Smart Urban Development

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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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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Smart Urban Development

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Check out today’s OWH article “Imagining the Future for Metro Counties“… which Metro scenario do you prefer?…

“[In 2050] Downtown Omaha remains a vital center of commerce and the arts. Central High School still graduates future leaders, part of a local school network that educates 400,000 students, most of whom end up working in the area. A series of urban centers dot the landscape, following the template set 40 years earlier by Midtown Crossing and Aksarben Village.

The suburbs are still a choice, but denser urban living, Omaha-style, has developed a certain cachet that keeps attracting young families.

Or . . .

The metro area embraces the auto, spreads out with quarter-acre residential lots that eat up farmland on both sides of the Missouri River. Cross-country travelers and commuters take the outer-ring freeway, which touches Plattsmouth, Waterloo, Blair and Treynor, Iowa, as it skirts the leapfrogging suburbs.

The old City of Omaha annexed everything in Douglas County in the 2030s, and now the aging downtown and the public schools struggle with a declining tax base and urban blight. Bus service evaporated in the 2020s, when government subsidies ended and fares got too high. Huge sections of the 300-square-mile urban area — more than double the old Omaha city limits — would be too remote for mass transit anyway.”

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Smart Urban Development, Sustainability

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

Drop this one into the ‘duh’ category, but research is now supporting the long-held notion that biking is good for individual and community health. Last week, the journal Environmental Health Perspectives published findings from a study by scientists at the University of Wisconsin on the economic and health benefits of switching from a car to a bike for trips shorter than five miles long in 11 metropolitan areas around the upper Midwest.

Researchers found that if inhabitants of the sample region switched to bikes for half of their short trips, they’d create a net societal health benefit of $3.5 billion per year from the increase in air quality and $3.8 billion in savings from smaller health care costs associated with better fitness and fewer mortalities from a decreased rate of car accidents.

Thanks to the good people at GOOD for highlighting the study.

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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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News, Smart Urban Development, Sustainability

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

We partnered with Mode>Shift>Omaha on this op-ed that ran today. Here’s to smart planning for all Omahans…even those without a car!

The Omaha World Herald’s Editors missed an opportunity to productively participate in Omaha’s on-going transportation dialog with its July 15 editorial, “Be careful, Big Brother”. Rather than thoughtfully weighing in on the issue of Omaha’s transportation future, the Herald unnecessarily based its position on what cities across an ocean have done; an unfair comparison. We would have wanted to see the editorial address the facts facing Omaha rather than setting a European strawman ablaze.

While the editorial was correct in identifying that the Bill of Rights protects individuals from government intruding on private decisions, transportation is an issue of public concern, requiring public investment. The 2010 Nebraska Driver’s Manual refers to driving as a privilege, not a right, over a dozen times.  In truth, our continued focus on car-only streets limits a non-driving citizens’ freedom to travel, to work, or to engage in commerce. Our current car-centric transportation system is a greater infringement upon individual rights and private choice than complete street designs or congestion fees ever could be.

Smart transportation and urban planning seek to provide a broader array of choices, and not issue mandates. Currently, the only way to effectively get around most of Omaha is by car, and many Omahans can’t afford one, let alone the insurance, gas and maintenance that accompany car ownership. According to AAA, the average annual cost of car ownership is more than $8,000. Without viable alternative modes of transportation, that cost of ownership becomes a de facto tax. Under our present-day transportation system, these citizens, along with many others who would prefer effective mass transit, are compelled to own a car or suffer limited access to opportunities.

The role of the car in the United States’ transportation system has expanded for decades. Expanding roads demand more and more space and make it harder for walkers, bikers and bus-riders to safely and conveniently move about. Consequently, pollution has increased, obesity rates have skyrocketed, sprawl has dominated, and citizens and cities alike are poorer because of it.

If we continue to cater our planning efforts towards the car, we may be subject to the same struggles many poorly planned urban cities are experiencing: a dwindling population and giant swaths of vacant land. Now, we see the pendulum swinging back with urban developments like Aksarben Village, North Downtown, and Midtown Crossing. This type of density is critical to an active transportation network in which all Omahans are free to choose among many transportation options.

An active and diversified transportation network will mean healthier and wealthier Omahans. It will mean cleaner air and more green space. It will mean stronger local businesses with more sustainable regional economic growth. And our city will be safer and more accessible for children, the elderly, disabled, and anyone that leaves their home. It will mean citizens can still drive a car, but they can also choose other safe, convenient, and healthier ways to get around.

Undoubtedly this is an important discussion for our community; we are all stakeholders. We encourage all Omahans to learn about and get involved in the process. The decisions being made today will impact several generations to come. They are not decisions to be taken lightly and require the involvement of all citizens and the Omaha World Herald.

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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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Smart Urban Development

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

The City of Omaha is starting a year-long process to update our Transportation Master Plan. And they want to hear from you.

A public visioning workshop will be held tonight at the Livestock Exchange Building. Stop by and share your thoughts so that our city can shape its plan to provide more choices for mobility.

January 18th, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Omaha’s Livestock Exchange Building (4920 South 30th Street)

This evening’s discussion items regarding Omaha’s Transportation Network:

Where are we?
Where are we going?
Where do we want to be?
How do we get there?

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VOICE Omaha