20180930_new_yalepark

Residents carry their belongings in September as the city of Omaha shuts down the squalid Yale Park Apartments at 34th and Lake Streets.

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert pledged Tuesday to veto the City Council’s freshly passed rental ordinance that would have required inspections every 10 years.

Stothert, in a statement shortly after the council’s 4-3 vote, said the measure causes an undue burden on landlords who follow the law.

South Omaha City Councilman Vinny Palermo and other supporters said they backed mandatory inspections because too many properties slip through the cracks.

“It’s not really about the tenants or the landlords,” Palermo said. “It’s about the most vulnerable, the kids and the elderly.”

Stothert said inspections every 10 years would require an additional five housing inspectors and accomplish nothing.

The mayor had originally proposed an even tougher ordinance that would have required most rental property be inspected every three years. She telegraphed recently that she no longer supported such mandatory inspections.

Stothert says she still prefers an ordinance that would inspect only rental properties with alleged or proven code violations. That proposal failed 4-3 Tuesday.

City leaders have spent nearly seven months debating how to respond to deplorable conditions inspectors found at Yale Park Apartments.

That culminated in Tuesday’s passage of the measure that would require landlords to register with the city and face periodic inspections.

Council members on Tuesday evening disagreed about what the mayor’s promised veto means and what the council should do about it.

North-central Omaha Councilman Pete Festersen, in the group that approved the ordinance, said it was unclear where the city goes next. “It’s strange that the mayor would veto an ordinance that is less stringent and costs less to implement than what she introduced in the first place,” he said.

He said he would talk to his colleagues about a possible veto override vote. Festersen, Council President Ben Gray, Palermo and south-central Omaha Councilman Chris Jerram voted for the measure.

They would need a fifth vote to override Stothert.

Sign up for World-Herald news alerts

Be the first to know when news happens. Get the latest breaking headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Councilman Brinker Harding, who represents west Omaha, said the veto might be a chance to revisit the proposal Stothert favors. He supported it along with northwest Omaha Councilwoman Aimee Melton and southwest Omaha Councilman Rich Pahls.

They would need one more vote. Harding called his group’s approach more measured and practical because it focuses on problem properties and landlords who are flouting the law.

“The veto opens the door to further conversation and understanding about alternatives that are out there,” he said.

Some safe housing advocates, including Hannah Wyble, founder and executive director of Restoring Dignity, said they would give the mayor time.

Wyble said 10 years is too long between inspections. She said advocates could deal with slumlords more effectively by sharing information with the city.

“I know buildings that are in terrible condition, but tenants are afraid to report them, and if we report them people could lose their homes,” she said.

Her hope is that the mayor might propose grading landlords, the way Minneapolis does, based, in part, on city code violation reports and violations.

Landlords who require more inspections would get them, she said. Those who follow the law could earn their way into largely avoiding inspections.

Other advocates, including Dennis Walsh of Omaha Together One Community, expressed frustration about the mayor’s veto and said the city needs proactive inspections to find problem properties it doesn’t know about.

The mayor, in her statement, pledged to adopt an aggressive program of inspecting rental units with alleged rental code violations.

“I think we all are in agreement with the landlord registration component and inspections for noncompliant landlords,” she said.

Her suggestion, she explained, is that the council first pass a landlord registry and a plan that deals with noncompliant landlords. The city could then work on a plan for landlords with no complaints or violations.

Commenting is limited to Omaha World-Herald subscribers. To sign up, click here.

If you're already a subscriber and need to activate your access or log in, click here.

Load comments

You must be a full digital subscriber to read this article You must be a digital subscriber to view this article.