Problem landlord plan unveiled
The Landlord Task Force put together by Mayor Jim Suttle in February has a plan for cutting down on crime, public health problems and neighborhood eyesores.
Actually, they have 59 plans, ranging from tougher rules about when the city can revoke occupancy permits and mark a property closed to boosting funds for demolitions and landlord training classes. The task force took a bit longer than planned to release its report, but Suttle says that’s because he wanted to get the right people together to sort through all of the problems.
Council knocks Suttle, adds money to budget
The City Council made an effort to negate salary increases quietly awarded to some top city officials, eliminated money set aside by Mayor Jim Suttle’s administration for an extra city lobbyist and produced some $1.5 million to finance a handful of efforts. The city’s overall budget was still approved Tuesday.
Suttle accepted the council’s budget adjustments and said he’ll honor its desire to withhold salary increases. We’re still waiting to hear details as to how that will work. Though salary bumps for some department directors were first included in the 2013 budget, many of them went into effect in January without the public’s knowledge.
Other council-sponsored amendments also produced some $1.5 million to finance a handful of efforts, including demolishing more condemned houses and bolstering street resurfacing.
Energy-saving program playing catch up
A year and a half after Omaha and Lincoln launched a green grant program called reEnergize, things aren’t exactly going as planned.
The cities had $10 million in stimulus money to help homeowners with energy audits and retrofits, boost the industry in the area and create jobs. They set a target: 3,193 homes by May 2013.
But so far, things haven’t been moving quite so quickly. The goal has already been scaled back, to 1,800 homes. To date, only 300 homes have had energy evaluations and fewer than 100 have followed up with upgrades.
Could Omaha push back on sewer project?
Omaha’s big, expensive — somewhere between $2 billion and $3 billion — sewer project isn’t exactly unique.
Around the country, about 770 other communities have also been ordered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to upgrade their systems or face fines. In Omaha, where sewer users’ rates are beginning to jump, some business owners are challenging the city about its plans.
City officials say they don’t have any immediate plans to ask regulators for more time or a scaled-back project, but it could happen in the future. At least a handful of other cities have tried, some with success, to challenge the EPA mandate.
Merger could follow Conboy’s retirement
The city’s top prosecutor, Marty Conboy, is retiring this month — and it’s opening up a conversation about his office merging with the Douglas County Attorney’s Office.
Several other employees in Conboy’s office, which handles a variety of criminal and traffic cases, are eligible for retirement within the next year. Those changes are prompting some people, including State Sen. Brad Ashford, who is running for mayor, to push for bringing the two legal offices together.
Ashford says he’ll bring forward a bill next session on the matter.
City introduces problem-reporting app
If you’ve got a smartphone or a tablet and want to report that dumpster blocking the sidewalk or the abandoned car that’s been sitting on the street for weeks, the city has an app for you.
The Omaha Mobile App, unveiled Thursday, works on iPhone, Blackberry, Android and Windows 7-based smartphones. It’s operated by a company called CitySourced, which has sold it to other cities around the country.
Here’s how it works: Spot a problem (graffiti, piles of snow that haven’t been cleared, overgrown trees,) take a picture, and submit it with the app. It figures out your location, sends the message directly to a city department, and updates you when it’s been viewed, processed, and when the problem has been fixed.
Mayor Jim Suttle, who tried out the app Thursday morning on some graffiti in South Omaha’s Essex Park, said he hopes the app will allow people to get more involved with government.
Pay boost for new chief: $69
The good news for newly appointed Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer: He’s getting a raise.
The bad news: It’s modest, to say the least. Schmaderer is now going to make $69 more per year.
That’s because of the formula the city uses to award pay. As deputy police chief, Schmaderer made $130,338 and was on the high end of the scale for assistant chiefs. If he’d get the lowest pay grade for a chief ($124,000) it would result in a pay cut — something that’s not allowed by the city for people who are promoted.
So Schmaderer is getting the second “step” up in chief pay grade ($130,407.) He’ll move up to the third step ($150,000) in a year.
The race is on for District 1
First term Omaha City Councilman Pete Festersen has a challenger for next year’s election: Edward Truemper, a pediatrician who works at Children’s Hospital and the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Truemper grew up in Texas and lived in Mississippi and Georgia before moving to Omaha in 2003. This is his first foray into politics, a move he said was prompted by concerns about how Omaha’s leaders are handling city finances, crime, and other quality-of-life issues.
He said he wants to keep building the unique identities of the neighborhoods in District 1, which include Dundee, Benson and Florence.
Schmaderer appointed as chief
UPDATE: Deputy Chief Todd Schmaderer has been unveiled as the next chief of the Omaha Police Department.
There were four finalists to take over the position vacated when Police Chief Alex Hayes retired in March. Sixty-nine people applied for the job, city officials said. Deputy Chief Todd Schmaderer and Capt. Greg Gonzalez made the cut from within the Omaha Police Department. Blair Ulring, recently retired head of the Stockton, Calif., Police Department, and Police Chief Christopher Domagalski of Sheboygan, Wis., are the external candidates.
Heat rising at City Hall
UPDATE: The local chapter of Americans for Prosperity has unveiled a radio spot that will criticize pay hikes for certain city officials. It’s embedded lower in this post.
One of Mayor Jim Suttle’s first acts on Monday, after recovering from a mild stroke last week, was taking on his critics.
Suttle’s comments came as the council prepared to vote on a resolution to admonish the mayor for pay raises given to some of his staff, while encouraging more budget transparency from the Mayor’s Office. Side note: It was an oddly-timed press conference for Suttle — President Barack Obama just happened to be across the river in Council Bluffs at the same time.
Suttle was sure to single out Jean Stothert, the Republican councilwoman and mayoral candidate.
“For the council to tell the citizens of Omaha, I have not been honest about the City’s finances is not true and they know it,” Suttle said. ”Nobody discovered a secret while I was out of the country. The City Council simply read the budget.” It’s not the first time Suttle has pushed back on the pay raise controversy.