10 potential prioritized changes given to the Omaha City Council for November election

OMAHA, Nebraska — There were a lot of proposed modifications offered to the Omaha City Council.

The charter convention came up with 24 potential modifications to the City Charter and that got whittled down to 10 that the city council could pursue.

Certain of these were more contentious than others.

One, in particular, was an amendment that was initially pulled but then returned at the last minute. It allows the mayor greater flexibility in taking absences.

The mayor now passes power to the city council president when she leaves town, but the new amendment would give her nearly a week before she is required to do so.

“The first part changed the provision for when the city council president acts as acting mayor. From what existed in the past, which is if the mayor leaves the city limits, to now providing if the mayor is absent for a period of more than five business days. So any stay shorter than five business days or shorter the city council president does not act as mayor,” said Bernard in den Bosch, deputy city attorney for the City of Omaha.

This amendment narrowly passed the council by a vote of four to three.

The other controversial amendment is one that won’t be making its way to the voters.

“I think there are still numerous questions and concerns that the law department has as to what ripple effects this would have over the rest of our codes and ordinances,” said city council member Brinker Harding.

The council debated revising the charter to add sexual orientation and gender identity as classifications that are entitled to equal protection.

If the amendment is successfully challenged, it might put in jeopardy prior amendments that incorporated protections for factors such as age, handicap, and religion.

“I think it’s really important that whatever we do doesn’t impact that in a negative way. I think that was a very big step forward for our city about 10 years ago and we need to make sure it stays in place,” said Council President Pete Festersen.

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