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Councilman Ben Gray does a 180. Now electric scooters could return to Omaha
special report

Councilman Ben Gray does a 180. Now electric scooters could return to Omaha

Electric, dockless scooters are back on the table in Omaha.

The City Council next month will reconsider operating agreements with scooter companies Spin and Bird after rejecting those agreements on a 4-3 vote last week. City officials have spent the last several months preparing to launch a second scooter pilot program this year.

Councilman Ben Gray, who had voted against the agreements, requested that they be reconsidered.

During a previous public hearing on the agreements, Gray said he wanted assurances that the scooters would play a role in his district, which covers much of North Omaha. He apparently had planned to vote in favor, but after listening to Council President Chris Jerram outline concerns about the safety and sanitation of scooters and whether businesses find them to be a nuisance, Gray said he changed course.

“You’ve effectively changed my mind about it,” Gray said last week shortly before voting against the agreements.

He now appears ready to greenlight the pilot program.

“I didn’t want to hold them up any longer,” Gray told WOWT after Tuesday’s meeting. “Especially if they’ve hired staff and made a commitment to making sure the scooters stayed professionally maintained; that they’re cleaned on a regular basis; that they’re not laying all over the place like they were in some districts in the community.”

Gray did not return several messages from The World-Herald on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Supporters of scooters have said they’re an inexpensive method of transportation that offers an alternative to vehicles.

Council members Brinker Harding, Aimee Melton and Pete Festersen previously voted in favor of the operating agreements. If their votes remain unchanged, a yes vote by Gray would give the agreements the majority they need to pass.

Scooters could then hit the streets soon after. The program has been expected to end sometime in November.

Any council member on the majority side of a vote can request that an item be reconsidered. Another council member must then second the motion to add the item to a future agenda.

Gray on Tuesday also requested that the council suspend the rules to vote on the agreements that day, which would have required five votes to pass. His request failed 4-3, with Councilmen Rich Pahls, Vinny Palermo and Jerram voting no.

The council will reconsider the operating agreements at its July 14 meeting. It will not meet June 30 and July 7.

Our best staff images from June 2020, 402-444-1127, @reecereports

Omaha World-Herald: Afternoon Update

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Reece covers Omaha City Hall, including the City Council and Mayor's Office, and how decisions by local leaders affect Omaha residents. He's a born-and-raised Nebraskan and UNL graduate. Follow him on Twitter @reecereports. Phone: 402-444-1127​

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