Archive for July, 2012

“Giving substantial raises in an election year is not good political strategy.” — Paul Landow, chief of staff to former Mayor Mike Fahey, on 2013 proposed pay hikes.

“Giving substantial raises in an election year is not good political strategy.” — Paul Landow, chief of staff to former Mayor Mike Fahey, on 2013 proposed pay hikes.

ICYMI: See more here.

July 30, 2012 Comments Read More
Sheboygan finalist looking to move up

Sheboygan finalist looking to move up

One of the two external candidates for Omaha police chief has been in this position before.

Two and a half years ago in Sheboygan, Wisc., Christopher Domagalski beat out three internal candidates to become the first chief from outside the department since the 1930s. Before he got there, he spent 18 years with the Milwaukee Police Department, rising through the ranks to his final job, commanding one of the city’s seven districts.

Domagalski declined to talk to the World-Herald, but his colleages in Wisconsin say he’s a focused — if quiet — leader. They people in Sheboygan are surprised he’s already looking to leave, but they say they’re not surprised he’d want a bigger challenge.

“He was a rising star in Milwaukee; you could see that from his résumé,” said John Webster, who served on the Sheboygan Police and Fire Commission that selected Domagalski. “We stole him from Milwaukee, and if Omaha’s lucky, they’ll steal him from Sheboygan.”

July 27, 2012 Comments Read More
Union president praises Schmaderer

Union president praises Schmaderer

Omaha’s police union likely won’t endorse any of the city’s current police chief candidates. Sgt. John Wells, the union’s president, says the body (obviously) prefers the department’s internal candidates over former Stockton, Calif. Chief Blair Ulring or Christopher Domagalski, police chief in Sheboygan, Wis.

But Wells also voiced praise for Deputy Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer.

“It seems like he’s succeeded at every level,” said Wells, who also was a former direct subordinate of Schmaderer’s.

Schmaderer, 40, ascended quickly through the ranks, spending time as a precinct captain, traffic captain, training academy commander, shift commander and detective. His decision to apply for the chief job was his next career step.

Wells said Schmaderer, a longtime union member, has impressed other union members by listening to all parties, making rational decisions, then explaining his reasoning — which often quells critics.

July 26, 2012 Comments Read More
Research could make sewer project greener

Research could make sewer project greener

If you’ve noticed people standing around with a bunch of equipment, digging holes in parks and the green spaces along boulevards, don’t worry: It’s for science.

Or at the very least, it’s for Omaha’s big sewer project, and could end up saving the city some money.

The soil scientists and hydrologists are with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is funding about $200,000 worth of research here.

July 25, 2012 Comments Read More
‘South O boy’ says he wants transparency

‘South O boy’ says he wants transparency

Omaha Police Capt. Greg Gonzalez says he wants to create a community-based steering committee for the Omaha Police Department — a group of civic leaders and residents who would meet regularly with the chief’s office to share information or concerns. He also wants to create a similar structure for members of the police force, with an eye toward the department’s morale.

He says he’s receptive to reviving the city’s public safety auditor position, if money to fund the position is available and the public supports it.

“I’m a realist,” Gonzalez said. “In today’s society, people want to be heard. They expect transparency, and they expect the best.”

Gonzalez said it will be paramount for the next police chief to strengthen police-community ties.

July 25, 2012 Comments Read More
Union fight helped mark finalist’s tenure

Union fight helped mark finalist’s tenure

UPDATE, 4:30 p.m.: Blair Ulring hasn’t checked in with Mayor Jim Suttle’s office yet, I’m told.

The mayor’s office has released this statement about the search: “All four Omaha Police chief candidates are currently undergoing extensive background checks with an outside company. These checks will review personal, professional and academic information provided by all of the candidates. At this time, no one has withdrawn their name from consideration.”

UPDATE, 4:10 p.m.: Our apologies, but technical difficulties are keeping us from uploading Ulring’s resume. The three-page document states Ulring graduated “summa cum laude” from La Salle University with a bachelor’s degree in “Administration of Justice” and a master’s in “Law Enforcement Management.”

UPDATE, 4:01 p.m.: Blair Ulring has reportedly withdrawn from contention as a finalist to be police chief in Spokane, Wash. The Spokesman-Review reports Ulring withdrew his name from contention after questions about his academic credentials.

The World-Herald kicked off its series of profiles on the city’s four contenders for the vacant police chief job today.

Our Matt Wynn took a closer look at one of the external candidates for the gig: Blair Ulring.

Ulring, 52, was an Air Force kid who grew up all over the world. But he has lived his entire adult life in Stockton, Calif. About 20 miles south of Sacramento, the inland port city isn’t as big as Omaha, with just fewer than 300,000 residents to Omaha’s 415,000. Ulring has also been selected as a finalist for the top police job in Spokane, Wash. Ulring’s decision to abandon efforts to pursue the Spokane job has put Mayor Jim Suttle’s office into a bit of a tizzy.

July 24, 2012 Comments Read More
Raises in line for some city officials

Raises in line for some city officials

Mayor Jim Suttle’s 2013 budget proposal includes the large salary bump for Steve Oltmans, the mayor’s chief of staff and former general manager of the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District.

With the raise, Oltmans would make $150,000 next year, compared with Suttle’s proposed $110,369.

Several other top city officials would receive pay raises under next year’s budget:

  • The public works director is set to receive $157,625, a $9,000 increase over 2012.
  • The library director’s salary would increase more than $10,000, going from $119,025 in 2012 to $129,737 in 2013.
  • Pam Spaccarotella, the city’s finance director, is also set to receive a $25,000 salary increase.

The former Werner Enterprises executive was hired in July 2009 at a $180,000 annual salary. She later voluntarily took a $40,000 pay cut.

Spaccarotella’s proposed $165,000 salary for 2013 would bring her in line with her 2011 salary. In 2012, her salary was appropriated at $140,000 in the city budget.

July 20, 2012 Comments Read More
Controversial report makes waves

Controversial report makes waves

A pair of UNO criminologists say Omaha’s “official, undeclared War on Gangs” is a flaccid effort that relies on ineffective or inappropriate law enforcement tactics that sometimes alienate the community.

The city’s broader anti-gang initiatives don’t fully comply with federal models on best practices, a report by Pete Simi and Dennis Hoffman says, while some of local law enforcement’s efforts to prosecute violent offenders lack oversight.

You can now read the controversial report (sans its appendices) here.

An array of city officials says the report is an inaccurate, biased and incomplete portrayal of local anti-gang efforts that could threaten public safety, partly by eroding police-community relations. Some community leaders who reviewed the report said they were surprised by the amount of criticism in it. Some of them pointed to what they said was biased language in the report, and rejected the findings as a collection of opinions and conclusions based on little evidence.

The Empowerment Network — which had requested the study of Omaha’s gangs and had received Omaha Community Foundation funding — may commission a new study from different analysts.

Willie Barney, head of north Omaha’s Empowerment Network, told us this:

July 16, 2012 Comments Read More
Business group challenges sewer project

Business group challenges sewer project

A business group unhappy with the city’s plan to fund a $2 billion sewer overhaul with higher user fees has a suggestion: find the money in the city budget.

The Omaha Alliance for Excellence in Government  is urging officials to scrap its 18-year timetable and its funding approach.

Instead, says Chip Maxwell, the alliance’s executive director, the city should tell the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality that it will spend $30 million in each of the next 30 years. Maxwell thinks it shouldn’t be a problem to find that money in the city budget, in cuts in the new fire contract, by scrapping other public works projects and by finding private donors to fund parks, pools and libraries.

Maxwell’s plan would add up to $900 million, which is short of the $2 billion the city says it will cost to complete the work — and that doesn’t include financing costs.  He says the point is that the city will tell the feds it will only pay what it can afford, even if that means fines and lawsuits. (If the city doesn’t keep up its end of the deal, it risks fines of $10,000 per violation per day from the state and even more from the federal government.)

“We’re saying if it results in a court fight, we’ll take that on,” Maxwell said. “We’ve had it with triggers and mechanisms for fines. We’re ready to fight them all, go to court, say: ‘We’re doing it our own way.’”

July 16, 2012 Comments Read More
Next police chief may be in for the long haul

Next police chief may be in for the long haul

After having three police chiefs retire in less than five years, the City of Omaha is in a position to get at least nine years of service from its next police chief before a full pension kicks in.

It will be 2021 before either internal candidate qualifies for a full pension, according to the city — and the two external candidates would have to ride it out for three decades.

The soonest either internal candidate could draw any check from the pension fund is 2016, when Capt. Greg Gonzalez would be eligible, said Stephanie Unger, the city’s benefits manager.

Deputy Chief Todd Schmaderer would follow in 2017. That’s the year when retired Stockton, Calif., Chief Blair Ulring and Chief Christopher Domagalski of Sheboygan, Wis., would become eligible for any Omaha pension, and only $15,000 at that.

The past three Omaha chiefs — Alex Hayes, Eric Buske and Tom Warren — all retired after long careers capped by short stints as chief, and each is drawing an annual pension of more than $100,000.

July 13, 2012 Comments Read More