VOICE Omaha has endorsed candidates for the Omaha municipal general election. VOICE is a group of creative and engaged young professionals who are concerned about economic development, sustainability, cultural diversity, equality, etc. And they evaluate candidates based upon those values. Read their endorsements. I found no disagreements with my own views.
Today the Omaha World-Herald gave its endorsement in the mayoral race to Jean Stothert. I've been intending to write my endorsement, so this seems like a good time. I'll tell you why I'm voting for Jim Suttle, and think you should. And also why I am not voting for Jean Stothert, as I think this is definitely one of those times that even if you didn't have someone to vote for, you should definitely vote against Jean. Which means I think the World-Herald is fundamentally mistaken.
Yes, Jim Suttle is not a great politician. People all the time say they want people who aren't politicians, and Jim is an example of that. He has made political missteps, identified in the World-Herald editorial. Some of these have angered me. I think that needs to be acknowledged.
But I still like him personally, think he is a good mayor, and will vote for him. He's not a great politician because he is an engineer, who comes to issues with a problem-solving mindset. And his track record of problem-solving big issues is strong.
His administration righted a financial mess and kept the city's bond-rating and economic performance high. This was not easy, and was accomplished with unpopular taxes. As someone coming from outside, I found these new taxes to be minimal and much lower than what I've experienced in other cities. I think Omahans were unrealistic that they could maintain an first class city in the 21st century without increasing investments.
We will never fully know how significant having Jim Suttle in office was when we were faced with the 2012 flood. We had an engineer who knew what he was doing at the helm. It is only through hard work and diligent planning that this city avoided a catastrophe that would have cost us millions of dollars.
The number one reason I'm voting for Jim is because of the federal mandate that we redesign our sewer system. It is a massive, expensive program. And as an engineer, Jim knows what he is doing. He has already persuaded the EPA to make changes in the program, lowering our costs, and he will continue to do so. I think that this is the most important issue currently facing the city, and I can't imagine people would be stupid enough not to leave an expert in office to oversee.
Beyond the problem-solving, I have experienced Jim as a friendly and engaging of citizens. I met him shortly after we moved here and have had multiple encounters with him. Every time I've been in a room with him, I have watched him treat everyone with respect and dignity. He has actually listened to concerns. I was very impressed when he came to a Community Meal where our church was serving mostly homeless people. He had genuine, good conversations with people there.
And I have been very impressed by his support of the LGBT community in our effort to secure civil rights. Jim has been a wonderful ally. I can't believe that Omaha wants a mayor who doesn't believe in equality for all.
But if they elect Jean Stothert, that is what they will get. Jean has a track record on both the Millard School Board and the City Council of opposing equality. She is a supporter of discrimination in employment, as her two votes on the Equal Employment Ordinance indicate.
And, in my experience, she is not a nice person. Every single time I have seen her interacting with citizens, save once when she was campaigning in this race, I have seen her be rude, disrespectful, and mean. Her nickname, by which people throughout this city of all parties and walks of life call her, is "Mean Jean." I would never stoop to calling her that myself, but that the nickname is so widespread indicates something.
Before I knew anything about her, I wached her in a city council meeting debating the CVS on Dodge and an early round of the fire contract. I was new the city, but was amazed that an elected official would treate concerned citizens, coming up to speak, with such disrespect, criticizing their emotion and not listening seriously to their concerns.
Every other member of the city council, including those with whom I have disagreed, have made opportunities for dialogue with them. I have had pleasant and meaningful exchanges with all of them, save Councilwoman Stothert. Her e-mails to me, for instance, have been rude and uninterested in listening. They have also been filled with factual errors and misunderstandings of basic consitutional principles. I have also seen e-mail exchanges she has had with friends and other citizens, and I have been amazed that she would write such mean and nasty things to people simply trying to share their views and persuade her.
The strongest example I can give is a story of my friend Ellen James who had gone to Jean to educate her on trans issues. Ellen's daughter is trans, and Ellen shares the images that her daughter drew as a young child, indicating that she was a girl and not a boy. Ellen's presentation is moving and powerful, everyone I've seen, even very conservative people, are at least moved by Ellen's stories. Jean's response was "quit trying to emotionally manipulate me."
This is not the sort of person I want as mayor.
I can't imagine other people do either. I was frankly shocked by her vote total in the primary and am further shocked that the World-Herald would endorse her.
For me, this is not partisan. The last time I voted for a mayor, in Oklahoma City, I voted for the Republican mayor who was doing a very good job. I must oppose Jean, not because we have disagreed on issues, but because for me she does not meet the most minimal requirement of being a kind human being.
And I support Jim because he is a good problem-solver who has served our city well.
The publisher of the York New Times, the paper in the small town of York, Nebraska, strongly criticizes Nebraska's politicans for supporting the Keystone XL Pipeline and, even more, for refusing to be present to listen to Nebraskans strong opposition.
Let’s get serious. The nation’s final KXL environmental hearing was held at the same venue as the Nebraska State Fair. Had this been an actual state fair, this current crop of elected officials would have been thicker than flies over at the bovine barn. But their minds were made up and nothing their constituents would say, nor over 800,000 comments submitted to the State Department, means anything to them. That says a lot about their view of democracy, doesn’t it?
Their absence was a glaring embarrassment on a day when the nation came to Nebraska to listen to the people, and our state leaders didn’t want to hear a word.
Scott: In 1952 my grandparents, Christine and Herbert Jones, who had been unable to have children of their own, received the call from the state orphanage in Oklahoma that a four-year-old boy was ready for them to pick up. Leonard Green, nicknamed "Tubby," along with his sisters and brothers, had been taken from an abusive home. Fortunately, Leonard was young enough that he had not been a victim of the abuse that his elder siblings experienced. The Joneses drove hours to meet him and immediately bonded. They took him home, stopping in Tulsa to buy clothes and toys.
The day my father became Randall Dewayne Jones transformed his own life and made mine possible. And it explains why I have always wanted to adopt.
Michael: In 2010 my husband and I moved to Omaha from Oklahoma City when he was called to become the Senior Minister of the First Central Congregational Church. One of the goals of our job search was to be in a stable, financial position so that we could begin a family, and we were looking forward to doing that after we settled in.
We had only been in Nebraska a few months when we attended a workshop for gay couples on family issues, including adoption. There we learned that Nebraska bars openly gay persons from adopting. Oklahoma, where we came from, is known nationally for its anti-gay policies, yet there we could have adopted, because those viewed as unmarried by the state can adopt regardless of their sexual orientation. As you can imagine, this was dispiriting news. Even now my husband contemplates whether he will have to leave the church that God has called him to, I will have to leave the job I enjoy, we will have to leave the home we have remodeled, and the friends we have made and move to another state in order to pursue our desire to have a family.
Scott: Last Advent my congregation's worship theme was "What's Your Wish?" and on the Second Sunday of Advent we invited everyone to share their heart's desire as a sign of how God was working with them, drawing them to become their best selves. I shared that my wish, my heart's desire, the thing that I have always most looked forward to in life, was to be a grandfather, sitting at the Thanksgiving table, enjoying the fellowship of my children and grandchildren.
In Nebraska what stands in our way is a law that serves no legitimate governmental interest, a law that makes an arbitrary and cruel distinction. Today we implore you to right this wrong.
***Corrections: Mom corrected me that it was "Lester" not "Leonard" and that the date dad was taken home was March 14, 1953, which was 60 years to the date we testified.