When it comes to crime, all five mayoral candidates say the fight to protect property and life in Omaha will be a priority.
Exactly how they will go about it differs in some ways.
— Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle wants to remove illegal guns from the street.
— Republican Dave Nabity wants to cultivate more informers, using new technology to persuade people to text tips into police.
— Omaha lawyer Dan Welch wants returning criminals to have to sit down and listen to people who were affected by their crimes.
— City Councilwoman Jean Stothert says she will stress prevention, intervention and prosecution.
— And State Sen. Brad Ashford wants to work with community leaders in north Omaha to reduce truancy.
On Monday night, all five appeared at a forum in north Omaha to discuss jobs, crime and development. It was one of about a half-dozen forums or debates expected to be held in the weeks before the April 2 primary, when the field will be narrowed to two.
The final election will be held May 14.
By all accounts, the race is wide open. Suttle appears to be the frontrunner, in large part because he is the incumbent and the only Democrat in the race. Welch, Nabity and Stothert are Republicans. Ashford is the sole Independent.
Monday's was a low-key debate, marked by an absence of fireworks.
It also was a good chance for the 140 people in the audience to learn about the candidates, and why they think they are the best person for the job.
Suttle continued his argument that the city was on the brink of a financial collapse when he took office four years ago. He also defended the tax hikes that he pushed through the City Council, saying they were needed to help the city balance its budget.
“We were truly headed to major bankruptcy,” said Suttle.
Nabity took the opportunity to tout his years in business, noting he is the only candidate who has not held elective office.
“I'm going to bring a fresh new vision to the city,” said Nabity, when talking about his desire to develop 24th and Lake Streets into an entertainment district.
He also promised to bring an unorthodox approach to City Hall. “If you ask anyone who knows me, they'll tell you I'm a very creative person.”
Ashford stressed his years of experience, especially the 15 years he has spent working in the Nebraska Legislature.
Throughout the forum, he cited specific examples and specific north Omaha leaders with whom he has worked, helping to put young men and women from north Omaha back to work or send them back to school.
Welch tried to come off as the moderate who doesn't know all the answers but would reach out and work with all Omahans. He also repeatedly stress his belief that more private-public partnerships were needed in the city, especially to promote projects in north Omaha.
“The mayor of Omaha should be waking up every single morning, thinking, 'What am I going to do in north Omaha (today)?'” Welch said.
Stothert stayed on her conservative talking points.
“We need lower taxes so business can stay and grow,” she told the audience. “With better leadership and a conservative vision, I believe our bright days are ahead of us.”