Festersen, Melton talk budget, economic development

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July 26th, 2013

Councilwoman Aimee Melton and City Council President Pete Festersen answer questions about plans for the city Thursday night during an event hosted by Omaha Young Professionals. (Photo Courtesy KVNO News)

Councilwoman Aimee Melton and City Council President Pete Festersen answer questions about plans for the city Thursday night during an event hosted by Omaha Young Professionals. (Photo Courtesy KVNO News)

Omaha, NE — The Greater Omaha Young Professionals hosted an evening with city council members Thursday night.

City Council President Pete Festersen and District 7 councilwoman Aimee Melton answered questions about the city’s economic state, crime rates and plans for the future.

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“Right now we’re working on our city’s budget and getting our city’s finances in order,” Festersen said. “We’re making sure we’re maintaining libraries and parks and swimming pools and all the things people expect will be our top priority in addition to safety.”

Festersen told the gathering that the council is looking to increase funds for law enforcement in the budget. Although the city currently has 780 officers, Festersen said the force should be as much as 860 officers.

“We’re always mindful of public safety and I think we need to do a better job with our police resources and getting more police on the streets,” he said. “When we talk about the response times we want to have and the focus on some of the hot spots and certainly our gang activity, those are the things we need to give them the resources to address effectively.”

Festersen and Melton both seem to agree that education, poverty and lack of employment opportunities need to be addressed in order to lower crime rates, which will in turn bring new businesses into blighted areas.

“We need to work on getting better jobs,” Melton said.  “The minimum wage jobs are not the ones that we need to be creating. We need the more high paying jobs and we need to give the kids in high school and college the training to be able to get those jobs.”

The councilmembers also talked about plans for their respective districts.

Festersen said he is focused on the $300 million redevelopment of Crossroads Mall, which will transform the current space into a shopping and residential destination similar to Aksarben Village and Village Pointe. He expects construction to begin as early as next year, but said financial details have yet to be worked out.

“It’s complicated to do all we want to do,” he said. “I’m confident something good will happen there, but we want to make sure something great happens there and that will be the trick for me in the next couple of years.”

As one of the newest city councilmembers, Melton is searching for ways to provide the best services for the people in her district.

“I’m meeting with as many people as I can because I want to identify the issues for the people in my district,” she said. “The best thing that anybody can do is come to me with a problem and a potential solution that I can help them with.”

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