Supportive response to Mayor Suttle’s priorities
February 9th, 2012
Omaha, NE – Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle presented his priorities to a receptive audience during his annual State of the City address Thursday morning.
Mayor Suttle told community leaders and city council members he has three top priorities for 2012: creating jobs; lowering the cost of a billion-dollar-plus sewer overhaul project; and reducing violence on city streets. After his address, Suttle gave a few more details on those priorities. On the topic of gun violence, Suttle said law enforcement needs to have more “tools in the toolbox” to combat crime. He said his administration will announce several initiatives to create those tools in the coming weeks. One would help amp up coding enforcement in substandard housing.
“If you stop and think about it, some of the streets where we have the gangs and drug trafficking are actually involved in rental properties,” Suttle said. “So we’re going to take a fresh look at how all that ties together.”
“I firmly believe that every citizen in this community, I don’t care what your economic status is, or anything about your person and your family, you need to have safe, decent, sanitary housing,” Suttle said. “And we’re committed to that as a city. And we’re going to do some more things, and step up the pace on code enforcement.”
On lowering the cost of the federally-mandated sewer overhaul project, Suttle said he is still pushing for federal dollars from Congress. He had initially hoped the feds would cover 50 percent of the cost to the city. But now he’s looking at ways to reduce the overall price tag.
“We need to work on our technology, and our ingenuities, to get the new technologies, the green technologies into our plan so we can reduce this capital cost,” Suttle said. “And about 60 days from now, will have the first elements of what is a recommended plan for our city to follow.”
Suttle received a supportive response to his address from much of his audience. City Council President Thomas Mulligan said the council is ready to work with the city on all his top priorities.
“Our priority is the city of Omaha, and I know that’s the Mayor’s priority as well,” Mulligan said. “We’re committed to working together. And a lot of it is going to do with finances. But you know, we’ve worked together in the past, and we’ll continue to work together.”
Willie Barney, who heads the Empowerment Network, a key community partner in tackling crime in North Omaha, said he was encouraged to hear the Mayor echo his group’s priorities.
“We’ve been working very closely with Mayor’s office, and city planning and others,” Barney said. “Our top focus, when we talk to the community, has always been jobs and employment, entrepreneurship, housing, violence prevention and education. So to hear mayor really hit on those topics, and it’s very consistent with what he’s been saying the last few years.”
“We’ve seen some positive collaborations moving in the right directions,” he said. “So we’re excited that those priorities of employment, education and enforcement, and also collaboration. Those are things that we’ve been saying and working together in a major way.”
Barney also said the sewer project, or CSO, ties in with both priorities of creating jobs and reducing crime. And he says he hopes to see construction ramp up and begin to impact employment in North and South Omaha. Barney said he agrees with the Mayor’s goal of ensuring 14 percent of sewer contracts are awarded to small and emerging businesses.
Creating employment in the poorest areas is key to alleviating crime, he said, and improving all areas of the city.
More on Mayor Suttle’s State of the City address:
State of Omaha, 2012