One of the more contentious races in this year’s city election is unfolding in north Omaha.
Incumbent Councilman Ben Gray and retired police officer Tariq Al-Amin sparred during a tense public exchange Tuesday evening — trading blows on a variety of subjects including police oversight, their respective abilities to marshal neighborhood groups and Gray’s record on jobs and crime.
Al-Amin, 56, an outspoken community activist, said he entered the race because some residents feel Gray has “betrayed” the district.
“My opponent is very good at taking credit for things he had nothing to do with,” Al-Amin said during the forum at the Love’s Jazz and Arts Center near 24th and Lake Streets. “I don’t believe a lot of things he says. He has no credibility.”
Gray retorted: “I have trust with a whole lot of people in the community, and a whole lot of other businesses. So having trust with you doesn’t mean a whole lot to me.”
The heated words underscore the competitive nature of this year’s race for north Omaha’s council seat.
Four candidates sought to replace Gray in the recent primary election, though Al-Amin’s roughly 950 votes were the most of any challenger. Gray advanced to the May 14 general election with more than 1,500 votes.
Gray, 63, said he would continue efforts to bring development and jobs to the economically stressed portion of Omaha.
The sitting councilman cited a forthcoming Walmart store along Ames Avenue and other developments such as the Heartland Workforce Solutions office and the NorthStar Foundation’s planned boys facility as signs of progress.
“We have action going in north Omaha that wasn’t there four years ago,” Gray said. “I’m asking for your vote because you can see, tangibly, the things that have been done as a result of my leadership over these last four years. And these next four years are going to be more of the same.”
Al-Amin said Gray and city officials have not kept promises made to north Omaha.
“I would hope to be able to be an advocate and a facilitator, so that this part of the city gets the services that it deserves,” Al-Amin said. “Oftentimes, our faces and our misery are used to get grant money.”
World-Herald staff writer Erin Golden contributed to this report.
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