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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.

The city approved plans in 2009 to put a 13,225-square-foot store on the corner. But that development has never materialized.

Since then, the property has been cited several times for weed and litter issues, Festersen said.

“I’m disappointed in CVS as a corporate citizen,” Festersen wrote.

Festersen said representatives from CVS have stopped returning his calls.

In response to the letter, CVS spokesman Mike DeAngelis said the company will direct its maintenance vendor to review the lot for necessary upkeep, including clearing overgrowth along the fence line.

DeAngelis said the company has “no information to share about our future plans for this property.”

At a town hall meeting in Benson hosted by Mayor Jean Stothert last week, neighbors asked about the status of the lot and expressed frustration at weeds and other problems.

“There’s only one other site in my district that's made me as angry as that site,” Festersen told them.

He said he thought there was some progress when some dirt was removed and sold.

But now “the weeds are back,” he said. “And we’re going to keep going out there and citing them every time.”

Contact the writer: 402-444-1084,

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

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.

When the agreement was announced this month, it was heralded as a breakthrough after years of turf wars and infighting that stymied previous consolidation efforts.

The proposal still needs approval from the City Council.

The County Board put off its vote for two weeks to hear the concerns of Jerry Smith, co-owner of the Eastern Nebraska Forensic Lab, which currently does forensic work for the city.

Smith has said the deal was poorly thought out and would put him out of business.

He said the city hasn’t had any complaints about his service, which includes extras such as same-day service on rush jobs — running a drug test or a trash pull for an officer who needs results quickly to obtain a warrant, for example.

Smith questioned whether shifting the work to the county lab at a cost of $135,000 saves Omaha taxpayers money.

In 2013, the city paid the Eastern Nebraska Forensic Lab $95,650, according to city records. The lab also did $19,000 worth of drug tests for the Douglas County Attorney’s Office in 2013.

But Douglas County Chief Deputy Sheriff Tom Wheeler said the county lab will provide services that Smith’s lab doesn’t — testing hair, fiber and paint chips, for example.

And the Sheriff’s Office plans to pursue accreditation for its crime lab through the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board — a status that probably will be required eventually, besides being a sign of quality, Wheeler said.

The County Board approved the agreement on a 5-1 vote, with Marc Kraft absent. Mike Boyle, who has pushed for a more thorough consolidation, voted no.

“Law enforcement people have told me how valuable their service is — how quickly they can turn it around,” Boyle said.

The agreement approved by the board has one difference from earlier versions: Douglas County agreed to process fire debris evidence for the Omaha Fire Department at no extra charge, eliminating a fee that costs the city about $5,000 a year.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1216,,

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

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.

Santa Monica Inc. plans to house and treat 20 women in addiction recovery at the new location, which is now the Renaissance Mansion event center.

Santa Monica then would use its existing location as a three-quarter-way house, allowing extended treatment and preparation for independent living for 14 women at a time, Santa Monica Executive Director Heather Kirk said.

Councilman Franklin Thompson said issuing the permit could have some negative effect on the neighborhood, where there already is a concentration of group homes. But he said he believed the halfway house would provide a much-needed service, and he feared the city would expose itself to litigation if it denied the permit, as happened in a 2005 case.

That case hinged on Americans With Disabilities Act requirements that cities make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities, including addictions.

“Overall, it looks to me that the good outweighs the bad,” Thompson said.

Neighbors disagreed.

They contended there are already too many group homes in the neighborhood and urged the council to follow its ordinance requiring such group living treatment centers be at least a half-mile apart.

There will be four such centers within a half-mile of each other, said Mike Jones, an attorney for a Montessori Educational Center across the street from the Renaissance Mansion. And there are at least 10 more group homes in surrounding blocks, he said.

Neighbor Jim Farho, a leader in the Blackstone Neighborhood Association and Midtown Neighborhood Alliance, said the council could legally deny the permit — and should follow the rules it established after the 2005 lawsuit.

“This isn’t about Santa Monica and what they do,” Farho said. “We really appreciate the work they do. ... It’s about the law the City Council created.”

He asked, “Do you have a law you want to enforce, or do you have a law you don’t want to enforce?”

Douglas County Board member Mike Boyle, who lives in the neighborhood, said approving the permit would set a precedent that would lead to more houses in the neighborhood being converted to group living.

Council President Pete Festersen and other members said they would be reluctant to approve more such exceptions.

Contact the writer:


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

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.

Morello, a former Omahan who has moved to Texas, owns about 200 properties in Omaha, mostly in the northeast part of the city.

Council members said they know him well, both for his history of litigation against the city and because of complaints that he fails to mow and pick up trash at his properties.

The lawsuits were not about the mowing and weed matters, but they did address Morello’s properties. Most involved eminent domain; Morello felt the city didn’t pay enough money when it took the properties.

Morello declined to comment about the lawsuits or the council’s allegations about how his properties are maintained.

The council approved the settlement, but council members said they were loath to pay Morello any money for his properties because of the other complaints.

“I’m having a hard time with these particular settlements in light of this individual’s demonstrated lack of respect for our municipal codes and his neighbors,” Councilman Chris Jerram said.

Jerram said the city has gone to “inordinate, extraordinary efforts” to attempt to get Morello to clean up his properties. The city has inspected his properties more than a hundred times, Jerram said, at a cost of about $120 per inspection.

Jerram said the city spends thousands of dollars trying to force habitual offenders to come into compliance with weed and trash ordinances.

When there is a complaint about that sort of violation, the city sends a notice to landowners and then goes to inspect it. If the violation isn’t fixed, the city takes care of the nuisance and bills the property owner.

Jerram said Morello cleans up his properties at the last minute — after the city has paid an inspector to visit the property, but before Morello is charged for the mowing.

Jerram said that happens regularly, at many properties. He argues that the city is spending too much money on inspections for Morello’s properties. In some areas, where neighbors don’t complain, the properties don’t get mowed at all, Jerram said.

Council members are looking at ways to encourage property owners to clean up their properties faster, possibly by charging them for multiple inspections. They said it will benefit neighbors who are tired of frequently calling the city to complain.

Councilman Franklin Thompson said he plans to work with staffers to draft an ordinance.

John Chatelain, president of the Metropolitan Omaha Property Owners Association, said the proposal “sounds harebrained.” He said he believes property taxes are already too high, and the charge would add to the burden of property owners.

It “doesn’t sound very fair to me,” Chatelain said.

Councilman Ben Gray said Morello is not alone in exploiting the “loophole”: Other property owners have also left their maintenance until the last minute.

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

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.

Lanoha Development proposes to bring a business district featuring apartments and retail commercial services at the Millard Lumber site.

The city has designated the area as a community redevelopment area, which would make tax increment financing incentives possible.

Council president Pete Festersen said with the right plan, the area could become a business district like Dundee or Benson that attracts people.

“For me, it’s OK to allow a little more time for that to develop because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get that right,” Festersen said.

He said the area is "on the verge of a revitalized neighborhood district that could be very special."

Felici said his business is mostly wholesale, and the lot would hold up to about 15 cars.

“It will actually look like a small park with a car lot in it,” he told the council.

But business leaders in the area argued that the lot wouldn’t fit in with Lanoha’s plan.

Steve Andersen, co-founder of the Millard Business Association, said downtown Millard is unique and the council should consider the larger plan for the area.

“The city should encourage new development to fit into that design,” he said.

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

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.

“We have brought in more than 1,000 jobs in this community since I got in,” Gray said. “(Check) your facts, fool. I’m out.”

He then left the room.

The group continued to ask questions, with many focusing on street repair.

Stothert said the city is making progress. For example, she said, it is trying to speed the resurfacing of Ames Avenue between 30th and 42nd Streets, with the work to begin at the end of 2015 or beginning of 2016.

The city is about 50 years behind necessary street repairs, which often can be expensive, Stothert said.

Police Chief Todd Schmaderer said a focus on community policing and efforts to apprehend and prosecute violent offenders has led to fewer homicides this year compared with previous years.

Stothert acknowledged the city has a lot of work to do in north Omaha.

“I’m an impatient person,” she said. “I want to get it done right now, and I think a lot of you are the same. But I can’t get it done in a year.

“We’re doing the best we can. I think we’re moving in a very, very positive direction.”

Contact the writer: 402-444-1084,

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

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.

» Ken Johnson, president of his own consulting company and board member for 75 North Redevelopment Corporation and the Omaha Small Business Network. He is the city’s former economic development manager.

» Jamie Berglund, a member of the Omaha Housing Authority board and a senior director of community development with the Greater Omaha Chamber.

» Spencer Danner of Mutual of Omaha Bank.

» Randy Lenhoff, CEO of Seldin Company and chairman and CEO of World Group LLC

» Scott Semrad, co-founder and manager of Urban Village Development.

» Cathy Lang, chief operating officer and vice president of Accelerate Nebraska and former head of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development and Department of Labor.

Five nonvoting members are: Mike Riedmann, president of NP Dodge Residential Sales; Julie Stavneak of J. Development Company; Julia Plucker, a partner in Heartland Strategy Group; John Heine, a commercial real estate broker with Investors Realty; and Diane Battiato, Douglas County Register of Deeds.

The City Council must approve the appointments.

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

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.

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

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

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.

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

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.

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:

-McDonnell gets a retirement ceremony, just like other departing fire chiefs, and he’ll get credit for service through the end of October 2014. That means he’ll hit the 25-year service mark, which is used to calculate his pension.

-Both McDonnell and the mayor will abide by a “joint non-disparagement” clause through July 1, 2014.

-The city won’t lay off any sworn fire department personnel until July 1, 2014, and no rigs will be removed from service in the same time period. That comes with one exception: Medic 3, the South Omaha medical unit that’s been a subject of controversy in recent months.

-Three assistant fire chief positions will be maintained through the 2014 payroll year.

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

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

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.

Voters who have previously registered in Nebraska can register in a different county without having to provide proof of address, said Valerie Stoj, spokeswoman for the Douglas County Election Commission.

But applicants must sign an oath that “I live in the State of Nebraska at the address provided in this application.” The oath says applicants who knowingly provide false information are guilty of election falsification, a felony.

MECA paid Midwest Maintenance Co. some $3.8 million from its 2009 through its 2011 fiscal years, according to federal tax forms. Gutierrez Mora has owned the company since 1997.

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

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

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:

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

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.”

Police oversight was a bit of a wedge issue during the mayoral election. Stothert and former Mayor Jim Suttle differed on whether to hire a police auditor or instate the community-based form of oversight supported by Stothert.

Stothert has said she believes people would have more trust in the Police Department if they were represented by a citizens board that could review police regulations or disputed incidents.

“Community policing isn’t just a matter of getting your officers out in the community, driving by once or twice a day in a cruiser,” she said. “True community policing is when the community takes part in developing the policy.”

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

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.

Stothert is looking to close the office, which was funded with federal stimulus grants and opened by former Mayor Jim Suttle. It aimed to promote efforts that would improve energy efficiency, including the reEnergize program, which had struggled to meet its goals.

Supporters of the program told the council that the office is important to Omaha.

“My view, that regional view, is that Omaha loses when it doesn’t have a sustainability office,” said Rick Yoder, a sustainability coordinator for the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s business school. “It loses to other communities in the region.”

The council is scheduled to adopt a 2014 budget at its Aug. 27 meeting.

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

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

"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

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

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

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.

But north downtown leaders say they’re going to keep pushing.

“I don’t think things are going to develop the way the city wants them to develop unless the truck traffic is moved,” said Jennifer Zimmer, president of the North Downtown Omaha Alliance. “It’s not just the truck traffic, but the speed of traffic on the way to the airport. Until traffic slows down, it’s not a safe pedestrian area.”

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

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.

Rick Cunningham, who served as planning director under former Mayor Jim Suttle resigned after Stothert defeated Suttle. Stothert moved assistant planning director Chad Weaver to long-range planning and put another assistant director, James Thele, temporarily in charge of the department.

When a new director is hired, he or she will oversee an $8.3 million budget, which is about 2 percent more than this year.



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

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 — one of the many, weird websites we encountered during hours of exhaustive research into the miniature marsupial.

National Geographic has more information.

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

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

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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