entertainment options in Omaha are hard to beat.

Welcoming Small Businesses

One of the best parts of being mayor is welcoming small businesses as they take on new employees, expand their business, or build an addition.  Supporting entrepreneurs and witnessing their passion to compete in our free enterprise system is very exciting!

Workforce Bouncing Back After the Pandemic

Omaha has bounced back faster than most after a rough start nationally due to the pandemic. Employment and building projects have restarted quickly and I know 2021 will be a great year for our Omaha workforce.

How We Will Support Job Growth

Our work to support job growth and development will include:

  • Providing high quality support and services to the many individuals and companies we work with, from issuing building permits to providing inspection services. In 2019 alone we issued building permits exceeding $1 billion in value,
  • Meeting the commitments we have made to the many large scale construction projects that are underway in every part of our city. These include the redevelopment of Crossroads, the Blackstone District in midtown, the 500-acre Heartwood Preserve project west and south of 144th and West Dodge Road, Avenue One at 192nd and West Dodge Road, Millwork Commons, the Builder’s District, and Capitol District projects in our downtown core.
  • Expanding support for job training programs and work transition efforts led by many of our local non-profit organizations.
  • Promoting our business incentives, reducing government barriers and regulations that stifle business growth, and helping our business organizations recruit business and talent to Omaha, and,
  • Enhancing the appeal of Omaha to young professionals who want an exciting urban setting that offers entertainment, retail services, social and recreation spaces, and low-cost transit options.
Tax Less and Manage the Money

My commitment to providing high quality city services to taxpayers – while keeping taxes as low as possible – is clear.

Keeping the City Property Tax Rate as Low as Possible

There are two primary sources of city revenue, the city sales tax and the city’s portion of the local property tax.

The sales tax rate remains unchanged since I first became mayor and we have lowered the city property tax rate twice.  While the city portion of your property tax is smaller than some other taxing entities (and some of them have increased their rates) we are doing all we can to run Omaha efficiently and keep rates at the lowest possible level.

We’ve grown the economy, expanded city boundaries, added to critical efforts like public safety, and started transportation initiatives and park improvements, all while experiencing minimal growth in the city budget and reducing the tax rate twice.  That’s a record I’m proud of!

My Commitment for the Next Four Years

My commitment to you for the next four years includes:

  • Preparing every city budget with transparency,
  • Adhering to and exceeding the best financial practices for government entities,
  • Reducing expenses when certain city functions can be merged, reduced, or eliminated.
  • Keeping all tax rates as low as possible while still providing the responsive services you expect, and,
  • Delaying, until absolutely required, the voter-approved levy change that is allowing our city to double road repairs every year.
The Omaha Image – A More Welcoming City

Over the last twenty years, Omaha has established a national reputation that should make us all proud.  I know I am!

The reputation we have all worked hard to earn was built on the rich history and tradition of the hardworking and dedicated people before us.  Over decades, these individuals and families laid the foundation for a great and growing city and they have earned our respect and thanks.

A More Engaging City

Today, Omaha is a more engaging city with an even brighter future.  We are a leader in business, medical services, transportation, finance, insurance and amateur athletics.

I love meeting people who have just moved to Omaha and those individuals and families who have moved back after once leaving.  Their impressions of Omaha are so positive and encouraging.  We have all worked hard to make Omaha the best it can be.

My Focus for Growth

In the coming years, I’ll work hard with you to advance our growth and positive image.  Here is what I believe we need to focus on:

  • Becoming an even more welcoming city for all people and all lifestyles. Our younger workforce is especially focused on a more inclusive and open city that welcomes everyone, and where everyone feels at home.
  • Translating our enormous success as a host city for sporting events, especially amateur athletics, into the #1 city in the country for our level of community support, well-managed events and happy teams and fans.
  • Encouraging development in all areas of our city to expand employment, housing, and retail services in economically challenged areas of Omaha and in our many historically unique neighborhoods,
  • Promoting Omaha’s special talents in business sectors where we excel, like our quickly growing reputation as a leader in technology.
  • Hosting more regional and national conventions and events, an especially important goal as more travel is booked in 2021 after a pandemic-impacted 2020,
  • Expanding entertainment and recreational opportunities, especially in our downtown. One of the projects underway is “The RiverFront” which will completely rebuild Gene Leahy Mall, Heartland of America Park and Lewis & Clark Landing, and now includes an impressive new science museum.  Including the new science museum, this $400 million project – of which 90% is funded by private donations – will forever change our city.  It will be our St. Louis Arch; our Chicago Millennium Park.  It will start to open in 2022 and I can’t wait!

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