Meet the candidates from Omaha’s District 3
These stories are detailed profiles of three of the four candidates running for the District 3 seat of Omaha City Council. Follow the link for more information on the fourth candidate, Danny Begley. For information on other races, please visit The Reader’s 2021 Election Center.
Cammy Watkins, Omaha City Council nominee for District 3
Cammy Watkins first delves into politics with her campaign for District 3 of the Omaha City Council. Watkins has worked charismatically and comfortably for over 20 years for the common good with several non-profit organizations, including Habitat for Humanity of Omaha, Opera Omaha and the Sierra Club. Watkins, who is currently Associate Director for Inclusive Communities, chose to run because it seeks to raise the voices of the community and offer representation that is invested in meeting the needs of the entire community.
Watkins is committed to community education about lead exposure, a significant health risk to Omaha children, particularly in northern Omaha. Almost 25 years ago, Omaha first reported children with high blood lead levels to the EPA. This resulted in years of cleanup on the Omaha Lead Superfund site. While the numbers have improved, the problem has not been fixed and there is more to be done, Watkins said.
She is also committed to helping all families have their own homes. Watkins would like to create development plans for home access.
“The lowest cost house currently averages $ 175,000. And that’s really not affordable for these first-time homeowners, ”said Watkins. “We have more real estate agents than houses to sell. If we look at the rental page, this is the average [rent] our city has increased 60% which makes it unaffordable for people who are unaffordable [make] from $ 35,000 to $ 60,000 per year. “
The candidate sees a solution in the construction of maisonette houses and apartment buildings.
“We have many multi-generation families who would like to live together. [including in] South Omaha. We need to update the zoning laws, ”she said.
Watkins said Omaha’s public transportation was inaccessible. She suggests expanding the bus system to connect the entire city as many residents who now live in the downtown area have to wait a long time to move south or if they live in West Omaha there is no direct route for them to get to North Omaha.
“It’s inaccessible to people with disabilities and inaccessible to people who basically live everywhere. The roads are not configured as the primary mode of transport, ”she said.
According to Watkins, it’s important to explore the potential for multimodal transportation, such as expanding the tracks for bicycles, sidewalks, and motorcycles.
Watkins said there was also a need to end the segregation that exists in Omaha and to focus on food security. She recognizes the community gardens sponsored by the Latino Center of the Midlands as a source of fresh food and hopes the city can use community gardens to promote food security.
“We have enough ingenuity and ability to do urban farming in our city,” she said. “I want us to rely on the city to invest in a city without hunger. We can do it.”
She also sees Omaha as a city that can attract tourists. The candidate hopes to install a free WiFi network that will make internet access easier for both locals and visitors and support local businesses.
“People want to feel at home when they visit town,” said Watkins.
In order for people to live in dignity, the minimum wage needs to be raised to $ 18 an hour, not $ 9, Watkins said. She believes projects and industries like tourism that encourage local investment and consumption could lower the unemployment rate.
Watkins sees her campaign for a seat on District 3 city council as an opportunity to bring Omaha closer and more inclusive to its people.
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Jen Bauer, Omaha City Council candidate for District 3
Jen Bauer is president of the Aksarben Elmwood Park Neighborhood Association; She hopes to use the leadership and problem-solving skills she acquired there to represent the District 3 community on the Omaha City Council.
In making her choice, Bauer will prioritize three plans that she deems most important to Omaha. The first is to review the annual budget and capital plan to ensure that each department is subject to a high level of accountability. This process must be transparent to residents, she said. The second is to ensure that documents and laws are translated into languages like Spanish and Karen (spoken in Myanmar and Thailand), and to add sign language interpretation to city assemblies. The third is to address the inefficiency of public transport and the lack of fresh food in many parts of the city.
Bauer also wants to transform Omaha into a greener, friendlier city with alternative transportation systems like bicycles. She remembered the emerald ash worm insects that have attacked and killed many old trees in Omaha since 2016.
“I want Omaha to be greener. We need a plan to have more trees. Our parks are important. They also help to purify the air, ”said Bauer.
The businesswoman, who is currently on a global IT team, also wants to work for the benefit of local businesses and find a way to reduce unemployment in the city.
Bauer does not identify with any political party and said it was important for them to seek solutions to the needs of the community.
“I’ve been working with multicultural companies for over 10 years. One of the things with City Hall is you [must] have the power to listen [and make] Decisions are based on people’s comments and ideas, ”she said. “It’s not about preferences, it’s about working for people and … connecting with other districts.”
She supports the idea of installing the Internet with free WiFi in the city, as implemented in Council Bluffs.
“This will help people who do not have access to the internet. I don’t think the facilities are expensive compared to the plans a person has in their homes, ”she said.
Bauer believes Omaha has to deal with racism, especially urban segregation.
“I don’t know how you can fight that. We need to talk about how this separation of sections comes about, ”she said
Bauer is well known in Aksarben but would like to fully cooperate with Omaha, including members of different cultures and all members of the city council.
Shortly before election day, the candidate is optimistic about her campaign and enthusiastic about the city she wants to serve.
“I love Omaha. When I moved here, I found it very friendly [place]”Said Bauer.” There is … diversity … we have many ethnicities, which makes it a lively city. “
Gilbert Ayala, candidate for Omaha City Council District 3.
Gilbert Ayala has experience as a Senator for the state of Nebraska. Now he’s starting a campaign for the Omaha City Council primary to represent District 3 of Central Omaha.
Ayala wants to give the city council a conservative voice. He said he is against legalizing marijuana because he believes it causes schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
The candidate’s primary concerns are Omaha’s economy and lowering taxes. According to Ayala, the residents pay very high property, city and sales taxes. He believes that money is wasted in the city and that low taxes can help companies grow and invest more in the city.
“There is a lot of waste in government, but there is nobody who notices [it]”Said Ayala.” People are elected and the waste continues because [elected officials] don’t want to deal with it. I’m one of the people who talk about it, make it public, and let people know what’s going on. “
He said the biggest “waste of money” he has seen lately is the ORBT transportation route, which opened earlier this year and runs along Dodge Street. ORBT was financed by various foundations in addition to the city of Omaha.
“That should never have happened. It’s always empty. If there is a massive influx of people using the bus, it is not a waste of money, ”Ayala said. “But there you see it, they are empty and [the city’s planning department] knew it.”
He noted that Omaha politicians are silent and not focusing on the real problems.
“They say they have lived in Omaha for 30 years, that they value their grandma, and that they love people, but they do nothing,” he said. “And a lot of people choose them just because they like them. Voters need to be well informed about candidates and who they are voting for. “
In preparation for election day, Ayala went from house to house to inform the community about his projects and to enter into a dialogue with the voters.
“I am very direct. I tell people my position and when people don’t like it I usually hear them, “Ayala said. “But [sometimes] They change their minds and reflect. “
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