Friday was the deadline for candidates to file, and the primary election is April 2. One of the candidates for Mayor, State Senator Brad Ashford, says he wants to focus on making Omaha a safer, more modern, and collaborative city.
Ashford has served in the Nebraska Legislature twice: first from 1986 to 1994, then was elected again in 2006. He’s chairman of the Unicameral’s Judiciary Committee, and has made finding solutions to violence in Omaha a centerpiece of his campaign.
"Economic vitality can only be totally accomplished when you have cultural diversity that’s integrated, and you have young people who don’t live in fear of being shot, really, or harmed, and an education system that is involved at K through 12 and K through 16 actually, and then in to graduate schools, it’s important that we have a viable education system and our youth have an opportunity to avail themselves of that."
Ashford believes the city of Omaha faces two major challenges. One is providing the services young people need to keep them from entering a life of crime.
"And that’s why I think this juvenile justice reform we’re doing in Lincoln will help, because we can start reallocating dollars back in to Omaha to help these kids, especially in the areas of mental health. So that’s the biggest challenge that we have right now, and we need state law changes, we need assistance changes throughout the mental health area, we need more mental health professionals. We only have 33 child psychiatrists in the entire state."
The other challenge, according to Ashford, is moving past what he calls Omaha’s “old politics.”
"I call it new gov Omaha, the idea that young people are looking for a more efficient way to govern themselves, and I like the idea of one city-county board. I like the idea of moving in that direction. I think that’s a challenge, how are we going to develop a 21st century governmental structure that’s going to be more responsive to 21st century challenges."
He supported a plan introduced by Governor Dave Heineman to eliminate individual and corporate income taxes by ending some sales tax exemptions. That plan is now off the table in the Legislature, but Ashford says Omaha needs a modern economy that supports entrepreneurship and has a broad tax base.
"We’re becoming an entrepreneurial, high-tech city, and we need to develop that in a more robust way. We need to develop partnerships with the Peter Kiewit Institute and the new technology entrepreneurs that are beginning to sprout up in Omaha."
The primary election is April 2, and Omaha's city election is May 14.