Mode Shift Omaha|

In preparation for City Elections in 2021, we will be speaking with Naomi Hattaway during our Coffee Chat on Friday, October 16 at 8:00 a.m.

Naomi is passionate about community building, diversity and accessibility in online and physical spaces, and affordable housing so folks can thrive, not just survive, in the places they call home. The founder of I Am A Triangle, an international social network,  and 8th & Home Relocation, a nation-wide network matching families on the move with Realtors, Naomi now consults nonprofits and organizations on inclusive program design, mutual aid and housing solutions. In addition to raising three amazing humans, and providing a home to five four-legged rescues, Naomi is also running for City Council in Omaha, with a bid to represent District 6, the central section of West Omaha. You can find her on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook via @naomihattaway.

Please read Naomi’s thoughtful answers to the questions we posed and then register for a Zoom link to be part of the conversation.

1. What is your vision of the built environment in Omaha over the next generation?  

This is a question that requires more space than I have here, but I have a vision for more diverse thought and lived experience being showcased in our community engagement efforts and planning processes. We have amazing and excellent talent across our City, yet we tend to ask the same questions, in the same manner, with the same results. Too often we only act on feedback from a particular subset of residents, and that’s a disservice to a city’s built environment. Additionally, the “language” spoken by our elected officials, planners, and decision makers of Omaha is quite different from the language of everyday residents of our city. This dissonance doesn’t allow for forward innovation and problem solving. My vision is that we see more equitable policymaking, to dovetail with improved community building (in part, city planning with the true needs of people at the helm of design). My vision is that we have less transactional management and more intentional dialogue. Less “this is how we’ve always done it” and more opportunities to listen to and learn each other’s language so we can make progress together. 

2. How can the City of Omaha better manage the transportation assets in the city, especially active transportation assets?

We could start by adjusting some of our language. Instead of walkable, we might use “navigable” or “as accessible as possible”. Word choice may not seem to obviously relate to active transportation assets, but when we are more inclusive of our community and neighbors, the economic benefits of an innovative multi-modal transportation plan can be fully realized. One practical way to better manage our assets is by acknowledging that “take back our streets” must be inclusive of community members that utilize curbside drop-off and pick-up for medical appointments, or for our neighbors that rely on delivery (medicine, meals-on-wheels), or shortened walking distance when running errands or providing caretaking services. Any type of inaccessibility equals forced isolation, and I think Omaha can increase their prioritization of reducing barriers as we manage transportation assets.

3. Planning and Public Works are currently run by separate directors. Should they have a common director and if so, should that person be a planner or an engineer?

I do not have a current official position on a common director between the Planning and Public Works Departments, but I would like to see the City of Omaha explore the appointment of a director of sustainability to ensure climate goals are aligned with racial equity as we get ever closer to the implementation of the 2050 LRTP.

4. The current Board of Metro Area Transit is appointed by the mayor and approved by the city council — do you support maintaining the status quo, or should Metro Area Transit elect to become a regional transit authority with an elected board?

I believe Omaha could benefit from elected leadership for the Metro Transit, however we first need to remove the barriers to individuals who desire to serve in an elected capacity. Meaning, we should first work to have clearer paths for a diverse set of folks to campaign, fundraise and win elections.  Once we achieve greater representation with those who are running for office in Omaha, then I would support looking into a regional transit authority that is held by elected officials (similar to our peer cities, such as KC, Des Moines, Charlotte, etc.). Additionally, I believe that some of the status quo we maintain, is a system that refuses to name the impact of local systemic racism and our leadership model / electoral process would be a great place to begin.

5. If you could magically change one thing in Omaha with regard to transportation what would it be?

I would love to see more transparency and true community engagement when it comes to planning, forecasting and building our City! Specifically regarding transportation, my magic wand would wave in the direction of education and accessibility. Until neighbors in all parts of Omaha realize just how important safe roads, the way we use our land and why accessibility matters, we have work to do. I have been working with Shelby Seier of All Kinds Accessibility on an audit of District 6 (including transportation accessibility, whether we prioritize disability rights, what ways we can better serve our elders and aging population, etc.). It’s encouraging to see that it might not be about magic that’s needed after all, but simply a willingness to listen and learn, with some bravery and gumption from our elected officials sprinkled over the top.

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