With 1,457 members according to its website, Voice Omaha is blazing a path for civic participation outside the normal two-party political system. They have notched a considerable political gain with their recent work on Omaha’s Equal Rights ordinance. The group’s mission is to be non-partisan and dedicated to creating a more inclusive, just, transparent, sustainable and culturally vibrant Omaha by actively supporting leaders, policies and projects that advance this vision. Steered by a group of young professionals, Voice Omaha for the first time is issuing endorsements this election.
The Reader decided to partner with Voice Omaha for its endorsements because we endorse their mission and respect their nonpartisan and very studious approach. The endorsements that follow were well-researched, with teams directly contacting candidates to address the same list of questions for that particular race. You will find
endorsements on both sides of the aisle. You will find a complete listing and supporting documentation at VoiceOmaha.org, including endorsements for Natural Resource District races.
Where we disagreed or had something to add, The Reader’s take on these endorsements are authored by Editor John Heaston based on almost 20 years of covering local politics in consultation with The Reader’s informal brain trust.
The candidates elected this November will play a huge role in shaping our future. And while the races at the top of the ballot are unquestionably important, the local races may very well have a bigger impact on Omahans’ day-to-day lives.
VOICE’s steering committee spent the past month digging into a handful of races at all levels of the ballot, and we are endorsing several candidates. Our VOICE-approved slate is below with a few bullets explaining why we endorse those candidates. A more in-depth summary of each of these races is available on our website.
We took this effort very seriously. We did our homework. Our research methodologies varied a bit for each race; they generally included face-to-face interviews, open-ended written response questions, phone interviews, discussions with others knowledgeable of the candidates and the issues, and independent research. We also refrained from making selections based upon party lines. Our endorsements are based solely on who we believe is be the best Omahan for the job.
We encourage you to vote for the following candidates. The Reader provides it’s own take after each:
Omaha Public Power District Board of Directors
Sandy Dodge (D)
• Articulated a clear and in-depth understanding of the issues
• Demonstrated a vision for renewables, conservation and OPPD’s role in mitigating
• Very supportive of OPPD’s programs to help its customers reduce energy
• Energy challenge of the 21st century: meeting the growing demand for global energy
demand while not ruining the earth’s atmosphere
George Mills (R)
• High focus on transparency and providing more information to the public
• Acknowledged that climate change is happening and that humans play a role
• Service as a Douglas County Commissioner shows great leadership capabilities
• Would strive to be an independent voice on the board, working for consensus and
collaboration rather than “rubber stamping” decisions from management
Reader Take: Given OPPD’s challenges with Ft. Calhoun and its practically non- existent renewable energy portfolio, we strongly support returning Sandy Dodge to keep strong leadership in place. George Mills has previously served well as a member of the Douglas County Commissioners, but Tom Barrett is also a strong choice for the second vote in this race.
Metropolitan Utilities District Board of Directors
John McCollister (R)
• Demonstrated a clear understanding of MUD’s business model and upcoming challenges
• Advocated for a balanced approach (flat fee + cost cutting) to maintaining fiscal soundness
• Believes MUD’s conservation efforts are worthwhile and supportive of decreasing MUD’s carbon footprint and reducing pollution
• Greatest energy challenge of the 21st century: successful interface and balance between government intervention and the realities of the energy world
Jim Begley (D)
• Will be a strong proponent for MUD’s workforce
• Strongly advocated for better conservation efforts and a more meaningful social media presence
• Sees a clear and meaningful role for MUD to play in building compressed natural gas infrastructure
• Greatest energy challenge of the 21st century: weaning ourselves off of foreign oil and mitigating climate change
Omaha School Board
Subdistrict 2: Freddie Gray (D)
• Qualifications: Served on OPS Board of Education since 2008; served on National School Boards Association/Council of Urban Boards of Education Racial Isolation Task Force, NE Association of School Boards, African Achievement Council, Douglas County Board of Health
• Priorities: To increase student achievement, Ms. Gray plans to partner with community stakeholders to address issues outside the scope of the school district’s work; accelerate quality early childhood education to help children arrive at school ready to learn; and recruit and retain highly qualified teachers and principals.
Subdistrict 4: Oscar Duran (NP)
• Qualifications: Various board membership; Creation of numerous youth driven community initiatives
• Priorities: Promote strengths-based development; Increase community collaboration;
Emphasis on service learning
Subdistrict 8: No endorsement
Subdistrict 12: Patrick Bourne (D)
• Qualifications: Law Degree (Creighton University, 1997); Former State Senator (8th Legislative District)
• Priorities: Create strategic plan for OPS; Increase transparency; Increase graduation rates
University of Nebraska Board of Regents
District 4: Bob Whitehouse (R)
• Has served on the Board of Regents since 2006 and was the 2011 Chairman
• Supports stem cell research
• Supports legislation and university policies that provide equal opportunity to students and staff including the Dream Act and the Employee +1 benefits policy
• Strong proponent for research across the University system as it relates to Nebraska
• Advocate for early childhood education
Reader Take: It’s our understanding that Larry Bradley didn’t have the best interaction responding to Voice Omaha’s inquiries, which is a tad bit ironic given his recent focus on a third party. With our partner El Perico, we’re familiar with his long history of service, to veterans, South Omaha and minority communities and so we might have to differ with our Voice Omaha colleagues on this one.
District 8: Ann Ferlic Ashford (R)
• Articulates clear ideas to connect graduates with jobs
• Supports stem cell research
• Supports legislation and university policies that provide equal opportunity to students
and staff including the Dream Act and the Employee +1 benefits policy
• Prioritizes rising tuition rates as the most pressing issue facing students
• Committed to listening to her constituents
United States House of Representatives – District 2
John Ewing (D)
• An experienced and dedicated public servant, a former Deputy Chief of Police for Omaha and current Douglas County Treasurer.
• As Douglas County Treasurer, Ewing broke through beaurocratic red tape to modernize that office increasing efficiency through the use of on-line tools. He accomplished this while coming in under final budget numbers every year he has served Douglas County.
• Ewing supports preservation of the current structure of Medicare while making principled changes to its administration to lower costs of the program that would support its solvency and its reliability.
• Ewing pledges to address federal budget deficit problems by focusing on waste and inefficiency and has proven as Douglas County Treasurer to concentrate on the real financial impact of changes, instead of their political impacts.
Reader Take: Voice Omaha, the Omaha World-Herald . . . yep, we’re also jumping on the bandwagon. Ewing’s ethics are untouchable and he deserves a shot to make a difference in Washington.
United States Senate
Bob Kerrey (D)
• An experienced, principled candidate with a long track record of working in a bipartisan manner, most notably on the national 9/11 Commission.
• Nebraska-born and Nebraska-educated, Kerrey is a consistent supporter of civil rights
for all Americans, which includes voting against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.
• Proposes pragmatic solutions to address federal deficits with specific proposals to reduce federal budgets by 15 percent, impose a three-year pay freeze on federal civilian workers and reduce the number of federal workers.
• Supports environmental policies that acknowledge and address the human contributions to climate change.
• “No one can tell Bob to do anything,” Alan Simpson, a former Republican senator from Wyoming, said of Bob Kerrey. “That’s a wonderful trait.”
Reader Take: After Republicans took the use of filibuster to previously unseen levels – 241 times in Obama’s first term versus 162 for Clinton and 133 for Bush – it’s time that Republicans pay the price for their obstructionism. Kerrey will very likely make his party mad. We don’t see the same thing from Fischer.
President of the United States
Barack Obama (D)
President Barack Obama
• Decisive at a time when America was headed for the worst economic crash since the Great Depression
• Invested in green technology and innovation
• Values the unique role of government in protecting its citizens as evidenced by his public support of pay equity, GLBT civil rights and the Dream Act
• Works both sides of the issue and reaches across party lines
• Believes people are entitled to health care, food and housing
Reader Take: See above on obstructionism in the Senate race. Bad behavior shouldn’t be rewarded. We can’t even faintly consider a candidate that calls public debt the nation’s biggest problem but won’t accept a solution that would offer $1 of new revenues for every $10 in budget cuts – particularly when federal taxes as a percentage of the economy haven’t been lower in 50 years according to such authorities as Goldman Sachs. For the 5 percent concerned that they’re paying 60 percent of federal income taxes, just be happy that rate is so low. Historically, it’s been much higher, starting at 2 percent paying 90 percent in the early days of the income tax.