Jean Stothert has demonstrated abundant energy and strong leadership as Omaha’s mayor, and she deserves reelection. She has earned the public’s confidence by addressing key challenges, assembling a capable team and working constructively with the City Council for the betterment of our city.
Stothert’s opponent in this year’s mayor race, developer RJ Neary, has contributed much to Omaha over the decades through his economic development work and civic involvement. He conveys a strong devotion to the city and points to issues, such as transportation and affordable housing, that demand long-term action. But he has failed to articulate a clear, coherent alternate vision that makes a convincing case to oust a mayor who has demonstrated such a solid understanding of city issues and an ability to work with a range of Omahans to move the city forward.
We endorse Stothert for reelection, but that by no means indicates we think Omaha has neatly solved every challenge it faces. On the contrary, much long-term work lies ahead on multiple issues, including extending economic development to all parts of the city; affordable housing; promoting a welcoming culture in regard to diversity; strong outreach to Omaha’s minority residents; and greatly expanding the transportation options beyond the car-focused status quo.
In looking at the two candidates, we find that the mayor has strengths that commend her for another four-year term:
She is a proven, capable manager. Stothert is detailed-oriented and has placed competent staff in key positions. To address complex challenges, she proceeds deliberatively and methodically. Under Omaha’s strong-mayor system, the mayor is the central figure in managing the city budget. Stothert is diligent in her fiscal management, and her approach paid off during the major COVID-related drop in revenues last year. She faced difficult budget-cut decisions and pursued a sensible strategy.
She has impressively tackled some major, complex issues facing the city. When COVID struck more than a year ago, Stothert, with a background in nursing, worked with Adi Pour, the Douglas County health director, to provide constructive messaging and decision-making. She and Pour provided straightforward information, focused on health and science and stayed out of the partisan traps that made the pandemic worse. Stothert’s $200 million street bond proposal took a major step forward on one of the city’s most difficult challenges and received overwhelmingly voter approval. The garbage/recycling issue posed daunting complexities. Stothert held listening sessions to gauge public priorities and worked through the many difficulties via ongoing discussion and debate with the City Council.
She doesn’t indulge in political game-playing but focuses instead on problem-solving. That practical approach lessens tensions and enables buy-in — in contrast to Nebraska state politics, with its often poisonous partisan rancor. As a result, Stothert earns trust from the City Council and the public. To her credit, she has taken independent stands beyond narrow partisan politics. Examples include her approach to COVID issues; her support for immigrants covered by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals; and her support for the anti-discrimination ordinance for LGBTQ individuals.