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Race for Omaha City Council District 2: Ben Gray vs. Juanita Johnson

Posted at 5:49 PM, Apr 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-28 19:29:57-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Councilmember Ben Gray is using his 12 years in city hall to his advantage.

"You get on any elected body, it takes a time, you a significant amount of time to even learn your way around, to even learn what to do, to even learn how to introduce and pass an ordinance or a resolution or whatever," said Gray.

If brought back to the city council, Gray says he can hit the ground running.

He points to Omaha's affordable housing crisis as something he wants to tackle.

"Quality is not what it should be and there is significantly not enough of affordable housing that is being built currently," said Gray.

Gray also wants to address institutional racism and is never afraid to call it out in public meetings.

He says the city, especially when it's hiring contractors, needs to be intentional about who it's giving money to.

"We need to be intentional about what we do to address diversity and inclusion and we need to demonstrate it in the work that we do, documents we sign, the laws that we introduce,” said Gray.

His opponent Juanita Johnson believes she's the person to push the district forward.

"Change is needed and it's needed now," said Johnson.

Johnson, works in IT at Union Pacific and is involved with the Long School Neighborhood association and chair of the 24th Street Alliance.

"We have a lot of things that we're behind the ball on in relationship to other areas of town," said Johnson.

Johnson says her community needs jobs, and her first step would be digging into the details of city contracts.

"I would review city contracts so we're maximizing ways to increase jobs, development and for job development for the residents as well as for the business owners,” said Johnson.

Johnson says she wants to talk to constituents on a regular basis, try to connect different neighborhood groups, as well as ensure Omaha Police get more training than they currently take.

"If you're to increase the budget there should be some signs, some policies, some procedures that show we're changing the way we do training,” said Johnson.

When talking about the police, Gray says the Omaha Police Department does better than most cities but would like to see them better equipped to handle the mentally ill.

"Police need to be addressing more mental illness training, which they have already started and have been doing for the last three or four years quite frankly,” said Gray.

In Gray's tenure, there have been a variety of revitalization projects done in North Omaha, including on 24th street.

Gray says that work speaks for itself.

“The difference here in this campaign is one that makes promises and one who is proven record and has produced significant results,” said Gray.

Something Johnson, a community organizer, disputes.

"So to say that we're not, to say I'm about talk and no action, my record speaks for itself, and that's all I'm going to say about that," said Gray.

Gray won the six-person primary with 39% of the vote, Johnson narrowly took second, with 23% of the vote.

Both candidates are registered Democrats in the nonpartisan election.

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