General News

This morning is the public’s final opportunity to weigh in on the draft of MAPA’s 2013-18 Transportation Improvement Program.

Greg Youell, Transportation and Data Manager for the Metropolitan Area Planning Agency, says the TIP represents all federally funded transportation projects in the metro area.  He says transportation projects slated for Douglas and Sarpy Counties in Nebraska, and the Council Bluffs area in Iowa, are included in the TIP. 

Youell says it’s important for citizens to understand they do have an opportunity to give input on the selected projects.

Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle says he was in awe of the honor bestowed on the city earlier this week.

On Monday, the Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, presided over a ship naming ceremony.  The USS Omaha will be the 4th vessel to be named after the City. 

The craft will be one in a series of littoral combat ships to be commissioned by the U-S Navy.  Mayor Suttle says he’s proud that the city has received such an honor.

Throughout the month of June, 28 young women have been participating in an educational experience called the Eureka Program.

Angie Hodge directs the program.  She says this is the first year the nationwide program has been offered in Nebraska.  Eureka offers 8th grade girls the opportunity to explore science, technology, engineering and math. 

In addition to focusing on the STEM fields, Hodge says the program also helps build character, and encourage physical wellness.

2.7 million children are in kinship care on any given day in the United States.  

Kinship caregivers are either extended family members or close family friends who take care of kids in their parents’ absence.

Rob Geen, Director of Family Services and Systems Policy at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, says often these caregivers are taking care of children without much advance notice. He says making their lives ready to be able to care for the kids is a challenge.  

Pride Month celebrates the LGBT community and the progress the community has made towards full equality.  Omaha is the site of the Heartland Pride event on June 30th.  

Staff and volunteers from One Iowa will have a booth at the event.  Communications Director Molly Tafoya says the group will share information and talk with attendees about the impact the organization has had on equality issues.  She says one of the things that makes Iowa so unique is their leadership in the movement for LGBT equality in the Midwest.

The VA Nebraska-Western Iowa is combining its annual Veteran’s Welcome Home Event with its Veterans Freedom Music Festival on June 23rd.  Public Affairs Officer Will Ackerman says the VA united the two events for two reasons. 

He says the celebration offers the community a day to come out and honor the state’s veterans who have served and sacrificed for their freedoms.  Additionally, Ackerman says the event gives the state’s veterans a chance to learn about their benefits.

The City of Omaha recently honored the Empowerment Network, the Deer Park Neighborhood Association and neighborhood advocate Jeannie Dickes with Community Excellence Awards.

Mayor Suttle says the awards recognize the hard work these recipients have done in helping to improve the quality of life in Omaha’s older neighborhoods.  He says over the past several years, the number of neighborhood associations and the projects they are taking on has grown substantially. 

More than half the grants awarded by Fund for Omaha will fund programs, with the rest funding capacity building and operational expenses.

Fund for Omaha awarded over $170,000 in grants to 18 local nonprofits this month.  The NorthStar Foundation received a $7,000 capacity building grant.  

Courtesy of OPPD

The community was invited to attend an Open House with The Nuclear Regulatory Commission this afternoon in Omaha. 

The NRC held the event to address community members one on one about their concerns regarding the Fort Calhoun nuclear plant. OPPD operates the nuclear plant, which was shut down in April last year because of flooding along the Missouri River. 

The May Press Club featured Lincoln Senator Kathy Campbell, Chairwoman of the Health and Human Services Committee and Carolyn Rooker, Executive Director of Voices for Children in Nebraska.

The two talked about the changes the legislature has made dealing with the safety and well-being of abused and neglected children in Nebraska.  Senator Campbell guided the legislation through the Unicameral. Rooker is an advocate on child welfare issues.  She says nationally there are three main things the child welfare system strives to do.

Nebraska Appleseed and the National Health Law Program filed a class action lawsuit last Friday in Lancaster County District Court over services provided to disabled children. 

James Goddard, a staff attorney for Nebraska Appleseed, says the suit was filed on behalf of two children who were denied necessary behavioral health treatment.  

Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson was the guest speaker at Creighton University’s Asian World Center Presidential Lecture.

Rajmohan Gandhi's lecture, “Larger than Politics, the World of Lincoln, King and Gandhi,” took place last month in the Harper Center. 

Gandhi says when he picked the title of his talk; he didn’t intend to talk about the three leaders’ capacities in areas other than politics.  

But he says the goals of these three men went beyond capturing office or power.

Douglas County is replacing two vehicles with Compressed Natural Gas or CNG ones.

In April, the Douglas County Board of Commissioners voted to replace two high mileage vehicles with CNG vehicles. Chairman Marc Kraft says CNG vehicles are more efficient and run cleaner than gas or diesel vehicles.  

He says the vehicles pay for themselves within 2 ½ to 3 years after purchase.  Kraft says the purchase is part of Douglas County’s efforts to find environmentally friendly solutions.

The Malcolm X Birthday Celebration features three days of events this week.

Walter Brooks is the Administrative Director for the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation.  He says the festivities kick off Thursday night with a program called “Verbal Gumbo.” 

The evening features spoken word artists and live music at the House of Loom.  Brooks says that’s followed by a presentation from a dynamic African-American motivational speaker on Friday called “Mental Liberation.”  

The guest speaker Friday is Nationally-acclaimed poet and author Basheer Jones.

The Douglas County Health Department’s Chief of Community Health and Nutrition Services is in Washington DC for the Weight of the Nation Conference.

Mary Balluff says the purpose of the conference is to figure out how we as a community are going to combat the obesity issue.  A recent article in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine predicts an increase in the percentage of obese and very obese Americans over the next twenty years.  

Balluff says Douglas County has done a number of things locally to try to stem the tide of obesity in the Omaha area.

The Salvation Army's annual D.J.’s Hero Awards Luncheon happens Monday, May 14th.

Steve George, Chairperson for the event, says there are three goals of the event. One is to raise money for the Salvation Army’s programs. Another is to award scholarships to high school seniors who have overcome hardships in their lives, and the third is to feature a dynamic speaker. This year’s luncheon will be held at the Century Link Center.  George says there will be two guest speakers, Bob and Lee Woodruff.

The Omaha Farmer’s Markets kick off this weekend.  The markets offer attendees a variety of items, including local produce, flowers, meat, and cheese.  Project Manager Heidi Walz says there are also local vendors with non-food items, including handcrafted jewelry and wooden toys. 

This year’s downtown Omaha Farmer’s Market will feature 110 vendors. The Farmer’s Market at Aksarben Village has expanded to 75 vendors.  Walz says the mission of the markets goes back to community, and that’s why they accept SNAP cards at all their locations.

Courtesy of Cheril Lee

There are approximately 1500 homeless veterans in Nebraska and around 200,000 nationwide.

A new partnership announced this morning would work to make Nebraska the first state to end veterans’ homelessness.  Mayor Jim Suttle and Mike Fornear of the Homeless Veterans Project, were joined by civic and business leaders to discuss the new project called “Vets Town.” 

Courtesy of Cheril Lee

First Lady Michelle Obama gave the keynote address at the Lunch for the Girls this afternoon, telling young women to work hard and surround themselves with positive people.

Mrs. Obama thanked the parents, Girls, Inc. staff, volunteers and community for their support of the girls. The First Lady says girls being strong, smart and bold isn’t just about getting good grades, but also about being a good friend, taking care of your body by getting active and eating right, and giving back to the community.

Herbert Karliner, Philip Freud, Hans Fisher and Sol Messinger will present a special lecture at the Durham Museum on Friday morning at 10:30.

The four men are survivors of the tragic 1939 voyage of the SS St. Louis.  After trying to dock in several countries, including the U.S., the ship was forced to return to Europe.  

Many passengers subsequently found themselves under Nazi rule, and many died as a result. The majority of the passengers that were granted refuge in Great Britain survived the ordeal.  Shawna Forsberg is Director of Marketing for the Durham.

Courtesy of Creighton University

In honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day Thursday, Creighton University in collaboration with the Omaha Jewish Community, will present the original docudrama, “The Trial of Franklin D. Roosevelt.” The docudrama is about the 1939 voyage of the SS St. Louis. 900 Jewish men, women and children were adrift at sea for 30 days and were denied entrance into the U.S.  

The passengers were told the United States had reached its immigrant quota, so they were sent back to Germany and other European countries, many of them occupied by Germany.  

Just put one foot in front of the other…it’s that easy to participate in the 6th Annual National Walk at Lunch Day.

Kathy Nellor is a wellness business consultant for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska.  She says Blue Cross Blue Shield hopes 25,000 Nebraskans will participate for 30 minutes on April 25th. 

Nellor says Blue Cross Blue Shield wants people to make walking a regular habit.   She says walking is an easy and inexpensive way to exercise that still yields great results.

Courtesy of

Girls Inc. of Omaha will hold its 12th Annual Lunch for the Girls on Tuesday, April 24th at the CenturyLink Center.

First Lady Michelle Obama will give the keynote address at this year’s event.  Roberta Wilhelm is the Executive Director for Girls, Inc.  

She says the girls will present a special video in support of Mrs. Obama’s Let’s Move! Initiative, which is dedicated to fighting childhood obesity.

The city’s largest ecological celebration takes place Saturday, April 21st in Elmwood Park from 11 to 6.  Dennis Bryars is the Chairperson for the event.  

He says they hope to show people ways they can live a greener, more sustainable lifestyle.  Bryars says there will be between 75 to 100 exhibitors taking part in Earth Day Omaha.

The Nebraska Department of Roads has posted a draft of Vision 2032, the state’s new long-range transportation plan.

The public is encouraged to review the plan and make comments through May 11th.  Spokesperson Mary Jo Oie says the department has been working on the plan for months. 

Last year, more than 2.4 million people visited the 12 Omaha Public Library branches.

Executive Director Gary Wasdin says the libraries continued to see every measurable aspect of use going up in 2011. 

Though people still use the libraries for books and reading, Wasdin says residents are often surprised to find out just how much more there is to find and do in the library.