State of Omaha, 2012
February 9th, 2012
Omaha, NE – Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle’s outlined his priorities for the city in his annual State of the City address Thursday morning.
Mayor Suttle said Omaha has weathered a challenging year in 2011: a record flood on the Missouri River, tightening budgets around the country. But, he said, by pulling together, the city made it through.
“Omaha could have crumbled under the pressure of budget shortfalls, spending cuts to cities from both state and federal government, and the unexpected expenses of a costly flood,” Suttle said. “But thanks to dedicated people, working together in city government, we did not crumble.”
Suttle said despite a tough year, the city was able to keep services open – like parks and libraries – and balance the budget by streamlining government. And he said the city has kept unemployment low, created new jobs and attracted new investment. For 2012, Suttle said his first priority is to keep that trend going.
“Creating jobs in this economy is not easy, but it is crucial to the health of our city on so many levels,” he said. “And I will continue to make it a priority by working with the business community, both inside and outside the borders of our city, to promote employment opportunities.”
Suttle emphasized the need to focus job creation on areas in Omaha with chronic unemployment, and said he will work to continue job readiness programs in North and South Omaha. His second priority, Suttle said, is lowering the cost of to the city of the federally-mandated sewer overhaul project, which is projected to cost over a billion dollars. The Mayor has been pushing for federal dollars to help offset the cost. He had initially hoped the feds would contribute fifty percent. But now he’s focusing more working creatively to bring down the cost of the project.
“In 2012, I will continue to work with the Environmental Protection Agency, Congress and the U.S. Conference of Mayors to secure your rights to clean water without forcing you to pay an unreasonable price,” Suttle said. “I believe we can do so by: exploring new technologies, incorporating stronger green solutions, and setting a goal of making significant cuts to the costs we must pay to comply with this unfunded mandate over the next five years.”
And turning to his third-highest priority, Suttle said the need for innovation is not limited to infrastructure, but must also be employed to reduced violence in the city. Last year, he said, community groups joined forces with the city to get 843 illegal guns off the streets, and $4 million of federal, state and local dollars was invested in diversion and truancy prevention programs.
“I am committed to keeping our neighborhoods safe by working with community organizations and neighborhood associations to do whatever we can to reduce violence on our streets in 2012,” he said. “Education, enforcement and employment are key to reducing crime and making our city an even safer place to live.”
Suttle said his administration would soon announce several proposals to tackle violence through further collaboration. He also said he would issue two executive orders to crack down on “those who carry illegal guns” and “those who provide them shelter.” Without providing details, he said the proposals would target dilapidated housing by enforcing city codes. He said there is a strong correlation between substandard housing and criminal activity. More details on those ideas in the coming weeks, he said.
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