OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — On Saturday leaders in business, education, politics and more gathered online for the 14th Annual State of North Omaha and African Americans Summit, to discuss ways to move these communities forward.
Five years ago, Omaha leaders looked at North Omaha and the Black community and set several goals for what they wanted to achieve by 2025.
Now halfway through that journey, and adding in a pandemic, the summit still sees some room for growth.
One area of concern is housing. The goal for 2025 is to create 2,500 housing units for those communities. About 1,000 of those have already been built in North Omaha. Councilmember Pete Festerson, who represent a portion of North Omaha, says he believes this goal is way below the actual need.
“We have seen a study performed by the Sherwood Foundationthat suggests we’re about 80,000 units short in this community for our affordable housing needs," Festersen said. "Unless we do something about that, it will get worse in coming years.”
Another goal is to see graduation rates reach 95%. Currently North Omaha sits at 77%, and African American students overall are at 81%. Officials with Omaha Public Schools say getting students back in the classroom will get the district back on track toward this goal.
“We can provide students a device, we can provide internet access for every device, but that close personal connection that is a part of school is impossible to recreate on an iPad," said Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Logan.
Violence in these communities has also been a concern in years past. Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer says while there was an increase in violent crimes in 2020, Omaha has still made huge steps in reaching the goal of reducing gun violence by 80%.
“It’s imperative to take a look at 2020, put an asterisk around COVID, and when we exit COVID, we almost seem to have a new fresh set of stats to see how well we will rebound in going back to where we should be," Schmaderer said.
There was about two and half hours of discussions going over a myriad of topics. We encourage you to check out the full live stream. The summit plans to have a follow up with a Q&A session for the community in two weeks.