Two public hearings at Tuesday's Omaha City Council meeting are expected to draw plenty of debate.
The first deals with zoning, and giving the city more power to control problem bars or retailers. As it stands, those establishments could lose their liquor licenses, a process that has to occur at the state level.
The amendment up for debate would change zoning, allowing the city to revoke occupy permits of establishments in question. If passed, it would require a $75 annual fee be paid by all permit holders in order to cover costs.
However, opponents argue those fees aren't enough to cover start-up costs, which they say could run up to a million dollars. They also argue the proposal is in direct conflict with the state constitution.
The next public hearing is on a proposal to fund $35 million of a $370 Cancer Center project for the University of Nebraska Medical Center. The money, if council members vote to approve the plan, would come from a 7-percent occupation tax on cigarette sales. It equates to about 35-cents a pack, likely to be tacked on to the consumer's cost.
Monday, representatives from the retail industry and State Senator Bob Krist gathered outside Cubby's Convenience Store, Highway 36 and Mormon Bridge Road, to protest the plan.
"We're located just a mere quarter mile away from carter lake, Iowa," said Ron Meredith, owner of Chubb Foods at 16th and Locust. "The key word there is Iowa - where tobacco prices are cheaper than Nebraska."
The retailers say it's not just business from cigarette sales they stand to lose, but added merchandise cigarette buyers tend to pick up while they make that stop.
"We are urging the city council and the mayor of this great city to find alternative funding sources for a great project," said Kathy Siefken, Director of the Nebraska Grocery Association.
The project itself is something most seem to agree is a worthwhile investment, especially considering the statistics. "It is the largest health problem in Nebraska. One out of two men, one out of three women in Nebraska will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime," said Dr. Ken Cowan, Director of the U.N.MC. Cancer Center.
It would bring research and cutting edge care together under one roof, on the U.N.M.C. campus. Genome analysis would provide individualized treatment plans. "This project allows us to transform the way we're going to help patients in the future, providing much more hope for them," Cowan added.
The facility would draw patients from across the region and the country, and it would create 1200 jobs locally. Still, opponents worry it could also cost jobs, with reduced business, if an occupation tax is involved in the funding.
The public hearings will take place within the council's 2 p.m. meeting Tuesday. Council members could vote on both items, as well.