Archive for January, 2012

Pooches and booze on Tuesday’s agenda

Pooches and booze on Tuesday’s agenda

A public hearing on changes to 'potentially dangerous' animal rules on tap Tuesday


Omaha residents who own animals labeled as “potentially dangerous” by city authorities could face fewer financial and legal hurdles to remove the designation from their pets’ records.

An ordinance proposed by City Council President Thomas Mulligan would automatically drop an offending animal’s “potentially dangerous” tag if the pet does not violate city provisions for two years after it’s been labeled as such. The proposed changes have a public hearing today.

The council will also vote on a resolution to voice support for a proposed state law to introduce further controls on liquor sales in certain areas.

LB829 would create “alcohol impact zones”, or geographic areas that are adversely affected by chronic public drunkenness or illegal activity associated with alcohol.

Local governments would apply to the state to create such zones, and if approved, grant the state liquor control commission broad power to discourage such activity.

Local activists have been working to get such regulations passed for months.

Read this afternoon and Wednesday’s paper for more on each issue.

January 31, 2012 Comments Read More
Yes, another study looking at streetcars

Yes, another study looking at streetcars


City will finally settle on streetcars or another option


To recap Omaha’s history of streetcar-related studies:

1995: 10th Street trolley feasibility study.

1998: Streetcar study for downtown, north Omaha and 10th Street to the zoo.

2006: Downtown streetcar feasibility study.

2009: Streetcar financial feasibility study.

Now Metro, the city and some significant community partners are taking another crack at it. They’ve stressed to us: This is not a streetcar study.

So to be fair, this study is analyzing streetcars, basic improvements to the bus system and a streetcar-bus cross called bus rapid transit. To also be fair, streetcars are not an “oh, by the way” part of this study.

I caught some flack from the transportation alternatives group ModeShift Omaha on my coverage of this study, officially called an “alternatives analysis.” The group tweeted: “Seems for the World Herald, there is but one narrative for the upcoming Alternatives Analysis: Streetcars.”

Love streetcars or hate them, this analysis is going to be the definitive study on the issue. Either streetcars prove out, or they get knocked down.

January 27, 2012 Comments Read More
Where are the potholes?

Where are the potholes?

No snow on the ground means fewer of Omaha's winter menace


You must surely feel driving around Omaha is less interesting this winter. Fewer potholes means fewer chances to test your evasive maneuver skills.

Sucks, right?

There’s no doubt this winter season has been a lot easier on city streets.

Just as an example, the city received 1,135 calls and emails complaining about potholes during the first five days of March 2010.

So far, the city hasn’t seen anywhere near as much snow as it has in the past couple winters. That has city officials hoping they can save some snow removal budget money this year. And it means fewer potholes.

January 26, 2012 Comments Read More
All the way to Washington County…eventually

All the way to Washington County…eventually

City Council approval is a small step towards a complete Riverfront Trail


It’ll probably be years before cyclists and joggers can enjoy a non-stop trail route to Carter Lake and beyond, but Omaha got one small step closer to a completed Riverfront Trail on Tuesday.

The City Council cleared the city to sign an agreement with the state’s roads department to design and build two concrete trails: one along Abbott Drive from north downtown to Carter Lake and a second leg to connect part of Carter Lake’s north and western shores to a trail along Locust Street built by the City of Carter Lake. Both segments would create a total of roughly three additional trail miles and complete an uninterrupted trail network from downtown to the Washington County line.

Roughly $790,000 worth of federal aid is available for the project, so the city will be on the hook for about $510,000 worth of the $1.3 million project.

City officials say the federal government’s involvement likely means it’ll be a few years before you can expect any groundbreaking.

January 25, 2012 Comments Read More
Oberst, local musicians oppose LB912

Oberst, local musicians oppose LB912

A group of musicians with local ties oppose a proposed state law


Conor Oberst and 16 other musicians want state lawmakers to kill a proposal to ban Omaha and other communities from passing their own anti-discrimination ordinances.

In a letter Tuesday, the musicians called it “deplorable and unacceptable” to attempt to block Omaha City Councilman Ben Gray from winning passage of an ordinance to ban discrimination against gay and transgender people. Gray has said he would propose such an ordinance this month or next.

The letter was sent to senators on the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee. Others signers include members of The Faint, Mynabirds, Big Harp, So So Sailors and Honeybee & Hers.

A public hearing on LB 912 before the Judiciary Committee at the State Capitol has not yet been scheduled.

January 25, 2012 Comments Read More
“The old saying is, If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” Ken Bunger, former deputy city attorney for Omaha, on TIF bill

“The old saying is, If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” Ken Bunger, former deputy city attorney for Omaha, on TIF bill

January 25, 2012 Comments Read More
Omaha and others say no to TIF bill

Omaha and others say no to TIF bill

Lincoln bureau reporter Paul Hammel has an update on the legislative bill that would slow Omaha’s use of a popular property tax incentive for redevelopment projects.

The Legislature’s Urban Affairs Committee held a public hearing on LB 918, and Hammel reports that a string of proponents for the incentive testified about tax increment financing’s economic benefits.

State Sen. Abbie Cornett of Bellevue has proposed a cap on the incentive so that cities don’t commit too much of their own tax base, or the tax base of school districts and other local governments, to redevelopment projects. Under TIF, those redevelopment projects don’t pay property taxes on the full value of their properties for up to 15 years.

I first reported on the bill’s potential impact Sunday.

Cornett says she’ll amend her bill — Hammel calls it a watering down. She says she wants cities to communicate better with other local governments when using the incentive.

(Also, make sure you check out our sister site devoted to the Unicameral: The State Line)

January 25, 2012 Comments Read More
Tuesday’s council meeting

Tuesday’s council meeting

Residents concerned about stray Dumpsters messing up their neighborhood’s scene ought to visit City Hall today.

Council member Chris Jerram’s proposed changes to the city’s garbage collection rules are up for public hearing this afternoon. A lot of supporters are expected to come testify and Jerram is expected to formally propose some amendments to his original language.

The proposed amendments to city code could cost residents and property owners hundreds of dollars in fines if they keep trash receptacles at the curb outside. There seems to be a lot of consensus that this is a stubborn problem in Omaha, at least east of 72nd Street.

The amendments would bring some serious teeth to the law — the changes currently propose that violators face a $100 fine for their first offense and $500 fines for subsequent offenses.

Stay tuned in with, our Twitter accounts and Wednesday’s paper for more about the hearing and other news from the council’s weekly gathering.

January 23, 2012 Comments Read More
City development tool under scrutiny

City development tool under scrutiny

Lawmakers looks at limiting tax incentive for redevelopment


Whenever you see a major development in the eastern part of the city, you can bet the City of Omaha has put up tax incentives to make the project happen.

Over the years, Omaha has given a property tax incentive called tax increment financing to some 270 redevelopment projects, almost all east of 72nd Street.

First National Tower, ConAgra, Gallup, First Data Resources, Midtown Crossing, Aksarben Village, they’ve all benefited.

Now a state senator is proposing a limit on the incentive, potentially stopping Omaha’s use of the program in that key redevelopment area.

It may not come to that. But Sen. Abbie Cornett’s bill raises the question: How much is too much?

January 23, 2012 Comments Read More
Firefighters of Omaha vs. Dave Nabity: Round 3,425

Firefighters of Omaha vs. Dave Nabity: Round 3,425

Omaha businessman Dave Nabity and the city’s firefighters don’t get along too well.

Nabity — one of the leaders behind the attempt to recall Mayor Jim Suttle — is one of the city’s fiercest and most vocal critics of Omaha Fire Department administrators and the local fire union. He leads the Omaha Alliance for the Private Sector (the organization’s website hosts many of reports and memos on its views of Fire Department activity).

On Tuesday, The World-Herald published an op-ed penned by Nabity that called (in part) for the union to “say enough is enough and stand up for a complete leadership change.”

“Many suggest now is that time, especially since the cost of litigation, which is getting them nowhere, is coming out of their dues,” Nabity wrote.

  • “The citizens want integrity, honor, dignity and trustworthiness from our public safety personnel. The continual lawsuits, personal attacks and willingness to disregard the labor agreements undermine the communication necessary to build solid long-term relationships among the fire union, elected officials and the public.”

Later that evening, the union fired back.

“Mr. Nabity would have the Firefighters simply lie down, rather than stand firm to enforce their rights,” the union said in a statement. “The Officers, the Board and the Members of Local 385 are willing to negotiate but they are not willing to roll over while the City abuses their legal rights simply because Dave Nabity thinks its a good idea.”

The statement goes on to say:

  • “Nabity suggests that new leadership is needed in the Union but quite frankly, our elected officers could not have a better endorsement for their re-election campaigns than for the self-appointed Mr. Nabity to call for their ouster. Nabity wanted to be governor. He wanted to be mayor. In a desperate attempt to appear relevant, now he wants to dictate who should be elected to lead Local 385. We expect that the members of Local 385 will take as much stock in his recommendations as the public has in Nabity’s forays into electoral politics.”

Don’t forget Nabity and fire union president Steve LeClair recently settled competing lawsuits in Douglas County District Court.

Looks as though there’s still plenty of items for both sides to argue about.


January 18, 2012 Comments Read More