Candidate Questionnaire Responses for the 2017 Omaha City Election

20 Mar

Candidates Questionnaire Responses

We invited all qualified candidates for city offices to respond to our questionnaire about transportation issues facing the city. We present their responses here in the order they were received. We have not edited the responses and only adjusted the formatting where necessary for online presentation.

1. What are Omaha’s most pressing transportation needs? If elected, how would you address these needs?

Mayor

Ean Mikale (EM): Transportation currently is hindering job growth, accessibility to health and human services, and overall functionality as a growing metropolis.

Jean Stothert (JS): I believe Omaha’s most pressing transportation needs are addressing the backlog of street resurfacing and repair work and enhancing public transportation, especially in our downtown and urban core.

To address these needs, my vision is to provide reliable, safe, efficient and well-managed transportation systems that move residents, employees, and commerce across a wide variety of transit modes.  These modes include bicycles, pedestrian traffic, automobiles, commercial trucking, public transit buses, and related modes such as bus and train travel.  High quality transportation and related infrastructures are critical for a growing city like ours to provide a system that stimulates commerce and everyday living.

The City of Omaha will soon have doubled the amount of funding dedicated to street resurfacing and repair since I first took office four years ago.  We are actively engaged in supporting the Metro Transit Bus Rapid Transit System project, expanded bike-sharing programs, and improving parking.

In addition, Omaha is growing to the point where a modern street car system makes sense.  Although years from completion, it will further develop our urban core, reduce traffic congestion, and connect Omaha’s most popular venues.

Proper maintenance and expansion of the Interstate Highway System that runs throughout Omaha and connects us to neighboring communities is critical to residential and commercial transport.  Recent funding from the Build Nebraska Act directed to Omaha projects that include portions of I-80, I-680, and I-480 have been critical to this objective.

Heath Mello (HM): Since I announced in August 2016, I have stated that for us to build the Omaha of the future we must focus on creating a modern transportation system that allows any resident regardless of where they live to move around Omaha without a car. My vision includes a citywide light rail system that incorporates bus-rapid transit, existing OMetro bus lines, ridesharing (Uber and Lyft), and a dramatic expansion of bicycling lanes and trails to connect our city.

Christopher N. Geary Did not respond
Taylor Royal Did not respond

City Council District 1

Pete Festersen (PF): Omaha’s most pressing transportation needs include keeping up with the growing demands and maintenance needs of an aging and unimproved street infrastructure while offering new mass transit options for all of our citizens and for the young professional workforce we hope to retain and attract in the future. I’ve supported additional funds for street resurfacing and will prioritize all of our street and highway funds for transportation purposes. I support the bus rapid transit system and a new street car system pending final financial review. I’m also supportive of increased levels of funding dedicated to alternative transportation in the 2018 city bond issue as the city continues to retire its debt from riverfront development.

Grant Sturek (GS): Omaha is suffering from growing traffic problems, a lack of convenient public transportation, and cheaply built, decaying infrastructure. To improve infrastructure, I will work with the mayor and the rest of the city council to develop a 10-year plan of street rehabilitation, prioritizing the busiest and most damaged roads in the city. We will use more durable materials to construct our roads, which will cost more in the short run but will save taxpayer dollars in the long run. My preferred solution to public transportation is a combination of Bus Rapid Transit and light rail. The buses would travel along the main arteries of the city and make few stops, allowing for rapid transit between different neighborhoods. The light rail would be implemented on lower-density streets, especially in commercial areas, to provide transportation that is slower than BRT but makes more frequent stops. The combination of these two methods will allow people to drive, walk, or bike to the bus stop in their neighborhood, take the bus downtown, and then use the light rail network to travel to their final destination.

Paul Anderson: Did not respond

City Council District 2

Krystal Gabel (KG): Not everyone in Omaha has a vehicle or chooses to drive, so we have to focus on extending public bus lines. Vehicle owners are concerned about street repair and replacement happening equally in all districts. Let’s build more bike ways and improve pedestrian walkways as well as upgrade all street lights to LEDs to improve visibility, safety, and save money and energy. Road repair alone is supposed to cost around $29M annually. One way we address our city’s transportation needs is to encourage businesses with meaningful jobs to take base in Omaha to keep our residents here paying taxes. Another way is to evaluate our Wheel Tax and adjust to account for vehicle size.

Ben Gray: Did not respond
Maurice Jones: Did not respond
Dennis Womack: Did not respond
Gwen Easter: Did not respond
Bradley D. Whitmore, Jr.: Did not respond
Tanya Cooper: Did not respond

City Council District 3

Gilbert Ayala (GA): KEEPING OUR ROADS WELL MAINTAINED

Mark Elworth, Jr. (ME): (did not respond to this question due to an error in the form)

Chris Jerram: Did not respond
JR Jasso: Did not respond
D’Shawn Cunningham: Did not respond

City Council District 4

Jim Rogers: Did not respond
Vinny Palermo: Did not respond
Rebecca Barrientos-Patlan: Did not respond

City Council District 5

Rich Pahls: Did not respond

City Council District 6

Brinker Harding: Did not respond
Dwite Pedersen: Did not respond

City Council District 7

Aimee Melton (AM): The most pressing need in District 7 is the lack of public transportation for the disabled west of 132nd Street. The most pressing transportation need for the city is providng transportation from North and South Omaha to employers in West Omaha and surrounding communities.  I will continue to encourage MAT to expand coverage and work to increase the number of BRT lines and buses.

Brian Thommes (BT): We are a sprawling city whose public transportation has not kept up with population and growth patterns.  We need to make it easier to shift away from cars and find ways to get citizens to use the bus and/or rail system that is coming. I like the BRT system that is in the beginning stages on Dodge because of it’s lower costs and ease of expansion. We also need to promote and encourage other forms of transportation throughout the city such as park and ride options, carpooling, event shuttles, etc.

2. Often when we see opposition to transportation/development projects, we hear from the community that they “didn’t even know this was happening.” What would you do to make project planning, input and execution more transparent for the average citizen?

Mayor

EM: I come from the consulting world, where stakeholder engagement is key, and not doing so on the back-end, but engaging stakeholders from the ideation stage all the way through realization of the project. This is the type of engagement we would expect at the Mayoral level.

JS: I believe that transparency, public outreach, and citizen engagement are vital to the success of Omaha’s development and transportation projects and programs.  Many organizations assist with this effort, of course, including other units of local government, trade organizations, issue advocacy organizations, and our local news media.

Technology increasingly provides ways to connect those interested in staying up-to-date on city activities and those of us entrusted by the public to move projects from concept to completion.

In addition to complying with public notice and meeting requirements, we work hard to do our part through numerous Town Hall meetings every year, neighborhood association meetings, speaking opportunities and listening meetings with those in small business, and being as reachable to citizens as I can be.

I am excited to share that the Start-up Collaborative has accepted the city’s proposal to be part of the 2017 Jump Start Challenge.  For only the second time, the Collaborative invited organizations to present a challenge that aspiring entrepreneurs could solve.

This is the challenge we presented:  how can local governments better promote initiatives and engage citizens?  Beyond social media, websites, email, public hearings and community meetings, how can cities reach citizens, and how can citizens reach us?

We look forward to evaluating and implement suggestions that will directly engage more citizens on more issues.

HM: As part of my vision to fundamentally reinvent City Hall and better connect Omaha residents with city government, I have proposed implementing a new Civic Engagement Plan for every city department. This would include updating City Charter to incorporate a neighborhood alliance appointment on every major city commission and committee. In our endeavor to take a proactive approach to everything we do, I also plan to fully utilize technology organizing platforms like “Nextdoor” for the Mayor’s office and all major city departments, and we will adopt a participatory budgeting model to allow residents to help prioritize city spending decisions based on their own neighborhood’s needs.

City Council District 1

PF: The City of Omaha currently provides public notice of projects and public hearings primarily through the U.S. Mail and print notifications. With a population increasingly reliant upon electronic communication and social media I think we need to pursue new methods of notification more aggressively and would support a position in the public works department dedicated to community outreach, communication, and project facilitation.

GS: I will hold a town hall every two months and send out a press release to my constituents every two weeks to communicate the city council’s agenda. By reaching out to constituents about development projects before they are finalized, the city council can receive feedback and address any concerns that people may have.

City Council District 2

KG: Citizen involvement in project planning, input, and execution can only happen with board transparency. I want to implement a blog (or similar social media tool) to communicate what is happening behind the scenes and in City Council meetings, provide updates on those action items, and encourage residents to participate in the conversation along the way. Outreach is key to awareness and community involvement.

City Council District 3

GA: PEOPLE NEED TO PAY MORE ATTENTION SO THAT THEY KNOW WHAT IS HAPPENING.

ME: I’m all about transparency. I want to make sure the public does know and is well educated on what is going on. I’m gonna keep myself available to the public and maintain websites and emails to interact with constituents  concerns on all matters not just transportation.  

City Council District 4

No responses

City Council District 5

No responses

City Council District 6

No responses

City Council District 7

AM: The Planning Board and City Council Agendas are available on-line for the public with attachments of the plans.  I will continue to encourage developers to have neighborhood meetings and contact the neighborhood leaders more in advance than is required.  These meetings allow for the people in the community to provide input and suggestions.

BT: I think people want to start engaging more with what’s going on with the city, especially after the last election.  I think we need to expand our information delivery methods. Newspapers and mailers don’t really cut it anymore and we might need to do social media ads, billboards, ads on bus stops, and since transportation is an issue different locations throughout the city. Perhaps utilize neighborhood libraries to host regular “town hall” style forums to talk about the issues and find out what really matters to each neighborhood.

3. Do you feel the current models for developing the city to accommodate our growing population are sustainable in the long term? Please provide evidence to support your answer.

Mayor

EM: No, the city was not designed for the size is has currently acquired. This unsustainability is evidenced by Stotharts need to annex many subdivisions in order to attempt to create projected revenues of $70 million, but actually cost taxpayers $75 million, negating any net positive gains. Also, the design of subdivisions and decreased population density in the cities inner core are stretching resources thin, and this trend needs to be reversed.

JS: The current models we use to develop our city do accommodate our current and expected future growth.

A growing city requires us to provide public improvements and services that promotes a healthy balance of development while allocating costs according to the benefits received.

The Land Use Element of the Master Plan goals for managing growth include:

  • Be proactive rather than reactive
  • Establish a contiguous and compact growth pattern
  • Create high-density, mixed-use areas throughout the City

We can accommodate future growth that is beneficial to all of Omaha by focusing on these key points.

For suburban growth:

  • Encourage creation of dense, walkable, mixed-use neighborhood business districts at major intersections along our arterial roadways that are connected to the adjacent neighborhoods
  • Create an interconnected park, trail and boulevard system that makes it possible to move through neighborhoods
  • Focus on key roadway improvements that reduce congestion and support new development
  • Work with Metro Transit to increase service to key mixed-use nodes along major suburban roadways
  • Efficiently use our remaining land as Omaha begins to run out of space to physically grow
  • Use our ability to control the extension of sewers to ensure that our growth is efficient and contiguous to existing development

Infill development:

  • Look for strategic development opportunities and redevelopment of older commercial areas
  • Repurpose “big box” retail stores that have closed by exploring ways to redesign the properties for highest and best use
  • Consider changes to the City’s guidelines to allow for more multi-family units in commercial centers in exchange for eliminating vacant property zoned for retail
  • Encourage redevelopment through use of financial and other incentives
  • Take a “holistic” approach to neighborhood revitalization by addressing all the issues confronting a neighborhood such as safety, education, code enforcement, access to jobs, health care, fresh foods, recreation and open spaces.

HM: I have been very clear in stating that I believe our city’s rapid expansion through annexation, without adequate resources to serve the newly-added areas, is not a model for growth that I support. Instead, I believe that we have an opportunity and responsibility to build density within the I-680 corridor to reduce sprawl and grow our economic development within Omaha’s core. Key to building density and renewing development within the eastern part of our city is installing permanent modern transportation and infrastructure, including light rail.

City Council District 1

PF: I’ve been encouraged by the levels of infill development during my time in office and especially at it pertains to our efforts to improve our now thriving historic neighborhood business districts (such as Dundee, Benson, Florence, Blackstone, Midtown Crossing, etc … ). I remain concerned, however, about westward growth that hasn’t sufficiently prepared for the transportation needs and city service needs of the entire community in the future. Population growth models looking 20-30 years ahead indicate sustainability issues if we aren’t promoting policies that continue the benefits of development density within our current city boundaries.

GS: No. As our population increases and moves west, traffic along the city’s major thoroughfares will only increase. Metro’s BRT program and the Midtown 2050 plan are good starts, but its important that we have a transportation system that connects the entire city. Otherwise, traffic will become an even greater problem than it currently is. As I mentioned above, we need to develop a combination of bus and rail transportation that encourages people to use public transportation instead of personal vehicles for long commutes. In order for that to happen, it’s not enough to have rapid buses on Dodge St. and light rail in Midtown. Our transportation network needs to effectively connect Elkhorn, South Omaha, and North Omaha to urban core.

City Council District 2

KG: No, our current models for our city and state are not sufficient to accommodate our growing population. Omaha cannot even afford at this moment to upkeep pedestrian walkways any further west than Midtown (around 42nd St., I believe), not to mention the continuous problem with potholes. Infrastructure maintenance is a major concern across the US, and the cities that are successfully maintaining and building for our future transportation needs (with bikeways and lite rails, for example) are those that have embraced new forms of commerce, industry, and tourism, like cannabis legalization, to boost tax revenue.

City Council District 3

GA: I DONT KNOW WHAT MODELS YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT. IF THE CITY IS GROWING IN POPULATION YOU OBVIOUSLY HAVE GOT TO BUILD ROADS FOR THE NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN HOUSING AND BUSINESS.

ME: Nope. I have lots of evidence. Just go out and drive you car into a pothole they are all over our city. Just look at the condition of the roads right now. If they are in this bad of shape now then current plan isn’t working to well. Omaha is a really spread out city and roads and transportation will always be a issue in a city that encompasses so much much area. We’re not going to be able to keep up if we can’t keep up now. My suggestion would be to legalize marijuana and create that new industry and tax revenue needed to keep up on streets and to start to build more great things like bike trails and light’rails. Peace and Love.

City Council District 4

No responses

City Council District 5

No responses

City Council District 6

No responses

City Council District 7

AM: MAPA 2050 continues to evaluate our plans and models and provide sustainable solutions and suggestions for the future of Omaha and the surrounding area.  Our Planning Department needs to complete a comprehensive review of our city’s current Master Plan to and amend the plan accordingly.

BT: No, If omaha is really going to double in population by 2050 then we have to start getting people to think outside the box when it comes to getting around the city.  We need to look at energizing our city core and developing transportation around that.  I think The BRT and the light rail are both good options, however, we must also work to improve our east/west trail system and improve our cities friendliness with bikes.  We need to concentrate on plans that promote urban density rather than sprawl. Some people will always want a suburban home, but increasingly, we’re seeing that young people favor urban living. We should incentivize that, as it builds the city’s tax base, and decreases our environmental impact.

4. Given the increasing congestion and travel times in the Omaha Metro area, as well as decreasing financial resources for transportation government sources, what should the city do to address congestion?

Mayor

EM: The city will create a light rail to Lincoln, that will allow for an alternative form of transportation throughout Omaha, into Western Omaha, the Nebraska Crossing Outlet in Gretna, as well as Lincoln, and small towns along the way. We also will create carpool lanes to encourage citizens to share vehicles to reduce the strain on the current transportation system. We further will increase the range and hours of availability to existing public transportation.

JS: The following strategies and steps will help improve travel times and reduce congestion in Omaha:

  • Ensure traffic lights are synchronized and managed as efficiently as possible, and generally improve directional signage.
  • Provide efficient and timely snow removal and ice treatments.
  • Support and complete the Bus Rapid Transit, connecting downtown to West Omaha.
  • Promote in-fill development and housing in our urban core so citizens can live closer to where they may work and be closer to public transportation options.
  • Design safer roadways to save lives and reduce accident-related congestion.
  • Promote ride sharing and non-vehicle transportation options.
  • Highlight and promote our work with Heartland B-cycle where the City now owns the bikes and stations, and which will lead to 300 bikes and 70 stations around the metro area.
  • Complete the final financing and routing steps related to constructing a modern streetcar, build public support, and complete the project.

HM: Our current Mayor has said Omaha is and always will be a commuter city. I fundamentally believe that this is the kind of mindset that will keep us stuck in traffic for years to come. Alternative modes of transportation – beyond single-occupancy vehicles – must be part of our vision going forward. As I have stated, light rail is part of this vision, as is a strategic overlay of bus rapid transit lines, traditional bus routes, expanded biking and pedestrian routes, and ridesharing strategies such as Uber and Lyft.

City Council District 1

PF: The City of Omaha has many transportation needs that need to be addressed which is even more challenging in an environment of decreasing state and federal resources. For these reasons, we need to pursue policies that encourage development density as well as public-private partnerships for new public transit opportunities and pedestrian and bike trail funding like we are pursuing with the bus rapid transit system, the streetcar, and pedestrian/bike path improvements.

GS: See question 3.

City Council District 2

KG: In a city as spread out as Omaha, we must continue to look for alternatives despite dwindling financial resources. Extend the bus line. Implement city-wide carpooling. Make our city safer for bikes. Educate and excite our community about transportation alternatives. We are not alone in this issue, as successful transportation models already exist elsewhere in the US and across the world. To offer more competition transportation options, however, Omaha needs new leadership who believes we can achieve more.

City Council District 3

GA: THE CITY’S ROLE IN THE CONGESTION AREA IS TO MAKE SURE WE WISELY SPEND OUR MONEY THROUGOUT THE BUDGET SO THAT WE HAVE THE MONEY TO BUILD NEW ROADS.

ME: Quit building outwards and keep building inwards. Also suggest riding a bike, walking, or using public transportation. We also need to improve those options to make them attractive. Do business local, don’t go across town, do it in your neighborhood. Make sure all neighborhoods  have basic services like grocery and shopping available to them so people don’t have to go miles to get a fresh piece of fruit or another basic need item.

City Council District 4

No responses

City Council District 5

No responses

City Council District 6

No responses

City Council District 7

AM: Expand the BRT system to encourage more use of public transportation.  In addition, we must implement the Complete Streets policies throughout our city.

BT: Expand city-wide transportation. Work to decrease the stigma of bus ridership. Offer wifi, outlets, discounts for annual memberships. Move to a card system, like Chicago has where your metro card is linked to a rechargable debit card. Let people know the benefits of park and ride, you can sit back and read and listen to music while someone else deals with the traffic. Show that there are options and how the system will benefit the city as a whole, Better roads, better for the environment.

5. The current transportation infrastructure excludes about a quarter of the population that cannot drive for reasons of age, ability, or financial means. What would you do to make sure that Omaha accommodates the transportation needs of all citizens?

Mayor

EM: Engage them. Ask them what they need. Bring in smart individuals internationally through a $100,000 competition for transportation innovation, to address the gaps in services by awarding the prize money to the best ideas.

JS: While many citizens use public transportation for convenience, many use it because of financial necessity or other reasons that limit their options to be more self-sufficient in this area.  Many charitable and non-profit organizations provide transportation services and they should be commended and encouraged.  This includes various housing and faith institutions that provide these needed services.

Government can improve in providing services to those dependent on transportation services offered through brokerage providers for more timely and efficient rides to, for example, medical providers.  There are opportunities in this area for improved coordination between Metro and the state Medicaid transportation brokerage.

Finally, we should expand the use of public transportation where it makes sense and is cost beneficial for this segment of our population.  The Metro Transit Bus Rapid Transit System project is a step in the right direction, as is the development of a modern street car.  A street car system has been studied for decades and I believe now is the time to put that thought and study into action.  There are many business and community entities helping with this effort and we are enlisting their help to finalize the financial and routing specifics, as well as explaining the concept to the public.

HM: I believe that modernized transportation plans, including implementation of light rail, is critical not just to building an attractive city for millennials but also a functional city for the 25% of Omaha’s residents who cannot drive and another portion of the population who would forgo a car if feasible. Modern means of alternative transportation built to be accessible, including strategies such as raised platforms for quicker and easier onboarding and departure, are key to helping Omahans effectively move about our city for work and play.

City Council District 1

PF: Public transit options must expand and become more user friendly. And our built environment and development patterns must encourage more connections that make walking, biking, and other forms of transit more viable as options.

GS: See question 3.

City Council District 2

KG: Expand bus lines, add bike lanes, improve pedestrian safety walks, and educate the public about transportation alternatives. We put no where near enough emphasis on non-vehicle transportation in this city. Again, other states are improving their transportation needs – and we can replicate these models to fit our needs (and budget).

City Council District 3

GA: THE CITY CANNOT AFFORD NOR DOES IT HAVE ANY BUSINESS TRYING TO RECTIFY EVERY TRANSPORTATION NEED OF EVERY CITIZEN.  I PERSONALLY OWN TWO VEHICLES WHICH IF I TRADED THEM IN AT A DEALERSHIP THEY WOULD PROBABLY OFFER ME ABOUT A THOUSAND DOLLARS EACH.  

ME: If we legalize marijuana, tax and regulate it then we would have money to provide services to more of those people, but until then I’m afraid we have a tight budget and not much money may be available for these programs.

City Council District 4

No responses

City Council District 5

No responses

City Council District 6

No responses

City Council District 7

AM: We need to encourage MAT to expand service to the elderly and disabled west of 132nd Street.  In addition, expanding the BRT system to include stations and routes from in North Omaha, South Omaha and extend West.

BT: Build the system up and out. Make buses nice to reduce stigma. And partner with employers, non-profits, state/federal grants to reduce the costs for those who cannot afford the price. Create programs to reduce costs for school kids, college students, people on public assistance, etc. Eventually, the cost-savings from reduced road maintenance can be invested back into the public transportation system.

6. How often do you use a Metro bus, bicycling, or walking for transportation? If you have school aged children, how often do they take the school or Metro bus, bike, or walk to school?

Mayor

EM: I walk a lot, and have taken the city bus many times to work over my life. I try to walk places where it makes sense. Our youngest son Nahir enjoys our walks. Our children take the school bus and walk to school also.

JS: I have ridden the Metro bus in the past and found it clean and efficient.  

Our adult children live in another state but are frequent users of public transportation in their communities.

I commute to and from work – in my Ford Fusion Hybrid – and need it for daily appointments throughout the city and metropolitan area.  For work-related appointments during the day I will walk to those and other meetings that are downtown near City Hall.  My family members are avid walkers in our neighborhoods and enjoy walking our dogs and getting exercise.

HM: I am someone who enjoys walking and biking as much as possible, and my wife and I especially enjoy walking with our kids to Churchich Park or the Keystone Trail near our home. Unfortunately, the busing system isn’t where it could be in order for me to use it to get to work. I would take the bus more often if it were feasible.

City Council District 1

PF: I walk and bike weekly and take a bus occasionally. Our school age children primarily car pool to school, but sometimes walk as well. I am currently working on a safe routes to school project at an Elementary school in my district.

GS: When I was a freshman and sophomore at Central High, I had to take the Metro bus home every day after school. I don’t use it currently, and for good reason: the buses stop too frequently and travel too slowly relative to be a desirable alternative for my car.

City Council District 2

KG: I walk in my neighborhood as often as possible to the store or post office. I used to ride my bike to UNO’s campus, but I was nearly hit by a car one day so I am less inclined to ride my bike on Omaha streets that do not have bike lines (and there are none where I live). The last time I tried to take the bus, I learned it took me way longer to ride than it would to drive to my destination.

City Council District 3

GA: I HAVE USED THE METRO BUS SERVICE ON A FEW OCCASIONS WHEN MY VEHICLE BROKE DOWN OR I ACCIDENTALLY LEFT THE KEYS IN THE IGNITION.  UNABLE TO GET MY WIFE ON THE PHONE I TOOK THE BUS TO GET HOME.

ME: I hate the bus. It’s so slow and takes forever to get somewhere. But yeah I don’t have a car anymore, so I walk and ride bicycles quite a bit.

City Council District 4

No responses

City Council District 5

No responses

City Council District 6

No responses

City Council District 7

AM: I drive a car to most of my destinations outside of my neighborhood.  I car pool with two other families to transport our children to and from school.

BT: Never

7. In 2015, City Council voted to add a Complete Streets policy to the City Master Plan. What would you do to assure that the Complete Streets policy is implemented and adhered to?

Mayor

EM: I plan to revise the entire Master Plan. Transportation will be a key areas of revision. However, I look forward to integrating existing work, research, and ideas of administration in the Metropolitan Area Planning Agency.

JS: The City has hired Toole Design Group to perform planning and engineering work to produce a Complete Streets Design Manual as required by Omaha’s Complete Streets Policy, adopted as part of the Transportation Element of the Master Plan in 2015.

It will be built using past street design efforts, consolidating existing guidelines in one document and rectifying inconsistencies in the standards, where appropriate. The Design Manual will define street typologies that are responsive to adjacent land uses and local circumstances, craft roadway and intersection designs supportive of all modes of transportation, and develop an implementation and maintenance plan to ensure the successful incorporation of Complete Streets elements into the City’s future projects.

The implementation plan will include a standard protocol for public engagement to guide the construction and reconstruction of city streets. The process of creating the Design Manual will be enhanced by an extensive public engagement effort. This manual is key for the success of the Complete Streets Policy.  I will direct city departments to stay on the timeline presented in Appendix B of the policy to ensure success.

However, we are not simply waiting for the manual to be completed before implementing the Complete Streets Policy. We currently evaluate projects for conformance with the policy. In addition, I have encouraged city departments to work with the Active Living Advisory Committee, when appropriate, to solicit feedback on project design and will continue to promote this in the future. This committee, made up of a wide range of backgrounds and interests, has provided helpful recommendations for projects and they have been utilized to the extent possible.

In addition, a review and summary of the metrics established to monitor the implementation of the policy, along with a report to the City Council and citizens of Omaha, will be published.

HM: I would have Planning Department and Public Works Department issue monthly report addenda specifically about Complete Streets to make sure that implementation is on target and information is publicly available.

City Council District 1

PF: I voted to approve the complete streets policy and would like to see it followed up with enforceable guidelines within city ordinance. I also supported the position of bike and pedestrian coordinator because I believe complete streets must have an advocate at the table as planning and public works projects are under development and implementation within city hall.

GS: As part of my 10-year infrastructure plan, I will prioritize improving streets that do not meet the city’s standards, which include the Complete Streets policy.

City Council District 2

KG: I would be happy to partner with the Complete Streets Omaha group to ensure travel networks for all users based on design best practices. It only makes sense to fix and design our roadways based on the travel behavior of Omahans and best practices for urban and suburb corridors, shopping streets, and schools. Like all good design, a research-based street plan will contribute to less costly maintenance in the future.

City Council District 3

GA: RIGHT NOW I AM FOCUSED ON WINNING ELECTION FOR CITY COUNCIL.  SHOULD I WIN I WILL SIT DOWN WITH YOUR ORGANIZATION AND YOU CAN INFORM ME ABOUT THE COMPLETE STREETS POLICY.  I THEN WILL GIVE YOU AN ANSWER AS TO WHETHER I WOULD SUPPORT COMPLETE STREETS.

ME: Legalize marijuana to provide the tax revenue, I’d quit raising tax on hard working citizens. But yeah without tax revenue I’m sure the whole thing will fail. Infact if we don’t legalize I fear more business and more young people will leave and or chose other cities to go to and then we will be stuck with a aging city with no tax base. We will just become another dead end town, but we could change all that if we opened our minds a bit.

City Council District 4

No responses

City Council District 5

No responses

City Council District 6

No responses

City Council District 7

AM: The Master Plan now requires Complete Streets policies for new developments and roads.  I supported the measure and will continue to support requirements that make traveling on our streets safer and easier for pedestrians and bicyclists alike.

BT: As a City Council member, I would use my vote to ensure that we implementing the policies that we have in place and not side-stepping our repsonsibilities.

8. Around the world cities are adopting Vision Zero policies with a goal of ending traffic deaths for all users on their streets and roads. Do you support such an initiative in Omaha and can you describe the reasoning behind your answer?

Mayor

EM: Yes, I would be very supportive. It is our hope that a diesel powered light rail system from Omaha to Lincoln would prevent many traffic fatalities on Interstate I-80 during harsh winter months and unpredictable weather.

JS: There is so much we have done, and should do, to reduce traffic fatalities in our city and state.  I am also encouraged that we are making progress in our country in reducing traffic fatalities.  Of course, any idea that is proving worthwhile anywhere in world is worth considering; in whole or in part.

Our efforts in Nebraska and Omaha should be focused on the following to reduce traffic fatalities:

  • Local law enforcement of existing speed limits, since a great number of traffic deaths are caused by excessive speeding.
  • Local and state efforts to reduce alcohol-related traffic deaths by public education and enforcing driving while intoxicated laws.
  • Public education around the need for seat belt use, proper child car seat use and restraints.
  • Public education and laws addressing distracted driving.
  • Designing and constructing safer roadways and interchanges.
  • Better lighting and pedestrian markings in cities and towns.
  • Greater awareness and use of dedicated bicycle lanes.
  • Greater use of public transportation and shared vehicle usage such as carpooling and ridesharing services.

Finally, what may lead to the greatest improvement in highway safety and reducing traffic fatalities is the development of autonomous vehicles and other collision avoidance technologies.  With these and other improvements I am hopeful that in a generation or sooner, young people will look back in shock that over 30,000 citizens die on our roads each year in America.

HM: Yes, I support such policies. Adopting a Vision Zero plan is part of my “Safer, Stronger Neighborhoods” blueprint (http://mllo.me/2nCisPn). Vision Zero cities strive to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries, and our city has seen too many of each. In 2015, there were 26 deaths and 4,677 injuries due to traffic accidents in Omaha. To make our city safer, I will collaborate with community leaders in analyzing our death and injury patterns and work to implement action plans that move us to “zero.”

City Council District 1

PF: I’m supportive of ending traffic deaths and making our streets safer for all users of our public infrastructure so I would consider it depending upon the details.

GS: I would support such an initiative, but with only if the city is serious about actively implementing safer streets. Actions speak louder than words, and I fear that the city council might adopt a Vision Zero policy halfheartedly for the sake of bragging about it during election years. Regardless of whether we have such a policy, I will continue to support efforts to add more bike lanes, left turn arrows, sidewalks, and more easily navigable intersections to our transportation network to make our streets safer and more efficient.

City Council District 2

KG: I think using existing models to improve our way of life is efficient and strategic, especially policies from visionary countries like Sweden. We do need to improve signage and reduce speed limits in major thoroughfares in Omaha, and if the Vision Zero policy will help implement these simple changes to reduce reckless driving and save lives, then you have my support.

Instead of another policy, I also propose making penalties more severe for using electronic devices while operating a vehicle. In states like New York, this has increased awareness about the dangers of distracted driving.

City Council District 3

GA: NO I DO NOT.  IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO END TRAFFIC DEATHS.  SOMETHING WILL ALWAYS GO WRONG WHEN YOU PUT A 200LB HUMAN BEING IN A 1.5 TON VEHICLE AT 60MPH DEATHS WILL HAPPEN.  THIS WILL HAPPEN ON BUSES, TRAINS AND EVEN WITH DRIVERLESS VEHICLES.

ME: I support making it illegal to talk on cellphones and use text message while driving in Omaha. If you want to talk about stopping traffic injuries I’m here and ready. Let’s start writing electronic device users tickets. That would cut down on accidents in this city greatly. We will never completely end traffic deaths, driving is dangerous. Getting in wrecks is part of driving. It happens, cars are dangerous. They are big pieces of metal powered by engines that are driven by whoever has a key. Traffic injuries will keep going up as long as people are using cellphones and driving.

City Council District 4

No responses

City Council District 5

No responses

City Council District 6

No responses

City Council District 7

AM: I support greater enforcement of traffic laws, adding additional traffic patrol officers, new street designs and most importantly, public engagement in recognizing the dangers of speeding, texting and driving and failing to yield.  The Keep Kids Alive, Drive 25 is another initiative that has had great success and I hope to implement the KKAD25 garbage can initiative if we begin using the large trash recepticles in the future.

BT: The goals of Vision Zero are morally responsible, and their success in Sweden shows that they are effective. Can this work in Omaha? Maybe. I think we need to work toward an ethically designed transportation system that prioritizes limiting death and injury over cost and convenience, and I think we can implement some of the ideas sooner rather than later. But we have to be realistic and realize that this is a long term goal, and move toward it intelligently.

9. What are your plans to ensure the success of the Bus Rapid Transit system being rolled out by Metro?

Mayor

EM: Support the plan fiscally and legislatively.

JS: The city has an important role in the success of Metro Transit and their programs, including the Bus Rapid Transit system, scheduled for deployment in late 2018.

The project is, of course, managed by Metro Transit.  The City of Omaha, however, is a significant partner in the design, routing, signaling, and eventual promotion of the Bus Rapid Transit system.

The mayor appoints all members of the Metro Transit Board, although Metro operates with their own property tax levy and other funding sources, including user revenues.

The City of Omaha is fully engaged in supporting this project for several reasons:

  • This system will realize many of the benefits of light rail but without the cost and maintenance of in-ground track.
  • During peak periods, the first Bus Rapid Transit line on Dodge Street will provide service from the Old Market to Westroads every 10 minutes.
  • It is projected that several thousand riders will use the system and that means less congestion and safer streets; especially on East / West corridors like Dodge Street.
  • Vehicles will run on alternative fuels and be distinctive looking from other Metro buses.
  • The system will benefit parking issues and capacity along and near the route.
  • Several local non-profit and philanthropic organizations are contributing financially toward the success of this project.
  • And, the system will provide better transportation options for those needing public transportation to get to and from employment opportunities.

I am looking forward to my first ride on the Bus Rapid Transit system and promoting this great addition to Omaha’s transportation inventory!

HM: It will be a high priority to make sure the Planning Department and Mayor’s Office work with Metro to market the new system and promote a park and ride initiative along the BRT route. As Mayor, I’ll commit to sit-down conversations and “Coffee with the Mayor” events on the BRT.

City Council District 1

PF: I will continue to be an advocate for the project and believe it will be of great benefit to my constituents providing a viable commuting alternative for the areas between the Westroads Mall and Downtown. As we move to implementation I will assist with the finalizing of station locations and associated infrastructure improvements and look forward to helping publicize its benefits to ridership.

GS: 1. I will strongly support adding separate bus lanes along the most highly congested parts of Dodge St. There’s little point in introducing a BRT system if it grinds to a halt between 90th and 72nd.
2. I will work to ensure that Metro gets additional funding from the city and private donors to expand the system further west and create new BRT lines to connect North Omaha and South Omaha to the system.

City Council District 2

KG: Did not respond to this question

City Council District 3

GA: THE BUS RAPID TRANSIT SYSTEM HAS NOT BEEN MENTIONED BY ANY OF THE APPROXIMATELY 4,000 PEOPLE I HAVE PERSONALLY SPOKEN WITH DURING THIS CAMPAIGN.  WHEN ELECTED I WILL INVESTIGATE  THIS PLAN AND DECIDE WHETHER TO SUPPORT IT, OPPOSE IT, OR IMPLEMENT IT AT A LOWER COST.

ME: Nothing, I think our bus system sucks and is a total joke. I suggest letting another entity tale over our bus service. Matt Bus gets a failing grade from me. Legalize marijuana and build a real public transit systems.

City Council District 4

No responses

City Council District 5

No responses

City Council District 6

No responses

City Council District 7

AM: We need to promote the new BRT system to ensure that people know where the stations are located and how they can utilize this new system along with the traditional buses and alternate transportation methods.

BT: Use my vote to support it.  I have talked about it as i have been canvasing neighborhoods.  I myself can use it.

10. How do you propose to increase the city’s share of active transportation funding?

Mayor

EM: By turning our entire fleet of 5000 city-owned vehicles into electric within 4-years, while also adding Windmill farms to city property, to create a projected $200 in savings over 10 years, and $1 Billion over 50 years, that will provide access revenue to support infrastructure relief.

JS: Transportation is one of the areas where our current needs exceed immediately available funding streams.  However, we are making progress on expanding transportation funding, especially in the near term.

The transportation funding gap that is often referred to includes funding for maintenance, new and expanded roads, as well as funding for public transportation, bike lanes, and other transportation assets.  While I do not support new or expanded taxes for road projects, I do support expanded funding through our six-year Capital Improvement Program (CIP) process and utilizing new bonding capacity as it becomes available.  We have nearly doubled the street resurfacing and repair budget, and our CIP for the next six years includes approximately $320 million dollars for transportation projects, including $6.8 million for unimproved roads.

In addition, we need to continue to prioritize the funding we do have for these activities. This requires us to work closely with Metro Transit on the forms of public transit they fund and control.  We also need to continue our close working relationship with federal transit agencies and our Congressional Delegation so we can utilize federal money for infrastructure projects in a timely manner.  Currently, we have a backlog of close to $100 million in Federal Aid projects because of the process they require.  Many, like 168th Street south of Pacific, have been delayed for years because of the NEPA process.

HM: In order to move a modern transportation and infrastructure system forward, including funding for active transportation initiatives, I’ve proposed creating an “Omaha Infrastructure Bank” that would serve as a public-private partnership financing mechanism to address both infrastructure maintenance and new systems development. I firmly believe that combining public, private, and philanthropic funding streams will be the only way forward to achieve the multitude of outcomes needed for the community to ensure both people and commerce are transported efficiently and effectively across our city and region.

City Council District 1

PF: I will continue to advocate for additional park and transportation bond funding dedicated to the areas of pedestrian and bike paths throughout the city and linear corridors and trail connections in our parks. And with declining state and federal funding available for such opportunities, I will continue my successful track record of working together with philanthropic entities on these issues.

 

GS: The city’s budget differs from year to year, and I’m not going to immediately propose raising taxes or cutting spending elsewhere to divert more funding to transportation. Once I am a part of the budget-making process, however, I will oppose cuts to transportation and support reasonable increases to transportation funding should rising tax revenues make it feasible. Many large projects to improve our infrastructure can be funded by local donors; Omaha has a very large philanthropic community committed to bettering the city. By utilizing those people to fund improvements to roads and public transit, we can transform Omaha into a more forward-thinking city at a minimal cost to the taxpayer.

City Council District 2

KG: We need to invite companies that offer meaningful jobs to our citizens to make base in Omaha. Legalization of marijuana will only improve our state’s tax revenue (by stopping it from all going to Colorado).  We cannot keep increasing tax for current residents – we must find new sources.

City Council District 3

GA: IF MONEY IS OWED TO THE CITY FOR OUR TRANSPORTATION NEEDS WE SHOULD TRY TO GET IT.  BUT I RECEIVING THIS MONEY COMES ATTACHED WITH INCREASED AND BIG SCALE CITY SPENDING I WOULD BE OPPOSED.

ME: Legalize Marijuana!! Tax it and regulate it. We can have a whole new city if we legalize. The revenue could pay for it all.

City Council District 4

No responses

City Council District 5

No responses

City Council District 6

No responses

City Council District 7

AM: Promoting greater use of public transportation will help fund the system.

BT: We need to fight for every dollar available, from every source available. Unfortunately, transportation issues seem to be a low priority with the new Administration, and any talk of infrastructure spending seems focus mostly on toll roads and not maximizing public transportation. In light of that, we need to explore public-private partnerships, we need to explore an infrastructure bank, we need to consider bond issues, and possibly creating a transportation authority with it’s own taxing abilities.

 

One Response to “Candidate Questionnaire Responses for the 2017 Omaha City Election”

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