10-year review of Omaha’s city charter to begin next month

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Published: Apr. 12, 2022 at 11:01 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Every 10 years, the city of Omaha reviews and updates one of its most important documents, the city charter.

The charter was adopted in 1956.

“The city charter is a lot like the U.S. Constitution, it sets out some of the basic frameworks for the city and how it’s supposed to govern itself,” says Paul Kratz, Omaha’s former city attorney.

“It’s a really important piece of how our city is structured, how the different departments run, the power of the different offices people hold,” says small business owner John Fox.

“I think it’s extremely important for us to do a review every 10 years, so much changes in a decade and I think that having the public’s input and participation from citizens that come from all various walks of life is so important to update and get a different perspective of how we’re being ran and what we’re looking for and what we need from the next 10 years,” Fox adds.

Fox, who owns John Fox Design and spent eight years on board of the Field Club Homeowners League, was nominated by Mayor Stothert to be a member of the 15-person Charter Study Convention.

The review board will meet weekly for 10 weeks and will give their proposed changes to the mayor, city council, and city law team.

After that, the proposals that are approved will head to the November ballot where they face a vote.

“I think it’s very important that it’s not elected leaders that are giving input, I think that citizens have different perspectives, and it takes a lot of the politics out of it,” Fox says. “We can all sit down as a group of neighbors, community leaders, and professionals and we can discuss the way we think our government should be ran.”

“It’s for the citizens, the charter is about governing the citizens, so the citizens should have a say in that,” Kratz, who was also nominated to the review board by Stothert, adds.

Kratz retired from the city attorney’s office in 2020 and says he read parts of the charter almost every day.

“I’ve probably read that charter more than anybody else had, and I know it better than anybody else had, so it probably makes some sense,” he says about the mayor nominating him.

Changes to the charter can have big impacts, the reason city council and mayoral elections are in different years than state and federal elections, is because of a change that was made to the charter in a review session.

“I never thought I would really take the time to read the whole thing but I have, and I’m thankful that I read it because it explains a lot about our city government and how it works right now in its current form,” Fox says.

“After reading it, I do see things that stick out to me, there are pieces of it that I have questions about what I’m really looking forward to is hearing what the mayor’s office has in mind, what the council has in mind, and most importantly what our citizens see or would like to see changed or updated in our city charter.”

Meetings to discuss the charter will begin Monday, May 16 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Every meeting is open to the public.

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