Throughout the coming weeks, we will be sharing articles, podcast interviews and features with you, so that you can get to know Naomi, her values and her vision for Omaha. First up, the Midwest Misfits podcast with Colleen and Leah! Please note, the internet cuts out in a few places, however you can request the full transcript by emailing Hello@NaomiForCityCouncil.com.
Some of our favorite quotes from the interview:
I have been at so many city council meetings and always thought that there’s got to be a better way to access them, to connect our community and our local government. I also think that if we don’t have a local government that represents the way that a community looks and represents the experiences of a community then we’re not doing our city any favors. I knew that I could be a part of that and because I didn’t have any more excuses, this was the right time. It is important that our young people and neighbors can see themselves in leaders that are given a platform. Our City Council needs to expand diversity: not just from the way we look (yes, your racial make-up, your ethnicity, that matters a lot). but also in our lived experience. I have three kids, 25, 17 and 14. I’ve raised them all over the world, we chose to come back home to Omaha. I’m disabled (I broke my leg in December of last year and it will forever impact my future mobility, along with chronic illness issues). I’m biracial. My dad is Black, my mom is white. I was homeschooled, I was a bartender. We need to look more deeply in the nuance of what makes us all diverse. It’s not just making sure we have more black and brown people on a board or as elected officials. We need to be able to understand how diversity really matters when it comes to making policy and listening to our community.
I am so passionate about the way that values intersect with the work that we do with each other, whether it’s a nonprofit or a corporate relationships. The values that really resonate the most for me in the way that I live my life and the way that I raise my kids will also be the way that I represent District 6. There’s such a great opportunity to expand and explore the way that we work together. It feels tiring to hear elected officials say “well that’s not our purview, that’s so and so’s area”.
Wouldn’t it be great if our elected officials instead asked “are you connected with your local rep? Let me get their email and phone number and make sure that you know how to get a hold of the person that can help you. Please let me know if you don’t get anywhere with them.” While I am prioritizing public health and safety, equity and smart growth, part of my platform will be ever-evolving. I can say right now what matters to me personally, but it’s also going to be hugely important over the next five months that I find out what the constituents of District 6 think are important and then figure out how to parlay that into City Council, the city charter, municipal code and see what we can do together.
I have a poster in my room in my office that says Ancora Imparo – which is Latin for “I am still learning”. I think it’s super important that we – as constituents and for those people running for offices, and our elected officials – we’re not expected to know everything. We are expected to have a mindset of always learning and being open to learning. We need to be more open to not expecting our elected officials to know everything but holding them to task, to learn and to listen.
I am so encouraged by the folks that want to have the dialogue, have a conversation, and I’m enjoying those talks, one potential voter at a time. Regardless of what happens with this effort, I want to run a campaign that is thoughtful and intentional, one that’s aligned with my values and that provides opportunities for people to be in relationship with each other, get to know their community and learn more about city government.
We don’t know what we don’t know until we know it. I’ve watched people learn so many things about the mechanisms of city council, how to talk in three minutes or less, how to introduce yourself using your address first at the microphone, how to be a proponent or an opponent. So many things are commonplace for elected officials, yet in our day to day we don’t know those things. We need to have opportunities to learn that in a safe space where we feel like we’re not going to be shamed or belittled for not knowing it. Things such as Omaha being a strong mayor leadership structure, which means that the mayor always has veto right unless six out of the seven city council members veto her veto. Not many folks know that, and I’m excited to provide more learning opportunities.
When you find candidates running in upcoming elections, you do not have to agree with them on every single talking point. Rather, if you find solidarity in their values and the alignment to their community, support them.
Support can be in different ways: you can help behind the scenes, or offer to make calls to voters. Consider a recurring monthly donation, no matter the amount. Many elected folks have been bankrolled by people with a serious interest in how they’re going to govern, lead and the decisions they’re going to make. So if you want to see something different in your government – whether it’s city, state, or federal – you have to be willing to get behind folks that are going to represent differently. Otherwise it’s a lot of big interest groups that are paying for your elected officials to get in those seats.
City municipal races are held in “off years,” so City Council elections (all seven seats) and the Mayor will be April 6 and May 12th of 2021. In the past, they have had historically low turnout. In 2017, there were two men Dwite Pederson and Brinker Harding running against each other. For the general (final) election, a total of 18,000 people voted for the two of them. Brinker had 11,000 + and Dwite had about 6,000. So we can do better in 2021 for turnout, since there are over 52,000 registered voters in District 6 alone. Our November Presidential elections were really important, but I believe it’s more important for everyone’s day to day what their City Council is doing.
I encourage folks while learning about candidates or thinking about a political run themselves, reimagine what qualities and skills your elected leaders should have. I think it’s exciting to see so many of us, me included, who don’t have a law degree, don’t have a long career in politics, yet we are able to stand strong and say this is why I am capable to be an elected official for city council. I’m just really excited to see people that have lived experiences, who are parents, who are caregivers, who have lived around the world and have decided to come back home to Omaha, those people running for office, for a better impact for Omaha.