Archive for February, 2012

Tuesday’s council meeting

Tuesday’s council meeting

A busy council day includes formal intro for GLBT protections proposal


Many eyes will likely focus on today’s formal introduction of a proposal to grant legal protections to gay and transgender residents.

That item, though, won’t receive any direct attention from council members during today’s 2 p.m. meeting. The Equal Omaha Coalition says it will hold a press conference afterwards.

Other interesting tidbits from today’s agenda:

Council members will be asked to place the item on file instead of voting on it today, as scheduled. Opponents to the ban and the Omaha Police Department have huddled frequently since the proposal’s introduction to hash out a compromise. Stay tuned.

Originally set for a vote today, the proposed changes to city ordinances would explicitly require property owners to remove graffiti from their property unless they give the city written or verbal permission to remove it. Crews would continue to remove graffiti from public property and clean up graffiti on private property when it’s encountered during their normal duties. But some neighborhood and business interests oppose the language as currently written. We’re told the latest delay will last at least two weeks.

  • The council is also starting procedures to examine the revocation of two liquor licenses.

Council members will vote on two resolutions to set license revocation/cancellation hearings for the Barfly bar at 707 N. 114th St. and the Fedora Lounge at 711 N. 114th St.

February 28, 2012 Comments Read More
GLBT ordinance set for consideration

GLBT ordinance set for consideration

Omaha City Councilman Ben Gray’s proposal to change city ordinances to include protections from discrimination for gay and transgender residents will be formally introduced at Tuesday’s council meeting.

A public hearing will be held March 6, and a vote is scheduled for March 13.

Gray’s proposal would apply to employers, employment agencies and labor organizations in Omaha and businesses who sign contracts with the city.

Religious organizations, as well as religious-affiliated colleges or schools, would be exempted from adhering to provisions prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Read the current city ordinances, with Gray’s proposed changes, here.

Also, at 1:30 p.m. today, the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on a bill that would bar Nebraska cities and local governments from unilaterally creating new classes of residents protected from discrimination. State Sen. Beau McCoy’s Legislative Bill 912 would grant such authority solely to the state.


February 22, 2012 Comments Read More
Hyatt Place is a go

Hyatt Place is a go

Hotel company has bought land at 12th and Jackson, will start construction this spring


The proposed Hyatt Place hotel we’ve written about in concept is now moving forward.

Check out the rendering of what’s on the way for the Old Market.

What do you think?

Hyatt Hotels Corp. announced this morning that it had bought the northwest corner of 12th and Jackson Streets and would start construction early in the second quarter of this year.

It will be a nine-story, 159-room hotel.

There have been plans for a hotel on that site as far back as 2007. Back then, plans called for a Marriott Residence Inn.

But the project languished through the recession before Hyatt stepped in last July. City Hall reporter Juan Perez Jr. wrote our story last year.

So it’s a good sign economically that the project is proceeding. The hotel will employ about 50 people.

February 21, 2012 Comments Read More
Gray speaks on GLBT protections

Gray speaks on GLBT protections

City Councilmember Ben Gray’s views are featured on a short video produced by supporters of a proposal to prohibit discrimination against gay and transgender residents. Gray reiterates all of his primary talking points on the issue here.

In related news: Researchers with the University of Nebraska Medical Center say they have data proving some members of the metro area’s gay and transgender community have experienced job discrimination.

Based on a 2010 questionnaire, the survey’s conclusions are expected to become new fodder in the debate over Gray’s proposal. Proponents of Gray’s proposal say the results quantify the need to amend the city ordinances.

No City Council meeting today, folks.

Omaha’s Equal Employment Ordinance from Yay, You Did It on Vimeo.

February 21, 2012 Comments Read More
Suttle? Ashford? Stothert? . . . Ricketts?

Suttle? Ashford? Stothert? . . . Ricketts?

“From Pete’s perspective, it’s all a lot of gossip.”

That’s the response from Ricketts family spokesman Dennis Culloton on rumors that Pete Ricketts is considering a run for Omaha mayor.

The speculation comes from the anonymous Republican political blog Leavenworth Street, which posted an unattributed piece today speculating that Ricketts has “very serious interest” in running for mayor in 2013.

“Leavenworth Street is getting word,” blogger Street Sweeper writes before dropping the Ricketts name, with an exclamation point no less.

With that, you can group the former U.S. Senate candidate with Mayor Jim Suttle, Councilwoman Jean Stothert and State Sen. Brad Ashford – among the speculative mayoral candidates for 2013.

Leavenworth Street almost dropped the cliche “game-changer” about Ricketts. “Ricketts has not announced anything, and this could all be just another trial balloon,” the blog post says. “But if he is interested, this changes a great deal.”

Said Culloton, “It’s just fun for the bloggers, and that’s about it.”

February 20, 2012 Comments Read More
Downtown Omaha parking ‘completely backwards’?

Downtown Omaha parking ‘completely backwards’?

Led by the recommendations of a nationwide parking consultant, Walker Parking Consultants, city officials are considering lower rates for city-owned garage spots and low-demand parking meters.

Right now, “Our system is just broken,” said City Traffic Engineer Todd Pfitzer. “The highest demand spots are free, and the lowest demand ones cost the most. It’s completely backwards.”

The consultant’s recommendations:

* Lower rates at city-owned garages to a flat $2 rate on weekdays, and $3 on Fridays, Saturdays after 6 p.m. and event nights. Parking at city-owned garages near the Old Market now costs anywhere from $5 to $8.

* Consider eliminating time limits on how long cars can be parked at meters.

* Decrease hourly meter rates in low-demand areas by 25- to 50-cent increments.

* Improve signage for city garages.

* Adjust meter enforcement hours to begin at 10 a.m. and run as late as 9 p.m. on weekdays. Meter enforcement would also extend to Saturdays.

* Increase meter rates in the Old Market to as much as $2 per hour or more, if credit card readers are installed and parking time limits are dropped. Currently, the highest meter rate downtown is $1 an hour.

* Consider a “graduated system” of parking ticket fines that range from $10 to $50. Tickets cost $16 now, not including possible late fees.

* Attach credit card devices to parking meters.

Read more about the proposed changes and join the lively discussion on

More tidbits from the study to come.

February 17, 2012 Comments Read More
Budget shortfall squabble

Budget shortfall squabble

We broke the news this morning about the city’s year-end 2011 budget shortfall of $740,307.

City Hall reporter Juan Perez Jr. broke it down here and showed the blame game getting started between the Suttle administration and the City Council.

In case you missed it, Mayor Jim Suttle is blaming the council because it didn’t pass the fire contract. Councilman Chris Jerram says the Suttle administration had a costly financial misstep in the fire union dispute.

City Council members came out with a statement this afternoon, saying Suttle’s attempt at placing blame was a “cynical and blatantly political tactic.” Check out the statement here.

And here’s the original press release from the Mayor’s Office taking shots at the council.

February 16, 2012 Comments Read More
Weigh in on Fontenelle Golf Course

Weigh in on Fontenelle Golf Course

The fate of the north Omaha golf course appears to be sealed.


The fate of the Fontenelle Golf Course is up for discussion at a public meeting scheduled for Thursday evening.

Scheduled to run from 6:30 to 8 p.m., the event will be held at the Fontenelle Park Pavilion at 4401 Fontenelle Blvd.

It will be your last chance to weigh in before the city announces its plans.

World-Herald reporter Nancy Gaarder writes city officials appear to be leaning towards shutting the course down. In its heyday, the north Omaha park featured one of the city’s premier nine-hole experiences. A final decision is expected by the end of the month.

City officials say the course lost more money last year than Omaha’s three other nine-hole courses combined. Last year’s loss was $110,000, and the number of rounds played at the park have dropped by 60 percent in the last decade.

Lots of discussion about the city’s plans is ongoing over at Sign on and weigh in.

February 15, 2012 Comments Read More
Resolution on inclusive workplaces is approved

Resolution on inclusive workplaces is approved

UPDATE: Councilwoman Jean Stothert mentioned during the meeting that the Greater Omaha Chamber supports the resolution. Here is a link to the chamber’s letter of support.

The Omaha City Council is on record supporting inclusive workplaces in the city.

The council voted unanimously this afternoon to support a resolution offered as an alternative to Councilman Ben Gray’s proposed city ordinance that would offer legal protections to gay and transgender residents.

Gray still is moving forward with his proposal for an ordinance. A public hearing will be held March 6.

So the debate over the issue will continue. And one central question will be: Does the resolution approved today go far enough?

City Hall reporter Juan Perez Jr. reports that the resolution “says the council believes no one should be targeted for ‘scorn, hatred or violence for any reason.’”

“The council also pledges in the resolution to work with business and community leaders to promote workplaces that ‘promote respect and eliminate any workplace discrimination,’” Perez reports.

He will have more on this on and in tomorrow’s World-Herald.

February 14, 2012 Comments Read More
City workers win big

City workers win big

Sixteen workers from the Omaha Public Works Department are about to get a nice payout.

The Nebraska Lottery says the street maintenance employees won a $1 million prize from the Feb. 8 Powerball, World-Herald staff writer Kevin Cole reports. Cole has the story here.

The group was oh-so-close to the ultimate prize. They had five numbers correct but not the Powerball, which would have kicked up their prize to $255 million.

Cole reports that the group bought its winning ticket at Kwik Shop at 7525 Cass St.

Split 16 ways, the prize would come out to $62,500 apiece.

February 14, 2012 Comments Read More