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Race for Omaha City Council District 5: Don Rowe vs. Patrick Leahy

Posted at 6:42 PM, May 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-03 23:04:21-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — If he wins the District 5 seat, Vice President of Millard Lumber Don Rowe says he's ready to dive into the details of city government and treat the council seat as a full-time job.

“I’ll be able to focus most, if not all, my attention on this job,” said Rowe.

The conservative Republican says he sees an opportunity to potentially lower city taxes, as valuations continue to go up.

"If we just kept the levy the same, it's going to be a sizable tax increase so I'm not for that. I think we're going to have to take a look at the levy and adjust it appropriately," said Rowe.

Rowe says his current work forces him to budget, negotiate contracts and collaborate, and that he could work with all city councilmembers, regardless of ideology, to improve Omaha.

"I have a personality that is such that I can easily meet people," said Rowe. "I'm sure there will be times where we disagree. I'm committed to disagreeing agreeably."

His opponent, Patrick Leahy, believes Rowe is more status quo, and he could help make people's lives better in Omaha.

"I think I can make the city more vibrant and make some things more exciting,” said Rowe.

Leahy, an Omaha architect who served on the Metro Community College Board, would prioritize re-writing the city's master plan for buildings, saying his current line of work prepares him for the next step.

"I can listen to everybody's needs, help articulate that vision better than they can because I do it every day, and then worry about all the details to make it a reality," said Leahy.

Leahy, a self-described moderate Democrat, says he'd like to see city government be more collaborative, listening to residents first, and then using their advice to push the city forward.

"If the community wants something, the culture wants it, they'll ask for policy changes. But when you do policy changes on people, that's when people get upset,” said Leahy.

Both seem to agree that the city's use of tax-increment financing has allowed the city to prop up declining areas.

Rowe points to the area of 135th and Millard Avenue as a perfect example of TIF.

"It kind of spurred this whole development in an area that was really an eyesore that had been worn out. And so I think in cases like that, TIF makes a whole lot of sense," said Leahy.

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Leahy says the city can't always keep expanding west, and wants to build density in the urban core to add more culture, residents, and a tax base.

"Once you get to the edge of the county you cannot annex anymore, and nobody has ever had to face that. But in 20-50 years, we could," said Leahy. "What we're going to have to do is look towards the center of town."

Rich Pahls was elected in 2017 and went on to serve in the Nebraska Legislature.

Colleen Brennan replaced him and took his place, but in the primary, she finished fourth.