Many Omaha residents I speak with say they don’t know who their City Council representative is, and actually, aren’t really sure what City Council is responsible for.The Omaha City Council has the power to adopt, amend or repeal ordinances necessary to execute or make effective the provisions of the City charter (as well as the power to adopt the budget, make or confirm appointments to various boards and committees, provide for an independent audit and other necessary actions consistent with the City charter).That’s a lot of words to say that the Omaha City Council is responsible for policy making in Omaha.
City Councilpersons are to represent the interests of the people who live in their district (as well as the city as a whole). City Councilpersons are also tasked with proposing, championing, passing (by votes) and ratifying ordinances, resolutions and mandates.As a city, Omaha is run by a “strong mayor” which means the mayor acts as the CEO of the city. A City Council in this structure is responsible to execute the decisions of the mayor. The mayor holds executive authority in a strong mayor structure and is often very connected to state and federal authorities when making decisions.
Omaha has seven districts of the City Council. District 6 is in the central part of West Omaha and generally covers between Dodge and Center, and the Elkhorn River and the “bank” of the Papio Creek (or around 90th Street). It has approximately 50,000 registered voters, encompasses four school districts and shares constituents with five Nebraska State Senators and three Douglas County Commissioners.For many years, I’ve been asked to run for something. But I had young children, and then I was getting my real estate business going, and I’ve been fully entrenched in volunteer work. It’s all kept me from saying yes in the past.
I believe in the impact that we have when folks are civically engaged. And civic engagement looks different for everyone. For some, it’s voting and for others it involves protesting. Some choose to vote in federal races and others vote every time there’s an election. Sometimes engagement looks like writing letters to senators and other times it means wearing a small lapel pin with the American flag.
For me, right now, civic engagement looks like running for City Council in 2021.
Since I was a little girl in North Platte, and later growing up in Omaha and then living internationally, I’ve enjoyed opportunities to make hard things simple. I do the legwork to understand complicated policies. I dig in to find out why certain rules exist. I see the gaps and the problems, and I bring people together for positive results. As a result, my ability to find collaborative solutions with elected officials, local philanthropists, nonprofits and community is trusted and respected.In June 2020, Mayor Stothert pledged to expand diverse representation on city boards, commissions and racial diversity in all departments, including police and fire. The City of Omaha needs to continue that with true leadership (not performative or prescriptive leadership). We need to be explicitly intentional and expand those efforts to all types of diversity.
Our city government needs to be rooted in equity and work to address our implicit biases as they relate to decisions we make, the policies we enact and the way we listen to our citizens.
Our city officials need to represent the people they are elected to serve. And the best way for that to begin happening in Omaha – in a way that honors the vast diversity of our City – is for those elected officials to be empathetically and widely connected in that representation.We like to say that we are Nebraska Nice, which can translate to “good enough” and reactive. 2021 calls for innovation and proactive leadership as we choose elected officials. It’s time we work together to provide a more welcoming sense of belonging, with leadership in development, accessibility and housing.
Cities are strongest when we have civically engaged residents, and civically engaged residents deserve transparency, true opportunities for involvement, and leaders that listen.
Omaha needs city government leadership that reflects the people it serves. We need leaders who understand community building and change leadership.As our municipal elections happen in the spring of 2021, we have the opportunity to elect a grounded and visionary version of leadership that Omaha residents are ready for: leadership that is accessible, welcoming, equitable, involved and engaged.I am running for City Council, District 6, to bring awareness to disability rights and justice, provide economic advantages to more folks who call Omaha home, repair past harm from racism (encouraging collective healing), and to bring my leadership to innovative development and housing.
It’s time for Omaha to provide The Good Life, for everyone.