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Bellevue councilwoman wants another vote on removing officials from office

Bellevue is not done debating how to punish elected officials who engage in misconduct or leak certain sensitive information.

Earlier this month, the City Council approved ordinances giving Bellevue a pathway to punish officials who do things like sexually harass other council members or leak real estate deals that haven’t been made public.

The measures passed with one key amendment: While the council can vote to reprimand someone who engages in such behavior, or vote to remove him or her from a committee or task force, it doesn’t have the ability to remove that person from office.

But Councilwoman Kathy Welch wants another vote on the possibility of kicking someone out of office. Welch is sponsoring an item at Tuesday’s council meeting asking council members to “reconsider and to re-vote” on the controversial amendment.

It isn’t clear why Welch wants another vote on the matter; she didn’t return phone and email messages from The World-Herald on Friday. Jim Ristow, Bellevue’s city administrator, said he didn’t know Welch’s intentions.

It’s possible the councilwoman wants to flip her vote on the removal amendment, which would set up an up-or-down vote on the proposal.

Public opposition to the proposals often focused on the possibility of the council having the power to remove an official from office.

The city, in defending the proposal, said a series of progressive punishments would be employed first, and only behavior that was “egregious” would lead to someone’s potential removal.

Before the outcome of the last meeting was known, public statements from council members and the mayor suggested that the measure might hit a 3-3 tie, which Mayor Rusty Hike would have had to break.

Then Councilman Thomas Burns proposed the amendment that took out the removal-from-office feature. Welch voted for the amendment, which meant it passed 4-2. The misconduct ordinance itself passed 5-1.

At a previous meeting, Welch said she has been the target of sexually harassing language by a sitting councilman, who has not been publicly identified.

According to Ristow, any council member who is in the majority voting bloc on an issue can request a new vote — in this case, any of the four council members who voted for the amendment.

If the council, by a simple majority, approves the motion to reconsider the amendment, council members would then discuss the issue and vote on the proposal again.

The council would have to vote to open the proceedings to public comment, Ristow said.

Requesting another vote is not a common practice in meetings of local city councils or other public bodies, though it’s not unheard of. Ristow said the city researched the matter and found that in 2017, then-Bellevue City Councilman Jim Moudry requested a new vote on an ordinance.

Moudry could not be reached Friday afternoon.

Papillion spokesman Trent Albers confirmed that any council member who voted with the majority can request a new vote. He said that mechanism is defined in Robert’s Rules of Order — the rules that govern how many public meetings are conducted.

Albers said a new vote has not been requested in Papillion in recent memory.

The council meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Bellevue City Hall, 1500 Wall St.


Articles
Caregivers get glimpse of their futures, change while they can
PLANNING FOR OLD AGE

WASHINGTON — Even after Myrtle Lewis' mother reached her late 90s and could no longer drive or care for herself, she insisted on remaining in her home. Lewis, who was helping care for her mother, arranged for her to have a live-in companion, another older woman, named Kizzie. But watching her mother's world shrink as she knocked around a too-big house clarified a few things for Lewis, now 76.

"After a while it just became she and Kizzie. They'd go to bed at 6:30," she said.

Unlike her mother, who stayed in her house until three months before she died at 98, Lewis is open to someday selling or renting out her house and moving to a senior facility. "I want more companionship," she said, "multi-age companionship in a group, and people who share some interests, and stay as involved as I can in growth and development and health."

AARP estimates that about 41 million Americans care for their adult family members, a number that has increased as life expectancy has grown. About 4 in 10 such caregivers say they have plans in place for their own future care, according to the organization's 2015 Caregiving in the U.S. survey.

Often, people who are relatively young and healthy don't spend much time contemplating what life will look like when they get old and frail — until they see it reflected in the life of a loved one.

"No one wants to think about their own aging. Everybody puts it off," said Amy Goyer, a family and caregiving expert at AARP. "Our parents' parents didn't live as long, but for baby boomers it gets harder to ignore — it's a repeated smack in the face of reality."

Seeing a parent's body or mind break down can inform decisions about one's own old age, from the practical — finding a house on a single level, installing grab bars, touring living facilities — to the philosophical, such as learning empathy, shoring up social ties or accepting one's own limitations.

For Richard Lui, 52, an MSNBC news anchor, becoming a caregiver for his father, who has dementia, forced him to grow emotionally. After his father, a retired pastor in San Francisco, began to have memory problems eight years ago, Lui started flying there each week to help care for him, as his father gradually lost his ability to communicate.

The wrenching experience resulted in a breakthrough. Seeing his once-independent father so vulnerable felt like holding up a mirror on Lui's own potential frailty. He also began to think more about financial planning and long-termcare insurance. "Eight years ago I thought I was forever young. But no, I'm not, and I need to think about that for my own health and personally," he said.

Nowwhen people ask how he is, Lui is more willing to share the hardships. "I will try to answer as honestly as possible," he said. He also serves as a caregiving "ambassador" for AARP, the Alzheimer's Association and BrightFocus Foundation, which supports research on Alzheimer's and vision diseases.

Such clear-headedness is typical of people caring for family members, said DeniseBrown, a Chicago-based caregiving coach who started CareGiving.com in 1996. "When you're a family caregiver, you're not in denial about death and aging and what happens when we get older," she said. "We know that we're not going to live forever — we live it. It's not necessarily immediate for most people, but we live it."

Brown started caring for her parents in 2004 and made a vow to herself when, after a medical crisis, her mother was unable to return from a rehabilitation facility to her house. "It was awful to tell her she couldn't go home," she said. "I want to make sure I'm set ... where I don't have to rely on other people to pack up my house and move for me."

To forestall this, Brown, 56, has identified a continuing-care facility she is considering for her next move: "It's beautiful. It's got a campus. I feel like when I'm 70, I'll have enough energy for the move and then I'll have enough energy after the move to enjoy it."

It wasn't until he became his mother's full-time caregiver that Dave DiBella, 71, of Pittsburgh realized how unprepared he was for his own aging. When his mother fell and injured her hip 10 years ago, he retired early from his job at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and moved in with her.

"That was a year of being tested beyond anything I could have ever imagined," he said. "It made me so afraid that I'll be dependent on somebody."

To stave that off, DiBella said, he is consciously staying fit. He is also taking more seriously the idea of organizing his affairs, such as writing a will and designating beneficiaries. "I was a bit of an ostrich before," he said. "Now I realize that I'm not the exception to the rule."

Dale Brown, 65, a retired federal policy administrator in Washington, D.C., who helped care for her parents, is shopping for a condo that is all on one level, with an elevator and wheelchair accessibility.

"Once I get it, I'm going to set it up for the 95-year-old Dale," she said. "I'm going to get lever door handles. I'm going to try to get a walk-in tub and a room where I can put someone if I need help."

Caring for a parent can also crystallize what a person doesn't want. Jeffrey Slavin, 64, the mayor of Somerset, Maryland, and his sister have been decluttering their 94-year-old mother's house as they care for her, secretly slipping out with books and other items.

That has persuaded Slavin to start getting rid of his own possessions, including art and some pocket watches from a collection his father left him. "I'm giving away things now that I want people to enjoy in my lifetime," he said.

Lewis, too, is taking steps now to forge a path different from her mother's. Seeing her mom give up driving prompted her to get cataract surgery to maximize her years behind the wheel. "I'm trying to hold on as long as I can," she said.

Some have a more radical take. Seeing her parents grow old and frail madeHolly Tippett think she might consider ending her life rather than become incapacitated. Tippett, 57, a fundraiser for a nonprofit group in D.C., helped care for her father as he was dying and was her mother's primary caregiver for a year.

"It makes me realize that I don't want to get super old and I don't want to be a burden on my children," she said. "I don't think the quality of life is worth the burden on family and friends." Recalling seeing her father, a successful business executive, reduced to incontinence, she said, "I don't want to live like that, and I don't want my kids to see me like that."

For Roberta Youmans, 65, a retired Department of Housing and Urban Development employee in D.C., caring for her mother, who had Parkinson's disease with dementia, made her "a little more worried about aging than I think some of my friends are."

Because of this, she signed up for Medicare B even though she already has a government pension, and she thinks twice before spending money on things such as travel.

She also learned to appreciate small victories: "I spend a lot more time being grateful for what I can do. 'Oh my God, my legs are still OK,' having seen my mom not be able to walk. I can still smell. I can still see."

"Little gifts, like, 'Oh, she matched up two buttons, that's great,' when she used to do 5,000-piece puzzles," she said. "I really learned a lot about life, death, aging and what's important."


Money
Apartments are ready in $22 million complex at entrance to Blackstone; food hall will open in spring

An eight-vendor food hall anchored by a local brewery soon will fill half the retail space in the newly opened Blackstone Corner apartments.

Poised to occupy the remainder of the street-level bays at the 3618 Farnam St. complex is a Coolgreens healthy food restaurant and a Power Life Yoga fitness center.

Above those retailers, on the upper floors of the six-level building designed with a Scandinavian vibe, are 112 residences featuring floor-to-ceiling windows and individual balconies.

All told, the Blackstone Corner’s 136,000 square feet, along with the soon-to-open historic Kimpton Cottonwood Hotel across the street, stand as a sort of eastern gateway to the popular Blackstone business district that just seven years ago was a deteriorating, pass-through stretch of Farnam Street.

Also at that intersection is the longtime Crescent Moon bar and grill and the Kiewit Plaza tower that just changed hands and in 2021 likely is to become home to multiple new businesses.

“It completely redefines that entrance,” said Matt Dwyer of GreenSlate Development, which, along with Clarity Development, has led the multimillion-dollar revival of the Blackstone commercial area.

Photos: The Blackstone Corner

While the food hall and other retail spaces won’t open before spring, the apartments now are available, and roughly 30 have been leased.

Residents enter the complex through a lofty lobby area with locally commissioned art hanging from the ceiling and on the walls. An outdoor deck area is dotted with grills and fire pits and is illuminated at night by overhead festival lighting.

Apartments range in size from studios of less than 500 square feet to two-bedroom units with two bathrooms. Rents run between $885 and $1,700. Each has a washer and dryer and access to a fitness room on each floor. Smaller units have platform beds with storage underneath.

CHRIS MACHIAN/THE WORLD-HERALD  

Apartments range in size from studios to two-bedroom, two-bathroom units.

About 60 underground parking stalls are available for an additional fee. Remaining tenants are responsible for securing their own parking.

Melissa Obermier of GreenSlate property management said that with a 97% occupancy rate in the company’s other neighborhood units, she expects good leasing activity.

The $22 million Blackstone Corner project, designed by Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture, joins a district known already for trendy restaurants and bars. But owners say the new food hall, set to open around springtime, brings a new and different twist.

Often, a group of friends with a variety of tastes wants to meet for food and drinks but grapples over where to go, said GreenSlate’s Clay Vanderheiden.

“This is an option where all can come and have individual choice,” he said.

Infusion Brewery will anchor the food hall, providing locally brewed beers and other alcoholic beverages.

The seven other vendors will be selected through an application process, said GreenSlate’s Jay Lund. He said that should produce a diverse mix that complements rather than “cannibalizes” other nearby retailers and restaurants.

CHRIS MACHIAN/THE WORLD-HERALD  

Jay Lund of GreenSlate Development at Blackstone Corner. The ground-floor retail bays span 12,000 square feet in all. The Oklahoma City-based Coolgreens restaurant and Des Moines-based Power Life Yoga likely will open next summer.

A few kiosk retailers also will have a place in the 6,000-square-foot food hall, Lund said. In all, the building’s ground-floor retail bays span 12,000 square feet. The Oklahoma City-based Coolgreens and Des Moines-based Power Life Yoga likely will open next summer, he said.

The retailers also will have outdoor patio space for patrons, and a view of Farnam Street and the sprawling Cottonwood Hotel, which also will offer a few places to eat, including a still-to-be-identified steakhouse.

Lund believes there is “plenty of room” for the newcomer food and beverage providers.

He said that having control of the bulk of retail properties on the commercial strip allows the GreenSlate team to monitor the mix of businesses.

The Blackstone Corner apartments and food hall — which rose on ground where once stood a fraternity house and, before that, a mortuary — is expected to see customers from nearby workforce hubs including the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Kiewit Plaza offices and Mutual of Omaha campus.

Bill Baburek, who owns Infusion Brewery, also owns the Crescent Moon bar that’s been operating on the corner across from the new apartments since 1996.

He said he’s seen a lot of shifts in that quarter-century and expects an acceleration as the hotel and food hall ramp up. It’s change he welcomes.

“From a Crescent Moon standpoint, we feel this is our chance to shine,” Baburek said. “It’s a pretty exciting time to be on the corner of 36th and Farnam.”

Changing Omaha: More than 50 stories of local development projects in the works

Articles
Lack of training blamed for errant gunshots
Hundreds of officers in U.S. have mistakenly fired weapons in recent years

SEATTLE (AP) — When an Iowa mother tried to take her child from her husband during an argument on a snowy sidewalk in 2015, an officer stepped in to stop the scuffle. But he accidentally fired his weapon as a dog approached, killing the woman as her family watched in horror.

When a Minnesota sergeant stopped a motorcyclist after a 2015 high-speed chase, he stepped out of his patrol car with his firearm drawn, flush with adrenaline, and accidentally shot the man in the arm.

And an Arkansas police officer fatally shot a suspect in 2012 as she tried to get him into handcuffs.

Accidental shootings by law enforcement have happened in recent years at agencies small and large and at all levels — city, county, state and federal — across the U.S., an Associated Press investigation has found. They've caused hundreds of injuries to officers, their partners, suspects and bystanders, and sometimes they've caused deaths.

Experts say it's because officers don't get the training they need to handle their guns proficiently, especially in life-and-death situations.

The methods used to train officers with their firearms "create the illusion of learning" but are inadequate for the demands of today's policing, said Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Illinois-based Force Science Institute, which provides research and training to law enforcement agencies.

Officers are most proficient with their guns immediately after finishing a police academy, experts say.

After that, most are tested only once or twice a year in "qualifications" that measure a minimum level of firearms proficiency. There are no federal guidelines for these tests so there are thousands of different standards across the county.

No one tracks these shootings nationwide, so the AP collected media reports and surveyed agencies across the country through public records requests. The review was not comprehensive due to the sheer number of U.S. law enforcement agencies and a lack of reporting requirements for such shootings. But it provides a snapshot of the problem, documenting 1,422 unintentional discharges since 2012 at 258 agencies.

The tally includes any incident in which a gun went off and the officer didn't intend it to, whether they were cleaning or unloading a weapon or surging with adrenaline while responding to a call.

Some shootings occurred because of muscle reflexes, experts said, or because the officer simply tripped.

Countless law enforcement officers safely perform their duties every day, but some experts say even a small number of accidental shootings is unacceptable because they're preventable.

"Ninety-nine out of 100 times, there is not something wrong with the gun," said Paul Markel, a former police officer and firearms instructor in Mississippi. "It's the person holding it."

In the 2015 Iowa case, Autumn Steele was arguing with her husband and trying to grab their 3-year-old son from him outside their Burlington home when Officer Jesse Hill approached. The husband, Gabe Steele, had called 911.

But the couple's dog darted toward Hill, and he lost his balance and fired two shots as he fell backward in the snow. One bullet hit the dog, the other hit 34-year-old Autumn Steele, killing her.

The AP found 21 cases where people died in accidental shootings by police. It identified an additional 134 cases where the officer injured himself, and 45 where an accidental discharge injured another officer. An officer accidentally shot innocent bystanders in 34 instances and suspects in 19.

Unintentional shootings typically lead to two investigations: An outside agency determines if charges should be filed, and internal review examines whether policies were violated and punishment such as suspension is appropriate.

In Autumn Steele's case, a prosecutor compared the evidence against Iowa's homicide statutes and decided Hill could not be charged. Steele's family filed a wrongful death suit against the officer and city and reached a $2 million settlement.

Hill's lawyer did not respond to a request for comment from the AP.

Gabe Steele, 40, thinks Hill should have been held accountable.

"He just got to go on vacation and get paid for it, for taking my son's mother away," Steele told the AP. "No one has ever apologized to me and my son. That hurts."

Agencies have different terms for these shootings, including "accidental," "negligent" or "unintentional" discharges.

But Doug Tangen, firearms program manager at Washington state's law enforcement training center, argues they are all caused by a degree of negligence because at some point the officer violated one or more of the four universal firearms safety rules: Assume all guns are loaded, always point the muzzle in a safe direction, keep your finger off the trigger, and be sure of your target and what is beyond it.

In some cases, the officer was hyped up due to adrenaline, which can severely impair the senses. Other accidental shootings have been attributed to muscle reflexes — one hand or arm jerks or contracts, causing the other hand or arm to jerk or contract.

Experts agree the way to reduce them is to rethink training, starting with the amount required.

While all academies require cadets to undergo a certain number of hours of firearms instruction, the AP found how many varies widely.

Georgia, Illinois and Indiana, for example, call for 40 hours of specific firearms training. Washington state requires 90, but once officers go to work for a department, the amount of additional training they receive is uncertain, said Sean Hendrickson, an instructor at the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, which trains the state's police and sheriff's deputies.

Another issue is the type of training used. Most academies employ "block and silo" methods, which bombard officers with information and make it difficult to retain, experts say.

What's lacking are standards for firearms training at the academy and throughout an officer's career.

Some private firearms training companies have responded by offering free classes for law enforcement.

Missouri-based My Brothers 6 sells T-shirts to help fund training for officers through another group, Shield Solutions. Lighthorse Tactical, based in Alabama, offers similar deals.

"The basic training an officer receives at the police academy is a base to work from," said Lighthorse owner Curt Carpenter, a retired officer. "The problem is that the academy is often all the training an officer gets.'"