Engagement & Community Involvement

According to the OWH, “Almost every mayoral election in Omaha since 1991 has been decided by fewer than 1,400 votes”… VOICE Omaha’s membership is 1,457. Print out the 2013 VOICE Voter Guide and take it with you to the polls on May 14 – your vote counts and will play a significant role in both the outcome of the election and the future of our city.

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The day is upon us. Get out the vote!

VOICE’s endorsements are listed below. There are many areas where we did not endorse any particular candidate or position either due to a candidate running unopposed and/or due to a lack of consensus or information on the issue. Nevertheless, all of our endorsements are found below.

Additionally, you can download a sample ballot HERE.

For President Of The United States
Barack Obama

For United States Senator
Bob Kerrey

For U.S. House of Representatives District Two
John W. Ewing Jr.

For Douglas County Clerk
No Endorsement (Candidate running unopposed)

For Douglas County Commissioner (Districts One, Three, Five and Seven)
No Endorsement (Candidate running unopposed)

For Douglas County Public Defender
No Endorsement (Candidate running unopposed)

For Douglas County Register of Deeds
No Endorsement (Candidate running unopposed)

For Legislature (Districts Five, Seven, Nine, Eleven, Thirteen, Twenty-one, and Thirty-nine)
No Endorsement (Did not research/candidate running unopposed)

For State Board of Education (Districts Two and Four)
No Endorsement (Did not research)

For Board of Regents University of Nebraska District Four
Bob Whitehouse

For Board of Regents University of Nebraska District Eight
Ann Ferlic Ashford

For Board Of Governors Metropolitan Community College (District One, Two, Three and Four)
No Endorsement (Did not research)

For Coordinating Council Learning Community (Districts Two, Four, and Six)
No Endorsement (Did not research)

For Board Of Directors Papio Missouri River Natural Resources District (Subdistrict One)
Scott Japp

For Board Of Directors Papio Missouri River Natural Resources District (Subdistrict Three)
No Endorsement (Neither candidate responded to multiple requests)

For Board Of Directors Papio Missouri River Natural Resources District (Subdistrict Five)
Rich Tesar

For Board Of Directors Papio Missouri River Natural Resources District (Subdistrict Seven)
Jim Powers

For Board Of Directors Papio Missouri River Natural Resources District (Subdistrict Nine)
No Endorsement (Neither candidate responded to multiple requests)

For Board of Directors Omaha Public Power District North Subdivision
No Endorsement

For Board of Directors Omaha Public Power District Metropolitan Subdivision (Vote for Two)
N. P. Sandy Dodge Jr. and George Mills

For Board Member Educational Service Unit Number Two District Six
No Endorsement (Candidate running unopposed)

For Board Member Educational Service Unit Number Three District Two
No Endorsement (Did not research)

For Board Member Educational Service Unit Number Three District Four
No Endorsement (Candidate running unopposed)

For Board Member Educational Service Unit Number Three District Six
No Endorsement (Did not research)

For Board Of Directors Metropolitan Utilities District (Vote for Two)
John S. McCollister and Jim Begley

For Board Of Education Omaha Public Schools Subdistrict Two
Freddie Gray

For Board Of Education Omaha Public Schools Subdistrict Four
Oscar Duran

For Board Of Education Omaha Public Schools Subdistrict Six
No Endorsement (Candidate running unopposed)

For Board Of Education Omaha Public Schools Subdistrict Eight
No Endorsement (Not enough information)

For Board Of Education Omaha Public Schools Subdistrict Ten
No Endorsement (Candidate running unopposed)

For Board Of Education Omaha Public Schools Subdistrict Twelve
Patrick Bourne

Shall Judge James Michael Fitzgerald be retained in office?
No Endorsement (Did not research)

Shall Judge James Michael Fitzgerald be retained in office?
No Endorsement (Did not research)

Shall Judge J Russell Derr be retained in office?
No Endorsement (Did not research)

Shall Judge James T. Gleason be retained in office?
No Endorsement (Did not research)

Shall Judge Thomas A. Otepka be retained in office?
No Endorsement (Did not research)

Shall Judge Leigh Ann Retelsdorf be retained in office?
No Endorsement (Did not research)

Shall Judge Joseph S. Troia be retained in office?
No Endorsement (Did not research)

State Of Nebraska Proposed Amendment No. 1
A constitutional amendment to provide that any misdemeanor while in pursuit of his or her office is grounds for impeachment of a civil officer.
No Endorsement (No Consensus)

State Of Nebraska Proposed Amendment No. 2
A constitutional amendment to establish the right to hunt, to fish, and to harvest wildlife and to state that public hunting, fishing, and harvesting of wildlife shall be a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife.
Against

State Of Nebraska Proposed Amendment No. 3
A constitutional amendment to change the limit on legislative terms to three consecutive terms.
For

State Of Nebraska Proposed Amendment No. 4
A constitutional amendment to change the salary of members of the Legislature to twenty-two thousand five hundred dollars.
For

Douglas County Consolidation Of County Offices Election
No Endorsement (Did not research)

The End.

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It is with great concern that we share a recent story that appeared in The Reader about apparent voter suppression efforts in Nebraska. Data shows that Dave Phipps, Douglas County Election Commissioner, was strategic in his elimination of several polling places by targeting poor, minority communities at more than twice the rate of other communities. In some instances during the last primary, citizens living in affordable housing units, many with physical disabilities, were forced to vote in alternate locations even though a polling place was located in their building. For more on Phipps and recent Republican gerrymandering see the story here.

In the meantime, our friends at Nebraskan’s for Civic Reform are keeping a close watch on the polls this coming Tuesday and they need more volunteers to help monitor polling places. Visit http://nereform.org/index/ for additional information.

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Engagement & Community Involvement

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Early voting has already started, but we thought it might be helpful to have a guide to take with you when you vote. So here it is – everything you need to know when you visit the polls.

Print our guide and take it with you.

Detailed summaries of these races and our endorsements are also available.

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Engagement & Community Involvement, News, Transparency

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District Board

Term: four years

Board Size: Eleven members represented by subdistricts. Five subdistricts are up for election this year.

Candidates: – District 1: Scott Japp, Chris J. Koenig
- District 3: Brandon Clark, Curt Frost
- District 5: Brad Dunbar, Rich Tesar
- District 7: Patrick Leahy, Jim Powers
- District 9: Patrick Bonnett

Why you should care

- The Papio-Missouri River Natural Resource District Board has a budget of around $87 million, $17 million of which is raised in property taxes.

- It is responsible for natural resource management in a 6 county area, including Douglas and Sarpy counties and counties to our north.

- The Board focuses on flood control, ground and surface water quality, soil erosion, public recreation including trails, and to some extent wildlife.

- It is the organization that often funds the construction of a dam, such as the newly approved 135-acre lake near 126th & Cornhusker Road in Sarpy County.

Subdistrict 1: Scott Japp

- Brings a rural perspective to this Board that guides work in 6 counties, along with experience in soil conservation and construction.

- Japp believes a combination of levees and low impact development (LIDs) should be used for flood protection and more natural stormwater management. He will not support the building of large dams because dams harm the stream environment and habitat.

- Japp says that NRD should not be be a funding source for developers, yet at the present time NRD board aids developers with financial support, engineering and planning.  He also believes more procedures for public input and information sharing are needed, as well as more control of the meeting agenda by individual Board members.

Who you should vote for:

Subdistrict 3 – No endorsement (no response from either candidate)

Subdistrict 5: Rich Tesar

- With twenty years of experience on the NRD Board, Tesar understands the issues the Board addresses.

- Tesar believes water is our most important natural resource in Nebraska and advocates for flood protection and water quality as well as recreational access and trails for the public. He wants to use the ‘newer’ concept of low impact development in some instances when it makes sense.

- Tesar was appointed by the Governor to serve on the state’s Riparian Vegetation Protection Task Force, which worked to clear invasive species from the Platte River.

- See http://richtesar.com/ for an extensive website on Tesar’s contributions as part of the NRD Board.

Subdistrict 7: Jim Powers

- Powers is motivated to improve the recreational trails system in the district, and specifically motivated to improve trail maintenance and the maintenance process.

- He has a good sense for environmental issues the NRD Board needs to address and brings support for more natural methods of stormwater management such as bioretention areas, to the Board.

- Powers brings nearly 30 years of professional experience as an attorney to the Board, along with a passion for making a positive impact on the NRD Board.  His ability to easily understand contracts and funding mechanisms will provide the Board with an important perspective.

- See http://jimpowersnrd.com/

Subdistrict 9:  No endorsement

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Engagement & Community Involvement, Transparency

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

Term: Four years
Board Size: Twelve
Candidates:
– Subdistrict 2: James English & Freddie Gray
- Subdistrict 4: Sarah Brumfield & Oscar Duran
- Subdistrict 8: Andy Allen & Danyelle Baratta
- Subdistrict 12: Jennifer Tompkins Kirshenbam & Patrick Bourne

Why you should care:

  • They are in charge of selecting the OPS Superintendent. As you know from recent events, this has become a more critical and time-sensitive endeavor than ever.
  • They are in charge of the appointment and dismissal of employees, setting salaries, and guiding the course of education throughout all Omaha Public Schools.
  • They are in charge of adopting the OPS budget (where a significant portion of your real estate taxes go).
  • They are responsible for preparing and publishing the body of policies and regulations for the OPS system.
  • They serve as ambassadors and advocates for OPS on district, state, and national levels.

Who you should vote for:

Subdistrict 2: Freddie Gray (D)

  • Qualifications: Served on OPS Board of Education since 2008; served on National School Boards Association/Council of Urban Boards of Education Racial Isolation Task Force, NE Association of School Boards, African Achievement Council, Douglas County Board of Health
  • Priorities: To increase student achievement, Ms. Gray plans to partner with community stakeholders to address issues outside the scope of the school district’s work; accelerate quality early childhood education to help children arrive at school ready to learn; and recruit and retain highly qualified teachers and principals.
  • Subdistrict 4: Oscar Duran (NP)

    • Qualifications: Various board membership; Creation of numerous youth driven community initiatives
    • Priorities: Promote strengths-based development; Increase community collaboration; Emphasis on service learning

    Subdistrict 8: No endorsement

    Subdistrict 12: Patrick Bourne (D)

    • Qualifications: Law Degree (Creighton University, 1997); Former State Senator (8th Legislative District)
    • Priorities: Create strategic plan for OPS; Increase transparency; Increase graduation rates

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    Engagement & Community Involvement, Transparency

    Friday, October 19th, 2012

    Omaha Public Power District Board of Directors

    Term: Six Years
    Board Size: eight
    Candidates: Tom Barrett, Mike Cavanaugh, Sandy Dodge, George Mills
    Why you should care:

    - You use electricity everyday. OPPD is the sole source from which you can buy it. They set the price, and you don’t have a choice.

    - The majority of OPPD’s power is created by burning coal, which emits some pretty nasty stuff into the atmosphere and contributes to global warming.

    - OPPD’s nuclear power plant in Fort Calhoun has been shut down for over a year due to several issues. Bringing it back online is really important and very costly.

    Who you should vote for:

    Sandy Dodge

    Sandy Dodge demonstrated an in-depth knowledge of the issues that no other candidate could hold a candle to. We expected expertise given his long tenure on the board, but Mr. Dodge exceeded our expectations. Every question we asked was met with a clearly articulated response. His depth of knowledge is critical for OPPD at a time when several critical issues must be resolved.

    We have yet to hear OPPD’s management acknowledge that climate change exists and that humans are, to some extent, causing it. Mr. Dodge believes both and certainly understands that OPPD’s coal-fired power plant emissions are not only contributing to climate change, but they are also emitting other bad pollutants. Sandy is wholly in favor of OPPD’s current efforts to help its customers conserve electricity and is also in favor of expanding renewables.

    Getting OPPD’s Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant back online is extremely important, and Mr. Dodge understands what it’s going to take to do so. The decision to outsource management of the plant was a good one and will likely move things forward quicker. It might, in fact, result in significant cost savings in the long-run.

    George Mills

    George Mills believes it is time for new blood on the OPPD board.  He believes the current board all too often “rubber stamps” the directives and policies from OPPD’s management. At the same time, he is someone who believes in collaboration, is open to new ideas, and will study issues to find the best solutions.

    George served several years as a Douglas County commissioner. During his tenure he helped form several “Blue Ribbon” commissions to study and implement various projects including the combined 911 center and the Aksarben Village development.  George understands what it takes to manage a large entity and to be a good steward of tax payer money.

    George has the experience and passion to be an excellent representative to the OPPD board. He will bring a new perspective to the board and a vision for its future.

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    The candidates elected this November will play a huge role in shaping our future. And while the races at the top of the ballot are unquestionably important, the local races may very well have a bigger impact on Omahans’ day-to-day lives.

    VOICE’s steering committee spent the past month digging into a handful of races at all levels of the ballot, and we are endorsing several candidates. Our VOICE-approved slate is below with a few bullets explaining why we endorse those candidates. Over the course of the next few weeks, we will post a more in-depth summary of each of these races.

    We took this effort very seriously. We did our homework. Our research methodologies varied a bit for each race; they generally included face-to-face interviews, open-ended written response questions, phone interviews, discussions with others knowledgeable of the candidates and the issues, and independent research. We also refrained from making selections based upon party lines. Our endorsements are based solely on who we believe is be the best Omahan for the job.

    We encourage you to vote for the following candidates:

    Omaha Public Power District Board of Directors

    See detailed endorsement summary here.

    Sandy Dodge (D)

    - Articulated a clear and in-depth understanding of the issues

    - Demonstrated a vision for renewables, conservation and OPPD’s role in mitigating climate change

    - Very supportive of OPPD’s programs to help its customers reduce energy consumption

    - Energy challenge of the 21st century: meeting the growing demand for global energy demand while not ruining the earth’s atmosphere

    George Mills (R)

    - High focus on transparency and providing more information to the public

    - Acknowledged that climate change is happening and that humans play a role

    - Service as a Douglas County Commissioner shows great leadership capabilities

    - Would strive to be an independent voice on the board, working for consensus and collaboration rather than “rubber stamping” decisions from management

    Metropolitan Utilities District Board of Directors

    See detailed endorsement summary here.

    John McCollister (R)

    - Demonstrated a clear understanding of MUD’s business model and upcoming challenges

    - Advocated for a balanced approach (flat fee + cost cutting) to maintaining fiscal soundness

    - Believes MUD’s conservation efforts are worthwhile and supportive of decreasing MUD’s carbon footprint and reducing pollution

    - Greatest energy challenge of the 21st century: successful interface and balance between government intervention and the realities of the energy world

    Jim Begley (D)

    - Will be a strong proponent for MUD’s workforce

    - Strongly advocated for better conservation efforts and a more meaningful social media presence

    - Sees a clear and meaningful role for MUD to play in building compressed natural gas infrastructure

    - Greatest energy challenge of the 21st century: weaning ourselves off of foreign oil and mitigating climate change

    Omaha School Board

    See detailed endorsement summary here.

    Subdistrict 2: Freddie Gray (D)

    - Qualifications: Served on OPS Board of Education since 2008; served on National School Boards Association/Council of Urban Boards of Education Racial Isolation Task Force, NE Association of School Boards, African Achievement Council, Douglas County Board of Health

    - Priorities: To increase student achievement, Ms. Gray plans to partner with community stakeholders to address issues outside the scope of the school district’s work; accelerate quality early childhood education to help children arrive at school ready to learn; and recruit and retain highly qualified teachers and principals.

    Subdistrict 4: Oscar Duran (NP)

    - Qualifications: Various board membership; Creation of numerous youth driven community initiatives

    - Priorities: Promote strengths-based development; Increase community collaboration; Emphasis on service learning

    Subdistrict 8: No endorsement

    Subdistrict 12: Patrick Bourne (D)

    - Qualifications: Law Degree (Creighton University, 1997); Former State Senator (8th Legislative District)

    - Priorities: Create strategic plan for OPS; Increase transparency; Increase graduation rates

    University of Nebraska Board of Regents

    See detailed endorsement summary here.

    District 4: Bob Whitehouse (R)

    - Has served on the Board of Regents since 2006 and was the 2011 Chairman

    - Supports stem cell research

    - Supports legislation and university policies that provide equal opportunity to students and staff including the Dream Act and the Employee +1 benefits policy

    - Strong proponent for research across the University system as it relates to Nebraska

    - Advocate for early childhood education

    District 8: Ann Ferlic Ashford (R)

    -Articulates clear ideas to connect graduates with jobs

    -Supports stem cell research

    -Supports legislation and university policies that provide equal opportunity to students and staff including the Dream Act and the Employee +1 benefits policy

    -Prioritizes rising tuition rates as the most pressing issue facing students

    -Committed to listening to her constituents

    Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District

    See detailed endorsement summary here.

    Subdistrict 1: Scott Japp (R)

    -Brings a rural perspective and experience in soil conservation and construction

    -Believes a combination of levees and low impact development (LIDs) should be used for flood protection and more natural stormwater management

    -Will not support the building of large dams because dams harm the stream environment and habitat

    -Believes the NRD should not be be a funding source for developers and believes more procedures for public input and information sharing are needed, as well as more control of the meeting agenda by individual Board members

    Subdistrict 3 – No endorsement; neither candidate responded to multiple requests.

    Subdistrict 5: Rich Tesar (R)

    -With twenty years of experience on the NRD Board, Tesar understands the issues the Board addresses.

    -Believes water is our most important natural resource in Nebraska and advocates for flood protection and water quality as well as recreational access and trails for the public

    -Wants to use the ‘newer’ concept of low impact development in some instances when it makes sense

    -Tesar was appointed by the Governor to serve on the state’s Riparian Vegetation Protection Task Force, which worked to clear invasive species from the Platte River.

    Subdistrict 7: Jim Powers (D)

    -Powers is motivated to improve the recreational trails system in the district, and specifically motivated to improve trail maintenance and the maintenance process.

    -He has a good sense for environmental issues the NRD Board needs to address and brings support for more natural methods of stormwater management such as bioretention areas, to the Board.

    -Brings nearly 30 years of professional experience as an attorney to the Board, along with a passion for making a positive impact on the NRD Board.  His ability to easily understand contracts and funding mechanisms will provide the Board with an important perspective.

    Subdistrict 9 – no endorsement

    United States House of Representatives – District 2

    See detailed endorsement summary here.

    John Ewing (D)

    -An experienced and dedicated public servant, a former Deputy Chief of Police for Omaha and current Douglas County Treasurer.

    -As Douglas County Treasurer, Ewing broke through beaurocratic red tape to modernize that office increasing efficiency through the use of on-line tools. He accomplished this while coming in under final budget numbers every year he has served Douglas County.

    -Ewing supports preservation of the current structure of Medicare while making principled changes to its administration to lower costs of the program that would support its solvency and its reliability.

    -Ewing pledges to address federal budget deficit problems by focusing on waste and inefficiency and has proven as Douglas County Treasurer to concentrate on the real financial impact of changes, instead of their political impacts.

    United States Senate

    See detailed endorsement summary here.

    Bob Kerrey (D)

    -An experienced, principled candidate with a long track record of working in a bipartisan manner, most notably on the national 9/11 Commission.

    -Nebraska-born and Nebraska-educated, Kerrey is a consistent supporter of civil rights for all Americans, which includes voting against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.

    -Proposes pragmatic solutions to address federal deficits with specific proposals to reduce federal budgets by 15 percent, impose a three-year pay freeze on federal cvilian workers and reduce the number of federal workers.

    -Supports environmental policies that acknowledge and address the human contributions to climate change.

    -”No one can tell Bob to do anything,” Alan Simpson, a former Republican senator from Wyoming, said of Bob Kerrey. “That’s a wonderful trait.”

    President of the United States

    Barack Obama (D)

    President Barack Obama

    - Decisive at a time when America was headed for the worst economic crash since the Great Depression

    - Invested in green technology and innovation

    - Values the unique role of government in protecting its citizens as evidenced by his public support of pay equity, GLBT civil rights and the Dream Act

    - Works both sides of the issue and reaches across party lines

    - Believes people are entitled to health care, food and housing

    1 Comment »

    Engagement & Community Involvement

    Monday, May 7th, 2012

    Voting is the foundation of a democracy. If you want your voice to be heard, you have to vote. Do you care about the environment? Check out the OPPD race. Do you care about education curriculum? Or do you pay property taxes? Check out the OPS Board races. Do you care about stem cell research? Check out the UN Board of Regents race.

    We’ve gathered information on the races and the candidates so that you can be an informed voter. Make sure to use your voice on May 15 in the primary and later this fall on November 6 in the general election.

    Voting Information

    Register to vote

    Early voting

    Find your polling location

    Find your district information

    How far are you from your polling place?

    Research Candidates

    We’ve put together a long list of links to help you learn more about the individual races and candidates.

    General Information

    League of Women Voter’s Guide

    Omaha World Herald Election Page

    Ballotpedia

    Voterinformation.org

    U.S. Senate Democrat

    Bob Kerrey
    Steven Lustgarten
    Larry Marvin
    Sherman Yates

    U.S. Senate Republican

    Jon Bruning
    Sharyn Elander
    Deb Fischer
    Pat Flynn
    Don Stenberg

    U.S. House of Representatives District 2 Democrat

    John Ewing
    Gwen Howard

    U.S. House of Representatives District 2 Republican

    Paul Anderson
    Glen Freeman
    Jack Heidl
    Brett Lindstrom
    Lee Terry - incumbent

    State Legislature

    All districts

    District 2
    Robert Howard
    Bill Kintner
    R. Paul Lambert – incumbent appointed in 2011
    Robyn Larson
    Mel Luetchens
    Ron Nolte

    District 5
    Heath Mello – incumbent elected in 2008

    District 7
    Christopher N. Geary
    Jeremy J. Nordquist – incumbent elected in 2008
    Adrian Petrescu

    District 9
    Vernon Joseph Davis

    Erica Fish

    Sara Howard

    District 11
    Ernie Chambers
    Brenda J. Council – incumbent elected in 2008

    District 13
    Timothy Ashford
    Tanya Cook – incumbent elected in 2008

    District 31
    Rick Kolowski
    Acela Turco

    District 39
    Judy M. Domina
    Beau McCoy
    - incumbent elected in 2008

    University of Nebraska Board of Regents

    District 8

    OPPD

    Candidate Bios

    Board of Education

    OPS Subdistrict 12

    Research the responsibilities and issues of the OPPD, MUD, Omaha Board of Education, and NRD positions.

    Our friends at the Progressive Research Institute prepared this great summary of the responsibilities of and issues facing the OPPD, MUD, OBoE, and NRD races. If you’ve ever wondered why these races and positions are important, give it a read. You’ll stop wondering immediate.

    Share with your networks

    Print a poster. Post this on Facebook. Change your avatar. Send an email. Whatever gets the word out to vote is fine with us.

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    The steering committee of VOICE Omaha released the following statement in response to Attorney General Jon Bruning’s May 3rd Opinion related to Omaha’s amendment to its non-discrimination ordinance. John Bruning’s non-binding legal opinion regarding Omaha’s amendment to its nondiscrimination ordinance is pure political pretext.

    Mr. Bruning is using his political position and legally unsound non-binding opinion to gain favor with the extreme right-wing of voters during primary season. Mr. Bruning’s opinion lacks the kind of critical thought and advanced jurisprudence that we would expect from our State’s attorney general.

    Furthermore, Senator Beau McCoy, whose recently-failed bill to forbid Omaha to pass its own nondiscrimination ordinances without statewide approval, seems to be searching for any opportunity to prevent the protection of Nebraska’s LGBT community.

    We believe that there have been differences between state and municipality non-discrimination ordinances for decades, which beg the question: why are Mr. McCoy and Mr. Bruning only interested as of late?

    As the political campaign proceeds, we encourage Mr. Bruning to focus on his record and his vision for Nebraska.

    Printable version

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    VOICE Omaha