Articles by: Erin Golden

MECA board member’s residency challenged

MECA board member’s residency challenged

UPDATE, 9/13: Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale is now investigating Gutierrez Mora. 

UPDATE, 9/11: Most of the City Council appears to be supportive of Festersen’s plan. 

UPDATE, 9/10: City Council President Pete Festersen wants the city to clarify the qualifications for MECA board members.

Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority board member Jamie Gutierrez Mora doesn’t meet the requirements to serve on the board — at least according to Omaha’s city attorney.

In an opinion issued late last week, City Attorney Paul Kratz said Gutierrez Mora does not live in Douglas County and is not a “resident elector,” though she is registered to vote in Douglas County. Gutierrez Mora owns a home in Bellevue, but has listed a South Omaha rental property owned by her husband as her home. 

Now, the mayor and City Council could vote to remove Gutierrez Mora from the board. The MECA board could also act independently on the matter.

September 9, 2013 Comments Read More
Budget season is almost over

Budget season is almost over

September 6, 2013 Comments Read More
Stothert reviewing McDonnell’s plans

Stothert reviewing McDonnell’s plans

In case you missed it, (or are now thoroughly confused about what’s going on,) here’s the latest in the ongoing squabble between Mayor Jean Stothert and Fire Chief Mike McDonnell…

Wednesday, Stothert, just back from a trip to Chicago to discuss the city’s bond rating, said she hadn’t had time to review three proposals offered up by McDonnell over the weekend.

The mayor said McDonnell was looking to be reimbursed for tuition he paid for graduate school classes, among other additions to an original agreement. McDonnell, meanwhile, said he’s willing to go with a plan that’s more or less identical to the tentative agreement signed next week.

Stothert said it could be the end of the week before she’s ready to offer a final opinion on McDonnell’s three plans.

September 5, 2013 Comments Read More
McDonnell under investigation, deal breaks down

McDonnell under investigation, deal breaks down

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UPDATE, 9/4: Fire Chief Mike McDonnell tried to get several revisions to his deal with Mayor Jean Stothert last week, before it fell apart.

Tuesday, the Mayor’s Office released documents that it said contained McDonnell’s demands: reimburse his tuition, assure that rigs won’t be temporarily taken out of service and clarify something the mayor said.

UPDATE, 8/30:  The tentative retirement deal between Omaha Fire Chief Mike McDonnell and Mayor Jean Stothert is off — and Stothert’s office is now investigating McDonnell’s employment.

The Mayor’s Office just told us it was unable to come to an agreement with McDonnell on a final deal. In a statement, Stothert said McDonnell “demanded” language be inserted into the pair’s tentative agreement.

The preliminary deal had McDonnell stepping down and receiving the city’s largest-ever pension. Stothert, meanwhile, would be blocked from making significant cuts to the Fire Department over the next year.

“I am disappointed in Mr. McDonnell’s unwillingness to stay within the parameters of our Memo of Understanding,” Stothert said.

***

Fire Chief Mike McDonnell is officially out of a job.

The chief and Mayor Jean Stothert signed off on a tentative deal Monday that has McDonnell stepping down — he’ll be on paid leave for the time being — and the mayor agreeing to hold off on layoffs or pulling rigs from service.

McDonnell will have to turn in his city-issued phone and equipment by Tuesday morning. He’ll be replaced for now by Battalion Chief Bernard Kanger, who has been with the city since 1991.

Highlights of the deal:

August 26, 2013 Comments Read More
Judge rules against fire union

Judge rules against fire union

The fire union’s attempt to get a court to stop to Mayor Jean Stothert’s proposed budget cuts is on hold — at least for now.

District Judge James Gleason has rejected the union’s request for a court order that would block the mayor’s $90.6 million budget plan. The union had argued last month that proposed reductions would violate the labor contract and put firefighters at risk.

In his ruling, Gleason wrote that the lawsuit was premature, because the City Council has not yet finalized a budget.  He noted that “the proposal of a budget does not create a budget, and this court determines that this case is not ripe for decision until a budget has been approved by the City Council of the City of Omaha.”

The union, meanwhile, says it plans to be back in court if Stothert’s budget is approved.

Gleason’s ruling:


August 21, 2013 Comments Read More
Budget hearing highlights: fire, sustainability

Budget hearing highlights: fire, sustainability

With two weeks to go before the council votes on Mayor Jean Stothert’s proposed budget, city officials and fire union leaders have revived discussions about the city’s fire contract.

Talk about the Fire Department’s budget took center stage at Tuesday evening’s public hearing, where President Steve LeClair said the layoffs and other cuts forced by the mayor’s $90.6 million budget should be a concern to Omahans. Fire Chief Mike McDonnell has recently told council members he thinks cuts could be avoiding by changing the contract.

Meanwhile, council members heard feedback Tuesday on separate proposed change: the end of the city’s office of sustainable development. 

August 14, 2013 Comments Read More
Storz will move in to former Rick’s Cafe

Storz will move in to former Rick’s Cafe

Big news for the former Rick’s Café Boatyard: The Storz Brewing Co. is moving in.

The Omaha brewer that closed its  plant in 1972 is bringing back its beer, which it will serve in the 19,000-square-foot bar and restaurant on the riverfront.  The Storz Trophy Room Grill & Brewery will be operated by Yves Menard, owner of the Charlie’s on the Lake restaurant. It is scheduled to open Nov. 15.

The city-owned property has been quiet since January, when Rick’s closed and its owner defaulted on his lease agreement with the city.

August 8, 2013 Comments Read More
Budget hints at future projects

Budget hints at future projects

Check out the entire Capital Improvement Program 2014-2019 plan here.

August 5, 2013 Comments Read More
This briefcase knows City Hall

This briefcase knows City Hall

A briefcase that got its start at City Hall in 1979 is still alive and kicking — and hauling around the exact same kind of stuff.

Erin Grace has the story of how the briefcase Lou Anderson used as a City Council aide more than three decades ago has become a mainstay of city government, carrying the paperwork that makes the council run. It was used by former council chief of staff Warren Weaver, who recently retired, and is  now being used by Jim Dowding, serving as interim chief of staff.

August 1, 2013 Comments Read More
Trucks causing rumblings in north downtown

Trucks causing rumblings in north downtown

If you hang out around a stretch of historic warehouses-turned offices in north downtown, you can apparently experience something similar to an earthquake.

Business and building owners along a stretch of Nicholas Street, just north of TD Ameritrade Park, are fed up with big trucks roaring past, headed for the Interstate from industries in north Omaha. 

It’s a tricky problem for the city, which has encouraged development around the stadium and the CenturyLink Center, but also wants to see companies thrive a few blocks to the north. So far, there’s no great solution.

August 1, 2013 Comments Read More