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Stothert, City Council at odds over charter change allowing mayor to work while out of town

Posted at 8:39 AM, Jul 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-29 09:39:47-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Mayor Jean Stothert called it a move to modernize the mayor’s office.

In an age of quick access to cell service and Zoom technology, she wanted Omaha's mayor to be able to leave the city for days and still be mayor.

Currently, whenever Omaha's mayor is outside city limits, even Ralston or Lincoln, they turn over power to the city council president.

The Omaha City Charter Convention agreed and recommended allowing the mayor to remain in power if they’re outside city limits for up to five days as long as they stay in the continental U.S.

But after a decision by a city council sub-committee, the legislative affairs committee of the city council, that item is on hold and will not be considered by the council or by a vote of Omaha residents.

Mayor Stothert blasted that decision and in a statement argued that technology is changing and the decision to not bring this charter amendment “appears to be partisan and personal."

Council President Pete Festersen is a member of the sub-committee and serves as Acting Mayor when Stothert is gone.

“The Legislative committee is bi-partisan in nature and had a good consensus on an approach to start implementing charter convention recommendations in a practical and fiscally responsive way,” said Festersen.

Festersen said that charter items not taken up this year will be revisited later, likely in 2024. Festersen also said the city had budgeted for just 10 items to go on the ballot.

Councilmember Danny Begley, another member of the Legislative Affairs sub-committee, told 3 News Now that out of all the recommendations made by the City Charter Committee “allowing the current or future Mayor to work remotely out-of-state was by far the one that caused the most anger amongst my constituents.”

Now, a few of the other items the council will consider include changing the city charter to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, something city ordinance already prohibits.

Plus, another item requiring affordable housing and sustainable development will be included in the city’s master plan.

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