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The Hall

CVS to clean up its vacant lot at 72nd & Maple Streets

CVS will clean up a lot it owns at 72nd and Maple Streets after Omaha City Council President Pete Festersen wrote a letter of complaint to the company’s CEO.

In the letter sent last week, Festersen said the vacant lot, situated in his district, has long frustrated him and his constituents.

Festersen wrote that the city would pursue “any and all” avenues to get CVS to clean up the property. Festersen said he would encourage his fellow council members to deny requests from CVS until the company fixes the lot.

“This site is a blight on the neighborhood,” Festersen wrote to CEO Larry Merlo.

Posted in Metro, Money, The hall, Thehall on Wednesday, September 24, 2014 1:00 am.

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Douglas County Board OKs shared crime lab deal

A proposal for Douglas County and the City of Omaha to share some crime lab services cleared its first hurdle Tuesday.

With no discussion, the County Board approved a five-year shared services agreement that calls for more cooperation between the Sheriff’s Office and the Omaha Police Department.

Starting Jan. 1, the Sheriff’s Office would analyze drug samples, blood-alcohol tests and crime-scene evidence for both agencies in the county crime lab at 156th and Maple Streets.

The Sheriff’s Office would hire two new chemists, with the city paying the annual $135,000 cost of the new hires. OPD would handle ballistics test for both agencies. A sheriff’s deputy would be assigned to OPD’s electronics unit. And crime-scene technicians from one agency could respond to calls from the other agency.

Posted in Metro, The hall, Thehall on Wednesday, September 24, 2014 1:00 am.

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Despite neighbors’ objections, City Council OKs another halfway house in midtown Omaha

City Council members cited gratitude, admiration and worry Tuesday in voting to allow another halfway house in midtown Omaha, over neighbors’ objections.

Council members expressed gratitude and admiration for Santa Monica House’s 42 years of work in treating women with alcohol and drug addictions at 130 N. 39th St.

The members worried over a potential lawsuit if the council prevented Santa Monica from opening a second location in a nearby mansion.

In the end, after impassioned pleas from Santa Monica and opposing neighbors, the council voted 6-1 to approve a special use permit for a halfway house at 401 S. 39th St. The no vote came from Councilman Chris Jerram, whose district includes the neighborhood.

Posted in Metro, The hall, Thehall on Tuesday, September 23, 2014 9:30 pm.

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City Council looks to close loophole highlighted 
by property owner whose untidy yards run up tab

A property owner won a six-figure settlement from the City of Omaha this month, but he also spurred City Council members to look closer at his record of weed and trash violations.

Now council members are considering changing a city ordinance to close what they say is a loophole that gives too much latitude to people who fail to properly maintain their properties.

Council members say more needs to be done to protect neighbors, who tire of living near overgrown lots and calling the city to report violations. But the head of the Metropolitan Omaha Property Owners Association said the city would end up creating too much of a hardship for property owners.

The matter came up at a City Council meeting earlier this month when the council approved a $230,000 settlement for several lawsuits against the city filed by Bernard Morello.

Posted in Metro, The hall, Thehall on Tuesday, September 23, 2014 1:00 am.

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Council denies request for Millard used car lot, says it doesn't fit into plan for area

A possible “very special” future revitalization for downtown Millard trumped a proposed used car lot at Tuesday's Omaha City Council meeting.

The council voted unanimously to deny Omaha businessman Tony Felici’s request to build a car lot at 13525 Millard Ave. 

Millard community leaders and council members argued that the former Millard Lumber site nearby is about to undergo a revitalization, and the car lot wouldn't fit with the plan for that area.

“What we’re trying to do is look toward the future,” Councilman Rich Pahls said.

Posted in Metro, The hall, Thehall on Tuesday, September 23, 2014 3:26 pm.

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Frustration with city bubbles up at town hall meeting with Stothert in north Omaha

Frustration at the City of Omaha bubbled up at a town hall meeting with Mayor Jean Stothert on Monday evening at the Charles B. Washington Library in north Omaha.

The mayor and other city officials fielded questions and a few angry comments about development, crime, street resurfacing and other issues.

One man loudly accused the city of failing to accomplish anything in north Omaha, particularly singling out Stothert and city council member Ben Gray.

Gray became so annoyed that he strode toward the man, then changed course and went to the microphone. He listed several projects that have come to the area, including a Walmart at 50th Street and Ames Avenue.

Posted in Metro, The hall, Thehall on Tuesday, September 23, 2014 2:45 am.

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Mayor Stothert names 7 members to board for newly created Omaha Land Bank

Mayor Jean Stothert has named the seven members of the board for the newly formed Omaha Municipal Land Bank.

The inaugural board will hire an executive director, write bylaws and establish policies and procedures for the land bank. The new agency can select and acquire vacant, condemned houses and other problem properties, selling them for redevelopment.

The mayor’s appointees:

» Tom McLeay, president of Clarity Development Company and a partner at Smith, Gardner & Slusky.

Posted in Metro, The hall, Thehall on Tuesday, September 23, 2014 5:00 pm.

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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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Wednesday 09/24/2014

CVS to clean up its vacant lot at 72nd & Maple Streets Douglas County Board OKs shared crime lab deal

Tuesday 09/23/2014

Despite neighbors’ objections, City Council OKs another halfway house in midtown Omaha City Council looks to close loophole highlighted 
by property owner whose untidy yards run up tab Council denies request for Millard used car lot, says it doesn't fit into plan for area Frustration with city bubbles up at town hall meeting with Stothert in north Omaha Mayor Stothert names 7 members to board for newly created Omaha Land Bank

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

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