Councilman Garry Gernandt talks budget,annexation, & hunting in parks


September 9th, 2015

Councilman Garry Gernandt is one of the longest serving Council members. (Photo by Lindsey Peterson)

Councilman Garry Gernandt is one of the longest serving Council members. (Photo by Lindsey Peterson)

Omaha City Councilman Garry Gernandt is one of the longest serving members on the Omaha City Council. He is a retired U.S. Marine and spent 31 years serving as an Omaha Police Officer.

The Councilman recently sat down with KVNO News Senior Radio Correspondent Ryan Robertson to talk recent Council decisions, including passing Mayor Jean Stothert’s 2015 annexation package.

Listen to the audio:

RR: What are your thoughts on the Mayor’s annexation package?

GG:That is the way the city can grow as you know, and I’m all for reasonable growth. Have we had in the past fourteen years since I’ve been there, some large and extension packages? Yes. Have they been aggressive? Yes. Have they put us in a position to where government services have been put in in peril? No, I don’t think so. Has annexation stretched the limit on some of those services? In my opinion absolutely. But with this particular package of the Council, a majority of us felt that the there was enough assurances from our service providers-public safety, public works, Parks and Recreation– that what was being brought into the city via this annexation package could be handled by those departments.

RR:At the same time as the annexation package was going through, the Council was also considering the Mayor’s 2016 budget. There were a couple of amendments to it that failed.

GG: I voted for everything. I was one of the positive votes on the amendments and for the budget.

RR: Why did you vote for the amendments, because one of them was for more money for streets and one of them was for the libraries, adding more to the library budget.

GG: Basically for those reasons. I felt we’re having a very difficult time right now keeping up with the 4500 lane miles that we have under our auspices right now, and to add some more to that was difficult and we would need some more money. Library, nobody likes to hear in the any community that a library is going to be closed, a library’s hours are going to be cut. Nobody really likes to hear that. So I could tell that my colleagues were on a mission to do something and the $250,000 one seemed to be a common ground so I went and supported that.

RR: Before you were a Council Member you had a history as a police officer. How does that effects your Council decisions and how does that effect the way you vote sometimes:

GG: I know the inner workings of the law enforcement side, working closely with Omaha fire on different things. So having that knowledge in my back pocket is a good thing, and I try every time an issue comes up to reach in my back pocket, pull out some of that knowledge , and say “Does what is being proposed effects this negatively, is it a good thing? Is there a place that we need to come to some common ground? And typically the latter is what we have to work towards, and that’s coming to a common ground.

RR: If you’re just joining us we’re sitting here talking to Councilman Garry Gernandt, an Omaha City Councilman for how many years?

GG: I’m almost starting my fifteenth year.

RR: Did you ever thing you’d be on the council that long?

GG: I never really got into politics back in my other life except for voting of course, and yeah it was kind of a surprise. I threw my hat into the ring back in 2001 and I won and been here ever since.

RR: One challenge that came up a week or so ago, was the issue of hunting in city parks. Walk me through what happened.

GG: I was contacted by the State Game Warden he said that he was noticing an uptick in complaints about hunting in city parks and he wanted to get ahead of the problem, but noticed that the city ordinances didn’t allow him to do anything more than suggest that “Hey, you camouflage dude with a bow and arrow in a tree stand, you need to move along” or “we would like you to move along.” Well there was no part of the ordnance that said “you have to move along.” There’s a difference between “we would like you to move along” or “you have to move along.”

RR: We see you up on the Council and people read about its decisions in the newspapers, so we’re a little distanced from Council members, but we all know that you are a person. So as a person, what is your favorite movie?

GG: Oh my, I haven’t been asked that question in a long time. I would probably have to say “The French Connection.” I enjoyed the drama in that, the mystique, and it ended in a way that you didn’t know if it was truly over. To this day we still don’t know!

RR: Councilman, thank you so much for joining us today.

GG: Thanks. I appreciate it.

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