NTF WORKSHEET: OMAHA MAYOR STOTHERT ON CITY ISSUES

NTF worksheet: stothertj21.doc. 5-17.
NEBRASKA TAXPAYERS FOR FREEDOM WORKSHEET:
OMAHA MAYOR STOTHERT ON CITY ISSUES.

BACKGROUND. During the 2017 Omaha mayoral race, Mayor Jean Stothert, running for re-election, expounded on several key issues facing Omaha citizens. During the next 4 years of her second term, these crucial issues will require input from taxpaying citizens. Our conservative mayor will need and deserves taxpayer support on these issues and ideas to advance solutions to problems that invariably will arise.

SANCTUARY CITIES. Though there is no legal definition of a sanctuary city for illegal aliens, the usual conservative definition is that a city government would refuse to detain, arrest, or hand over an illegal alien to the immigration service (ICE) if legally requested. Note that President Trump by executive order has outlawed sanctuary cities and threatened to cut off federal grant funds to recalcitrant cities. Mayor Stothert stated that she does not want Omaha to become a sanctuary city, that ICE can deputize Omaha law officers, who will cooperate fully with the feds. Omaha does detain arrestees and cooperate with ICE to deport these illegal aliens, though police do not stop people on the street, because the city now has no access to ICE detention files to check immigration status. (NTF opposes sanctuary cities).

EMPLOYMENT. Omaha currently has a labor shortage, not a job shortage. Employment and wages have risen, especially for minorities. There exists a cooperative spirit and programs between the city and the private sector to employ citizens.

COMMUNITY OUTREACH. Mayor Stothert showed strong electoral support among conservative Democrats and Independents and solicits their opinions at town hall meetings.

CITY-COUNTY CONSOLIDATION. The city and county purchasing and parks departments and 911 systems already have merged. The mayor began discussing and planning for the merger of city and county crime labs. Sheriff Dunning is the only strong county opponent of this merger. There are specific details available about the funding of a merged lab. (NTF supports merger or consolidation of services but not complete city-county merger).

PANHANDLERS. Though the city prosecutor stated that panhandling is free speech, so the city cannot expel them, the Mayor asked him to find a way to control them as a safety issue. The city law department is examining a Tampa law that requires panhandlers to register with the city. It is still illegal for a panhandler to become aggressive or approach anyone near an ATM.

LAW & ORDER. Mayor Stothert has added 56 new sworn police officers and developed plans for a 5th police precinct in Elkhorn. She has diverted additional resources to stamp out violent crime and gang activity.

STREETS. Stothert supports the Trump infrastructure initiative, from which Omaha could benefit. A long time until the city can pay off current street bonds, and Omaha has 5,000 miles of streets. $300 million needed to repair unimproved roads; $500 million required to repair other streets. To improve all unimproved roads at once would require a tax increase. Whereas the city previously ground up disintegrating unimproved streets, a new policy requires adjacent property owners to pay part of the costs within 20 years, the city paying remaining costs. The mayor increased the FY 2017 street repair and resurfacing budget by $5 million, in addition to the already budgeted $11.2 million for 41 locations, for 50 additional lane miles, answering her constituent pleas for more street work. This extra funding became available, because our mayor negotiated tough on the police contract and saved millions. Look for 26 residential projects and 15 major thoroughfare projects. $500,000 budgeted for repair of 7 historic brick streets. Funding sources include the state gas tax, vehicle registration fees, bonds, and sewer revenues. Street repair is a top priority for the mayor, believing it a crucial city service to taxpayers. She is increasing her budget annually to improve neighborhood and major streets.

STREETCARS. Despite erroneous opinion, the Stothert Administration has expended no tax dollars on the streetcar plan. She did not obligate $30 million to fund this proposal. Private money funded the initial study, done by Metro Area Transit. The study, to end in October, 2017, will reveal if the plan is financially feasible. There exist several options to pay for a further study. There is no definite decision that the city itself would become involved in funding the streetcar implementation. Citizens could decide city funding on a ballot issue; private funding could pay. The projected cost ranges from $10 million to $30 million. (NTF opposes a streetcar plan.)

LEGISLATURE. Stothert believes in principle that the state should not have authority to overturn city ordinances. She insists on local control of the city but prefers that local laws are consistent around the state, e.g. concealed carry for firearms. The Mayor lobbied against expansion of Medicaid in Nebraska.

FINANCES. The huge deficit left by previous Mayor Jim Suttle is now a surplus. The Mayor has balanced the budget each fiscal year, with an $8 million surplus or more. Every city dept. came in under budget at the end of 2016, saving $2.3 million. Gov. Scott Walker, who came to endorse the mayor in her re-election campaign, controls his budget much like hers. The city savings account sits at the highest level ever. The Mayor has renegotiated labor union contracts that provide stability and has funded a greater percentage of the unfunded pension systems. She has forced unions to make large concessions on pensions and health care premiums. A new computer system to handle payroll, benefits, and pensions will save taxpayer money long term. She has cut property taxes 2 years in a row and promises future tax cuts as home valuations increase.

HER VISION. The Mayor wants to make Omaha a more comfortable city in which to live and retire. She envisions a rapid bus system and long-range public transit in cooperation with MAT, funded by federal grants. (NTF strongly opposes the expansion of public transit as an element in the UN Agenda 21 program). Stothert sees health care and technology as growth industries here. Her administration works closely with Council Bluffs and private enterprises to revitalize the riverfront area to attract people to prospective restaurants, playgrounds, and a museum. Gene Leahy mall will see renovation, a walking trail, and a restaurant. Omaha offers an inviting atmosphere for young millennials, some of whom wish to live in revitalized older parts of town. A new entertainment district in North Downtown attracts them. Stothert created a Millennial Advisory Committee, which is contacting millennials to move back to Omaha. A 2016 report named Omaha the 6th best city for millennials among 50 metro areas. The Center for Digital Government named Omaha a top 10 city for use of new technology to improve services and transparency and encourage citizen input. Stothert tangled with the MECA board by insisting on additional transparency in its spending. An Omaha Startup Collaborative assists new entrepreneurs to become successful business people. $2.8 billion in building permits issued in 2016 means a boom in economic development. Online permits allow quicker action for development. The civic auditorium site rebuilding is ahead of schedule, as is the mixed use development at the Crossroads site.

Research, documentation, and analysis for this issue paper done by Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom. This material copyrighted by Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom, with express prior permission granted for its use by other groups in the NE Conservative Coalition Network. 5-17 C.

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