Engagement & Community Involvement

Your Voice Was Heard: A People’s Victory At City Hall

Roughly 90 minutes into deliberation over Ben Gray’s Equal Employment Ordinance, it felt as though the collective hearts of many Omahans were paralyzed. It still wasn’t’ clear how the vote would turn out. And then roll call. The key vote, much like in 2010, was hanging on Garry Gernandt. Back then, he said no. He didn’t have enough information. This year…he voted yes.

In doing so, he joined Ben Gray, Chris Jerram and Pete Festersen in being on the right side of history. He joined them in standing up for what is right. He joined them in taking Omaha one step closer to being the world-class city that it deserves to be, that it aspires to be, that it can be. Our community has taken a meaningful step to stand up against intolerance.

Yesterday was a huge day for Omaha and a big day for you: the over 1,600 people that make up VOICE Omaha. Yet it wasn’t our victory alone; we couldn’t be more pleased to have been involved in the Equal Omaha Coalition. Several months ago, a discussion about LGBT workplace equality started amongst a small group of people and eventually grew into the Equal Omaha Coalition. Individuals, organizations, and businesses pooled our collective resources to make this happen.

Our collective formula for success, which was touched on in Equal Omaha’s statement following the 4–3 vote yesterday, is very simple: illuminate the need, identify and back-up the solution with facts, and coalesce support. (Rinse and Repeat.)

One thing that became very clear through much of the Equal Employment Ordinance debate was that the opposition did not have the people of Omaha on their side nor the facts to support their case. We did. And despite some late-in-the-game politics, the people won out. That’s how it’s supposed to work. A movement of the people, coupled with some good, hard facts, won out. Not politics. Democracy at its best.

There are many challenging issues in front of us, but today is a day to celebrate the important milestone that Omaha achieved yesterday thanks to the collective and tireless work of so many political and civic leaders, dedicated organizations, and everyday people. We’ll let you know* when it’s time to get started on the next community-altering project. Bask in the success, Omaha. You deserve it.

Viva VOICE! Viva a more realized Equal Omaha!

*Please become a “member” of VOICE. It doesn’t cost a dime. The larger the numbers, the stronger we are. Sign up. Stay in touch. Stay involved.


Please read the following message from our friends at Nebraskans for Civil Reform and act ASAP:

“Today LB 239 Voter ID was prioritized. It will likely be debated on the floor next Wednesday.

We need your help now to stop this voter suppression legislation from becoming law in Nebraska.

1. Sign up for a lobby day being held in conjunction with the Nebraska League of Women Voters on Tuesday, February 21st at 8:30 in Capital Room 1023.”

2. Call your state senator’s office now and tell them to oppose LB 239 because it is costly, unnecessary and disproportionately impacts seniors, citizens with disabilities, youth, and low income citizens.

3. Sign the Nebraska anti voter suppression law petition.

4. Join the Nebraska “Protect Our Vote” Facebook page.

5. Forward this [message] to all of your friends and family!

Thank you for your hard work, dedication, and support! Together we can ensure that our democracy is inclusive and accessible for all Nebraskans.”

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Engagement & Community Involvement, News, Transparency

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle announced several upcoming openings on City of Omaha Boards and Commissions.  We view these as important opportunities and encourage you to consider how serving could shape the future of Omaha.

The following boards have current opportunities, however you can review all boards and commissions to find one that fits your interests and skill set.   If you want detailed information, you can view the detailed listing for each board.

- Parks and Recreation Board
- Transit Authority Board
- Mayor’s Advisory Commission for Citizens with Disabilities
- Landmarks Heritage Preservation Commission
- Architects/Engineers Review and Selection Committee
- Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau Advisory Board

Those interested in applying for one of the appointments should contact Barb Velinsky, Mayor Suttle’s Community Director, at 402-444-6274 or via e-mail to Barb Velinsky.  Please click the email link and attach your completed application to the email.  We will help ensure your application is routed correctly.

Applications must be received by February 10, 2012 for these boards.

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The Business Ethics Alliance, a consortium of organizations that are committed to creating an ethical business climate that benefits the overall community, is holding another dialogue in its “Business Ethics Mind Candy” series. The discussion will, in part, consider the ethics of considering a person’s sexual orientation when hiring.

The timing is critical as we are preparing for Ben Gray to introduce the Equal Employment Ordinance a few days beforehand. You might recognize one of the panelists as representing an entity that lobbied against a similar ordinance in 2010. Please consider attending to listen to the discussion and respectfully and thoughtfully offer your perspective during the Q&A portion. Please note, registration is required.

Here are the details:

When: January 26, 2012 from 7:30 to 8:45am (complimentary continental breakfast opens at 7:15am)
Where: Gallup, 1001 Gallup Drive


> Tawanna Black, CEO, Innovations by Design
> David Brown, President and CEO, Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce
> Dean Hodges, Owner of local Jimmy Johns

The blurb from the Business Ethics Alliance:

Jobs! Who gets them and why? How is the hiring process informed by our values? Does ethics come into play when small, medium and large firms make hiring decisions? Do they consider a person’s veteran status? Or sexual orientation? Is it ethical to avoid hiring people who lost their jobs or those out of work for a year or two? Let’s talk about it.

Join panelists, local business professionals and moderator Beverly Kracher, Executive Director, Business Ethics Alliance; Daugherty Chair in Business Ethics & Society, Creighton University College of Business, for a thought-provoking discussion on the ethics of hiring. Come prepared to share and learn.

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There is a recent article that discusses the direct relationship between transportation, poverty and social mobility.

Here are some highlights:

“With the economy being what it is, the United States is heading into a transportation crisis for low and middle class citizens. Those able to afford cars find themselves spending more and more of their incomes on gasoline, and those without cars have to rely on public transit that is inadequate…”

“The results of a long-term study conducted by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development show that moving to a neighborhood with less than 10% of people living below the poverty line has a positive effect on health, specifically with obesity and diabetes.”


Join the conversation by attending the November 7th Modeshift Omaha meeting.

When: November 7, 2011; 6:30-8:30pm

Where: UNO CPACS Building Room 132*

*Directions for getting to the meeting:

The map of the UNO campus is here: http://www.unomaha.edu/maps/docs/UNO-2010-10.pdf. The CPACS building is in the middle of the Dodge street location marked CPC.

Metro bus #2 makes frequent stops on Dodge Street or #11 passes close by on Leavenworth street with a short walk through Elmwood park to campus: http://www.metroareatransit.com/bus-system/system-map#bus-routes

Bike racks are on the west side of the CPACS building.

If you are driving, you can park at the meters in front of the Milo Bail Student Center (MSC) or Eppley Administration Building (EAB)–in lots C or B

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Nebraska Watchdog is reporting that today J.B.  Milliken, University of Nebraska President, will propose a change to benefits of employees to the Board of Regents.  We believe this to be an important step in the continued discussion about equal rights and protections for all members of our community.

Read the full story.

Please consider telling a friend, neighbor, partner, business associate about how you feel about the issue and start a discussion.

Finally, send  Mr. Milliken (president@nebraska.edu) a note expressing your support of this important issue.  Take it a step further by emailing members of the Board of Regents.   Email addresses are contained in the link.

“Nationally, more than 300 higher education institutions offer such benefits, including public universities in at least 30 states and most of the highly ranked research universities,” he wrote. In addition, he said a number of leading private companies in Nebraska offer partner benefits, including ConAgra, Union Pacific, Mutual of Omaha, Ameritas and HDR. “I think it’s time for the University of Nebraska to do the same,” Milliken said. “We are in a global marketplace for talent and I believe that by not offering partner benefits, we will be at a competitive disadvantage. This is an issue of fairness and competitiveness not only for the University, but also for the state. If we cannot compete on par with our counterparts around the country, talented people may go elsewhere – and in fact anecdotal evidence that some of you have shared with us suggests this may already have happened. This carries significant consequences for our University and our state.”

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It appears there’s a movement afoot to revisit the anti-discrimination ordinance that was rejected by our City Council nearly a year ago.  The World Herald reported on Friday that Ben Gray was getting his ducks in a row and considering such a course. On the same day, the World Herald also ran a story noting that far fewer Nebraska’s are opposed to gay marriage now (51%) than were opposed in 2000 (70%). Good news on both fronts, although much work remains.

The following day the World Herald penned an op-ed encouraging Omaha to use the same common-sense approach it normally does to take on important public issues. We couldn’t agree more with a common sense approach; unfortunately we don’t necessarily agree on what is and is not common sense. The Herald feels such an ordinance is unnecessary. We disagree.

There is much, much more to come on this issue, and we plan to be heavily involved and on the front lines of the conversation. We will do our best to keep you all involved as events transpire.

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…a meeting (yes, another meeting) to help the City of Omaha plan how it approaches its transportation planning efforts. While your initial reaction might be, “look, it’s easy to get around in Omaha and the bus system will never work”, this is about much more than buses, streetcars, vehicles, bikes and rickshaws. When it comes down to it, it’s about how our City develops and whether or not we’re creating the kind of city that lends itself towards a mix of transportation modes rather than one (the car).

Details of this important discussion about how we’ll prioritize our money going forward:
Thursday, September 15, 2011
6:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Scott Conference Center,
6450 Pine Street

You should get your toosh to this meeting if you:

  • are you interested in promoting a city that is walkable, affordable, clean, sustainable and breathable
  • feel that how we allocate money to transportation these days is way out of whack and a little more should go towards bikers, bus riders and walkers.
  • have ever paid for gas, expensive gas, and thought, “man I wish I didn’t have to drive so much”.
  • would like to see Omaha show up on the list of the 10 Best Cities for Public Transportation
  • appreciate neighborhoods like Dundee, Benson, South 24th Street and Midtown Crossing and would like to see more of them develop
  • have a pulse

In addition to setting the City’s transportation priorities, planners will also preview their first street design guidelines.

Come check it out. Seriously. It’s sort of an important meeting. And you just might catch a glimpse of our favorite council member or the coolest aspiring U.S. senator.

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In March the City of Omaha will be hosting two week-long workshops for the transportation master plan update. The consultants will be developing potential transportation projects for Omaha during this time. If you have an idea, please stop by and make your voice heard, your idea might become reality!

Leave your mark on Omaha.

The public is invited to attend anytime during the day while the consultants are working to ask questions and to provide input. The public is also invited to attend the kick-off presentation at the beginning of each week on Monday evening and the wrap-up presentation on Thursday evening. (Specific dates and times are below.)

Public Design Workshop #1 (Outside the I-680 Loop)

Where: Common Ground Community Center (1701 Veterans Drive Omaha, Nebraska 68022)

When: March 7th through March 10th.

  • Monday - 6:30 pm Public Presentation
  • Tuesday - 10:00 am – 5:00 pm (Studio Open to the Public)
  • Wednesday –  10:00 am – 7:00 pm (Studio Open to the Public)
  • Thursday – 10:00 am – 3:00 pm (Studio Open to the Public)
  • Thursday – 6:30 pm Public Presentation

Public Design Workshop #2 (Inside the I-680 Loop)

Where: Omaha Public Schools Administration Building (3215 Cuming Street Omaha, Nebraska 68131)

When: March 21st through March 24th.

  • Monday - 6:30 pm Public Presentation
  • Tuesday - 10:00 am – 5:00 pm (Studio Open to the Public)
  • Wednesday –  10:00 am – 7:00 pm (Studio Open to the Public)
  • Thursday – 10:00 am – 3:00 pm (Studio Open to the Public)
  • Thursday – 6:30 pm Public Presentation

Hope to see you there!  Learn more at the City’s Transportation Master Plan website.

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The City’s process for updating the transportation master plan (TMP) is continuing to truck along, and there are two key opportunities for those interested to get engaged.

First, the goals for the plan have been proposed and planners are looking for citizen feedback.  If you have thoughts, please visit click on the links below to share your thoughts.  They are looking for all thoughts and comments by this Friday, 2/11.  From our perspective, we have strongly encouraged planners to explicitly list a goal surrounding social equity.  We have seen far too many examples of the City’s disadvantaged populations essentially unable to move about our great city because they don’t own or have access to an automobile.

Here are the goals as they currently stand:

Please click on each goal above to provide comments. A new window will open to Google Moderator and you can click on ”Submit an idea” or “View Ideas”.  The last link will also bring you to Google Moderator. Please click on that link and vote for your top two goals.

Secondly,  there is a Transportation Master Plan Stakeholder Committee Meeting (Representing the Citizens of Omaha) on Wednesday February 9th, 2011 from 6:30pm to 8:00pm at the Neighborhood Center (115 South 49th Avenue).  If you are free and willing, please consider attending.  Apologies on the short notice.

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