Attorney Dan Welch, a former Omaha City Councilman, says the city faces three significant challenges.
Welch represented southwest Omaha’s District 5 on the city council from 2001 to 2009. Welch says he considered running for Mayor four years ago, but decided against it. He says he decided to run this time because he sees three major challenges facing the city, the first being turmoil in northeast Omaha.
“Not just in regard to the gangs and crime and violence, but the dropout rate, the truancy rate, the poverty, the situation where you have children raising children without fathers, and until we get that under control we’re going to continue to have violence and we’re going to continue to have people without jobs, and we’re in a very, very dangerous situation for that portion of the city, and for the city as a whole.”
Another challenge, according to Welch, is addressing the shortfall in Omaha’s police and fire pension system, which is currently under-funded to the tune of more than $500 million. Welch says he’s also concerned that Omaha’s population and economic growth could be stifled by taxes.
“In the last three and a half years we’ve seen an increase in property taxes, an increase in the wheel tax, an invented new restaurant tax, an occupation tax, and fees that have been raised across the board. And I’m worried that a city that is otherwise poised for growth and really good things could start to repel people and won’t be able to grow in terms of business or people.”
Omaha is also in the midst of a sewer separation project with a price tag estimated at $2 billion. Welch says increased sewer fees to pay for that project could drive residents out of Omaha.
He says addressing the issues of taxes, crime, and the pension shortfall require civil discourse, something Welch feels is lacking now in city politics.
“We want to bring in, bring together, everybody. Democrats, Republicans, young, old, rich, poor, because the major issues facing the city are going to require people coming together. Right now there is a lack of civility at city hall between the Mayor and the City Council, and I think for that reason the lack of communication caused another bad fire contract in recent times. We’ve got to shore up those relationships.”
The primary election is April 2.