Tag Archives: elections

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 Continue reading

Transportation Key Issue in City Elections

1 Apr

April 2 is the City’s primary elections (the general election is May 14).

Please vote!

Before you do, read Mayor and City Council candidate responses to the questionnaire we sent to candidates (in collaboration with Omaha Bikes) and our analysis of the mayoral candidate responses.

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha also posed transportation-related questions to Mayor and City Council candidates, listed here.

And the Green Omaha Coalition also asked a few transportation-related questions, responses here.

Finally read news reports of the last two mayor forums, both of which highlighted issues related to transportation:

Find your polling place here.

Analysis of Mayoral Candidate Questionnaire Responses

26 Mar

Mode Shift Omaha and Omaha Bikes sent Mayor and City Council Candidates a list of questions related to transportation in the Omaha-area. You can read the responses in full here. Thank you to the candidates that responded!

We were impressed with the responses we received from Mayoral candidates Brad Ashford, Jean Stothert and Jim Suttle (unfortunately, we received no responses from David Nabity or Dan Welch). Here is our analysis of the responses.

Mode Shift Omaha supports expanding transportation options for everyone in Omaha, to improve quality of life and better serve Omaha residents, but also to improve health and enhance environmental and fiscal sustainability. To this end, all three of the candidates supported in one way or another expanding transportation options in Omaha and generally agreed on most areas addressed in our questions.

Ashford and Suttle, while acknowledging that cars will remain the dominant mode of choice for most people, took what seemed to be a more system-wide perspective in that they articulated a “complete streets” or “balanced network” approach to address pressing transportation needs, including congestion, safety and street improvements as well as to make Omaha more attractive to new talent and meeting the mobility needs and desires of citizens. This is in line with the goals of the Transportation and Environmental Element of the City’s Master Plan. Stothert also saw the value in providing more transportation options and its importance to serving citizens and addressing safety and congestion, but for the most part it seemed to be as an addition, if “reasonable and affordable,” to the existing (car-centric) system.

Given increased congestion and reduced funding for transportation, Ashford notes that rather than spend more on transportation projects, we have to make smarter transportation investments, focusing on street connectivity as a means to reduce the total number of vehicle miles traveled. Stothert also believes we do not need to spend more, just spend more wisely. One way she would do this is through better signaling and more ride sharing, along with more clustered development and non-vehicle transportation. Suttle would encourage development inside the freeway loop, spurring transportation options that would reduce congestion.

All three candidates saw infill and implementing strategies to promote infill as important to fiscally sustainable growth in the city. Suttle mentioned tools such as tax increment financing, a land bank, and tax credits as a means to promote infill. Ashford specifically mentioned the redevelopment of vacant or underutilized sites. He would oppose projects that “tend to decentralize the population.” Stothert would encourage public and private redevelopment in disadvantaged parts of the community, while making financially sound annexations.

They all agree on the need to work with the State to address statutes or regulations that infringe on Omaha’s transportation needs.

All three also support retaining the bicycle/pedestrian coordinator, but Stothert added a caveat: she will do so only as long as the City does not have to pay the salary alone. Ashford would move the Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator from Planning to Public Works.

All three support inter-city passenger rail; however, Ashford and Stothert qualify this: if an objective study supports its feasibility. Suttle notes it would attract business and jobs to Omaha.

All see an important role for the new City Parking Manager in managing parking. Ashford seems to see a more integrated view of this role within the transportation system and in reducing the need for building more parking facilities. Stothert and Suttle focus on the Parking Manager’s role in making parking more efficient and convenient.

Finally, regarding public participation, Ashford seemed most in tune with the need for authentic or “real” public engagement earlier in the planning and design process, but all three candidates acknowledge the importance of public input. Suttle and Ashford identify using similar tools to enhance engagement, such as with an interactive City website and discussions with citizens through the Planning Department. It might be noted here that both David Nabity and Dan Welch are on record (see OWH, Mar. 5 & 21, 2013) as being critical of the Planning Department and have suggested it be downsized or cut (even though it represents about 1% of the City’s budget).

Nabity and Welch are also on record as being critical of the bicycle/pedestrian coordinator and bike lanes (OWH, Mar. 27, 2013).

Please read the full responses of the Mayor candidates here. You can also read the City Council responses here. Watch for an upcoming analysis of Council responses on our blog.

And of course, make sure you vote in the Primary Election on April 2nd!