Douglas County Board, Omaha City Council approve repealing affirmative action ban

A day-long discussion was held Tuesday with the Douglas County Board and Omaha City Council regarding affirmative action
Published: Jul. 14, 2020 at 4:11 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A day-long discussion was held Tuesday with the Douglas County Board and Omaha City Council regarding affirmative action

For hours Tuesday afternoon, Omahans have been talking race, discrimination, and affirmative action behind the doors in council chambers.

Here’s part of the reason why -- in 2008, Nebraska voters approved a ballot measure that would prohibit discrimination which in effect banned affirmative action.

Many local leaders want to repeal that. But the votes are really just government advice asking for a state lawmaker to pick up the baton and put the issue before the voters.

Tuesday’s conversation centered on the city council and county board asking the Nebraska Legislature to put the issue before voters again in November.

As one speaker said the ban sends the wrong message that Nebraska isn’t welcoming to minorities.

“These are gestures, and we want more. We don’t want something that makes you feel good but something with substance,” said Jaclyn Harris of Omaha.

“As a nation, we’ve come a long way to being inclusive. We even had a black president but our work is far from done,” said Kimara Snipe of Omaha.

“It levels the playing field which should have been done a long time ago. It doesn’t give black or brown people a serious advantage. It levels the playing field,” said Omaha City Councilman Ben Gray. “I know there will be some elected officials who will have heartburn about trying to do this because of their constituencies. They’ll say no. My question is what are you going to say yes to. The practice of saying no -- that day is over.”>

Only one person spoke in opposition to the repeal as the county board approved the resolution 4 to 2 Tuesday. The City Council also approved repealing in a 5 to 1 vote.

Councilman Brinker Harding voted no on the resolution. His comments focused on a study that said race-conscious programs don’t heal.

Other opponents called affirmative action reverse discrimination.

Former Omaha Police Chief Tom Warren said he likely wouldn’t even have been an officer if not for affirmative action.

It’s now up to the legislature to put it on the ballot for November. Several councilmembers admit that will be a challenge.

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