Equal Opportunity & Social Mobility

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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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

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As Omahans who appreciate having options in our transportation, we would like to wish a happy fortieth anniversary to the Transit Authority for the City of Omaha — Metro Transit. Over the last four decades, the Transit Authority has provided an admirable level of service to our city for the dollars spent.

Operating seven days per week, and taking only six service holidays a year, Metro Transit works hard to ensure a viable transportation mode for those who want options in their mobility. More important, Metro has been a reliable partner in providing mobility to those who have few options. In a city where housing and commerce are often separated by many miles, Metro Transit provides a critical link connecting people to their jobs, their schools, their friends and vital services.

In addition to maintaining a necessary service to the community, the current administration at Metro Transit has proved to be vigilant fiscal stewards. Both our fare costs and tax burden for transit are some of the lowest in the region while still operating a full service transit agency. From Executive Director, Curt Simon and his administrative staff, to the friendly corp of drivers, the Metro Transit family has shown a dedication to Omaha.

Public transit ridership in Omaha grows year after year. The younger generation buys fewer cars and drives less and our aging population is looking for mobility options other than driving the role of transit is increasingly important. With volatile gas prices and a sluggish economy, people turn to a shared resource like transit as a financially viable option.

Metro is working hard to make transit more accessible, more practical and comfortable. The updated fleet of buses and participation in Google Transit make the bus increasingly usable and convenient. The future of public transportation in Omaha is promising. Thank you, Metro, for forty years of service to our community.

Sincerely,
Kevin M. Flatowicz-Farmer, ModeShift Omaha
Angela Eikenberry, ModeShift Omaha
Mike Battershell, Greater Omaha Young Professionals
Craig Moody, VOICE
Patrick McAtee, Omaha Bikes

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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.

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Equal Opportunity & Social Mobility

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

LB 239 – legislation that would have required the presentation of government-issed photographic identification to vote in elections – was officially killed last week. Thanks to all of you who contacted your state representative and stood up for the democratic rights of all Nebraskans, particularly our most vulnerable populations. Nebraska is only one of a handful of states that have successfully defeated voter ID!
The next battle for voting rights is ensuring all citizens have reasonable access to polling places. Please continue to stay tuned as together we work to ensure everyone has the opportunity to vote in the upcoming primary and general elections…

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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.

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Equal Opportunity & Social Mobility

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

The Equal Employment Ordinance hasn’t formally been introduced yet and crazy stories are already circulating. Will your business need to install a transgender bathroom? Will frivolous lawsuits go through the roof?  Is such an ordinance unheard of and untested in other communities? The answers: No. No. No. The Equal Omaha Coalition created this great, one-page list of FAQs for you to share far and wide to debunk all these crazy myths.

Please feel free to share it far and wide. Let’s shut down the rumor mill right away.

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Equal Opportunity & Social Mobility, News

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012


Equal Employment Preview

You can watch the full video here.

Please learn the facts about the upcoming introduction of the Equal Employment Ordinance.

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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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VOICE Omaha