Sunday, October 14th, 2012


Term: Six Years
Board Size: eight
Candidates: Jim Begley, Dave Friend, John McCollister, Megan Murphy (top two vote-getters are elected)

Why you should care:

- You use water and natural gas everyday, right? MUD is the sole source from which you can buy it. They set the price, and you don’t have a choice. Kind of a big deal.

- MUD is working with the City of Omaha and other entities (OPPD, Cox Communications, etc) on a massive sewer separation as mandated by the EPA. It’s big, complicated and expensive; mismanagement would be a serious problem.

- The Board creates and approves regulatory rules for MUD, approves the budget and major expenditures, employee hiring, terminations and contracts; sets wage and benefit packages for all non-union personnel.

Who you should vote for:

John McCollister

Yup, we were surprised by this one, too. While we may not perfectly agree with Mr. McCollister on several other issues, he is well-suited to serve on the MUD board. Throughout the course of our interview we found him to be extremely knowledgeable of the issues, thoughtful and analytical in his decision-making approach, and supportive of MUD’s conservation-focused activities.

MUD is facing a challenging trend wherein their volumes (sales) are flat but their expenses continue to climb. This trend presents a significant challenge for MUD’s board and management. Mr. McCollister indicated he’s in favor of a balanced approach to combat this issue, which is to say he believes a flat fee is appropriate for creating more revenue while cost cutting must still be a focus. As for which costs to cut, he specifically mentioned employee fringe benefits and the health insurance plan as likely targets.

We also agreed with Mr. McCollister’s positions on conservation (current efforts are worthwhile and should continue if not expand; reduce carbon footprint), and compressed natural gas (MUD should continue to invest in infrastructure and public/private partnerships).

Jim Begley

Mr. Begley will provide an important and new perspective to the board. His focus on protecting the interests of MUD’s workforce was unique amongst his challengers and will serve MUD’s interests well.

He has never served on the MUD board but was adequately knowledgeable of the issues. He was particularly keen on expanding MUD’s social media presence (basically nonexistent today) in order to better communicate with customers; an approach we completely agree with. Mr. Begley also foresees a clear and meaningful role for MUD in developing a compressed natural gas market, and he passionately advocated for the utility to help its customers conserve water and natural gas consumption.

Mr. Begley also advocated for a balanced approach to fixing MUD’s budget challenges, although he foresees different mechanisms by which increase revenue (rate increases) and decrease costs (some upper-level management positions might be worth eliminating).

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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.

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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Thursday, June 7th, 2012

From Nebraskans for Civic Reform

Contact: Adam Morfeld, 402-613-0724,

The analysis that is being published by The Reader and independently reviewed and analyzed by Nebraskans for Civic Reform is comprehensive, telling, and confirms an acute and disproportionate impact on certain segments of Douglas County. The analysis examines the impact of the Douglas County polling place closures based on income, race, age, mobility, and factors in average distance to polling place and average amount of polling locations lost based on the above factors.

Below is a summary of the most compelling data from the analysis. If you have any questions please contact Adam Morfeld, executive director, Nebraskans for Civic Reform at 402-613-0724.

Brief Summary of Data Analysis

DISPARITY BY GEOGRAPHY: If you live east of 72nd St., the percentage increase in distance to your polling place is TWICE that if you live west of 72nd St.

DISPARITY BY INCOME: If you live in a census tract with a median household income between $25,000 and $50,000, the percentage increase in distance to your polling place is THREE TIMES than if you live in a census tract with a median household income above $50,000.

DISPARITY BY ETHNICITY: If you live in a census tract with a minority population exceeding 20 percent, the percentage increase in distance to your polling place is FIVE TIMES than if you live in a census tract with a minority population between 10 and 20 percent.

DISPARITY BY EDUCATION: If you live in a census tract where less than 10 percent of the population holds a bachelors degree, the percentage increase in distance to your polling place is FIVE TIMES than if you live in a census tract where more than 50 percent of the population holds a bachelors degree.

Who is Nebraskans for Civic Reform?

Nebraskans for Civic Reform (NCR) is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to protect voting rights, make elections more accessible and strengthen K-12 civic education. NCR was founded in 2008 by young professionals and its Board of Directors consists of both Republicans and Democrats.

Polling Place Closure Data Impact Analysis

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Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

Omaha Community Coalition and Citizen Advisory Committee Members React to The Reader’s Compelling Polling Place Closure Impact Analysis

Contact: Adam Morfeld, 402.613.0724,

WHEN: Wednesday, June 6th, 2012 at 2:00 PM

WHO: Omaha Community Coalition & Several Members of the Douglas County Election Commissioner’s Citizen Advisory Committee

WHAT: Press Conference and reaction to the release of detailed analysis illustrating the impact of Douglas County polling place closures

WHERE: Meadow Lane Park directly across from the Douglas County Election Commission Office 225 N 115th Street Omaha, NE 68154

OMAHA, NEBRASKA – On Wednesday, June 6th, 2012, numerous community leaders from North, South and West Omaha along with several members of the Douglas County Election Commissioner’s Citizen Advisory Committee will hold a press conference and react to the polling place impact data released by The Reader on Wednesday, June 6th.

The analysis that is being published by The Reader is comprehensive, telling, and confirms an acute and disproportionate impact on certain segments of Douglas County. The analysis examines the impact of the Douglas County polling place closures based on income, race, age, mobility, and factors in average distance to polling place and average amount of polling locations lost based on the above factors.

The press conference will also announce two public meetings with Commissioner Phipps on June 13th at the Latino Center of the Midlands in South Omaha and June 18th at the OIC in North Omaha.

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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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Thursday, April 19th, 2012

This engaging discussion will be led by UNO’s Dr. John Bartle with a response by State Senator Abbie Cornett, Chairperson of the Unicameral’s Revenue Committee. The event is only $5 and covers the cost of appetizers and beverages.

An inside look at how our tax dollars are divided among the rich, middle class, and poor; and learn how the Omaha tax burden compares to others in the region and nation.

Wednesday April 25
4:00 – 6:00pm
Hot Shops Art Center
1301 Nicholas Street

How Our Tax Dollars Are Divided

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Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Download this 8×11 poster

Put it somewhere, anywhere to encourage those near you to vote. 

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Thursday, April 5th, 2012

Our friends over at Modeshift Omaha have stepped up the discussions about transportation options in Omaha.  We strongly encourage everyone who has interest in transportation should sign up and join the conversation.  Here is their email from today to get you familiar.

Notes from our last meeting are here. Our next meeting is Tuesday, April 10 at UNO CPACS room 208. Directions are here. We’ll start a bit later at 6:45pm(so some folks can go to the Omaha Bikes meeting starting at 5:30pm at the Aksarben Godfathers).  We’d love for you to join us in helping to finalize plans for our strategic planning session on April 15 and Heyday on May Day on May 1.

If you can’t make it to the strategic planning session on April 15 (10am-4pm at UNO CPACS 109a), please let us know your vision for transportation in Omaha and what you’d like to see Mode Shift Omaha do to help bring about this vision. You can either comment on this blog post or respond to this email.

Join us for these upcoming events:

·         April 10–Mode Shift Omaha Meeting6:45pm, UNO CPACS room 208

·         April 15–Mode Shift Omaha Strategic Planning, 10am-4pm, UNO CPACS room 109a

·         April 24–Mode Shift Omaha Meeting, 6:30pm, UNO CPACS room 208

·         April 27– Transportation Coffee Chat: Regional Perspectives, 8am, Scoooter’s Coffee on 16th & Dodge (north side of Dodge inside First National building)

·         May 1Heyday on May Day Transportation Alternatives Celebration/Street Party, 5-9pm, 25 & Harney (see more info below)!!

·         All of Maywatch for events associated with National Bike Month in May.

Finally, some policy and legislative updates and action items:

  • Check out our blog post regarding assumptions about automobile accessibilty related to polling site closures.
  • The new pedicab ordinance we’ve been working on with the Omaha YPs, Omaha Bikes, the Omaha Police Department and others had its first reading at the City Council meeting on Apr. 3. The public hearing for the ordinance will take place at the City Council meeting on Apr 17. Please attend the meeting to express your support and/or email your City Council representative.
  • A proposal will go before the Omaha City Council to make sections of 19th and 20th Streets north of downtown into two-way roads that could lead to slower driving and economic development. Contract your City Council Representative to express your support.
  • The Transportation Master Plan is scheduled to go to the City Planning Board sometime in mid-April and then to the City Council in May. Stay tuned for ways you can add your support to the plan, which includes policies for complete streets and multi-modes of transportation.
  • LB1030, which would require drivers to leave a minimum distance of 3 feet when passing a pedestrian, bicycle or electric assistive mobility device traveling in the same direction on a roadway passed today in the state legislature! The law now goes to the Governor.
  • The Nebraska Department of Roads is seeking comments on its long-range transportation plan update until May 11. Please read it and add your comments.
  • And don’t forget about the Chicago to Omaha Regional Passenger Trail planning study open house—comments are being accepted until April 16.


Join Us for Heyday on May Day!

It’s a transportation celebration on May 1, 5-9pm, 25 & Harney!

Omaha is about to (we hope and expect) adopt an updated Transportation Master Plan for our fine city, and we’re throwing a party to celebrate our past accomplishments and look to the future with hope for many more.

So here’s the deal: we’re working with the City to shut down the north two lanes of Harney Street between 26th and 24th Ave. to showcase how wonderful an active, walkable, bikeable, liveable street could be! Priority 1 on the master plan is to convert Harney Street, from Midtwown to the Old Market, into a multi-modal corridor friendly for biking and walking. The ‘Market to Midtown Connector’ is sure to be a wonderful addition to Omaha. At the Heyday, we’ll help you visualize what that could mean to you.

Please join us, ideally by bicycle, bus, shuttle (from Midtown Crossing), foot, or carpool for too much fun to list on one page.  There will be group bike rides organizing from around the city.

We’re still in the planning stages but some of the fun, once you get there, will be in the form of the following:

*6pm: Transportation Master Plan discussion/community feedback

*5-9pm: *music *food trucks *Trugs *bicycle racing/riding *sidewalk chalking *all sorts of art *tree-lined street-scaping/beautification project *bike shops and clubs with information *filming and photographing the fun *open house of the area *yoga *hoola hooping *roller skating *skate boarding *Omaha by Design place games  *anything that you can think of that involves fun outside.

Follow updates about the event on Facebook.

As you can see, there’s an action-packed, fun evening in Omaha’s future. You should be there; after all, it is your city.

Questions: email us at Let us know too if you can help with planning or helping out at the event. If your organization would like to participate, you’re welcome!

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Monday, March 12th, 2012

Through our partnership with the Equal Omaha Coalition, we recently solicited the assistance of Greensberg Quinlan Rosner Research to gain a more precise picture of what Omahans are thinking with regard to the Equal Employment Ordinance.

The survey of 1,003 registered voters in Omaha shows overwhelming support for a local ordinance protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination in employment.  This support remains strong in both the Fourth (Gernandt) and Sixth (Thompson) Council districts.  Moreover, by an even more convincing margin, voters argue that this protection should be extended to ALL employees, rather than to only public employees who work for the city.


The main findings are as follows:

- By better than a 2:1 margin (60 percent favor, 25 percent oppose), Omaha voters support the ordinance.
- Moreover, 43 percent strongly support this measure, just 19 percent strongly oppose.
- Support is even broader in the Fourth Council District (68 percent favor; 47 percent strongly favor).
- The Sixth District reflects the city as a whole (61 percent favor, 29 percent oppose).

Pretty compelling, don’t you think? Let’s hope Mr. Gernandt, Mr. Thompson and the rest of the City Council are paying attention to what all Omahans are saying. On that note, if you haven’t dropped a quick email to the three swing voters to show your support, please do so. Every little bit makes a difference. Click below for direct links to email forms via

Garry Gernandt

Franklin Thompson

Thomas Mulligan

See you at the City Council meeting for the vote on Tuesday, March 13, 2012 at 2pm in City Hall.

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Saturday, February 25th, 2012

It’s crunch time for equality in Omaha.

Through our collaboration with the Equal Omaha Coalition, much progress has been made, but we’re not done yet and need your help to make sure the City Council votes to pass the Equal Employment Ordinance on March 13, 2012. You all have two immediate action items before we go any further: 1) “like” Equal Omaha on Facebook (it’s the best way to stay in the loop as the next few weeks unfold), and 2) contact the City Council.

Here’s the skinny on what’s happened, what’s next and where you’re needed:


The timetable for the EEO has been set (all 2pm City Council meetings):
- 2/28: introduction
- 3/6: public hearing (be there!)
- 3/13: final vote

On Tuesday, 2/14, the City Council unanimously approved a resolution to oppose workplace discrimination. It’s a great first step but doesn’t go far enough.

On Sunday, 2/19, the Omaha World Herald expressed its support for the EEO. Seriously. Kudos to the OWH!

Over 100 businesses and organizations support the EEO. If your business supports equality in the workplace, send us a note via the Equal Omaha Coalition and we’ll get you added to the list.

UNMC’s College of Public Health released an addendum to their 2011 Midlands LGBT Needs Assessment. If you read the addendum and still think LGBT discrimination is not a problem, your head is in the sand. Period.

A group of pretty cool musicians issued a statement supporting the EEO on 1/23.

Contact the City Council. This is the single most important thing you can do to ensure the EEO passes. No joking. Get it done. The sooner the better. Do it. Now. And remember, be respectful; you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

Attend the City Council Meetings. Yes, we know there are three so if you can only get to one, make it the public hearing on 3/6. Let’s pack City Hall!

If you have been or know someone who has been discriminated against, please share your story (anonymity is allowed). These personal accounts, which will be shared with the City Council, are a powerful way to show the EEO is absolutely needed.

Sign the petition supporting the Ordinance.

And finally, consider attending one of the rallies supporting the EEO. They are all detailed below.


March 3 from 11am – 2pm: Rally for Workplace Equality
Come to the Memorial Park Bridge to show your support for the EEO. Time to be respectful and visible.

March 5 @ 7pm: Rally for Equality
On the eve of the public hearing, come to First United Methodist Church for a pep rally, of sorts.
And finally, check out this great video of Councilmember Ben Gray talking about why the Equal Employment Ordinance is so important.

It’s time to get this done, folks. It’s time.

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