Archive by Author

5 Questions for Naomi Hattaway

13 Oct

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.

She’s Back!

30 Sep

We are thrilled to announce that Sarah Johnson is back as a member of the Mode Shift Omaha Board of Directors.

Sarah is an Omaha native and one of the founding members of Mode Shift Omaha. She’s been involved in the bicycle industry in one way or another for the past 18 years and recently closed the Omaha Bicycle Co., her own bike & coffee shop, due to persistent health issues. After stepping away from the MSO Board about 3 years ago, she was able to focus on closing the business and address her physical wellbeing. After another surgery she’s feeling better and ready to re-engage with MSO. Silver lining of the health stuff: she’s now a big believer in the transformative power of electric assist bikes! She and her husband share one car and both primarily rely on electric bikes for transportation year round, including their electric tandem. 

She lived in Lincoln while earning a Journalism degree from the University of Nebraska and has also called Grand Lake, CO home for a few years where she gained first hand knowledge of how bike friendly places can be, particularly compared to Omaha. She’s a long time vocal advocate for safe streets and is comfortable having an unpopular opinion. Sarah is inspired by progress happening in other cities and tries to encourage Omaha to learn from outside successes and then actually implement great projects here. A little less talk, a lot more action! 

Although she’s often disappointed with the decisions the City makes, she does her best to work collaboratively and focus on potential rather than shortcomings. Sarah worked with the City Council to adopt a new policy prohibiting parking in bike lanes and regularly vocalizes her opinions at City Hall. She’s currently working with the Parks Department on changing the language of a proposed electric bike ban and is determined to make sure that trail users aren’t punished but instead encouraged to use our trail system safely. She also works with the NRD to install bicycle FixIt Stations throughout the metro area. 

We have work to do here and she’s excited to be back on the board of Mode Shift Omaha to push for change! Some of her favorite MSO events from the past include the Heyday on May Day, the Save the Specht rally, the Vision Zero press conference which spurred the Mayor into action around the issue, and the Bike/Pedestrian Coordinator rally. She loves bringing people together and empowering them with the knowledge of how to impact the City of Omaha for the better. Sarah looks forward to planning more group rides, rallies, and events to help shift Omaha away from its current car-centric culture.

Once again, no public transportation coordination

22 Sep

Next week, access from downtown Omaha directly to the Lewis and Clark Landing on the Missouri RiverFront will be shut off for two years. The only access will be from the airport road (Abbott Drive).  A walking and biking route could have been open for easy access from town to The RiverFront  Here’s how:  

Back in 2012 the Omaha Transportation Master Plan identified as a vital project a connecting bridge from the North Omaha baseball stadium area eastward to the river and the Bob Kerry Pedestrian bridge over the Missouri River. In 2014 the project made it into the city’s Capital Improvement Plan – which allocated funds for the project.  We call this pedestrian bridge expansion the Baby Bob.

A close up of a map

Description automatically generated

As you can see from this map, if the Baby Bob was constructed there would be access to the many riverfront amenities that so many enjoy:  the Bob Bridge, the Lewis & Clark Trail HQ, the condos and Gallup offices. Yet now and through 2021 when The Riverfront revitalization construction closes the streets from Farnam and Douglas and Capitol Streets, no such access will be possible. The Baby Bob may be available in 2022 when the other routes to access The Riverfront will also be open. But for two years there is  no  direct access from downtown Omaha and no public transportation coordination. 

By the way, the money for the Baby Bob Bridge has been available for 7 years – 7 years of planning and talking but no construction.

The city didn’t use its allocated funds for 7 years and now nothing will be open until 2022 – which is 9 years after funds were first put into the CIP.

AND the city wasn’t even mostly spending its Omaha tax money. Most of the money to do the project comes from private local funds. Of the $8.2 million total cost, $3.5 million (43%) will come from private local; $2.5 million (30%) will come from local taxes, and $2.1 million (25%) will come from federal non-roadway funds.

For comparison, $2.5 million of local transportation taxes get spent on just a block of noise walls along the speedways the city builds alongside the streets (highways) the city widens in West Omaha. How much does that noise wall benefit the citizens of Omaha versus access to The Riverfront?

  • Lee Myers, Board Member
A large passenger jet sitting on top of a building

Description automatically generated

View from the Bob Kerry Pedestrian bridge westward to 10th Street at the baseball stadium where the Baby Bob bridge would connect.