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Omaha City Council District 2


Ben Gray

Party: Democrat

Victoria Wagner (Write-in)

Party: Nonpartisan

Dennis J Womack

Party: Democrat


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[CONTACT CONNECTIONS] Information about making contact with the candidate.

Ben Gray

Contacted by constituent.
Incumbent
2/17/17, 1:50pm, spoke in person, emailed access code.
3/2/17, 3:57pm, left message at work
3/2/17, 4:52pm, candidate returned call, said would find previous email.
ANSWERS SUBMITTED March 3, 2017, 7:04 p.m.

Provided by candidate:
Ben Gray
2518 North 24th Street
Omaha NE 68110
Phone number (402) 315-8069

Did not answer Nebraska Right to Life (http://nebraskarighttolife.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/NRTL1704_Local_Candidate_VG.pdf)
Did answer League of Women Voters (http://omahalwv.org/files/vg-2017-lwvgo.pdf)

Victoria Wagner (Write-in)

4/29/17, 9:38am, texted access code
4/29/17, 9:48am, candidate said would fill it out in the afternoon
5/2/17, 5:54 pm. Phone call from constituent
5/6/17, 1:42am, texted to ask permission to post what answers had been provided
5/6/17, 5:57am, candidate texted to wait until complete
ANSWERS SUBMITTED May 6, 2017, 5:14 p.m.

Provided by candidate: Please email me at writeinwagner@gmail.com

Dennis J Womack

Contacted by constituent.
3/2/17, 5:03pm, spoke with candidate, sent access code.
3/9/17, 2:36pm, reminder email, including answers given in previous election
3/11/17, 4:27pm, not able to leave message.
3/14/17, 6:47pm, unable to leave message about deadline
3/15/17, 6:17pm, reminder email
3/18/17, 1:31pm, unable to leave message, sent reminder email of deadline
4/3/17, mailed candidate invitation brochure and code
4/12/17, 11:02pm, texted access code asking for Friday
4/13/17, 4:01pm, reminder email
4/14/17, 5:55am, candidate texted saying would send after 6pm
4/14/17, 8:58pm, reminder text
4/29/17, 1:29pm, texted to inform write-in candidate had been contacted
5/4/17, 12:50 am, offer made to email responses

Did not answer Nebraska Right to Life (http://nebraskarighttolife.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/NRTL1704_Local_Candidate_VG.pdf)
Did not answer League of Women Voters (http://omahalwv.org/files/vg-2017-lwvgo-general.pdf)

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[BIOGRAPHICAL] Please include biographical information, e.g. family members, affiliations such as church and/or professional groups, employment, etc. you consider important for voters to know. You may also reference your website.

Ben Gray

I was born and raised in Cleveland Ohio. After high school I joined the United States Air Force in September of 1969. I am a Viet Nam veteran. I was permanently stationed at Offutt Air Force Base in May of 1970. In July of 1973 I started working for KETV television. I eventually became a reporter/photographer (later a photojournalist) and producer of the public affairs show Kaleidoscope. The show ran for 30 years. I was elected to the city council in 2009 and re-elected in 2013. I am married to my wife of 25 years Freddie J. Gray who is a former president of the Omaha Public School Board. We have 7 children and 12 grandchildren. I am on the board of Our Healthy Kids Alliance and a member of the Empowerment Network.

Victoria Wagner (Write-in)

I was born Friday, November 13th, 1981 to David and Bernadette (Albino) Wagner. I was raised at my parents' home in South Omaha with my older brother Charlie. I attended both Omaha Public and Catholic schools while growing up and graduated from Omaha South High School in 2000. I immediately began college at Creighton University where I earned a Bachelors of Arts. I married my spouse Melissa December 31, 2015.

Dennis J Womack

Information provided by the candidate to the Douglas County election office: Married, # children: 3. High School: San Bernadino High, San Bernadino, California. College: University of Nebraska-Omaha, Metropolitan Community College. Religious Affiliation: Baptist. Professional Associations: National Association of Workforce Development Professionals, Washington DC. Organizations: Former Employers: U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau, Denver, CO; Chief Deputy Election Commissioner, Douglas County; State of Nebraska - Health & Human Services; Urban League of Nebraska; Urban League of San Francisco, California.

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[MOTIVATION/QUALIFICATIONS - CITY] A. List three (3) immediate needs you want to address in this office. B. List three (3) long-range planning goals you would envision for the city. C. What makes you the right person to address these needs and goals?

Ben Gray

I want to continue to spur investment in North Omaha thereby providing more jobs that people in my community will have access to. I also want to continue our efforts to address problem properties and slum lords who prey on our most vulnerable citizens. In addition I want to further develop our "Step Up" summer jobs program for youth.
I want to continue working on making our police and fire departments more diverse. I want to put more money into addressing those who have been chronically unemployed. I also want to further develop our municipal land bank.
I have the experience, the contacts and the work ethic to get things done. My record will reflect a long list of notable accomplishments.

Victoria Wagner (Write-in)

A. Three immediate needs in District 2 are: reducing poverty, increasing access to nutritious and affordable food sources, as well as increasing access to general services and resources through culturally competent and community supported economic development.
B. Three long range goals I have for our city include: enhanced relationships with local law enforcement and other civil service agencies, increasing the number of minority property and business owners, and passing a city ordinance outlining both landlord and tenant's rights regarding mold and other environmental factors.
C. I have worked in the non profit sector for years and understand how to make progress with limited funds. I am an avid volunteer and have collaborated with many local leaders and citizens to make change happen. I will continue to serve my city and neighbors regardless of the outcome of the election.

Dennis J Womack

No answer given.

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[PERSONAL STORY] Please briefly describe a situation where you had to stand alone for what you thought was right when the momentum was pushing the other way. For example you may want to discuss when your personal views didn’t agree with your peers, an authority in your life, a donor, a lobbyist, etc. What was the result?

Ben Gray

When I introduced and finally passed the Equal Employment ordinance that gave our LGBTQ citizens the right to be safe and secure in their work places and public accommodations.

Victoria Wagner (Write-in)

Undocumented individuals contributed $39.8 million in tax revenue to state and local coffers last year. I recognize that my support of local police only detaining undocumented folks who have violated criminal code is unpopular with some folks, but it is the right thing to do both socially and fiscally because it is wrong to punish the many for the actions of a few. I would rather engage tax paying undocumented individuals and give them reasonably accessible paths to citizenship. Why aren't we welcoming them and their money?

Dennis J Womack

No answer given.

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[CONSTITUENTS ISSUES] If elected to this office, what will be your guiding philosophy in dealing with conflict between your thinking and your constituents’ views? A. Will you vote your conscience even when a majority of your constituents disagree with you? B. How will you measure the voice of your constituents? C. When you can’t make up your mind, to whom will you go for advice? D. Describe your intended methods of availability to constituents.

Ben Gray

Engaging in conversation to resolve differences when possible and agreeing to disagree without being disagreeable when we can't find middle ground. I will always attempt to seek middle ground when we disagree.
A. Yes.
B. Not sure I understand the question.
C. It depends on the issue. I will seek out experts first and other knowledgeable individuals or entities.
D. My council office and I intend to have an office in the community as well.

Victoria Wagner (Write-in)

A. My conscience would not rest if I betrayed the constituents that I represent. My job is to carry THEIR voice and let it be heard.
B. I would listen to my constituents questions, comments, and concerns and take copious notes to make sure no one is overlooked.
C. In addition to studying the research and seeking out experts, I have a "personal board of directors" that I may contact. It is comprised of diverse women and men who are anything but "yes men." These folks are mentors and colleagues that I have developed relationships with over the years. They tell me when I'm wrong and offer perspectives that may differ from my own.
D. I plan to host monthly community meetings in addition to attending events, answering phone calls, responding to emails, and making myself available as often as possible.

Dennis J Womack

No answer given.

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[YOUR COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT] As a resident of the city, list any volunteerism, activism, or committees/commissions where you have served the city.

Ben Gray

The African American Achievement Council. The Empowerment Network. Our Healthy Kids Alliance. The NAACP. Step Up summer jobs. The Omaha/Douglas Building Commission. The Land Bank board. "Impact One" gang intervention organization. 360 Violence Prevention organization.

Victoria Wagner (Write-in)

These are listed in no particular order. former Nebraska AIDS Project test site volunteer, former President of the Midlands HIV Community Planning Group, former Film Streams volunteer, North Omaha Community Care Council member, current treasurer of the South Omaha Community Care Council, current board member of the Imperial Court of Nebraska Foundation, founding board member of United in Pride dba Heartland Pride, former board member of Rainbow Celebrations, Orchard Hill Neighborhood Association member, Omaha Jaycees member, Omaha Chamber Young Professionals Group, Young Non Profit Professionals Network, Greater Omaha GLBT Professionals, Partnerships in Aging, Midlands Eldercare Network, and Special Olympics Nebraska.

Dennis J Womack

No answer given.

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[CRIME] Describe the recommendations you picture for decreasing gang violence, managing traffic property crimes, and identifying “white collar” crime.

Ben Gray

These are issues where police/community relations can be a big help. Citizens along with a diverse police department are best eyes and ears to prevent the crimes you have mentioned. There are a number of organizations dedicated to addressing overall crime. Some I have mentioned earlier.

Victoria Wagner (Write-in)

Gang violence is pervasive in our district because North Omaha has been economically deprived through redlining and the systematic oppression of its residents. We need meaningful, community supported development in North Omaha. Gentrification would only serve to further displace and disenfranchise people. Economic stability will augment law enforcement efforts in squelching the gang problems. Strong neighborhood associations working with city and county officials offers a great way to collaborate efforts and foster goodwill. Further, I'd like to see programs similar to the Grassroots Leadership program offered to our youth through Omaha Public Schools. Getting young folks in touch with leaders from city and county government as well as local business owners provides them a resource to become more civically and economically engaged in hopes that they will transition into leadership roles and good neighbors within our community.

Dennis J Womack

No answer given.

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[TAX RELIEF/CONTRACTS] As always, property tax is an issue, especially when the county changes assessed property values. What can the city do to cut expenses and therefore provide some relief? How will/do you assure that contract work is performed according to standards as a way to save “redo” expenses? For example, some have suggested that potholes are a result of paying the lowest bidder and getting the least quality work.

Ben Gray

The city has cut so deeply that many of our departments are not as efficient as they could be. We always look for ways to cut expenses but we need to be realistic about what it actually costs to run city government. We question any and all change orders when they come up. That is why we also require bonding for companies we do business with. If they don't perform we can pull their bond to pay for work with if it was not done or completed.
We don't bid out pot holes for the most part. That work is done by city workers. By the way, we added 17 more workers to Public Works Department because they didn't have enough workers to do a proper job for our citizens.

Victoria Wagner (Write-in)

I think the city has done a fairly good job of cutting expenses, but could be a little more innovative as far as cost saving is concerned. For example, my neighborhood has a lot of abandoned lots that sit next to homes; while I recognize the fantastic work done by the Omaha Landbank, I think a 'Mow to Own' program similar to the one in Memphis, TN is an additional way for the city to save money and benefit residents.

Dennis J Womack

No answer given.

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[IMMIGRATION-CITY] Though commonly considered a federal issue, what responsibility do you see the city holding concerning undocumented immigrants? What is your view on sanctuary cities?

Ben Gray

If they are caught in the commission of a crime or are suspects in a crime the police have an obligation to notify the proper authorities. Our police however should not be in the business of chasing down undocumented workers.
I am a strong supporter of sanctuary cities. We need to remember that the only people in this country who are NOT immigrants are the Native Americans. The rest of us came from somewhere else.

Victoria Wagner (Write-in)

Entering our country without papers and overstaying visas are civil not criminal offenses. When an undocumented individual violates our criminal code they are subject to the authority of our local law enforcement agencies. There is great value in getting ANY violent criminal off the streets and I believe that we could improve the justice process through collaborations with Omaha Police, local immigrants rights agencies, and federal officials. However there is no value in extreme measures (eg, racial profiling) that potentially threaten the liberties granted to all people, documented or not, through the U.S. Constitution. Further, it is not cost effective for local police to arbitrarily investigate persons that pose no threat but contribute to the everyday economy of our city.
I support local government's right to be a sanctuary city or county. It costs local governments too much money to detain undocumented immigrants who have not committed criminal offenses. I would support turning someone over to ICE just as they do in both Hall and Sarpy Counties. Each require a criminal warrant.

Dennis J Womack

No answer given.

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[CITY SERVICES] Detail the potential value and/or limitations of the idea of consolidating city employee health plans.

Ben Gray

Because of the number of unions we as a city have to negotiate with it is difficult to consolidate health plans. Each union comes at it differently depending on their members. All of our plans should have the goal of keeping costs down while providing reasonable health care for our employees. Continuing to monitor costs is something we stay on top off.

Victoria Wagner (Write-in)

It is not possible to consolidate city employee health plans. Each union has the right to bargain, one which I fully support. I support the working class and I believe that means livable wages for families and individuals alike. This most certainly includes our city workers. I think we can find cost saving measures through careful negotiations and thoughtful research.

Dennis J Womack

No answer given.

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[TIF] Some see TIF (Tax Increment Financing) serving economic development by giving new business locations a “break” on paying taxes to the city by paying gradually over time. In your opinion, how and when should TIF be used? Is there an overall amount that you think should be the limit for TIF for the city?

Ben Gray

TIF should only be used in areas of redevelopment.

If I understand the question it depends on the project.

Victoria Wagner (Write-in)

It's a crying shame that TIF has seemingly been used everywhere else but North Omaha. The spirit of TIF when it began in 1978 was for cities to renew their urban core. The blight in our district more than qualifies our area for redevelopment. As 86% of our residents are black, I would support access to funding for more black owned businesses to shape the economy when redevelopment occurs. It's important that development in neighborhoods reflects the people that live and work there.

Dennis J Womack

No answer given.

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[PUBLIC/PRIVATE] Discuss what you would do to assure transparency and accountability for entities in public and private partnerships.

Ben Gray

It depends on the entity. Some partnerships have proprietary information that, if were made public, could put the city at a disadvantage. Other entities as well as the city has an obligation to provide maximum transparency and accountability. Each public/private partnership must start with being as accountable as possible.

Victoria Wagner (Write-in)

When negotiating a contract, details may have to be released with discretion so that our city remains competitive. We have an obligation to provide those details as soon as possible for public scrutiny; I believe that we should be both transparent and accountable.

Dennis J Womack

No answer given.

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[ABORTION-LEGAL] Would you define yourself as pro-life or pro-choice? Under what circumstances should abortion be legal?

Ben Gray

Pro-life.

That issue should be left to care givers and the person or family involved.

Victoria Wagner (Write-in)

I highly doubt this issue will be addressed by the Omaha City Council at any point in time, therefore my opinion on the matter is irrelevant.

Dennis J Womack

No answer given.

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[“MARRIAGE”-O] Should city taxpayers pay the benefit costs associated with same sex spouses? Why or why not? Do you support the city’s equal employment ordinance? What is your understanding of the ordinance?

Ben Gray

Taxpayers should provide the same benefits to same sex spouses as with heterosexual spouses.
I introduced the Equal Employment ordinance so yes I support it.
It provides for LGBTQ citizens the right to feel secure in their work places as well as with public accommodations.

Victoria Wagner (Write-in)

Yes. Equality under the law is one of the hallmarks of our great nation. As long as benefits are extended to married couples, no legally recognized couple should be excluded. I do support the city's equal employment ordinance as it makes us economically competitive with other municipalities. The ordinance provides a religious exemption, so I fail to see a problem with the law as written.

Dennis J Womack

No answer given.

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[ANYTHING ELSE?] Declare anything else you want voters to know about you.

Ben Gray

I am strongly committed to the re-development of North Omaha and a prosperous Omaha in general.

Victoria Wagner (Write-in)

I am thrilled to be a write-in candidate for our district. I only seek to hold this office for one term and then return to my work in the non profit sector. I think it is important to move different citizens with various backgrounds into our government to establish a diverse and intersectional network of civil servants. Feel free to contact me before the election Tuesday, May 9th with any questions, comments or concerns you may have at writeinwagner@gmail.com.

Dennis J Womack

No answer given.

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© 2012 Voter Information Project