Participants talk about first south Omaha ‘task force’ meeting with City Council members

The first meeting of representatives in Omaha's District 4 was held Tuesday in an effort to make sure their voices are heard while Vinny Palermo sits in jail.
Published: Jun. 6, 2023 at 6:55 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - South Omaha community activist Ben Salazar said Monday’s Zoom conference with Omaha City Council members broke the ice for the parties involved.

“This is a very unique opportunity for both sides - both the city council and, of course, the community,” Salazar said. “I don’t know if this has ever been done before.”

“A lot of people were able to kind of express their concerns, what their general interests were,” Councilman Brinker Harding said.

Monday’s participants included Harding and council President Pete Festersen. Salazar said the “task force” representing District 4 included himself, One World Health Clinic CEO Andrea Skolkin, Grace United Methodist Church Pastor Juan Carlos Veloso, Generation Diamond CEO Blanca Mejia and LULAC Nebraska President Elsa Ramon. He said the task force lineup will rotate every week.

Both Harding and Salazar said the discussion didn’t cover specific items on Tuesday’s city council agenda.

However, Salazar said task force members were able to share their concerns with the councilmen on issues like mental health and the need to expand medical services in South Omaha; assistance programs for migrants, refugees and those with low income; as well as their desire to see more hispanics elevated to higher positions in city and county government.

These weekly meetings have been set up because the man who officially represents District 4 on the city council, Vinny Palermo, sits in jail.

He and three other men have been indicted on federal charges, including fraud and corruption. A judge ruled Palermo will remain in jail until his trial.

He can be removed from office if he’s absent from council meetings for three consecutive calendar months. That would be in late July, and members of his district say that’s too long to wait.

Monday’s conference was closed to the public, but Salazar said future weekly meetings will be recorded and available for folks to watch on the websites for either the Mundo Latino Network or La Casa del Pueblo.

“We want the public to be able to observe it, to listen,” he said. “We won’t allow people to call in or chat directly with the members. But on a chat box, certainly they can join in and ask questions or make comments.”

Both Harding and Salazar said they feel optimistic about future weekly conferences.