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Should Omaha's mayor have power while out of town? City Council to vote soon on the issue

Posted at 6:12 PM, Jul 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-12 20:50:22-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Does Omaha's mayor need to be within the city limits to do their job? That was the question the Omaha City Charter Convention answered and the city council will soon be mulling over.

Dejaun Reddick and a number of appointees to the Omaha City Charter Convention pushed for this at recent meetings.

“We are allowing flexibility for whoever is mayor either now or in the future to be able to continue to work,” said Reddick.

The reason the city and charter member Julia Plucker gave for it is technology. As the years have gone by it’s gotten easier for the mayor to communicate.

“This is a more modern and technologically advanced world that we’re living in than maybe 10 years ago when they considered this is in the charter,” said Plucker.

The charter members voted in favor of the rule, which gives the Omaha mayor authority to make decisions for up to five days when they're not in city limits.

Now it goes to the Omaha City Council.

Current city law is strict. If the mayor is out of Omaha city limits, whether they’re in Los Angeles, Lincoln or La Vista, then the City Council President is in charge.

Current City Council President Pete Festersen said via text he’s been acting mayor “a lot recently” including during the recent Nox-Crete fire and said he coordinates closely with the mayor.

Still, he said he’s unlikely to vote for the change.

“It’s important that decision-making authority is clear in times of potential emergency or when someone might be unreachable. Anything can happen in a city at any time,” said Festersen.

Just this year, our media partners, the Omaha World-Herald, reported that Mayor Jean Stothert has been out of town for 39 days in 2022. That is 21% of the year.

Other members of the charter convention, including former Omaha City Attorney Paul Kratz, were skeptical of allowing the mayor to go anywhere in the continental US and still keep power.

“I think it’s way too broad with all due respect, I understand if you’re out of town to go down to Lincoln, or Papillion, or Council Bluffs. Perhaps a 100-mile radius would be appropriate,” said Kratz.

If the city council votes in favor then residents of Omaha will have the final say in the November election.

The mayor also requested a law change that would allow her to appoint anybody in her cabinet as acting mayor, which ultimately did not get voted on.

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