Archive for March, 2012

Two weeks, two task forces.

Two weeks, two task forces.


Mayor Jim Suttle's latest task force to expand efforts to combat illegal guns


Seven days after creating a task force to study problems created by the city’s worst landlords, Mayor Jim Suttle on Wednesday unveiled a new group that’s supposed to expand city efforts to fight illegal guns.

The announcement was a follow-up to Suttle’s promises for a “brand new set of tools in our toolbox” to combat violent crime during his State of the City address in February. Yet local law enforcement agencies and community groups have already begun many programs to try to slow gun violence, which is responsible for most homicides in the metro area.

Suttle said such collaborative efforts would continue. “The goal of this task force is to help existing groups promote what is working and broaden our search for new methods of combating gun violence in our community,” Suttle said. “More can always be done, and this group’s mission is to make sure we have explored every avenue possible to get illegal guns and chronic offenders off of Omaha streets.”

The mayor said the new task force on guns will take 90 days to study “best practices” from other U.S. cities, ways to improve communication between city officials and law enforcement, and potential new laws to toughen penalties for crimes involving illegal firearms.

March 30, 2012 Comments Read More
Pedicab compromise emerges

Pedicab compromise emerges

A new proposal for the City Council seeks to limit where and how many pedicabs can operate during the College World Series, but still allow them to ferry passengers to and from the stadium.

Remember the drama that popped up when a similar idea was floated this winter? The council eventually voted to delay, then table, the original proposal while both sides sorted out their differences.

Now, pedicabs would be able to operate around the stadium except for along stretches of 10th and 13th Streets from Capitol Avenue to Cuming Street, and Cuming Street west to 24th Street. Pedicab operators would also have to secure permits before they work each year’s tournament. Each company would be limited to four pedicab permits, which would cost $100 apiece. Only 25 total permits would be issued. The law would also only apply for three days leading up to the series and through the tournament’s final day.

Plus, the new proposal excludes horse carriage operators from regulation.

“Compromise is not necessarily a bad thing,” said Deputy Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer. The council could vote on the matter by the end of April.

You can see a rough idea of how the latest proposal would work in our horribly-drawn map below:

Red lines show where pedicab traffic would be restricted during the series. The area within the green border is what would’ve been closed to pedicabs under the original proposal floated before the council.

View Pedicab ban? in a larger map

March 29, 2012 Comments Read More
So long, Chief…

So long, Chief…

Police Chief Alex Hayes was honored for his service by the Omaha City Council.


(UPDATED 3/27: Today is now Police Chief Alex Hayes Day. The chief received a standing ovation in council chambers Tuesday.)

A big item of business on the City Council’s Tuesday afternoon agenda is a proclamation to honor the city’s outgoing police chief.

Alex Hayes will retire from his chief’s post at the end of the week. A job posting for the position is now online.

His departure means the city must now search for its fourth police chief in 4 1/2 years.

Mayor Jim Suttle recently announced Deputy Chief David Baker will take the helm on an interim basis after Hayes leaves police headquarters. The mayor has also said he’ll conduct a nationwide search for a permanent replacement, though we’re aware of several people in the department who are also interested in the gig.

Baker has said he’s seriously considering applying for the position, and that whoever gets the job ought to stick around for at least five years.

Hayes started in the department on Nov. 17, 1986, and was promoted to captain and commander of the city’s northeast precinct in January 2008. He served there briefly, and applied to serve as chief after former Chief Thomas Warren retired. He didn’t get the top job that time – it went to Eric Buske.

Hayes instead was promoted to deputy police chief and commander of the department’s Criminal Investigations Bureau in November 2008. Hayes was named chief after Buske retired in 2009.

Hayes had worked in some of the department’s most high-profile positions, including stints in the city’s homicide, gang, narcotics, crime analysis/intelligence and child victim/sex assault units.

He is the city’s 31st police chief, and the second African-American to serve in the position. Suttle has called Hayes “one of the best appointments I made.”

Now, he’s gone. It’s unclear what effect Hayes’ departure could have on a police headquarters that’s recently seen little continuity inside the chief’s sixth-floor office.

March 27, 2012 Comments Read More
Task force targets ‘problem landlords’

Task force targets ‘problem landlords’


Weeks after promising such an initiative in his State of the City address, Mayor Jim Suttle unveiled a new task force of city and community representatives charged with studying how to better identify and solve problems created by the city’s worst landlords. It’ll be at least 90 days before the group, which will meet every two weeks, comes up with a plan.

The city already has a multi-agency task force charged with addressing various code violations and nuisances. The problem resolution team has existed since 2001 to respond to properties with multiple health, safety and code violations. City ordinances already allow the city to prosecute code violators and destroy dilapidated properties.

Suttle’s representatives said that the newest task force was partly designed to provide resources to the Problem Resolution Team but that the new group would also seek new tactics to employ.

March 23, 2012 Comments Read More
Help Wanted

Help Wanted

Who's next in line to lead the Omaha Police Department?


Interested in being Omaha’s next police chief? You have until May 15 to apply.

A job posting for the position is now online.

Here’s some of the requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree in Public Administration, Business Administration, Political Science, Criminology, Criminal Justice, Law Enforcement or a closely related field.
  • Twelve years of progressively responsible law enforcement experience, including four years of supervisory and management experience of an entire unit/section and two years experience at the command staff or administrative level.
  • Knowledge of the principles and practices of police administration, the organization and operation of its bureaus, and the contents of the Police Standard Operations Manual and other manuals pertinent to the assigned position.

Salary range is listed as $123,926 – $150,027 annually.

Mayor Jim Suttle recently announced Deputy Chief David Baker would take the helm on an interim basis after Chief Alex Hayes leaves next week. The mayor’s also said he’ll conduct a nationwide search for a permanent replacement, though we’re aware of several people in the department who are also interested in the gig.

Baker has said he’s seriously considering applying for the position, and that whoever gets the job ought to stick around for at least five years.

March 23, 2012 Comments Read More
Graffiti on council’s agenda

Graffiti on council’s agenda

City Council to vote on amended city graffiti rules


Perhaps the biggest item on today’s City Council’s agenda is a public hearing and vote on amending the city’s rules on graffiti.

(Click here to read the proposal now before the council)

Remember this issue? Language in the last proposal caught heat from some neighborhood representatives.

But Councilmember Garry Gernandt says a majority are on board now

Basically, the language still encourages property owners to deal with graffiti on their property — or else the city will do it for them, as it already does.

But unless state laws change to allow the city to place liens on property owners who don’t clean up messes on their property, there won’t be any serious teeth to the ordinance. Councilmembers had directed the city’s lobbyist to support such a proposal. Officials say there’s room in the proposed language to accommodate such changes, too.

Other resident concerns about enforcement will probably have to be dealt with via changes to the Public Works Department’s internal policies.

Here’s hoping for a shorter meeting after the last couple of marathons we’ve seen recently…

March 20, 2012 Comments Read More
Early retirements, big pensions

Early retirements, big pensions

Pension payouts could lead to further scrutiny of police managers contract


Omaha’s last three police chiefs have retired before they turned 50 – Tom Warren and Eric Buske at ages 47 and now Alex Hayes at 48.

World-Herald reporter John Ferak examined Omaha’s turnover at police chief and the impact of the pension payouts in a weekend story.

For those three retirees alone, Omaha’s pension system could make almost $10 million in payments over the rest of their lives.

The payouts are raising eyebrows regarding an issue that already is under intense scrutiny. Omaha’s police and fire pension already is facing an estimated $573 million shortfall.

Some City Council members say they’ll be examining the police managers contract further. Plus, city elections are coming next year, and Councilman Chris Jerram predicts that police and fire contracts will be a major election issue.

“The public is clamoring for more pension reform,” Jerram said in Sunday’s story.


March 12, 2012 Comments Read More
Bold Nebraska and Human Rights Campaign step into LGBT battle

Bold Nebraska and Human Rights Campaign step into LGBT battle

The campaign to generate support for legal protections of gay and transgender residents keeps ramping up, one day before the City Council votes on the issue.

Bold Nebraska, a liberal group that got lots of attention for its fight against the Keystone XL pipeline, joined local gay rights advocates to create a TV commercial on the issue that will first air Monday night.

The Human Rights Campaign, meanwhile, helped fund a (likely very pricey) survey of 1,003 registered voters in Omaha this weekend.

It’s conclusions? Sixty percent of voters favor changing city anti-discrimination laws to include gay and transgender residents (25 percent of voters oppose it).

You can see the 30-second television spot here:

Equal Employment Commercial from Yay, You Did It on Vimeo.


March 12, 2012 Comments Read More
Live Coverage: Tuesday’s vote on LGBT protections

Live Coverage: Tuesday’s vote on LGBT protections


We’ll be back with live coverage of Tuesday’s City Council meeting/vote on proposed legal protections for LGBT residents.

World-Herald Staff Writer Erin Grace will join me for this week’s chat. Follow her and I on Twitter and keep track of for the latest.

The council’s meeting starts at 2 p.m., and the debate is scheduled to begin almost immediately therafter. Join us!

March 12, 2012 Comments Read More
Live Coverage: Anti-discrimination public hearing

Live Coverage: Anti-discrimination public hearing

Find the mobile version of the chat here.

Jeffrey Robb and I are going to be all over Tuesday’s City Council public hearing on proposed legal protections for gay and transgender residents.

It’s clear the proposition has exposed rifts within the community.

Follow my Twitter feed and stay tuned in here for live updates from the proceeding. And, as always, and the print edition of The World-Herald will be crammed with more details.

Council meeting starts at 2 p.m., with the hearing to follow. See you then!

March 5, 2012 Comments Read More