'Partisan and personal': Mayor Stothert unhappy that charter amendment she supports is not on council agenda

Posted at 7:02 PM, Jul 28, 2022

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The Omaha City Council Legislative Affairs Committee announced on Thursday that it requested 10 proposed amendments to the city charter be placed on the Aug. 2 council agenda. Mayor Jean Stothert isn't happy that one amendment, in particular, wasn't included.

On July 12, the 2022 Charter Study Convention recommended 24 amendments. Those recommendations included changes to the provisions made when the mayor is out of town. As the current rules stand, whenever she is not within Omaha city limits, the council president is required to step in as mayor.

The charter committee voted in favor of a rule that would allow a mayor to continue doing their job while out of town for up to five days. Julia Plucker, a committee member,said that technology made it possible for the mayor to perform the duties of their office while on the road.

Today, however, the Legislative Affairs Committee — comprised of Councilmembers Pete Festerson, Danny Begley and Aimee Melton — excluded that proposed amendment from the Aug. 2 council agenda.

Stothert responded in a statement:

"The City Council’s Legislation Committee has missed the opportunity to modernize the City Charter’s decades-old requirement that the sitting Mayor must give up their elected authority when traveling outside the city, even just miles away, to Ralston or Lincoln for example. Without a change in the Charter, mayors for the next decade or even longer, will be bound by an outdated Charter. In a time of always-improving technology, instant connections allow government leaders to effectively communicate and make decisions even while away on business or personal travel. The decision to not bring this Charter amendment, which received unanimous support from the citizen-led Charter Convention, to the Council this year, and then to the voters, appears to be partisan and personal."

Councilmember Pete Festesen told 3 News Now that the committee opted to include 10 items this year, and expects the council to get to the other 14 items in 2024, citing the cost of putting each measure on the November ballot.

“The Legislative committee is bipartisan 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.

A few items the council will be voting on include harmonizing the city charter with the already existing law on the city ordinance banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Another change would require the city's master plan to address affordable housing and sustainable development.

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