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The Hall

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.

Posted in The hall on Monday, September 9, 2013 1:28 am. Updated: 3:14 pm. | Tags: Stadiums , City Council , Stothert

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Budget season is almost over

Posted in The hall on Friday, September 6, 2013 10:23 am. Updated: 3:14 pm. | Tags: Budget , City Council , Stothert

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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.

Posted in The hall on Thursday, September 5, 2013 8:04 am. Updated: 3:14 pm. | Tags: Budget , Fire Contract , Public Safety , Stothert

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McDonnell under investigation, deal breaks down

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.

Posted in The hall on Monday, August 26, 2013 5:40 am. Updated: 3:14 pm. | Tags: Budget , Fire Contract , Public Safety , Stothert

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Festersen won't run for Congress

City Council President Festersen, the father of two young children, has decided the timing of a congressional campaign against against Republican Rep. Lee Terry wasn’t right for his family.

Robynn Tysver reports the District 1 council representative was heavily recruited by national Democrats, who believed the moderate, pro-business councilman had the credentials to win in the Omaha-based congressional district, the state’s only swing district.

“At this point in time, however, I’ve determined I can have a greater impact on my community by staying focused on being a father, a business owner, and president of the Omaha City Council,” Festersen said.

Posted in The hall on Monday, August 26, 2013 1:26 am. Updated: 3:14 pm. | Tags: City Council , Election

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Where does this MECA board member live?

The newest member of the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority board faces questions over whether her Bellevue home disqualifies her to serve with the group, which runs Omaha’s marquee arena and baseball stadium.

Jamie Gutierrez Mora, owner and president of Midwest Maintenance Co., was appointed by the Omaha City Council in March. Midwest Maintenance Co. provides cleaning services for the CenturyLink Center, the Omaha Civic Auditorium and TD Ameritrade Park.

Gutierrez Mora is a registered voter in Douglas County, but has not voted there, according to county election records. She owns a home in Belle-vue with a tax value of roughly $600,000. That is not the address listed on the r?sum? that Gutierrez Mora gave the city upon her appointment.

Posted in The hall on Friday, August 23, 2013 9:17 am. Updated: 3:14 pm. | Tags: Stadiums , City Council

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Rate this council member's piano skills

This one comes to us from Chris Burbach, public engagement editor for The World-Herald. It’s City Council President Pete Festersen playing a piano as part of the “Play Me, I’m Yours” public art project.

Posted in The hall on Friday, August 23, 2013 2:21 am. Updated: 3:14 pm. | Tags: City Council , Parks

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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.”

Posted in The hall on Wednesday, August 21, 2013 10:09 am. Updated: 3:14 pm.

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Civilian review board could be in city's future

Mayor Jean Stothert says she will propose a form of civilian oversight for the Omaha Police Department. Possibly by the end of this summer.

Stothert told The World-Herald her administration is working to suggest an ordinance to create some sort of citizen review board, a concept she supported during her mayoral campaign.

That’s news to the city’s police union head.

“Don’t rush to implement something, which ultimately doesn’t work or backfires,” said Sgt. John Wells, the union president. “Because that just tends to cause more problems.”

Posted in The hall on Wednesday, August 21, 2013 9:41 am. Updated: 3:14 pm. | Tags: City Council , Public Safety , Stothert

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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.

Posted in The hall on Wednesday, August 14, 2013 8:46 am. Updated: 3:14 pm. | Tags: Budget , City Council , Jean Stothert , Public Safety

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Storz will move in to former Rick's Cafe

Big news for the former Rick’s Caf? 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.

Posted in The hall on Thursday, August 8, 2013 11:10 am. Updated: 3:14 pm. | Tags: Development , Parks

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"Negotiate versus litigate." -- Fire Chief Mike McDonnell, on solving a budget standoff

Read more here.

Posted in The hall on Wednesday, August 7, 2013 10:17 am. Updated: 3:14 pm. | Tags: Budget , City Council , Fire Contract , Public Safety , Stothert

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Budget hints at future projects

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

Posted in The hall on Monday, August 5, 2013 10:26 am. Updated: 3:14 pm. | Tags: Budget , Development , Public Works , Sewers , Stothert , Streets

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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.

Posted in The hall on Thursday, August 1, 2013 11:45 am. Updated: 3:14 pm. | Tags: City Council

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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.

Posted in The hall on Thursday, August 1, 2013 10:07 am. Updated: 3:14 pm. | Tags: Stadiums , Development , Neighborhoods , Streets

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Planning changes will wait for director

Mayor Jean Stothert says she’ll wait until she hires a new planning director until she implements any of the big changes she talked about during her campaign.

Discussions about reforming the Planning Department were front and center during this spring’s election.

With Stothert in office, there’s already been some shuffling in the department.

Posted in The hall on Tuesday, July 30, 2013 9:06 am. Updated: 3:14 pm. | Tags: Budget , Development , Stothert

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Adorable creature soon legal in Omaha?

Prepare to possibly die of cuteness, Omaha.

The aptly-named “Sugar Glider” a small, omnivorous, arboreal gliding possum (thanks, Wikipedia), may soon be an approved house pet in Omaha. The City Council is considering adding the sugar glider — in addition to (seriously) hedgehogs — to the list of animals that can be licensed in the city. Tiny motorcycles are not expected to be part of the discussion.

We borrowed the picture featured in this post from the “Glider Gossip” message board section of sugarglider.com — one of the many, weird websites we encountered during hours of exhaustive research into the miniature marsupial.

Posted in The hall on Saturday, July 27, 2013 3:30 am. Updated: 3:14 pm. | Tags: City Council

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Next steps for design rules

The organization that has helped shaped the way Omaha looks has hit some significant milestones.

It’s been 10 years since Omaha By Design began working in earnest on design guidelines that provide rules on everything from building materials to green spaces around intersections. Now, the group has become a nonprofit organization and is coming up with more plans — and trying to make sure the city’s new mayor is on board.

Mayor Jean Stothert says she’s supportive of the city having design standards, but is concerned some could push developers to other cities.

Posted in The hall on Thursday, July 25, 2013 10:34 am. Updated: 3:14 pm. | Tags: Development , Jean Stothert

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BUDGETFEST2K14

 

Posted in The hall on Thursday, July 25, 2013 2:06 am. Updated: 3:14 pm. | Tags: Budget , City Council , Stothert

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Stothert: McDonnell can discuss budget

Fire Chief Mike McDonnell may again talk to the media — or anyone else — about his department’s budget.

Five weeks after Mayor Jean Stothert directed McDonnell and other city department heads to get her approval before making any comments about the budget, the mayor has changed her mind. This week, she told the department leaders that they may discuss city finances.

The news, however, does not appear to have softened the tense relationship between the mayor and the fire chief. McDonnell said Wednesday night that he wouldn’t talk until Stothert put her new orders in writing. Stothert dismissed McDonnell’s request.

Posted in The hall on Thursday, July 18, 2013 9:04 am. Updated: 3:14 pm. | Tags: Budget , City Council , Public Safety , Stothert

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"I am not raising property taxes just to fund the Fire Department. It's not going to happen." -- Mayor Jean Stothert

Read more here.

Posted in The hall on Monday, July 15, 2013 1:19 am. Updated: 3:15 pm. | Tags: Budget , Public Safety , Stothert

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Pete for Congress?


Joe Morton reports Rep. Lee Terry’s next challenger could come from his old stomping grounds — the Omaha City Council.

Pete Festersen, a Democrat, is considering a 2014 bid to unseat the eight-term Republican congressman.

“I’m focused on my duties as City Council president but have been receiving local and national encouragement to run, and I’m in the process of discussing it with family, friends, colleagues and supporters,” Festersen told The World-Herald on Wednesday.

Posted in The hall on Thursday, July 11, 2013 10:11 am. Updated: 3:15 pm. | Tags: City Council , Election

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Hotel developer looking for TIF

The developer of a north downtown project that will include a full-service hotel, apartments and retail space is looking to get up to $35 million in tax-increment financing.

The request for TIF was approved by the Planning Board on Wednesday and will now move on to the City Council. Mike Moylan, the president of Shamrock Development, said the financing will be crucial to getting the entire project completed at the same time. His target: December 2015.

“Without a doubt, (TIF) is extremely important to the success of this particular site,” he said. “We’re looking at a large-scale, mixed-use development we’d like to have occur all at one time, and it cannot be done without the support of TIF.”

Posted in The hall on Thursday, July 11, 2013 9:40 am. Updated: 3:15 pm. | Tags: Stadiums , Development

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State partnership to help local roads

About $6.4 million of state money will speed up existing plans to repair and maintain some Omaha-area roads, Gov. Dave Heineman and Mayor Jean Stothert announced Tuesday.

Stothert and Heineman’s joint appearance came as the Stothert administration works on its proposed 2014 budget and fields ongoing citizen complaints about local road conditions. The mayor said she would propose adding about $750,000 to next year’s road repair and maintenance budget.

Tuesday’s press conference also underscored Stothert’s efforts to work closer with a Republican governor and the Republican majority in the state’s unicameral legislature.

Posted in The hall on Tuesday, July 9, 2013 12:54 pm. Updated: 3:15 pm. | Tags: Public Works , Legislature , Stothert , Streets

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North-south rail line proposed

A group of planners and designers have some big ideas for an abandoned stretch of rail line that runs from north Omaha to Bellevue.

Cindy Gonzalez reports that the plan from Emerging Terrain calls for a new light rail line that could move people from north to south, and provide connections for east-west bus lines. The group estimates that such a project could help create development that would bring 9,000 new jobs and 4,500 new homes in just a small portion of the rail line.

A recreational trail would run parallel to the 20-mile stretch of track.

Posted in The hall on Tuesday, July 9, 2013 9:46 am. Updated: 3:15 pm.

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Monday 09/09/2013

MECA board member's residency challenged

Friday 09/06/2013

Budget season is almost over

Thursday 09/05/2013

Stothert reviewing McDonnell's plans

Monday 08/26/2013

McDonnell under investigation, deal breaks down Festersen won't run for Congress

Friday 08/23/2013

Where does this MECA board member live? Rate this council member's piano skills

Wednesday 08/21/2013

Judge rules against fire union Civilian review board could be in city's future

Wednesday 08/14/2013

Budget hearing highlights: fire, sustainability

Thursday 08/08/2013

Storz will move in to former Rick's Cafe

Wednesday 08/07/2013

"Negotiate versus litigate." -- Fire Chief Mike McDonnell, on solving a budget standoff

Monday 08/05/2013

Budget hints at future projects

Thursday 08/01/2013

This briefcase knows City Hall Trucks causing rumblings in north downtown

Tuesday 07/30/2013

Planning changes will wait for director

Saturday 07/27/2013

Adorable creature soon legal in Omaha?

Thursday 07/25/2013

Next steps for design rules BUDGETFEST2K14

Thursday 07/18/2013

Stothert: McDonnell can discuss budget

Monday 07/15/2013

"I am not raising property taxes just to fund the Fire Department. It's not going to happen." -- Mayor Jean Stothert

Thursday 07/11/2013

Pete for Congress? Hotel developer looking for TIF

Tuesday 07/09/2013

State partnership to help local roads North-south rail line proposed

Wednesday 07/03/2013

Devil in the details on arena plan

Friday 06/28/2013

Crime lab merger talks to resume

Wednesday 06/26/2013

Stothert to McDonnell: No budget talk

Tuesday 06/25/2013

Stothert plan calls for more officers

Thursday 06/20/2013

City looks to privatize parking

Wednesday 06/19/2013

Gernandt back after health scare

Tuesday 06/18/2013

Budget cuts could mean library closures

Friday 06/14/2013

Officer resigns amid investigation

Thursday 06/13/2013

Gernandt on the mend Stothert's media directive

Tuesday 06/11/2013

Mayor Stothert: Day 1

Monday 06/10/2013

New administration takes hold Omaha's sewer burden: "medium" #DearMayorStothert

Friday 06/07/2013

Your guide to parking meters

Tuesday 06/04/2013

Report questions suburban sprawl

Thursday 05/30/2013

Ongoing transition

Tuesday 05/28/2013

More Jeopardy! wins for Suttle son-in-law

Wednesday 05/22/2013

Tax authority may be 'gone with the wind'

Monday 05/20/2013

ICYMI: Stothert's early tests

Wednesday 05/15/2013

Stothert's husband out from fire role

Monday 05/13/2013

Historical highlights from Omaha's mayors It's almost over New OPD policy: let cameras roll

Friday 05/10/2013

Council races: Dist. 7

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