Omaha World-Herald survey
1) How would you approach taxes in your term? Would you cut property taxes or any other city taxes?
My philosophy on taxes is grounded in my 15 years in the Legislature. Cutting tax rates is desirable. In the Legislature, we have cut rates on several occasions and have done so while maintaining an acceptable level of services. As mayor, I will work with the Governor and Revenue Committee to broaden the sales tax base to lessen reliance on income and property tax. Occupation taxes should be used sparingly and the use of funds should be clearly defined and should sunset. I support the restriction in statute that occupation taxes over six million dollars per year obtain voter approval. As mayor, I will encourage the Legislature to expand development tools, beyond T.I.F. I helped develop turn-back financing in the Legislature for the Qwest Center, and I support expanding its use to public projects like parks.
2) If spending cuts are necessary, what part of the city budget would you cut first?
I support a 2-year budget cycle that will allow for more efficient purchasing options and give an accurate picture of the cost of programs. I support the consolidation of the city and county crime labs. I will prioritize the consolidation of the city prosecutor office into the county attorney’s office. I will maximize the use of civil citations for minor juvenile offenses that will decrease the need for in court time by law enforcement. I will prioritize finding savings by sharing technology with the County. Working with all sides of the issue, we will develop a plan within 12 months to consolidate city and county services under a single elected Metro Omaha/Douglas County Board and submit the plan to the voters thereafter. I support engaging the Council in the budget process by seeking their recommendations in a timely fashion in order to reconcile differences in a collaborative manner.
3) Should the mayor take the lead in negotiating city labor contracts? If so, what would your approach be?
The mayor must be primarily responsible for collective bargaining with city unions. As a former judge on the Commission on Industrial Relations (CIR) and a labor attorney, I understand fully the collective bargaining process. The CIR reform passed by the Legislature created a level playing field for collective bargaining with public employees. As mayor, I will keep the council fully informed of the collective bargaining process and solicit input on the issues much like the process we used in developing the CIR reform legislation.
4) What is Omaha’s next move to help cut crime?
As Chair of the Judiciary Committee for 7 years, I have focused on reducing violence by promoting strategies for early intervention and prevention of violent crime. The truancy initiative passed by the Legislature in 2010 has helped identify troubled youth who need help. We also realize that gun and gun-related crime is very serious and we have increased penalties for gun-related crime. As mayor, I will work with the Legislature, law enforcement, and the community to develop strategies to address street violence. I will work with law enforcement and the community to stop retaliatory gang violence. I will work on reforms to ensure we have access to complete mental health records, which would help us perform better background checks for the purchase of firearms. I will support efforts to encourage the safe storage of weapons. I will work with law enforcement and the County Attorney on prosecution of gang leaders who entice others to join gangs. I will work with the Police Chief and the Director of the Department of Corrections to ensure that prison furloughs are safely managed.
5) What is city government’s role in creating jobs and boosting the local economy?
We must develop a career academy partnership between the public schools and Metro Community College. The mayor must play a major role in developing educational opportunities for our youth who are not on a traditional college path. As mayor, I will build collaborative solutions to bridge PKI and other educational institutions to new entrepreneurial companies such as those emerging at the Mastercraft building north of downtown. The mayor must play a major role in seeking out and recruiting businesses willing to support job training and a career academy for our youth. To recruit 21st Century businesses, we must be a diverse and culturally integrated community. The mayor must promote these values. Finally, because of my experience as a founding member of the MECA (Qwest Center) Board, I believe that private/public partnerships can transform our city.
6) What is the next step in Omaha’s riverfront development?
I was very fortunate to have served on the first MECA Board. We were involved in the transformation of the riverfront: from smelting plant to a transformed city. These efforts must be reignited. I support planning new rapid transportation corridors including bike trails between TD Ameritrade Park, the Henry Doorly Zoo, Midtown and the Love Jazz area on 24th and Lake. We were told more than a decade ago that the Qwest Center was not possible. Omahans rejected that prediction. Transportation upgrades are necessary for the riverfront and our city. We need to continue to make parking easier including information about where parking’s available. My family did business in downtown for over a century. Parking was a major issue for businesses. Credit card parking meters are a good idea. I support a regional 50 year riverfront development plan including Western Iowa. I pledge to work with the Legislature to increase development tools for this historic riverfront district.
7) Do you support the addition of streetcars in the city? If so, how would you pay for that?
I continually hear from people—especially in the young professional community—that Omaha could do a much better job of keeping talented people in our great city if we devoted more time addressing our transit situation. I think of my time serving on the original MECA Board when everyone said the Qwest Center could not be built. We all know what happened: it was built on time and on budget. We need to seriously evaluate whether corridors of rapid transportation can be incorporated into a broader transportation grid. Coordinated traffic lights could be an easy, first step as rapid corridors get planned. This can happen through a private/public partnership. I think with perseverance and collaboration with the philanthropic and business sector of the community, we can move Omaha’s transportation into the 21st Century. This will help keep our present and future talented workforce in Omaha.