Connect with us

NEWS

Update on LB531: Bill to Fund Projects in North & South Omaha gains second round approval

Published:  Tuesday, May 23, 2023

The bill to provide funding for North Omaha and South Omaha continues to make its way through the Nebraska State Legislature. The legislation once referred to as the North Omaha and South Omaha Recovery plan, LB1024 in 2022, LB531 this year and now amendment AM 1880 received 2nd round approval on Thursday, May 18 with a 37-3 vote.  AM1880 was submitted by Senator McKinney and incorporates more funding and additional projects.

Read the most up to date bill here:  https://nebraskalegislature.gov/FloorDocs/108/PDF/Final/LB531.pdf 

The third and final vote should occur sometime this week and is expected to be signed into law by Governor Jim Pillen.

With support from the community and nearly 50 testifiers in 2022, State Senators Justin Wayne and Terrell McKinney introduced the legislation and worked with South Omaha senators Tony Vargas and Mike McDonnell to gain approval of $335 million in 2022.

Some projects were identified in the legislation to move forward immediately through an RFP process implemented by the Department of Economic Development. Projects including internships, IHUB, business park planning grant, tourism and others were approved for funding.  The process to approve these funds has been slow, but dollars are starting to reach the community.

The Economic Recovery program can be tracked here: https://opportunity.nebraska.gov/programs/recovery/

The funding allocated can be tracked at https://opportunity.nebraska.gov/programs/recovery/#dashboard

For the remaining funds, $225 million, the state legislature instructed the Economic Recovery Committee to contract with an engineering firm to put together a master plan.   The North and South Omaha communities were then engaged in stakeholder meetings, planning sessions and then submitted over 300 applications.

Olsson, the engineering firm which was selected to collect the submissions and develop the master plan, reviewed the proposals and made recommendations to approve 35 of the plans for funding.   Other projects were identified as high scoring and listed as supplemental plans that could be funded if more dollars were allocated by the State.  Find the Olsson report here:  https://www.nebraskalegislature.gov/pdf/reports/committee/select_special/econrec/LB1024_2023.pdf

After some concerns were voiced by the community, small group meetings and two large town halls were held to attempt to address additional high priorities that were not among the initial recommendations.

Groups and individuals representing small businesses, contractors, the Malcolm X Foundation, Charles Drew, arts and culture organizations, immigrants and refugees, and potential economic development projects along the corridors of Ames, Sorensen and 30th Street all made their case to be considered for funding.  The community also recommended an additional $200 million in funding and a desire to have an accountability committee.

State senators agreed to take the additional amendments to the Economic Recovery committee for consideration.  With that agreement, nearly 50 residents, leaders, small business owners, neighborhood representatives, organizational leaders and others traveled to Lincoln to support the legislation.  Others wrote letters, sent emails and made phone calls.

State Senator McKinney has said he shared the other suggested amendments with the committee but had difficulty gaining support with the limited time available and the filibustering that has taken place during the entire session.

Three amendments were introduced.  One for a museum tied to an individual listed in the hall of fame.  A second for federally qualified health centers.  And, a third for a cultural museum in a district introduced by Senator McDonnell.

Senator McKinney said the best way for the other groups to be considered is to resubmit their proposals to the Department of Economic Development once the bill is approved in the final round and signed by Governor Pillen.

 

What happens next?

The process moving forward after legislative approval is that DED will issue RFPs and accept proposals as early as July.  DED will then review and score the proposals.

State Senators are encouraging DED to use the recommendations and amendments identified in the Olsson report, but the current understanding is that DED will review and score everything again using the criteria outlined in the legislation with a heavy emphasis and focus on economic development, entrepreneurship, job creation, housing and tourism.

State senators are recommending that all proposals that were submitted to Olsson be considered eligible for funding.

Because of the filibustering that has occurred this session, State Senators have been combining bills into “mega bills” incorporating as many as 10-25 bills in one vote.

Even LB 531, now has multiple amendments and bills included.  In addition, the current legislation has switched funding from ARPA to general funds to allow more flexibility and more time for projects to get completed.  The use of ARPA funds comes with more restrictions than general funds.  And, the ARPA funds must be used by 2026.

State Senators representing the Economic Recovery Plan and Governor Pillen agreed the switch to general funds was a good move.

The legislative update regarding LB531 can be found here:  http://update.legislature.ne.gov/?p=34381

NEWS

LB 531 Approved: Bill to Fund Projects in North & South Omaha gains approval; now to Governor Pillen

Some estimate as much as $500 million will be invested in North and South Omaha as a result of the historic and unprecedented legislation and other related bills

Published:  Thursday, June 1, 2023

The bill to provide funding for North Omaha and South Omaha cleared a significant hurdle and won final approval from the Nebraska State Legislature today.  The legislation once referred to as the North Omaha and South Omaha Economic Recovery plan, LB1024 in 2022 and LB531 this year won approval today on a 37-8 vote.

“We got it across this finish line,” said Senator Terrell McKinney.  “I’m looking forward to the projects getting started and doing what we said we were going to do.”

Read the most up to date bill here: LB531.pdf (nebraskalegislature.gov)

It now expected to be signed into law by Governor Jim Pillen.

With support from the community and nearly 50 testifiers in 2022, State Senators Justin Wayne and McKinney introduced the legislation and worked with South Omaha senators Tony Vargas and Mike McDonnell to gain approval of $335 million in 2022.

Senators Wayne and McKinney reviewed plans developed by the community over the years and put together the North Omaha Recovery Plan.  South Omaha then developed a proposal and it was added to the original North Omaha legislation and the bill became the North and South Omaha Recovery Plan.  As the plan was making its way through the state senate last year, Sen. Wayne added funding elements to include high poverty census tracts from around the state.

Some projects were identified in the legislation to move forward immediately through an RFP process implemented by the Department of Economic Development.  Projects including internships, IHUB, the airport business park planning grant, tourism and others were approved for funding.

For the remaining funds, $225 million, the state legislature instructed the Economic Recovery Committee to contract with an engineering firm to put together a master plan.   The North and South Omaha communities were then engaged in stakeholder meetings, planning sessions and then submitted over 367 applications.

Olsson, the engineering firm which was selected to collect the submissions and develop the master plan, reviewed the proposals and made recommendations to approve 37 of the plans for funding.   Other projects were identified as high scoring and listed as supplemental plans that could be funded if more dollars were allocated by the State.  Find the Olsson report here:  https://www.nebraskalegislature.gov/pdf/reports/committee/select_special/econrec/LB1024_2023.pdf

After some concerns were voiced by the community, small group meetings and two large town halls were held to attempt to address additional high priorities that were not among the initial recommendations.

Groups and individuals representing small businesses, contractors, the Malcolm X Foundation, Charles Drew, arts and culture organizations, immigrants and refugees, and potential economic development projects along the corridors of Ames, Sorensen and 30th Street all made their case to be considered for funding.  The community also recommended an additional $200 million in funding and a desire to have an accountability committee.

State senators agreed to take the additional amendments to the Economic Recovery committee for consideration.  With that agreement, nearly 50 residents, leaders, small business owners, neighborhood representatives, organizational leaders and others traveled to Lincoln to support the legislation.  Others wrote letters, sent emails and made phone calls.

State Senator McKinney has said he shared the other suggested amendments with the committee but had difficulty gaining support with the limited time available and the filibustering that has taken place during the entire session.

Three amendments were introduced.  One for a museum tied to an individual listed in the hall of fame.  A second for federally qualified health centers.  And, a third for a cultural museum was introduced by Senator McDonnell.

Senator McKinney said the best way for the other groups to be considered is to resubmit their proposals to the Department of Economic Development once the bill is approved in the final round and signed by Governor Pillen.

“This gives everyone another opportunity,” said McKinney.

 

What happens next?

The process moving forward after the legislative vote and Governor’s signature is that DED will issue RFPs and accept proposals as early as July.  DED will then review and score the proposals.

State Senators are encouraging DED to use the recommendations and amendments identified in the Olsson report, but the current understanding is that DED will review and score everything again using the criteria outlined in the legislation with a heavy emphasis and focus on economic development, entrepreneurship, job creation, housing and tourism.

State senators are recommending that all proposals that were submitted to Olsson be considered eligible for funding and those recommended should receive priority.

Because of the filibustering that has occurred this session, State Senators have been combining bills into “mega bills” incorporating as many as 5-25 bills in one vote.

Even LB 531 passed with multiple amendments and bills included.  In addition, the current legislation has switched funding from ARPA to general funds to allow more flexibility and more time for projects to get completed.  The use of ARPA funds comes with more restrictions than general funds.  And, the ARPA funds must be used by 2026.

State Senators representing the Economic Recovery Plan and Governor Pillen agreed the switch to general funds was a good move.

The legislative update regarding LB531 can be found here:  http://update.legislature.ne.gov/?p=34381

The Economic Recovery program can be tracked here: https://opportunity.nebraska.gov/programs/recovery/

The funding allocated can be tracked at https://opportunity.nebraska.gov/programs/recovery/#dashboard

Continue Reading

NEWS

President Obama names Omaha a national Model Community; Empowerment Network leads MBK Omaha

President Obama hosts panel with leaders from Tulsa, Newark, Yonkers and Omaha, including Empowerment Network CEO and Founder, Willie Barney.  Photo Credit:  Obama Foundation

 

President Obama Names Omaha a My Brother’s Keeper Alliance Model Community

The New Obama Foundation Initiative Will Provide Additional Support to Boys and Young Men of Color in Omaha

My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, a program of the Obama Foundation, has announced that Omaha is one of four MBK Model Communities, a new initiative that seeks to expand the implementation of evidence-based practices and impact for communities across the country.

Omaha was selected from a network of hundreds that have an evidence based track record of success in positively shifting outcomes for boys and young men of color. Each MBK Model Community represents a tangible example of the systems-level impact that communities can have when working to achieve the MBK Milestones.

The MBK Milestones are six key life milestones that research shows are especially predictive of later success, and where interventions can have the greatest impact.

Willie Barney, CEO & Founder of the Empowerment Network, joined President Obama onstage at an MBK Impact in Action event to share the city’s efforts to reduce violence and address root causes.  The Empowerment Network facilitates and leads MBK Omaha!

“In 2014, in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s death, I challenged every community in the country to implement strategies to help boys and young men of color,” said President Obama.

“Today, I’m proud to see the incredible impact My Brother’s Keeper Alliance communities are having – helping hundreds of community leaders across the country solve problems for the next generation.”

Thanks to the tireless efforts of MBK communities, cities like Omaha have changed the odds – creating opportunities for our young people to achieve their full potential. – President Obama

“The MBK Model Communities initiative represents the next phase of the MBK Alliance’s work to help communities take on their biggest challenges – and I look forward to continuing this work alongside them for years to come.”

President Obama joins the My Brother’s Alliance Impact in Action convening in Chicago, IL on May 10, 2023.  Photo Credit:  The Obama Foundation.

Model communities means the city has demonstrated measurable outcomes with at least one of the milestones and the Obama Foundation is committed to working with the community to deliver excellence and results in all six milestones in the next five years.

“We are incredibly honored by this recognition and the investment and support from President Obama, Obama Foundation and MBK,” said Barney.  “The collaborative efforts of hundreds of organizations and thousands of residents is reflected through the Empowerment Network, Omaha 360, Step-Up Omaha, City of Omaha, Omaha Police Department, foundations and the MBK partnership.”

“We want to thank and recognize all of our partners, especially those on the front lines, doing the work every day with our youth and families.” – Willie Barney

“Through comprehensive collaboration across all sectors of the community, we are starting to return to 40 year lows in gun violence by addressing collaboration, prevention, intervention, enforcement, reentry and focusing on root causes.  We know there’s a lot more work ahead to continue reducing gun violence and we’re excited to build on and expand this amazing partnership with the Obama Foundation and MBK in Omaha and across the country.”

Willie Barney speaks from stage as The My Brother’s Keeper Alliance hosts an Impact in Action convening in Chicago, IL, on May 10, 2023.  Photo Credit:  The Obama Foundation

Each selected MBK Model Community has achieved significant impact in at least one of the six MBK Milestones by instituting programming and initiatives that have positively shifted outcomes in the educational or violence reduction ecosystems throughout their municipal areas. Omaha was chosen because of their demonstrated impact in MBK Milestone Six: Remaining Safe from Violent Crime – All youth and young adults should be safe from violent crime.

In Omaha, Nebraska, city-wide homicides were reduced by 30 percent from 2011 to 2022.  Prior to the pandemic, Omaha had experienced a 50% reduction in homicides and 60% reduction in non-fatal shootings.  In 2023, Omaha is currently returning to 40-year lows in homicides.

“Omaha is honored to be recognized as a model city by President Obama and the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance,” said Mayor Jean Stothert. “One city can definitely set an example and make a difference in the lives of boys and young men of color. We are proud to be that city.”

“The successful strategies and partnerships we have created in Omaha to significantly reduce gun violence, improve police-community relations, and fund summer youth employment programs can be adapted for other communities to have similar impactful and sustainable outcomes. Thank you for this great recognition and the opportunity to build on the progress we have made with the Empowerment Network to make Omaha a safe city.”

The African-American Empowerment Network will lead the Model Communities initiative for MBK Omaha. The Obama Foundation’s MBK Alliance will provide MBK Omaha with the necessary support to continue implementing systems-level change in these areas and to grow their impact in other areas within their municipal infrastructure. Specifically, the MBK Alliance will provide MBK Omaha with:

  • Access to direct coaching, evaluation support, and peer-to-peer learning
  • Direct resources, including an $800,000 grant ($400,000 a year for two years)
  • Ongoing technical assistance for their work

“As we strive to build safe and supportive communities for boys and young men of color across the country, the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance is proud to recognize Omaha as an MBK Model Community,” said Dr. Adren Wilson, MBK Alliance Executive Director. “Omaha has demonstrated a commitment to Milestone Six: All Youth Should Remain Safe from Violent Crime, achieving a 30 percent decrease in city-wide homicides from 2011 to 2022.”

The My Brother’s Keeper Alliance hosts an Impact in Action convening in Chicago, IL, on May 10, 2023.  Photo Credit:  Obama Foundation

“By providing direct coaching, peer-to-peer learning, financial resources, and evaluation support, the MBK Alliance is confident that Omaha will continue to serve as a beacon of hope and best practices for other communities to follow. Together, we can ensure our boys and young men of color have access to the opportunities they need, including the opportunity to remain safe from violent crime.”

By investing in and spotlighting Omaha as an MBK Model Community, the MBK Alliance intends to seed other communities across the country with knowledge, best practices, and resources so that they too can achieve systems-level impact in the lives of boys and young men of color.

“This is an immense honor for the Omaha community to be named a model city by the Obama Foundation! The synergy of community partnerships, led by the Empowerment Network, Omaha 360 and embraced by the OPD has forged a new Omaha. Thank you to the Obama Foundation, the Omaha community and all the Omaha police officers!

– Police Chief Todd Schmaderer

Beyond the reductions in violence, the Empowerment Network had the opportunity to present other positive changes at the national event held in downtown Chicago.  Prior to the pandemic, African-Americans in Omaha saw increases in employment, improvements in education and reductions in poverty.  The collective and collaborative work also served as a catalyst for unprecedented public/private investments in North Omaha.

Empowerment Network/MBK Omaha Delegation for Obama Foundation Model Communities Announcement in Chicago, IL:
John Ewing, Jr, Vice-President of Empowerment Network Board; Wende Kotouc, Co-CEO and Co-Chair, American National Bank, 1st Business Partner; Katie Weitz, Executive Director, Weitz Family Foundation; Vicki Quaites-Ferris, Vice-President of Community Development, Empowerment Network; Thomas Warren, Sr., Chief of Staff, Mayor Jean Stothert’s Office; Willie Barney, CEO and Founder, Empowerment Network; Yolanda Barney, Vice-President, Revive Omaha!; Chief Todd Schmaderer, Omaha Police Department; Ricky Smith, Omaha 360 Director; Empowerment Network; Denzell Dial, MBK Omaha, Step-Up and Mentoring Participant; Tim Christian, Board President of the Empowerment Network; Jennifer Green, Grants and Operations Manager, Charles E. Lakin Foundation; and, Jonathan Chapman, Vice-President of Community Collaboratives, Empowerment Network.

TRENDS:

Non-fatal gun assaults have been reduced measurably in Omaha since 2007 and 2008.  Prior to the pandemic, Omaha experienced a 63% reduction in non-fatal gun assaults.  After an increase in 2020 during the first year of the pandemic, Omaha is starting to see a decline once again.
Homicides in Omaha were decreased to the lowest level in 40 years prior to the pandemic.  Similar to most major cities, homicides increased the first year of the pandemic, but have decreased the last three years.

____________________

Full Statements and Quotes:

“We are incredibly honored by this recognition and the investment and support from President Obama, the Obama Foundation and MBK.  The collaborative efforts of hundreds of organizations and thousands of residents is reflected through the Empowerment Network, Omaha 360, Step-Up Omaha, City of Omaha, Omaha Police Department, and the MBK partnership.

“Model city doesn’t mean we’re perfect or have it all solved and figured out, but it recognizes the great collaborative work that is happening here in Omaha and the collective outcomes that have been generated.”

We want to thank and recognize all of our partners, especially those on the front lines, doing the work every day with our youth and families.  Through comprehensive collaboration across all sectors of the community, we are starting to return to 40 year lows in gun violence by addressing collaboration, prevention, intervention, enforcement, reentry and focusing on root causes.  We know there’s a lot more work ahead to continue transforming Omaha into a safe and thriving city in every zip code and we’re excited to build on and expand this amazing partnership with the Obama Foundation and MBK.”

– Willie D. Barney, CEO and Founder of the Empowerment Network

 

“Omaha is honored to be recognized as a model city by President Obama and My Brother’s Keeper Alliance. One city can definitely set an example and make a difference in the lives of boys and young men of color. We are proud to be one of those cities.

The successful strategies and partnerships we have created in Omaha to significantly reduce gun violence, improve police-community relations, and fund youth employment programs can be adapted for other communities to have similar impactful and sustainable outcomes.  Thank you for this great recognition and the opportunity to build on the progress we have made with the Empowerment Network to make Omaha a safe city.”

– Mayor Jean Stothert

 

“The Empowerment Network Board of Directors is excited for our continued partnership with the The Barack Obama Foundation / MBK Alliance. This new phase of our partnership is significant as The Empowerment Network is now an official MBK Model City. MBK’s investment over the next two years will allow The Empowerment Network to build on the tremendous work we’re currently doing and continue our goal of creating a measurable blueprint for cities around the country.”

– Timothy L. Christian, President, Empowerment Network Board and CEO of NightFox Entertainment

 

“As one of the original criminal justice covenant leaders and first board president I’m excited that we have this amazing opportunity to partner with the Obama Foundation to move this important work forward.  Willie Barney and I have discussed the power of bringing our community together and partnering with the Omaha Police Department and so many other partners to impact lives.  To reduce gun violence and homicides and laying a foundation for better economic, educational outcomes, increasing home ownership, improving medical outcomes and increasing employment and entrepreneurship opportunities.  We always believed this could be a national effort to impact lives across this country and this partnership gives us that opportunity.  We are proud to be a Model City and we look forward to partnering with other communities across America.

– John Ewing, Vice-President of the Empowerment Network Board, Douglas County Treasurer and former Deputy Chief for Omaha Police Department

 

“It is great to see that the work the Empowerment Network has done in working with and facilitating cradle-to-career partners to transform our city over the past 16 years, has resulted in the Obama Foundation now recognizing Omaha as a Model City.”

– Teresa Hunter, CEO of Family Housing Advisory Services, Board Member of the Empowerment Network

Continue Reading

NEWS

Carver celebrates one year anniversary; $3.4 million invested in the community

(Photo Credit: NEO Barney, Astronomical Quality)

Carver Celebrates one year anniversary and $3.4 million invested back into the community.

The Carver Legacy Center hosted a one-year anniversary celebration on Saturday, April 29, 2023 from 10 am to 2 pm at the historic Carver building near 24th and Lake.

(Photo Credit: NEO Barney, Astronomical Quality)

The Carver Legacy Center is a black-owned financial institution and wealth building system owned by Willie and Yolanda Barney and Martin and Lynnell Williams.

The Carver team purchased and restored the historic Carver Savings and Loan building at 24th and Lake to serve as its headquarters.  The Center officially opened on April 4, 2022 and the event on April 29, 2023 served as an opportunity to provide customers and the community an update on progress and next steps.

(Photo Credit: NEO Barney, Astronomical Quality)

Bankers, lenders, owners and partners were on site to greet customers and meet those interested in learning more.  Community members had the opportunity to gain more knowledge about the Carver, open savings accounts, meet lenders and support small businesses at the pop-up.

“We’re excited to celebrate our one-year anniversary and the momentum is building thanks to our incredible partners and supporters,” said Willie Barney, one of the co-owners and co-founders of the CLC.  “With a year under our belts, we had solid successes and also now have an even greater understanding of where some of the gaps are and how we can assist businesses and homeowners.”

(Photo Credit: NEO Barney, Astronomical Quality)

“We greatly appreciate the support of the community as they have opened accounts and made deposits which allows us to leverage investments back into the community,” Barney said.

“Thus far we have been able to leverage $3.4 million in loans through Carver and the Carver Promise and we are just getting started.”

The goal of the Carver is to help create a strong financially empowered community, develop thriving black-owned and North Omaha businesses, increase home ownership in North Omaha and provide a platform for the community members to control their own destiny through ownership and building wealth.

“It is with great pleasure and gratitude that I greet you to acknowledge and celebrate our first-year anniversary of the Carver Legacy Center,” said Martin Williams.

“We are humbled to be part of this historic occasion, and I want to thank each of you for your unwavering support and commitment to our community.”

Carver owners partner with American National Bank led by their Co-CEOs and Executive Co-Chairs John and Wende Kotouc. The Carver team contracts with ANB to provide banking services utilizing their more than 165-year history of serving the community.  Because of this partnership, Carver clients can open Carver accounts and conduct business at all American National Bank locations.  All banking products are available through the partnership and deposits are FDIC insured.

“We are delighted by the partnership with the Carver.  It is an honor to support this Black-owned business and do our part to make the vision a reality,” said John Kotouc.

“I also want to thank the American National Bank team for their work in supporting this historic and innovative approach.”

For the past 12 months, the Carver Legacy Center team has worked with clients to open accounts, process business loans and provide education and training for businesses.   The team announced progress in each area and appears ready for the next phase.

Since opening the Carver Legacy Center, deposits have grown consistently and averaged $10 million.  The Carver team is investing funds back into the community and also providing training, education and technical assistance to over 200 small businesses.

“In the past year, we cohosted seven summits between the Carver and Revive Black Business Network,” said Yolanda Barney.  “We have connected businesses to training and education in key areas including legal, funding, banking, credit, technology, strategic plans, branding, marketing and effective database and POS systems.  The businesses are also creating an ecosystem of support and doing business with each other.”

In addition, Revive conducted a pilot program at the Carver and housed products from 10 local small businesses during Pop-Up events.  The Revive Store inside the Carver has products ranging from candles and books to popcorn and spices.

“We look forward to adding more products and pop-ups at the Carver,” said Barney.  “It’s a great way for businesses to introduce themselves to the marketplace, generate sales and engage with customers.”

Williams added, “What makes me the proudest is the fact that we have been strategic in helping current community businesses scale and prepare for loans.  These businesses have created jobs, generated sales and increased wages.  Businesses like Anding Family Dental, Davis Contracting, Dyna-Vision and others are growing and expanding.  We’re ready to help more businesses do the same.”

“Once again, I want to express my sincere gratitude to all of you who have made this first-year anniversary possible,” said Williams.  “We ask for your continual support in restoring the financial dreams and hope of our North Omaha families and neighborhoods.  Let’s continue to work together to build a stronger, more prosperous, and more inclusive financial community.”

__________________________

(Photo Credits: NEO Barney, Astronomical Quality)

Continue Reading