The controversial plan to build a new juvenile detention center in Omaha has spurred a former TV reporter to run for the seat currently held by Douglas County Board member Clare Duda.
Jo Giles, 46, a public relations professional and a Democrat, plans to challenge Duda, a Republican, for the District 7 seat, which includes a large swath of northern Douglas County.
Duda supports the plan to spend $22 million in tax money to build a new juvenile detention center that could house about 64 youths, about half the current youth detention center’s capacity. Duda did not immediately return a phone message Thursday.
He is the second board member to draw an opponent because of the juvenile justice project. Democrat Mike Boyle, who voted for funding for it, will face Metro Community College board member Roger Garcia, an opponent of the plan, in the Democratic primary.
The main disagreement over the project is whether it will spur reform. Proponents argue that it will streamline the juvenile justice process. But opponents say it needs to be more focused on rehabilitation and programming for the youths there.
Sign up for The World-Herald's afternoon updates
Receive a summary of the day’s popular and trending stories from Omaha.com.
Giles opposes the current proposal and says it needs vision and new leadership — and especially, increased focus on prevention and mental health.
“I don’t think they’ve found the sweet spot of the right project yet,” she said.
She also says she would not have voted to increase the property tax rate to pay for the project.
And, she said, she wants to bridge the divide between the community members who oppose the project and the board, which is proceeding with it.
She also said she wants to increase transparency in other ways, including pushing to hold one board meeting a month outside of normal business hours.
Giles is a former reporter and weekend anchor at what is now Fox 42. She has worked in various public relations roles since.