Tag Archives: city of omaha

Citizens’ Academy Spring 2016 — Local Government & Planning

5 May

The Spring 2016 Citizens’ Academy is coming to a close this week. Here are the key takeaways from the first two sessions, on Placemaking & Local Government and Local & Regional Planning:

Omaha’s government is led by an elected (partisan) official. Some cities are governed by city managers. Many consider election-based city leadership more legitimate than leadership hired by the City Council because the purpose of having public elections is to reflect what the majority wants in its city governance. The advantage of city managers over elected officials is that they are not politicians, but “professionals.” Yet, even though city managers are (technically) non-partisan, they are still human and can be influenced to choose sides. Continue reading

The Expansion of Parking in Downtown Omaha

24 Jul

A recent blog post on the Strong Town’s website about addressing the “there’s no parking” argument is timely as Omaha starts to implement changes to parking policies based on a downtown parking study done in 2011 and recommendations from the City Parking Manager. At least one goal of these changes is to balance out supply and demand and ultimately improve land use. As we’ve noted in an earlier blog post, Omaha seems to have a serious “parking problem,” not because there isn’t enough parking—the parking study referred to above found that there is plenty of parking in downtown Omaha—but because ever more space is being devoted to parking cars rather than to higher, more economically beneficial purposes that also enable Omaha to become more walkable, bikeable, and transit friendly.

Check out just how much space has been given over to parking in the last several decades in downtown Omaha (red squares are surface parking lots and yellow squares are parking garages):

Omahaparking1941 Omahaparking1965 Omahaparking1988 Omahaparking2010

These photos are part of a presentation given by Derek Miller from the City of Omaha Planning Department, who allowed us to use them for this post. Thank you!

A planned new development on a parking lot in North Downtown may indicate a hopeful reversal in this trend and the case being made for the Midtown Connector/Streetcar directly relates to improving land use for better economic development, in part by reducing the need to give up so much space to parking. Better, more dense land use is essential to creating a more walk-, bike-, and transit-friendly city.

Some Thoughts on Improving Public Participation in Omaha

29 May

By: Angela Eikenberry

I was asked to take part last week in a panel on public participation organized by the Greater Omaha Young Professionals. It was great to have the chance to think more about and discuss this topic.

TMP public mtgOur experience at Mode Shift Omaha over the past few years is that many people are interested in getting engaged and are willing to show up for public planning and project events that are well publicized and have a clear goal or agenda. Unfortunately, we’ve also been frustrated by the difficulty of finding out about meetings and attending meetings that can seem at times meaningless and/or unclear in focus and intent.

Given this, some areas I’d like to see improve, and that could lead to more and better public participation, came to mind as I prepared for the YP event:

  • More transparency in the process:
    • Public meeting information needs to be publicized far in advance and in one location on the City’s website.
    • Information needs to be provided about how, when and by whom decisions are made. It should also be clear how project implementation aligns with these decisions and if it doesn’t, citizens need to be given reasons for why this is the case.
    • Information about what happens at meetings, presentations, and handouts needs to be provided on the City’s website. This site could also allow citizens to make comments easily and for extended periods and these comments should clearly receive serious respect and consideration, including receiving a response from City administrators.
  • Better run meetings:
    • There needs to be good management of meeting processes, beginning with a clear vision of a project articulated from City leadership, how it fits into a bigger picture, and a clear way of communicating what the project is and how it will move forward, where community involvement actually is necessary and how the design teams intend to respond, whether the public engagement is a presentation of already decided upon design work, or whether the design work is intended to be influenced by feedback from the public.
    • During meetings attendees should be provided with a chance to dialogue with City administrators.
    • There should be adequate equipment (such as microphones) and project information available during meetings to maximize the quality of participation.
  • Enhanced engagement with diverse communities:
    • More needs to be done to engage under-represented communities in the Omaha-area by enabling them to participate via additional outreach and alternative means.
    • Current transportation minority groups (such as cyclists, pedestrians or transit users), should be encouraged to participate and not vilified for providing alternative points of view.

Public participation is essential for creating a strong and engaged community; it’s also the right and responsibility of citizens in a democratic society. We know that in part the resources City administrators need to do the above adequately are not sufficient. If we’re going to take citizen participation seriously in Omaha—and I think we should—we need to invest in it. Mode Shift Omaha, and no doubt other groups interested in public participation, are also here to help.

What do you think we should do to improve public participation in Omaha?