The words Public Health and Safety are in white text in a gray box. Behind the gray box is a gradiated box with teal and coral.

Campaign Priorities: Public Health and Safety

November 13, 2020

Naomi’s campaign priorities include Public Health and Safety, Smart Growth, and Equity and Dignity. The campaign routinely invites input from District 6 constituents, as these platform priorities are ever-evolving.

Mental Health – Omahans should have access to support for their mental health and wellness. Generally, public health and mental health care is overseen by the Douglas County Health Department, however, the City Council can help direct important funding to the various nonprofit organizations providing mental health care services. In addition, it is imperative that our City Councilmembers consistently educate themselves by experts in the field and do not squander opportunities to fund organizations doing this important work, and prioritize mental health when writing and enacting policy.

Public Health – We should feel safe in our city, and that includes being protected by our leadership and elected officials (and their decisions) when something like Covid-19 descends on our city. I rely heavily on common sense, which also includes trusting science and data, and fully support mandates on mask wearing in Omaha and Douglas County. As we proceed into 2021, our elected leadership needs to both support our essential workers and healthcare workers, and honor the leading health experts and medical professionals we have in our backyard.

Of course, the reality of our covid response goes beyond simply asking our community to protect each other by washing hands, wearing masks, testing and isolating. We must also be ready to look at supporting our local business owners as they recover economically. While we have incredible grassroots groups and neighbors who are caring for our city by organizing mutual aid, safety protocols and general communal care, we must ensure that elected officials appreciate, support and prioritize public health for all residents.

Parks + Libraries – Although the Library Department is one of the last listed in the budget, it is a very important part of our city vibrancy. For the twelve libraries in Omaha, the annual library budget is just shy of $32M. It is imperative we continue funding and prioritizing this vital asset in the city. Through their efforts to build a strong readership among Omaha residents, offering access to wifi, technology and vast content, the library is positioned well to be a leader in a strong city structure. As the Parks and Recreation Department has seen a decrease in annual allocated budget ($35.8M in 2018 to $32.4M in 2020), we must continue to prioritize the addition of more bike trails and expanded green space. I believe we must continue to value the assets of our libraries, parks, swimming pools and other community spaces. By offering opportunities to gather and connect, we strengthen the fabric of our community. As we build our economy back, outdoor festivals, farmers markets and the like will be important for our community.

Police + Fire – I support the furtherance of community policing initiatives, and am encouraged by the diversification of recruit classes so the police force is representative of the City of Omaha in its entirety. The City Council currently has several opportunities to expand mental health responder opportunities alongside, or in place of law enforcement when appropriate, and I support efforts to increase our mental health support through staffing and funding. In addition, we need to provide mental health support to victims and their families, who undoubtedly suffer from the impact and trauma of violence in all of its forms, as well as police personnel affected by violence in the course of duty.

Public safety provided by law enforcement entities encompasses many nuanced topics. We need to have a combination of lower crime, safe neighborhoods for all, reduced instances of harm inflicted by officers, increased care when addressing those suffering from mental health instability. It is all connected and woven together. The correctional system is not one that can be influenced in major areas by the City Council, however the entity can do its part to effect change for the larger system. While there is not a singular answer, it is no secret that we can be more responsible to our community by changing the way we fund our policing measures, including a priority on equity, culture and diversity.

We are seeing the private sector taking on more and more of the ambulance, first responder and transport sector, and our safety equipment standards are becoming big business. We should ensure we are appropriately responding to our fire department’s needs, as well as encourage the continuation of the diversification of recruit classes, as they are showing to be leaders in that arena.

Climate Change / Environment – While climate change in Omaha may not seem a pressing issue for all, however I believe it is wise to examine our current sustainability. Part of this exercise includes researching renewable energy in our public buildings and facilities, looking at the method by which we convert and consume our land, and our attention in maintaining our riverfronts and green spaces.

Additionally, Omaha must have a plan to protect and communicate with all residents in times of emergency, whether extreme weather like heat waves, floods, derechos or tornadoes, or known and repeated issues like our annual snow and ice. Omaha should establish innovative ways to communicate with our neighbors – regardless of what language is spoken in each household. We should make sure adequate plans are in
place for any emergency situation, taking advantage of the numerous nonprofits and other community based organizations who could operate a phone-tree type communication to share the responsibility with the City.

Aging in place, accessibility and energy efficiency offer improvement opportunities. Whether that means using the solutions we already have for accessible accommodations to the homes of our elders or disabled neighbors, or prioritizing weatherization or better appliances, we can opt to upgrade the homes where people currently live and tackle our energy use at the same time. Efficiency improvement and energy reduction programs exist at a small scale, but could be increased and scaled.

Thank you to our team of neighbors, policy experts, community leaders, elected officials, business development groups, organizers and academics for your help in pulling together the following ideas, thoughts and solutions. Additional campaign priorities: Smart Growth | Equity and Dignity.