Ten-week Omaha city charter study gets underway

Omaha is one of two charter cities in Nebraska and every decade our city charter is reviewed.
Published: May. 16, 2022 at 10:49 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Beginning in 1956, Omaha is one of two “charter cities” in Nebraska, which means we choose the way we are governed.

Every decade the city charter is reviewed, looking to keep what many call the “Constitution of Omaha” up to date.

Fifteen Omahans will sift through the 65-page City Charter, in what is known as the Charter Study Review Convention, a process last completed in 2013. They will consider public input, discuss changes for consideration, and over a ten-week period, prepare a review including suggested changes to the city council.

The council then reviews the recommendations made by the Charter Study Review Convention and decides what to send to the public for consideration in the November general election.

”This could change our city, it could change our lives, it could change how we do things,” Mayor Jean Stothert said. “The charter convention is very, very important. We have to have it every 10 years, and a year that ends in three, that’s a minimum. I’m having it a year early so that we can get those recommendations on the November ballot.”

The convention members are nominated by the council and the mayor.

They are Negil McPherson, Jr., DeJaun Reddick, John Fox, Armando Selgado, Paul Kratz, Julia Plucker, Jorge Sotolongo, Andrew Prystai, Rev. J. Scott Barker, Maxwell Morgan, Tim Pendrell, Janet Bonet, Kathleen Kauth, Mike Kennedy and Angie Quinn.

Their experience varies. The man-voted chair, Paul Kratz, has taken part in the charter review process before.

Max Morgan is here for the first time, the first from his South Sudanese community in Omaha to take part.

“It’s very exciting, but it’s also a huge responsibility,” said Morgan, who was elected vice-chair by the group. “But I look forward to going into this endeavor.”

Much of the discussion kept coming back to the idea of inclusion taking what we’ve learned to communicate in the past decade, and since COVID, to be sure the public gets as much input as possible.

That means online communication, email input, and other ways to be sure the public can offer input even if they can’t be present at the meetings.

“One of the public speakers mentioned we’d love a way for a way that people could participate in this process,” Morgan said. “I think that you know, a lot of people who are working during the day, they’re in school, they would love to participate in the public process, but they can’t. So I think finding a way for us to include more of our population in the process is the end goal for this.”

Stothert agrees.

“There are a lot of changes that I could see,” she said. “I’m gonna submit (ideas for) changes, the council can, and most importantly, the citizens can. This works best when the citizens are engaged.”

The full meetings will be streamed live on the city’s YouTube channel, with the next one scheduled for May 26 from 5:00-7:00 p.m. There is a dedicated web page for the effort, found on Mayor Stothert’s website, as well as a dedicated email address.

Members will consider the suggestions from the emails until June 10, which they say will allow enough time to complete the process and make their presentation to the council. The council then decides what recommendations they will forward to the voters.

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