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Omaha Mayor


Heath Mello

Party: Democrat

Jean Stothert

Party: Republican

Mort Sullivan

Party: Nonpartisan


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

Heath Mello

Candidate has not submitted an answer.

Jean Stothert

Contacted by constituent.
Incumbent
3/7/17, 7:15pm, called headquarters; spoke with a rep; agreed to send email
3/7/17, 10:58pm, Emailed access code
3/8/17, 1:39pm, question asked about deadline
3/17/17, 4:24 pm, MailChimp stating 3/21 deadline
3/20/17, 3:20pm, reminder call – connected with another team member
3/20 and 3/21 email conversations back and forth, extended deadline to 3/24
ANSWERS SUBMITTED March 24, 2017, 3:44 p.m.

Provided by candidate:
Mr. Sam Fischer
Campaign Manager
Jean Stothert for Omaha
440 Regency Parkway, Suite 132
Omaha, NE 68114
402-506-6623
sam@jeanstothert.com

Also answered Nebraska Right to Life (http://nebraskarighttolife.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/NRTL1704_Local_Candidate_VG.pdf)
Also answered League of Women Voters (http://omahalwv.org/files/vg-2017-lwvgo.pdf)

Mort Sullivan

Candidate has not submitted an answer.

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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.

Heath Mello

Candidate has not submitted an answer.

Jean Stothert

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert is in her fourth year as mayor. Elected in 2013, she is the 51st Omaha mayor and the city's first woman to be elected to the office.

In her first term in office, Mayor Stothert has reduced the city property tax rate twice, provided funding to the police department to hire 56 new police officers, improved city services, and worked closely with business and non-profit partners to increase employment and manage large-scale city projects.

She believes in open, transparent government and gets the most satisfaction from helping people solve problems.

Mayor Stothert grew up in the St. Louis area and worked as a critical care nurse and later as head nurse and department head of cardiovascular surgery at St. Louis University, where she met her husband, Dr. Joe Stothert.

In 1993, the Stothert family moved to Omaha when Dr. Stothert accepted a new position at Creighton University.

When the Stotherts' two children, Elizabeth and Andrew, were old enough to go to school, Mayor Stothert became involved in their schools as a volunteer. Later, she was appointed and then elected to the Millard Board of Education and served 11 years, including three as President. In 2009, she was elected to the Omaha City Council, representing District 5 in southwest Omaha.
Jean and Joe have been married 37 years. Joe currently works as a trauma surgeon at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and its clinical partner, Nebraska Medicine.

Mayor Stothert's priorities are public safety, managing the city budget, job growth and economic development, and improving the taxpayer experience -- so that every citizen receives excellent customer service when they interact with city government.

Mayor Stothert's current and past volunteer positions include:

Millard Board of Education, NE Medical Guild, Metropolitan Area Planning Authority, League of Municipalities, American Nurses Association, Salvation Army Board of Directors, NE Humane Society Friend, South Omaha Business Association, Millard Rotary.

Full professional and work experience includes:

Head nurse and Department Head - Cardiovascular Surgery, St. Louis University.

Over 12 years of experience as a critical care nurse and nursing manager.

Millard Board of Education (Omaha, NE) – Appointed 1997

Elected 1998, 2000, and 2004. Offices held: President (3 years), Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer.

Omaha City Council, Four years (2009 – 2013)

Served as Chairman of Public Works Committee, Chairman of Labor Negotiations Committee, member of Parks Committee, member of Public Safety Committee, member of Convention and Visitors Bureau Committee, and MAPA Board of Directors.

Mayor, Omaha NE, first elected in 2013.

For even more information, please see our campaign website: jeanstothert.com.

Mort Sullivan

Candidate has not submitted an answer.

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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?

Heath Mello

Candidate has not submitted an answer.

Jean Stothert

I believe the three most important issues facing Omaha are improving public safety, ensuring our transportation systems are well maintained, modern, and safe, and, keeping taxes as low as possible while providing the highest quality city services that taxpayers deserve.

Our relentless and daily focus on public safety has included the addition of 56 new police officers and restructuring of some police department operations. We are making progress. Omaha’s homicide rate at the end of 2016 was the lowest in 13 years and gun assaults are down.

My vision for the future of transportation in Omaha and the metro is to provide reliable, safe, efficient and well-managed transportation systems that move residents, employees, and commerce across a wide variety of transit modes. The City of Omaha will soon have doubled the amount of funding dedicated to street resurfacing and repair since I first took office four years ago.

Finally, an ongoing challenge in Nebraska is our level of taxation, especially compared to neighboring states; those with whom we compete for economic development opportunities. We have lowered Omaha’s tax rate twice since I’ve been mayor. Our first tax cut was the first property tax rate reduction in 14 years.

I believe I am the most qualified person to lead Omaha as mayor for the next four years due to my executive management experience as mayor since 2013, my extensive involvement with city issues during my time on the Omaha City Council, and my leadership experience from my tenure on the Millard Board of Education.

Mort Sullivan

Candidate has not submitted an answer.

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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?

Heath Mello

Candidate has not submitted an answer.

Jean Stothert

One of the more challenging aspects of my job as mayor is the responsibility I have to negotiate new labor agreements with the several unions that represent city employees.

This is personal for me as I have such great respect for all city employees and the work they perform. And, since I also negotiate representing the taxpayers that fund city operations and employee pensions, there have been difficult issues to resolve.

We have made tremendous progress lately in restructuring and improving the union agreements that provide pay and benefits to our employees, and provide for the retirement.

This is still a significant issue for the future of our city and all taxpayers. It is also important for employees.

After a career in public service, retirees need a stable program they can count on: one that is fair, balanced, and strong.

During my term as mayor, all city employee union agreements have been re-negotiated, approved, and improved.

These agreements benefit the employees and the taxpayers. It is also important to note that the number of years remaining to fully fund our pension balances has been cut in half.

I am proud of our city employee unions and our work together to adjust salaries, benefits, and pensions for the employees that serve us so well.

Mort Sullivan

Candidate has not submitted an answer.

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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.

Heath Mello

Candidate has not submitted an answer.

Jean Stothert

I have served in an elected capacity for nearly 20 years and I can assure voters that I know they are the boss. I work for them and understanding their opinions, views and ideas is critical for me to do my job well.

We gather this public input by e-mail, listening at pubic hearings, conducting Town Hall meetings in every city council district every year, and appointing citizens to various city boards and commissions.

I recently appointed three new advisory groups: Millennials, Veterans and L-G-B-T-Q Plus.

I speak at events in every corner of Omaha, accept meeting requests in my office, and make myself reachable by email, phone and social media.

We get the most helpful information and input from citizens that call the Mayor's Hotline, where we field thousands of calls each year from citizens about how we can serve them better.

Mort Sullivan

Candidate has not submitted an answer.

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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.

Heath Mello

Candidate has not submitted an answer.

Jean Stothert

Mayor Stothert's current and past volunteer positions include:

Millard Board of Education, NE Medical Guild, Metropolitan Area Planning Authority, League of Municipalities, American Nurses Association, Salvation Army Board of Directors, NE Humane Society Friend, South Omaha Business Association, Millard Rotary.

Mort Sullivan

Candidate has not submitted an answer.

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

Heath Mello

Candidate has not submitted an answer.

Jean Stothert

Although separate crime categories do require different strategies, our general focus on crime prevention and public safety include:

- A well funded and expanded Omaha Police Department.
Providing officers with the equipment and tools they need to do their jobs safely and effectively.
- Encouraging public support of officers and encouraging them to report criminal activity and suspected individuals.
- Working with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners.
- Supporting the county prosecutor and others responsible for holding people accountable for their actions.
- Adopting appropriate punishment and sentences for those involved in violent crimes and property offenses.
- And, providing job training and alternative programs for those re-entering society and the job market after incarceration.

Our reorganization of the OPD gang unit has lead to success in better focusing on these criminal elements that commit crimes against citizens and property.

In 2016, the number of shootings in Omaha fell to a 10 year low. And, the number of homicides is below thirty, a 13-year low. Omaha is one of the few major cities in the country to report decreases in both of these violent crime categories.

The number of complaints against Omaha Police Officers is extremely low and reports of excessive force are down.

These numbers tell the story of a professional police department that is responsive to the needs of our community.

These strategies, and our new fifth precinct that will be online in just a couple years, will lead to further improvements in public safety for Omaha families.

Mort Sullivan

Candidate has not submitted an answer.

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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.

Heath Mello

Candidate has not submitted an answer.

Jean Stothert

When taxpayers have examples where the city may be incurring "redo", excess, or unnecessary expenses they should contact the Mayor's Hotline at 402-444-5555 or email hotline@cityofomaha.org.

As you would expect, the city purchasing department works hard to ensure that contracts for services and products are well-defined and that bids are scrutinized based on the contractors' experience, qualifications, and bid cost.

One of the best ways to lower costs or increase efficiencies is to merge or otherwise combine operations that may be duplicative or could be more efficient. One area of focus has been the potential has been a combined crime lab between the City of Omaha and Douglas County. I believe a merger of these operations would greatly benefit the taxpayers of Omaha.

In addition, with each new budget we prepare, we continually push for spending reductions, just as we know other areas of the budget will require additional funding. In the four budgets I have prepared since first being elected, general fund growth has been less than 3% and we have enacted two property tax rate cuts during this time; the first in 14 years.

I also work hard to set an example of cost-cutting and efficiency. For example, when I first took office, I reduced the mayor's office budget by 10% and reduced the mayor's salary.

Recent property valuation increases by the Douglas County Assessor jeopardize our progress of lowering the city property tax rate. These increases will lead to unaffordable tax bills for many citizens if other local government subdivisions do not start reducing their tax rates too.

I have already committed that if high property valuations remain, the city will do our part by further reducing our tax rate. We must ask the other taxing entities to do the same.

Mort Sullivan

Candidate has not submitted an answer.

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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?

Heath Mello

Candidate has not submitted an answer.

Jean Stothert

Although immigration policy and enforcement is - and should be - a federal issue, there are areas where we interact on this issue. One area in particular is public safety.

After meeting recently with leadership focused on immigration and related issues, Police Chief Schmaderer and I released a letter to the community regarding this issue. The letter may be accessed through the OPD website and it outlines our views on law enforcement matters related to immigration.

Further, Omaha is not what is loosely defined as a "sanctuary city" and we should not become one.

Mort Sullivan

Candidate has not submitted an answer.

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

Heath Mello

Candidate has not submitted an answer.

Jean Stothert

While there may be some value in the idea of "consolidating city employee health plans", the real value to employees and taxpayers is to modify the structure of health plans that will lead to lower premiums, better health care access, and healthier outcomes.

Of course, these changes must be part of the collective bargaining process that covers most all city employees. The mayor cannot unilaterally adopt changes to city employee health insurance plans or coverage.

One example of creative thinking in this area is the newly agreed to Union Sponsored Trust for health care management for fire department personnel. The Omaha Firefighters Union has assumed management and oversight of their healthcare and are responsible to their membership and the pubic for improved expenses and health care outcomes.

Mort Sullivan

Candidate has not submitted an answer.

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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?

Heath Mello

Candidate has not submitted an answer.

Jean Stothert

Tax Increment Financing (TIF) should be used to support development in areas of the city that are blighted and substandard and have been designated as such. They should support projects that would otherwise not get completed.

This is one of the few "incentives" available to the City and we have utilized this measure for the benefit of economic development and job creation in the city for decades.

Contrary to the belief by some, TIF is not direct subsidy or "tax break" to project investors. Rather, it directs property taxes from the project that otherwise would not have occurred to public expenses related to the project. Then, after the bonds are retired that paid for these expenses, the property taxes paid accrue to the benefit of Omaha and the services we provide to all citizens.

Mort Sullivan

Candidate has not submitted an answer.

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

Heath Mello

Candidate has not submitted an answer.

Jean Stothert

I have taken the lead in this area by encouraging, and in some cases insisting, that those entities involved in public/private partnerships be more transparent. One example of this is my call for the MECA Board - who manage the arena and convention center - make additional documents and financial records available to the public. And, they have.

In addition, I have provided literally thousands of pages of documents to those who request them through the our public records laws.

The openness and transparency of local government is one of the improvements in City Hall I am most proud of and I will continue to insist on increased transparency in the future.

Mort Sullivan

Candidate has not submitted an answer.

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

Heath Mello

Candidate has not submitted an answer.

Jean Stothert

I am pro-life and support the exceptions of rape, incest, and life of the mother.

Mort Sullivan

Candidate has not submitted an answer.

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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?

Heath Mello

Candidate has not submitted an answer.

Jean Stothert

As a result of employee contract negotiations, and more recently various court rulings, benefits are extended to same sex spouses. And, I believe that is appropriate.

Since my administration manages and enforces the city's anti-discrimination ordinance, I am very familiar with the purpose, process, and outcomes.

We are fairly and thoroughly enforcing the ordinance and responding to inquiries and complaints as required. I will continue these efforts should I be successful in my re-election this spring.

Mort Sullivan

Candidate has not submitted an answer.

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

Heath Mello

Candidate has not submitted an answer.

Jean Stothert

We started four years ago with the vision to make Omaha safer, make city government work better for you, and to grow our economy.

We’ve done that.

With homicides at a 13-year low, the first tax levy cuts in 14 years and 12,000 more jobs in Omaha, people believe we are on the right track.

In the months ahead, we will of course continue our relentless focus on the fundamentals.

The goals and vision we are working on now for the future include:

A more inclusive Omaha.

Greater neighborhood support.

Innovative transportation systems.

Job training and support. Working with our partners for an even more vibrant downtown, with a new riverfront as Omaha’s signature.

And our top priority, an intense focus on Public Safety, to keep your family, our neighborhoods, and our entire city, safe.

Mort Sullivan

Candidate has not submitted an answer.

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