Omaha mayoral candidate Harris an advocate for diversity, business

Jasmine Harris: City priorities should go beyond streets, trash
Published: Mar. 29, 2021 at 6:14 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Jasmine Harris wants to be Omaha’s next mayor. She suggested meeting at Naughty Buddha Burger Bar, a minority-owned business at 24th and Jones that opened during the pandemic.

“People are hungry for change,” said Harris, who used the backdrop to explain why the city needs to invest in businesses of color.

“It’s a bold lift,” she said. “I think that is what’s needed. We have to ensure our small businesses are building up. That’s how we’re going to recover from the pandemic.”

Harris grew up in Omaha and her career centers on criminal justice and public health.

“This isn’t a career move,” she explained. “It’s an extension of what I’ve been doing. My public health background — I was doing coalition building around substance abuse prevention — then working in my volunteer capacity on criminal justice reform. I’ve seen how policy and advocacy can be impactful when creating change in the community.”

Harris has also spent time recruiting diverse candidates to run for office. She believes city elections don’t go deep enough on the issues that really make a difference in our lives and she plans to change that.

“When I decided to run for office, 95% of people asked if I was going to run on ‘streets’ or ‘trash’. I’m tired of running on ‘streets’ or ‘trash’. Every election cycle we talk about it. They are basic services that should be dealt with and they haven’t been dealt with. We have bigger things to worry about like our housing crisis and how to keep our businesses from leaving and why are the best and brightest leaving.”

She thinks the social justice protests in Omaha last summer has positioned her to lead.

“I’m so glad the young people stepped up, too,” she said. “Protesting is part of advocacy. It’s the strategy for how you create the awareness. What I’m proud of is it went from protesting to the policy piece. People started to show up at city hall and insert their voices where it mattered.”

Harris believes Omaha is at a tipping point where voters are yearning to be better citizens.

“You have to get uncomfortable to create change,” she said. “Change is always uncomfortable. But in order for everyone to have an Omaha that’s going to work. We need to open up the uncomfortableness and start digging into how we can create change and make it better for everyone regardless of their ZIP code.”

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