LINCOLN — In the 67-year history of the Omaha Public Power District, a minority candidate has never been elected to its board of directors.
That could change in a few years under a bill given 30-0 first-round approval in the State Legislature on Wednesday. LB 646 requires all eight OPPD directors to be elected by district.
Under the measure, OPPD would draw up eight voting districts within its 13-county territory. The current eight OPPD directors would be allowed to serve out their current terms, but by 2018, all would be elected by voters in their districts.
Currently, OPPD has five board members from within Omaha who are elected at-large. Three other board members represent areas outside Omaha: one is north and west of the city, another is south of the city to the Kansas border and a third “suburban district” covers Bellevue.
State Sen. John Murante of Gretna said that both OPPD and the Metropolitan Utilities District have never had any members of racial minorities elected to their boards. Leon Evans served on the MUD board in the 1980s but was appointed to the position and was later defeated when he was up for election.
By contrast, governing boards in the Omaha area that are elected by district, including the Omaha City Council and Douglas County Board, have all had minority representatives.
“How we elect our leaders says a lot about who we are,” Murante told fellow lawmakers Wednesday morning.
Last year, former Omaha Sen. Brenda Council had introduced a bill to require district elections for both OPPD and MUD boards. But the measure did not pass.
Murante said he will look at another bill next year to address district elections for the MUD board.
Contact the writer: 402-473-9584, email@example.com