Omaha City Councilman Vinny Palermo said he’s seeking city funding for a program that would connect young people to trades jobs.
Palermo said Tuesday that the program would be based in South Omaha and target high schoolers who want to work as plumbers or electricians or in other trades.
“This is for the kids who are looking for a better quality of life” and could use their skills to help grow the city, he said.
Palermo said he’s meeting with Mayor Jean Stothert again on Wednesday to discuss his proposal.
Palermo said he hasn’t asked for a specific dollar amount, but “anything will help.”
Stothert said Monday that Palermo sent her a request after a deadline for community service funds and that it didn’t include details. Stothert is set to introduce the 2019 city budget next week.
“I don’t fund ideas,” she said. “I fund programs, and they have an idea.”
The proposal comes amid concern among some in South Omaha about another jobs program.
South Omaha community activist Ben Salazar recently filed a second complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, saying the City of Omaha and Step-Up Omaha jobs program are discriminating against Hispanic youths. Salazar filed a similar complaint in 2013.
During a public hearing before the council on Tuesday, Salazar said he appreciates the Empowerment Network, the organization that initiated Step-Up, which started in north Omaha and has since expanded.
But he urged the council to consider a greater push in South Omaha.
The council on Tuesday unanimously approved the distribution of $700,000 in city funds for Step-Up this year. Several people spoke in support, including Deputy Police Chief Scott Gray, who said Step-Up has helped curb violence by giving young people something positive to do.
Douglas County Treasurer John Ewing also backed Step-Up, saying that he’s the product of a similar 1970s-era jobs program.
Willie Barney, founder and president of the Empowerment Network, said HUD found no discrimination and his organization and its partners went above to improve the program anyway.
Barney said his group is committed to having a citywide program. He said the program connects youths with jobs and internships and partners with companies like CHI Health and First Data.
Still, Palermo said he wants to take Step-Up’s work to another level and isn’t trying to take money away from any other program.
“I support what they’re doing,” he said of Step-Up. “I’m asking for a different kind of program. It’s just going to be run south of Dodge.”
The Latino Peace Officers Association would help run it, he said.
In other business:
» The council voted 5-1 to allow a 125-foot flagpole at a Dino’s Storage location west of 204th Street and West Dodge Road. At the suggestion of Council Vice President Chris Jerram, the business can fly only the American flag.
City Council President Ben Gray voted against it, siding with the Planning Department that recommended against the proposal. Planning Director Dave Fanslau said there is no justification for erecting a pole that high. City code in that area allows for a 75-foot pole.
In a surprise move, the Planning Board supported the taller flagpole and recommended that the council OK it.
» The council also approved naming a stretch of a north Omaha street after the late jazz great Preston Love Sr. The city will place commemorative signage on 24th Street from Lake to Ohio Streets.
Gray said Love, who died in 2004, was considered by many in the jazz world to be the second-best alto saxophone player after Charlie Parker.