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Omaha Mayor pushes the climate action plan, expected the plan to be ready by 2024

OMAHA, Nebraska – Mayor Jean Stothert provided an update on the city’s work to draft a climate action plan on Wednesday, one week after the City Council voted to expedite the city’s efforts.

Friday, according to Stothert, a request for proposals (RFP) will be issued to find a consultant to construct this plan, with a target completion date of June 2024.

The Metro Smart Cities project, which is co-chaired by the mayor, has been entrusted with drafting a bid request outlining the consultant’s responsibilities and then appointing one.

In a Wednesday discussion with reporters in her office, she stated, “This is a key priority for the city.”

The RFP is the document that outlines the expectations and scope of services for the future consultant, and on Wednesday, the Mayor, along with city consultant and former City of Omaha Planning Director Steven Jensen, outlined the six main tasks: project management and technical guidance, assessment and alignment, public engagement, greenhouse gas baseline inventory, metrics reporting toolkit, and the climate action and resilience plan.

Project Management and Technical Guidance: the consultant must explain to the city how they would manage the project and what type of technical guidance and assistance they will provide.

Assessment and alignment: the consultant must examine present climate concerns, evaluate what the city is now doing, and determine how this matches with future actions.

Engagement of the Public: The consultant must reach out to the public to include them in the process, along with the Metro Smart Cities advisory board, other technical leaders, and yet-to-be-identified stakeholders.

Greenhouse Gas Baseline Inventory: the consultant is to build a baseline of the region’s greenhouse gas emissions so that the city has a standard against which to measure.

Metrics Reporting Toolbox: The consultant should provide a toolkit for determining the city’s forward progress in terms of metrics.

The consultant will draft the Climate Action and Resilience Plan that will be endorsed by the city.

The virtually finalized request for proposals follows complaints from community members and the city council. The council voted a resolution last week encouraging the city to expedite the process, following passing a similar resolution in November stating its plan to employ a consultant.

Pete Festersen, president of the Council, stated during the September 13 meeting, “We’re confirming our support for the project despite the fact that we have not yet received the request for proposals necessary to move the project forward.”

However, Stothert reiterated on Wednesday that work on the RFP has been ongoing for some months. The initial draft of the plan was introduced in July 2021 and has since been revised and reorganized.

Stothert stated, “I don’t believe it will take that long, since I believe we’re already in the process of doing many, many things, and this is a path we intended to take with Smart Cities.” “I don’t see it as a lot of delays; I view it as doing it well and collecting input from a large number of people, as opposed to a small group of two or three individuals making a decision.”

The resolution passed at the council meeting last week also stated that the city would move through with the climate action plan utilizing 2022 budget surplus funds.

Stothert stated, “Legally, we cannot use the 2022 funding for this purpose, thus we will not fund it in this manner.”

Thomas Warren, Stothert’s chief of staff, stated during a council meeting on September 13 that funding would likely come from the 2023 budget; however, the projected budget for 2023 does not yet include a climate action plan. Wednesday, Stothert did not specify which budget the funds will originate from.

City officials estimate that the cost of the consultant will be at least $250,000

During Wednesday’s announcement, Stothert highlighted the work that the city has already accomplished, including adjustments to transport, solid waste management, the combined sewer overflow effort, and more.

She stated, “Just because we don’t have a formal plan doesn’t imply that the city hasn’t been doing a lot in terms of climate control and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.” “We are currently doing many of the things that will likely be outlined in the plan, so the fact that we have not yet established a formal plan does not mean that we are not already doing many things in the City of Omaha.”

Stothert also issued a timeline for the project, beginning with the issuance of the formal request for proposals, or RFP, on October 12; the shortlisting of consultant candidates by December 16 and their hiring by January; and a project start date of February 11, days after City Council approval.

Omaha is among 15 of the nation’s 50 biggest cities that don’t have climate action plans in place.

Earlier this month, council members expressed frustration that the city hasn’t made further progress on the plan and passed a resolution 4-3 in support of moving the plan forward as quickly as possible.

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