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'Magic' Johnson, Omaha community leaders discuss community safety and empowerment

Empowerment Network brings together community and national leaders to help keep 'Rebuilding the Village'
Posted at 6:32 PM, Jun 09, 2023

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — They say it takes a village to raise a child — but to keep the village going it takes hundreds of community, faith and business leaders working hand in hand.

Friday, those leaders were all in one room to strategize the best way they can keep “Rebuilding the Village.”

“This is always an opportunity to bring partners together to do updates, progress, gaps, issues, assets and bring it all together,” said Willie Barney, founder and president of the Empowerment Network.

This year’s event featured dozens of breakout sessions covering everything from business development to community safety and was led by keynote speaker and NBA legend, Earvin "Magic" Johnson.

“We want to transform our city and we know, and he speaks about it. When we see that every zip code in this city is thriving and successful it adds billions of dollars to the economic vitality of this region,” said Barney.

It wasn’t just Omaha leaders taking part this year, representatives from 23 different cities across the country, from places like Atlanta, Chicago, New Orleans, Denver and Kansas City also stopped by.

A hot topic among those city leaders was community safety. Several attended presentations by Omaha Police Chief Todd Schamderer and other officers to learn how they can adapt the success of the Omaha 360 Collaborative to their own communities.

“The success we have been seeing for 15-plus years now, driving down violent crime, using those partnerships — not just for when something happens, but the prevention side of it and the intervention side of it. Putting all those pieces together is what success is all about,” said Lt. Neal Bonnaci with OPD.

There is still work to do revitalizing and improving North and South Omaha but recent moves in the legislature mean ARPA funding will soon be on its way and city leaders say they are anxiously waiting to see what kind of changes that funding can bring.

“It is definitely that energy, and need to fulfill those gaps, that people in underserved communities have. So we can take care of the health disparities, the economic disparities, the social disparities, and Definitely when we touch on those three elements we take care of time,” said Omaha City Councilwoman Juanita Johnson.

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